RESURGENT former champion Novak Djokovic has progressed to his 12th French Open quarter-final with an ominous 6-3 6-4 6-2 fourth-round win over Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco.

Seeded 20th after a well-documented slump, Djokovic equalled Roger Federer's mark of reaching nine consecutive quarterfinals at Roland Garros, blunting Verdasco's explosive firepower with his signature counter-punching to book an unlikely last-eight date with Marco Cecchinato.

Two years after being found guilty of match-fixing, the unheralded Italian upset Belgian seventh seed David Goffin 7-5 4-6 6-0 6-3 to qualify for his first grand slam quarter-final.

Djokovic was given a ferocious fight in the early stages with the opening three games against Verdasco lasting 29 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

But what looked like being a long night for the 12-times grand slam champion ended up being a reasonably comfortable one.

One break of serve was enough to take the opening set and, despite Verdasco producing some thunderous winners to stay in touch in the second, the left- hander's challenge faded.

Djokovic, who completed his career grand slam by winning in Paris in 2016, raced away with the third set to close out victory in two hours and 25 minutes.

Elsewhere, Second-seeded Alexander Zverev reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal the hard way, beating Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday for his third straight comeback win in five sets at the tournament.

The gritty victory came with the usual temper flare-ups from Zverev. But the German player also showed, once again, that he knows how to dig deep when it matters. In all three of his five-setters at Roland Garros he has trailed 2-1 in sets.

Alexander Zverev.
Alexander Zverev.

Zverev says he spends up to four hours each day working on weights and fitness.

He might well need to up that schedule considering his quarterfinal opponent is No. 7 Dominic Thiem of Austria, who is one of the fittest players on the men's circuit and has reached the past two semi-finals at Roland Garros.

"I'm expecting another five-set match. I'll get myself ready," Zverev said, smiling.

"I'm very happy about being in the quarterfinals here, going the hard way, going the long distance ... showing everybody that I can play for as long as I need to." Almost 12 hours altogether so far.

Thiem, who has played three straight four-setters, beat No. 19 Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Nishikori won just 14 points in the first set and nine in the second, losing to Thiem for the first time.

In women's play, 13th-seeded Madison Keys reached the quarterfinals for the first time at Roland Garros after beating No. 31 Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-1, 6-4 on Chatrier.

"I made the final of the U.S. Open but lost to my friend Sloane Stephens," Keys said.

"Hopefully big things can happen here." Keys next faces unseeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, who beat 26th-seeded Czech Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3.

If she wins that match, Keys could meet Stephens in the semi-finals. Stephens, the 10th-seeded American, also reached the last eight in Paris for the first time, beating No. 25 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-2, 6-0. Stephens next plays either Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki - seeded second - or 14th-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina.

 

 

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