World no. 3 Dominic Thiem is through to his fifth straight Roland Garros quarter-final, prevailing over world no. 239 Hugo Gaston 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3 in three hours and 32 minutes. It was the biggest challenge for Thiem outside Nadal and Djokovic in the last couple of years in Paris, with the home player giving his best to stun one of the favorites on his Roland Garros debut.
Finding his strokes from the third set, Gaston started to move Thiem from one side to another, implementing slices, drop shots, moonballing, anything to disturb the rival's rhythm from the baseline and keep the rallies on his racquet.
He wasn't far away from the finish line but Dominic survived in the closing stages to set the quarter-final clash against Diego Schwartzman. The Austrian fired 59 winners and 63 unforced errors, earning four breaks and suffering three to cross the finish line first, having a massive advantage in the most extended exchanges.
Serving at 72%, Thiem lost eight points behind the initial shot in the opener, hitting ten winners more than his rival and delivering one break for 6-4. Gaston wasted two break chances in the second game, defending three at 2-2 before Dominic grabbed a break after a forehand error from the Frenchman in game seven.
Serving at 5-4, world no. 3 blasted a forehand winner to seal the opener in 40 minutes and make a strong start. The favorite served even better in set number two, giving away only four points behind the initial shot and mounting the pressure on his opponent with ten winners and ten unforced errors.
Unable to find an open space, Gaston hit too many unforced errors, getting broken once for a repeat of the opener. Both players served well in the opening two games, and Hugo had to dig deep in the third, holding after two deuces to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Thiem held at love to level the score at 2-2 and grabbed a break a few minutes later to gain the advantage.
Dominic Thiem is through to his fifth Roland Garros quarter-final in as many years.
The last year's finalist lost only three points behind the initial shot in the set's remaining service games, wasting a set point on the return at 5-3 but closing it with a service winner a few minutes later for 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes.
Gaston started to play much better from set number three, defending the second serve superbly and hitting as many winners as in the opening two sets combined. They traded breaks in games four and five, wasting opportunities on both sides in games eight and nine before Thiem saved three set points on serve at 4-5.
He played great in that game but not so much at 5-6, as Hugo forced an error from him to grab a break and take the set 7-5. In set number four, the Austrian had the upper hand in the rallies but couldn't control those, spraying too many mistakes and losing serve once to keep the home favorite in contention.
Mixing his game nicely, Hugo broke in the fourth game after a loose backhand from Dominic, repelling two break chances in the next one and securing the set with a hold at 15 in game nine to force a decider. Fighting for every point, they stayed neck and neck until the eighth game when Gaston wasted a game point and suffered a break, sending Thiem 5-3 in front.
The Austrian defended a break point in the ninth game, sealing the deal with a service winner to survive and advance into the quarters.