PARIS (Reuters) - Austrian Dominic Thiem was made to sweat before advancing into the French Open quarter-finals as he ended Frenchman Hugo Gaston's dream run with a 6-4 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-3 victory on Sunday.
The third seed, who was beaten by claycourt master Rafael Nadal in the final of the last two editions, was clearly frustrated against the resourceful 20-year-old but pulled through to set up a clash with Argentine 12th seed Diego Schwartzman.
"He's got such a big touch in his hand, his drop shots are from another planet. I must have sprinted 400 times to the net," said Thiem, who is on course to collide with 12-times champion Nadal in the semi-finals.
"If he continues like this he's gonna be a huge player and give this stadium a lot of joy. I'm lucky I made it through today."
Things went Thiem's way in the first two sets, with the Austrian needing only one break in each to put himself on track for a straightforward win but he admitted he was low on energy following his U.S. Open triumph.
Gaston's first break of the match early in the third set was a sign of trouble to come, but after breaking straight back, it seemed like Thiem had a grip on the match.
The local favourite, however, continued to mix up his game with drop shots and Thiem, who had won his first three matches in straight sets, was flummoxed.
Gaston, who defeated former Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka in five sets in the previous round, just seemed to be enjoying himself.
Thiem, however, managed to regain his composure and hammered his way to victory, ending it on the second match point after three hours and 32 minutes.
"I had my problems, I didn't find great answers, and after a good start all of a sudden it was two sets all," said Thiem.
Thiem, however, enjoyed the atmosphere on court, where a few dozens fans screamed their support for Gaston, the world number 239.
"The stadium was far from full, but still it was a great atmosphere," he said.
A maximum of 1,000 spectators are allowed at Roland Garros amid COVID-19 restriction, while the U.S. Open was played without any fans at all.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)