ICYMI at the French Open: Watch out, Rafael Nadal, it's time for Dominic Thiem

PARIS -- It could be Dominic Thiem's time.

The Austrian is making waves at the Roland Garros having reached the semifinals for the third successive year. Now he has the chance to go even further -- according to beaten quarterfinal opponent Alexander Zverev.

"He can definitely go to the final. It's going to be between Rafa and him," No. 2 seed Zverev said in press following his defeat Tuesday.

"He's playing very heavy. He's not missing much. He's improved his serve a lot. So he's definitely playing great tennis. You know, I think one of the three best players on the clay court in the last few years, and right now especially. So I wish him all the best."

So why is Thiem so highly fancied in Paris? Let's take a look at the stats:

Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay both this season and last (Rome in 2017 and at the Madrid Masters last month).

He has won more matches on clay (25-5) than any other male player in 2018 -- Nadal is currently 23-1 ahead of Wednesday's quarterfinal against Diego Schwartzman -- and ties Zverev for the most Tour-level wins (34) in 2018.

Thiem also won the title in Lyon in the week prior to the French Open. With No. 20 Novak Djokovic out of the tournament, Thiem could well be the man to deny Nadal an 11th Roland Garros crown.

"I'm a better player in general, for sure," Thiem said. "There was another year of work where I improved and developed my game. Then, I think this year I'm physically and mentally fresher than I have been the last two years. I know how to handle a Grand Slam now, how to handle -- to get that deep in such a tournament, and I think everything gets better with experience.

"I always knew how to play on clay, but I think that now I'm just making less stupid mistakes. Maybe I'm even a little bit more aggressive and that's a good combination."

Watch out Rafa.

The city of love

Paris is the world's most romantic city -- and there was plenty of love on show Tuesday.

Find someone to look at you the way Dominic Thiem looks at a tennis ball.

'Hold me, Mr Trainer'.

Even Alexander Zverev was getting some love. Remember how he was captivated by a reporter's Yorkshire accent earlier in the tournament? Well, they were at it again during the German's news conference:

Question: My colleagues tell me I have become smitten by your tennis, but I assure them it's strictly professional.

Zverev: Is it?

Question: Anyway, I have written you a poem. No, I haven't. Don't panic. I haven't. But for me, watching you on the court this week has been like watching poetry in motion sometimes. Tell us what have been your favorite and happiest memories of being at Roland Garros this week? What have you fallen in love with?

Zverev: The press conference after the second round was my favorite moment (laughter). I heard the Queen of England heard it. That's impressive. I think you're the only person who will actually make me smile right now.


O Brother, where art thou?

Following Sloane Stephens' 6-3, 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Daria Kasatkina Tuesday, the American was in high spirits during her press conference.

Well, until she mentioned her brother.

Sloane Stephens’ brother may owe her an ice cream or two. Following the American’s French Open quarterfinal victory over Daria Kasatkina Thursday, Stephens was asked why she only had a few people in her box. Her answer was gold: “Well, my brother was supposed to come and he lost his passport at LAX, so that's minus one person.” Will he be getting a new passport and attending her semifinal against Madison Keys? “No, I wouldn't let him come now. Are you kidding me?" she added. "He missed his opportunity. He asks me all the time and I always say no anyway. So the one time I say yes, he loses his passport. That's ridiculous. He's not coming. You're not going to see him. Don't worry.”

Rob Bartlett, ESPN UK Associate Editor440d ago

A tidy home is a happy home

How do you stay relaxed like Serena Williams?

A good book? A coffee in one of Paris' many luxurious, laid-back brasseries? Visiting the Eiffel Tower?

Or, how about a spot of tidying. That's what Serena, who withdrew from the French Open on Monday due to injury, was doing in between seeing doctors Tuesday.

While giving an update on her injury via an Instagram story, 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams panned the camera to reveal daughter Olympia's shoes.

"So I asked Olympia to clean up after herself and, I mean, the kid left her shoes! I'm like 'Olympia, mommy has to go to the doctor' and I'm cleaning and you just left your shoes here?" Williams joked.

"While I wait, I clean, 'cause cleaning gives me calm and peace."

Never tell me the odds ...

A slim chance is still a chance, eh Brad?

We'll leave you with this ...

When all is said and done, pictures often speak louder than words. This is what it meant to Marco Cecchinato and his team to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. Someone please pass the Kleenex.