- Iga Swiatek brushes top seed Simona Halep aside
- Jannik Sinner outlasts Alexander Zverev
- Hugo Gaston takes Dominic Thiem the distance in evening thriller
PARIS, FRANCE – Centre stage was reserved for the new stars to set out their stalls against established clay-courters on Day 8 of Roland Garros.
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Iga Swiatek def. Simona Halep  6-1 6-2
Having met Simona Halep at the same stage last year, and been handed a beat-down for the glory of just one game, this time it was very much roles reversed. The focus was all Iga Swiatek’s, the frustration was all Halep’s.
No matter what Halep through at the Polish teenager, Swiatek was there to send it right back with bells on. Her movement matched Halep’s scurrying at the baseline, and she rushed the top seed many times into playing the extra ball and drawing the errors.
Afterwards a strangely zen Halep said: “All the credit to her, she played unbelievable today and she was everywhere, and she hit all the balls in very strong, very powerful. It was a little bit cold and I couldn’t be at my best, but, yeah, she played really well and her it was her match today.”
Swiatek, who has the music tastes of an old soul (AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Pink Floyd and more recently a little bit of jazz) had a measure of self-belief that she put down to growing up in the past year or so.
She said: “I knew this is a great opportunity for me and I can play my best tennis on biggest stadium because I already played like four matches like that. And right now, I’m more experienced, I can handle the pressure. So, I feel like I grown up to play a match like that and to win it.
“I just think it’s really nice that we have many young players that are coming up and that are not scared. I’m really happy that I’m one of them, and I hope I’m going to continue that way
“I’m really glad that I wasn’t in a final of French Open last year because I think the pressure would be too big. I like that I have, like, time to grow up. I think it’s perfect for me doing it one step after another.”
She will face Martina Trevisan, who prior to this tournament had yet to win a Slam first round match and came through qualifying.
Jannik Sinner def. Alexander Zverev  6-3 6-3 4-6 6-3
Jannik Sinner is already a NextGen champion and has already set down his marker for what he is capable of, but such is the way of a Roland Garros the conversation has always been about the King of Clay and any princes to be heirs apparent.
Sinner had already despatched David Goffin  in straight sets in the first round and in fact had yet to drop a set in the tournament, as he breezed through the first two sets against a clearly sickly Alexander Zverev. The German did show his resilience to take advantage of a slight dip in Sinner’s game to take the third set, but there was to be no legendary Zverev scenic route five-setter, as Sinner kept his nerve and now sets up a mouth-watering clash against Rafael Nadal.
Dominic Thiem  def. Hugo Gaston [WC]
Talking of heirs apparent, Dominic Thiem looked to be in cruise control against Hugo Gaston, the flamboyant young French-man whose tennis had seen him take out one three-time Slam champion in Stan Wawrinka, so what challenge is a one-time champion? Turns out, one that can fire up a Sunday night thriller.
Thiem coasted through the first two sets, but perhaps at times he has looked a little weary during his matches given he only won the US Open a few weeks ago, and as his resolve dipped, Gaston made good use of the sparse yet vocal crowd allowed in to Court Philippe-Chatrier.
They got behind their man as he drop-shotted Thiem to distraction, and in the decider, it was a toss-up to see who would blink first. As it happened it was the first break point of the set that was converted by Thiem. But he would find himself having to save one of his own before finally getting over the line on his second match point.
Gaston, who had been overcome with emotion when he had beaten Wawrinka, was given a standing ovation by the crowd and savoured those moments on the centre stage – somewhere where we should expect to see much more of him.
Thiem said, after the match: “He was playing a great match. I haven’t seen for a very long time a guy with that great hands, playing that great drop-shots.
“I had my troubles. I didn’t find great answers to that drop-shots. And then somehow all of a sudden it’s like two sets all. I think it was a great atmosphere, even though was far away from full, the stadium. Everything could have happened in that fifth set. I guess with a little bit more experience I pulled it through.”
Play continues on Day 9 at 11am (10am BST).
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