Teenagers Jannik Sinner and Iga Swiatek sent shockwaves through Roland Garros on Sunday, reaching their maiden Grand Slam quarter-finals, as 12-time champion Rafael Nadal breezed into the last eight for the 14th time.
Italy’s Sinner, 19 and ranked 75, defeated sixth seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to become the youngest men’s Grand Slam quarter-finalist since Novak Djokovic in Paris in 2006.
His reward is a clash with Nadal who defeated American qualifier Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 to stay comfortably on course for a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam crown.
It was Nadal’s 97th win at the tournament against just two defeats since his title-winning debut in 2005.
World number 54 Swiatek, also 19, shocked top seed and title favourite Simona Halep 6-1, 6-2.
In a tournament turned upside down by the coronavirus, which meant a four-month delay and with a crowd capacity of just 1,000 a day, it was fitting that further shock wins were delivered by qualifiers.
Italy’s Martina Trevisan, ranked at 159, and 131st-ranked Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, also made the quarter-finals with wins over fifth seed Kiki Bertens and Barbora Krejcikova respectively.
Sinner is first player to reach the last eight on his Roland Garros debut since Nadal lifted the trophy in 2005.
“Today was very tough knowing that it’s going to be a long match but in the end I’m very happy about my performance,” said Sinner after his defeat of US Open runner-up Zverev.
Swiatek fired 30 winners past 2018 champion Halep who failed to carve out a single break point.
“I am surprised I could do this,” admitted Swiatek after ending the 17-match winning streak of Halep, the overwhelming favourite in the absence of 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty and US Open winner Naomi Osaka and following the injury-enforced withdrawal of Serena Williams.
It was a stunning turnaround for the Pole who won just one game against the Romanian at the same stage in Paris last year, swept off court in just 45 minutes.
Halep, who had arrived in Paris with claycourt titles from Prague and Rome, admitted: “She played really well, it was her match today.”
“I will have a chocolate and be better tomorrow.”
Swiatek will face Trevisan for a place in the semi-finals after the 26-year-old registered a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Bertens.
Trevisan and Podoroska are the first qualifiers to make the last eight since Yaroslava Shvedova in 2012.
‘Living a dream’
“I’m living in a dream,” said the Italian who saved two match points in her third round win over Greek 20th seed Maria Sakkari.
Podoroska, also making her main draw debut, defeated Krejcikova 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 and will next face third seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
The 23-year-old Podoroska, who was ranked at 255 at the start of the season, has now won 42 matches across all tours in 2020 despite the truncated season.
She will bid to emulate compatriot Paola Suarez who made the semi-finals in Paris in 2004.
Svitolina reached the quarter-finals for the third time with a 6-1, 6-3 win over France’s Caroline Garcia.
Sunday’s shocks mean that only four seeds remain in the women’s draw—Svitolina, fourth-seeded Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, seeded at seven, and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the 30th seed.
Nadal will be playing in his 42nd Grand Slam quarter-final when he faces Sinner.
Korda, the world number 213 and son of 1998 Australian Open champion and 1992 Roland Garros runner-up Petr Korda, never recovered from slipping quickly to a 5-0 deficit in the first set.
The 20-year-old, who was so in awe of Nadal when he was growing up that he named his cat after the Spaniard, at least had the consolation of breaking serve once in the third set.
It was a brief respite as 34-year-old Nadal swept into the last eight without dropping a set and with his opponent left to rue 48 unforced errors on a chilly, blustery day in the French capital.
“It was a good performance and I am happy with that,” said Nadal.