KEY DATES FOR WIMBLEDON 2016

Qualifying begins: 20 June

The Draw: 24 June

Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June

Order of Play: 26 June

Championships begin: 27 June

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Sunday 29 May 2016 12:50 PM BST
French Open 2016 Days 7&8: Gasquet ready to steal the show?
After the sudden exit of Rafael Nadal, a new generation of young players took centre stage at Roland Garros where the weather wreaked once again havoc with the schedule. READ MORE

With the sudden departure of the nine-time champion from Spain because of a wrist injury and an injured Roger Federer also absent, a third-round battle between rising ATP stars Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem suddenly took on extra meaning as both had been in Nadal’s quarter.

In the end, Thiem prevailed and now has a real shot at reaching his first grand slam semi-final after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – a possible quarterfinal opponent -- dampened French hopes when he had to retire with an injury.

Defending champion Serena Williams and her sister Venus both overcame tough French opponents while an almighty thunderstorm stopped proceedings for about two-and-a-half hours and caused a power outage which cut almost all television pictures.

But as dusk started to fall, normality was restored as men’s top seed Novak Djokovic cruised into the fourth round in fading light against British No. 2 Aljaz Bedene.

Meanwhile Richard Gasquet upset fifth seed Kei Nishikori to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in his career and will now play No.2 seed Andy Murray, who downed American John Isner in straight sets. Defending champion Stan Wawrinka also impressed but Milos Raonic suffered a shock defeat while 2015 Wimbledon runner-up Garbine Muguruza continued to impress on the women’s side.

Here are the highlights of days seven and eight:

Match of the Day

With all other French players – male and female – out of the singles draws, all hopes were pinned on Gasquet once again with the daily programme putting him on the cover with the headline “Force destiny.”  

Outrageously talented with one of the most beautiful backhands in the game, he finally did them proud with a dashing display as he beat Nishikori 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

It is Gasquet’s first quarter-final at Roland Garros at the 13th time of asking and the 29-year-old, tipped for the top from a very young age, said he is relishing the experience.

“Now I'm just on the biggest court in the world for a French tennis player. It's really important for me to succeed there,” he said.

The first big test for defending champion Serena Williams, who overcame a barrage of drop shots by Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 7-6 (12-10) in a match that was interrupted by rain at the start of an epic 19-minute tiebreak which the American won on her fifth match point – but not before her coach Patrick Mouratoglou put out a small fire in front of the player box.

Williams will next play 21-year-old Elena Svitolina, a Ukrainian coached by the American’s former foe and four-time French Open winner Justine Henin, who defeated former winner Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-4, 6-4.

There was also high drama during Venus’ match against the 50th-ranked Alize Cornet when the seven-time grand slam winner got into a heated debate with the umpire after she was given a coaching violation.

“I’m 36 years old and in my whole career, I have never got a coaching violation,” Williams told the umpire.

Fired up, she went on to beat Cornet for the sixth time in a row with a 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 6-0 win that put her in the fourth round of Roland Garros for the first time since 2010.

Since being diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjogren’s Syndrome it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Williams, who will play Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinsky next.

“I’ve had some issues in the past, what can you do?,” Venus, who is actually 35, said in an on-court interview. “Every year is different, and I’m trying to make this year my best.”

Shot of the day

Racing to finish his match at 9:28pm local time, 11-time grand slam champion Djokovic powered past Bedene, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 with shots like these:

Lucky Loser

Perhaps Marcel Granollers should start playing the lottery.

The 56th-ranked Spaniard made the draws of Monte Carlo and Madrid as a lucky loser and his luck continued at Roland Garros when he moved to the fourth round on a walkover after his compatriot Nadal pulled out injured.

Performance of the day

“The little difference today was probably the three years’ age difference,” Thiem, 22, said after overcoming Zverev, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

The 13th-seeded Austrian never panicked when he dropped the first set against the big-serving Zverev to beat the German teenager for the third time in four weeks.  

Instead of Nadal, Thiem will play Granollers in his next round and he will go into that match the heavy favourite as he leads the charts for most clay-court wins this year.

Dutch delight

Making an exception to the rule that most players who pull a big upset lose in the next round, Holland’s Kiki Bertens battled past Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-2, 3-6, 10-8 in just under three hours.

Bertens, 24, had stunned Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber in the first round and will next play the 15th-seeded Madison Keys of the U.S for a place in the quarterfinal.

Quotes of the day

“I really don't like that in Olympic Games there is no points and no prize money. It's a little bit like tennis tourism."

The ever-outspoken Ernests Gulbis from Latvia, who moved to the fourth round after Tsonga retired while leading 5-2 with a leg injury, on why he’s not going to the Olympics.

“Absolute turnip”

Andy Murray has called himself many things over the years while playing matches but we have seldom heard this one before, shouted at himself in the second set against Isner.

Moment of the day

The sun never made an appearance on this greyest of all days but the 108th-ranked Shelby Rogers lit up the Court Suzanne Lenglen as she marched into her first grand slam quarter-final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over the 25th-seeded Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.

Rogers, a 23-year-old from Charleston, South Carolina had downed two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in her previous round and was overcome with emotion when interviewed by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli:  

Murray’s rain dance

One of the few players happy with yet another rain delay was Andy Murray. The Scot had survived three set points to win the opening set before the rain came early in the second set and when they returned, the Isner serve was nullified by the heavy balls and surface.

“Conditions favoured me for sure,” Murray said. “When we came back out the balls were extremely slow, so I was able to return a lot more serves, get a lot more in the service games, extend the rallies, and that's where I was able to dictate most of the points.”

No “Santina Slam”; Exit for Williams sisters

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza’s quest for a fourth straight grand slam doubles title came to a surprise end as they were beaten 6-3, 6-2 by Czech pair Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the third round. And the Williams sisters were also defeated, ousted 6-3, 6-3 by Holland’s Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson of Sweden after the American pair had won the remainder of their second round earlier in the day.

Upset of the day

There is a left-hander from Spain in the men’s quarterfinal at Roland Garros and his name is…Alberto Ramos-Vinolas.

The 55th-ranked Ramos-Vinolas flew the flag for Spain after the sudden departure of an injured Rafael Nadal and he did not disappoint as he completely outplayed former quarter-finalist Raonic, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

Former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe is the latest coach to sign up with the eight-seeded Canadian, who also works with former French Open winner Carlos Moya and Riccardo Piatti.

Despite this stellar line-up, Raonic was given a bit of a clay-court lesson by the 28-year-old from Barcelona, who had never been past round two in a slam before.

Asked if it wasn’t a bit crowded in his marriage a quatre, Raonic said he considered himself “the CEO of the Milos Raonic Tennis.”

“I take everybody's consultations very personally,” he said. “I know everybody I have around me wants to help me to the fullest.”

Stat of the day

Rogers, the surprise package of this French Open, is the first American woman other than the Williams sisters to reach the last eight at the French Open since 2005.

Her year-to-date prize money before the French Open: $62,732
Her earnings at Roland Garros: 294,000 euros ($326,795)