Jon Wertheim checks in from Paris to discuss an impresive win from Zverev, a great showing from American women and more.
PARIS — The quarterfinals of the French Open are set. Here are five thoughts on day nine, which saw the men's top seeds continue their dominance and the American women attone for their male counterparts' failures.
• Yesterday, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal reached the quarterfinals with ease. Today it was Novak Djokovic’s turn. This is tennis’ great game of can-you-top-this? And it’s gone on for more than a glorious decade. Djokovic made Jan-Lennard Struff, a world-class player, look like he was attending a forced tennis tutorial. While he only has one French Open title, let’s pause to acknowledge just how successful Djokovic has been at Roland Garros. He reached his 13th French Open quarterfinal today, tying Nadal, and he becomes the first man ever to reach 10 straight quarterfinals here.
• For a player cagey about her relationship with clay, Madison Keys sure plays well on the surface. One of four Americans in the round of 16, Keys won again today—the ninth time in the last ten matches—with a businesslike dismissal of Katerina Siniakova. When Keys plays, she calls the shots. She either blasts winners or struggles to control her power. It was the former today, as it’s been all week. She now plays Ash Barty for a chance at a second straight semifinal here.
Keys is joined in the quarterfinals by fellow Americans Sloane Stephens and 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova. While the American men combined to win one match at this event, the women have put forth a quite impressive showing.
• Dirty data obscures one out of every three tennis statistics. Among them: “record in five-set matches.” Absent more information, it’s meaningless. What was the rank of the opponent? What was the tenor of the match? Kei Nishikori has one of the best records in the business at five-setters (23-6), but they’ve come against lower-ranked opponents in matches that were unnecessarily tight. Such was the case in round three when Nishikori, seeded No. 7, beat No. 31 Lazslo Djere 8-6 in the fifth. And such was the case today when Nishikori came back to beat unseeded Benoit Paire, 7-5 in the fifth. The good news: Nishikori has survived and advanced. The less good news: he has played 10 sets of tennis in the last few days. And he next faces Rafa Nadal.
• Sometimes tennis players do their best growing outside of the sunlight and limelight. As he’ll be the first to admit, this had been a dismal 2019 for Alexander Zverev. After winning the ATP Finals to close out 2018, Zverev has lost early and often this year, seen his ranking slip and, perhaps most importantly, his buzz diminish. While attention has pivoted to Stefanos Tsitisipas, the new darling in the ATP salon, Zverev has quietly regained his form. He won the Geneva event the week before the French Open, and while he didn’t have to beat a top-70 player in that run, he did boost both his win total and his confidence. Here, he’s been terrific, winning with power, accuracy and fight that wasn’t always in evidence this year. Today, a decade younger than his opponent, the erraticissimo Fabio Fognini, Zverev was at his best. His four-set win moved him into the quarters, tying his best showing at a major. Next up: Djokovic.
• Speaking of…for a defending champion, a former No.1 and reliably steady player, Simona Halep has gotten precious little attention here. With favorites and seeds dropping like bone off chateaubriand, Halep looks like an awfully solid candidate to repeat as champion. She struggled in her first two matches here, dropping sets in each. Since then, she’s barely allowed games. Today she beat the Polish teenager, Iga Swiatek 6-1, 6-0 in 45 minutes.