Djokovic, Thiem and Zverev in fourth round action

GETTYNovak Djokovic faces Fernando Verdasco on Sunday in the French Open

The real hard way.

The 21-year-old world number three had battled through three consecutive five-setters on his way to the last eight, but his body failed him against claycourt specialist Thiem.

Kei Nishikori's triumphant return was brought to an end, courtesy Dominic Thiem.

"Today is a flawless example of what I have been trying to do, and I think it showed today", Keys said. "So hopefully next time I will win it..." And after, when I warmed up, it was better. I couldn't serve. I couldn't really do anything.

His opponent, though, the 24-year-old Dominic Thiem, may not yet have won a Masters, but he was proving to be a serious contender on the tour, especially on clay. "And I think that's good enough". I watched him play. At 9-8, Djokovic flubbed a forehand, knelt and clasped his hands together as if praying, then raised an index finger as if to plea, "Let me have ONE of these!"

Before this year's French Open, not only had he never reached the last eight of a major tournament, but he had lost all seven matches against top-50 players. It was his first win in three tries over the Japanese. I thought maybe it's just, like, soreness or something that would just go away.

Thiem will next face second seed Alexander Zverev for a spot in his third consecutive semi-final in Paris. He's going to be pumped.

Djokovic, Cecchinato said, "seemed unsure of himself at the beginning". Thiem called their upcoming quarterfinal "the matchup most of the fans in Germany and Austria were hoping for when they saw the draw". I want to think about the present.

Djokovic continued his solid progress too as he powered to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Spain's Fernando Verdasco, and the Serb says he knows Cecchiato quite well. "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". "So that's all positives for now".

"Seems like a month ago", Cecchinato said with a laugh Tuesday, when he answered reporters' questions in Italian, Spanish and English.

In the simultaneous women's quarter-final on Suzanne-Lenglen, Madison Keys reached the semi-finals of the French Open for the first time in her career.

"The best moment of my life", Cecchinato said.

Djokovic will be the big favorite on Tuesday.

Asked if he was back, however, Djokovic was blunt: "I am back in the locker room". "He trained a lot where I reside, where I live. And we actually trained this year before Monte-Carlo tournament".

"For sure, he's playing the tennis of his life". He deserves respect and he's got nothing to lose in our next match.

Tomorrow, four more quarterfinal berths are on the line.

Rafa Nadal faced no such trouble, although Max Marterer did acquit himself pretty well against the King of Clay, even taking him to a tiebreak, while John Isner was surprisingly outclassed by Juan Martin Del Potro, with no tiebreaks taking place - a real rarity. Kevin Anderson takes on Diego Schwartzman, Marin Cilic meets Fabio Fognini. Yes, there have been occasional incursions at each level-Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro have won at both-but "the four" have created a near impenetrable glass ceiling, despite all now being in their 30s.