Day 8 Diary: Gallant Gaston gives Thiem ultimate test

 - Alex Sharp

Another pulsating day of play around the grounds in Paris and we kept an eye on all matters on and off court.

Rafael Nadal motored into a record 14th Roland-Garros quarter-final, there was even more success for those flying the Italian flag and a top seed was sent packing. 

Here is what you might have missed from around the grounds in Paris…

Gallant Gaston gives Thiem the ultimate test

Trumpet noises, chants, clapping, singing in unison, how we have missed this.

A high five at the net, Dominic Thiem congratulated French wild card Hugo Gaston on an “amazing match”, before both received standing ovations from the raucous curtailed crowds on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The forlorn US Open champion Thiem seemed like the exertions from New York were catching up with him, but this takes nothing away from Gaston, who hadn’t won a tour-level match prior to his Paris heroics. 

"Such good fighting qualities from him I haven’t seen a player like this with so much touch in his hands in a long time. His drop shots are just from another planet, I was sprinting around 400 times to the net,” assessed the third-seeded Thiem.

“If he continues like this he’s going to be a huge, huge player. He's going to make a lot of joy in this stadium in the future." 

Gaston, Stan Wawrinka’s conqueror, was on the brink, but a barrage of drop shots, deft lobs and fizzing forehands earned the world No.239 a deciding set. 

Match point down he arrowed an astonishing backhand pass down the line. Gaston really does have all the tools at his disposal.

Thiem just about clinched the telling points to advance 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 to book a quarter-final clash with his close friend Diego Schwartzman.

Watch out Domi, Diego defeated Nadal en route to the Rome Masters final (losing to Djokovic) and has rattled through four rounds in straight sets.

Forza Italia!

Martina Trevisan and Jannik Sinner, two names you might not have known too much about prior to this week.

Now, thanks to their exploits, Italy will have a player in the quarter-finals of both the men’s and women’s singles at a major for just the second time in the Open Era. 

Trevisan, currently ranked world No.159, dispatched fifth seed Kiki Bertens 6-4, 6-4. The 26-year-old had never tasted victory at Grand Slam level before this week and had endured 16 straight defeats to top 100 opposition.

Now, having edged Coco Gauff and saved two match points against Maria Sakkari on Friday night, Trevisan is in dreamland.

Check out her endearing on-court quotes below.

As for Sinner, the 19-year-old is the most calm and composed guy you’ll ever see, his tennis is so smooth and strategically sound. 

The world No.75 teenage talent was in command 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 against sixth seed Alexander Zverev to become the first man to make the last eight on their Roland-Garros debut since Nadal in 2005.

Next up for Sinner, it’s Nadal. Can Sinner strike on centre stage?

Sabatini pride in Podoroska

42 victories in any season is pretty impressive, but in 2020 that’s magnifique! Nadia Podoroska is another player thriving on debut in Paris.

The Argentine is making her mark on the major stage, her first Grand Slam since US Open 2016, with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 triumph facing Barbora Krejcikova.

With 21 clay wins tallied up since the tour restarted early August, Podoroska's red-hot form has propelled the world No.131 into the Roland-Garros last eight, the first from her nation to do so in Paris since Paola Suarez 16 years ago.  

Compatriot and 1990 US Open champion Gabriela Sabatini was watching and certainly approves, tweeting, “Brilliant triumph Nadia, Congratulations on your grit and courage. Come on!!!!”

Not those kind of shots for Rafa

Reporters might be running out of questions for 12-time champion Nadal following his 97th victory at Roland-Garros.

How about this revelation from the Spaniard…

Journalist: "You often move like a dancer on the court, do you like dancing off the court? If so, what is your favourite dance?"

To which the world No.2 responded with a smile, “Well, yeah, with some tequilas I am dancing, yes. Without tequilas is more difficult!”

Special signature for Sebi

Sebastian Korda hailed the “best moment of my life".

The 20-year-old qualifier’s captivating campaign was emphatically halted by his childhood idol Nadal. However he was smiling moments after their duel, having secured a souvenir.

“I asked him for a signed shirt when we were tapping racquets. So I don't know if anyone's ever asked him for an autograph after a match, but that was definitely the coolest moment of my life and one I'll never forget for sure,” admitted the American.

“Just seeing him across the net. I mean, ever since I was a kid, I was in love with him and everything about him. I would watch every single match. Doesn't matter who he was playing or what tournament he was playing, he was the guy for me.”

Sweet medicine for Simona

Simona Halep’s Roland-Garros came to a dramatic close courteous of an astounding 6-1, 6-2 scoreline facing Iga Swiatek.

The 2018 champion will dust herself off and cap her 2020 campaign with a treat.

“Of course, it's not easy to take it, but I'm used to some tough moments in this career. So I will have a chocolate and I will be better tomorrow,” she said with a smile.