5 things we learned at Roland Garros Day 8: Going toe to toe with the big boys
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- It’s a battle when big boys go toe to toe
Alex Zverev is 21 and stands 197 centimetres tall. That’s lofty. Due to his eight titles, 10 million euros in prize money and world number three status, he is considered as one of the next big things on the ATP circuit. Karen Khachanov is exactly the same height as Zverev but he has not been as successful. He has only amassed two million or so euros from his labours on tennis courts. Only two million? The shame of such small change. But for a good hour or so during their last 16 match on day eight, 22-year-old Khachanov made the form book look ridiculous as he gave Zverev the runaround. The second seed had to fight. And at 2-2 in the fourth set – already trailing by a set - he faced two break points. A back hand cross court shot from Zverev hit the net and dropped short forcing Khachanov to scramble forward and scoop up the ball. It went over but left him exposed at the net and Zverev was able to send a shot past him down the line. A powerful serve got him back to 40-40 and he won the game. He went on to take the set. And eventually the match. A little bit of luck. A lot of guts.
- Zverev is going gaga over Yorkshire lilts
A few days back Alex Zverev asked one journalist where he came from because he was fascinated by his accent. The lad hailed from Yorkshire - God’s own country - as the locals would have us believe. But they do have a point. Parts of it really are choice. And ever since then, Zverev has insisted on a question from the reporter. The poser on day eight was: “Are you feeling in love with Roland Garros and is Roland Garros falling in love with you?” “I hope so,” said Zverev. But the fickle lad added: “I fall in love with your accent more every single day. That's what I'm falling in love with.” Give the tease a white rose.
- Lolly good time
Sloane Stephens revealed after beating the unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi that she looked forward to the European swing of the WTA tour because she could get hold of one of her favourite flavours - Haagen-Dazs macadamia nut brittle. They don’t have it in the United States. She’ll have a lot more dosh - 380,000 euros to be precise - to slosh on her sweets after reaching the last eight in Paris for the first time. ”Obviously it was a personal milestone getting to the quarters. I’ve been doing well here in Paris by getting to the fourth round a lot of the years in a row. So reaching the last eight was something big for me. But hopefully it doesn't end here.” We know why Sloane, we know why.
- First timers on a roll
In the lower half of the women’s draw, Madison Keys, along with her fellow American Sloane Stephens, added her name to the first time in the last eight club. In the lower half of the men’s draw, Alex Zverev and Marco Cecchinato are the newcomers. Big things have been expected of 21-year-old Zverev over the past 18 months so his breakthrough seems quite late. Cecchinato’s appearance is simply incredible. The world number 72 has since 2015 only made the main draw of four Grand Slam tournaments. He lost every match. In Paris in 2018, he’s carved up all comers. Pablo Carreno Busta, the 10th seed, lost in the third round and eighth seed David Goffin was dispatched in the last 16. Next up for the 25-year-old Italian is a munchy veteran who goes by the name of Novak Djokovic. Roland Garros 2018 will be his 40th match in a Grand Slam quarter-final. Wonder who the favourite is.
- Marco my words: I’m taking the match seriously
Novak Djokovic, former world number one, winner of 12 Grand Slam titles and general maestro of the court, is going to play the unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato in the last eight after both enjoyed wins over Fernando Verdasco and David Goffin respectively on day eight. Djokovic, seeded 20th, is forewarned. “I have practiced with him many times in Monte-Carlo when he was part of the Ricardo Piatti Academy team,” revealed the Serb. “We trained a lot on hard court, clay courts. And we actually trained this year before Monte-Carlo tournament. I know now his game and I practiced with him, I watched him play. For sure, he's playing the tennis of his life.” Goffin may indeed have been feeling the pain after going for four hours with Gael Monfils but it was still some exploit. “Congratulations to Marco for a great tournament,” added Djokovic. “He’s in a quarter-final. He deserves respect and he's got nothing to lose in our next match.” Or at least 380,000 euros to gain.