(Reuters) – Italian teenager Jannik Sinner has just dropped one set on his way to a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at the French Open but will face the biggest challenge of his fledgling career when he takes on 12-times champion Rafa Nadal on Tuesday.
Sinner, the reigning ATP Next Gen Finals champion, played without fear throughout his fourth round encounter with sixth seed Alexander Zverev, firing 39 winners en route a memorable win.
The 19-year-old surpassed his own expectations to become the first man to reach the Roland Garros quarter-finals on debut since Nadal in 2005 but is not ready to rest on his laurels.
“I don’t watch that much about this kind of records or whatever,” Sinner told reporters. “At the end of the day you want to play well every match.
“It’s not the easiest thing (to play Nadal at Roland Garros), for sure. I think the record he has here, nobody can beat that. He is super confident here.”
Despite coming off a disappointing quarter-final exit in Rome, Nadal has shown no signs of slowing down in Paris as he moved into the final eight having only dropped 23 games through the first four rounds.
The Spaniard has never faced Sinner in a tour-level match but has got a taste of the Italian’s shot-making prowess during a couple of practice sessions.
“He’s young, he’s improving every single week,” said Nadal. “He has an amazing potential, he moves the hands very quickly and he’s able to produce amazing shots.”
U.S. Open winner Dominic Thiem will also be in action on Tuesday, facing Rome finalist Diego Schwartzman for a place in the semi-finals.
In the women’s draw, Strasbourg champion Elina Svitolina, seeded third, will look to extend her winning streak on clay to nine matches when she goes up against Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)