PARIS • After three consecutive five-setters, a lacklustre and battle-weary Alexander Zverev finally succumbed 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 yesterday to Dominic Thiem in the French Open quarter-finals.
The world No. 3's fatigue, on the other hand, was a blessing for Austrian Thiem, who reached the last four for the third straight year.
Following his victory, the 24-year-old had only consoling words for his second-seeded German opponent, playing in his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
"It was very tough for him today. He is one of the fittest guys on tour but, even for him, it's tough to play three five-setters in a row," said Thiem, who is the only player to have defeated Rafael Nadal on clay prior to Roland Garros this year in the Madrid Open quarter-finals.
"For sure we will have many more encounters at this late stage of a Grand Slam, or even later.
"I love it so much here. It's a third time in the semi-finals, it sounds amazing. When I was younger, I never expected this, but reaching it for the third time it's time for more, and I will try everything to take one more step this year."
Minutes, or 10 hours and 20 minutes Alexander Zverev played in three five-setters before the quarter-finals.
Zverev's Roland Garros marathon matches left him physically drained. The statistics, too, made bleak reading for the 21-year-old who finished with 42 unforced errors and just 19 winners.
In a tight first set of a match played in overcast, heavy conditions, Thiem converted the only break point off a backhand winner in the seventh game before securing the opener with an ace.
Zverev, who had spent about 21/2 hours more than his Austrian opponent getting to this stage, hit 13 unforced errors to Thiem's eight.
A double break took Thiem to 4-1 in the second set before Zverev needed a medical timeout for what was later confirmed as a hamstring injury. With his left thigh heavily strapped, the German was soon two sets down and looking at having to become the first player to win four consecutive five-setters if he was to make the semi-finals.
Zverev managed just four winners in the second set. There was no coming back and he was quickly down 4-0 in the third before Thiem wrapped up the affair.
In the women's draw, American 13th seed Madison Keys proved too strong for Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva as she reached the French Open semi-finals for the first time, defeating world No. 98 Putintseva 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
"I really just had to focus because Yulia was playing so well, I knew I just had to make a few more balls," said Keys, who is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
Keys will face compatriot Sloane Stephens in the last four, after the US Open champion beat Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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