Early-bird Thiem advances to 4th round at French Open

U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem is still finding his bearings at a French Open that is being played in autumn because of the coronavirus pandemic

PARIS — Waking up early Friday for his third-round match at the French Open, Dominic Thiem was surprised to see that the morning skies were still dark.

Yup, Roland Garros in autumn, when the sun is slower to rouse itself than during the usual May-June slot, takes some getting used to. But the U.S. Open champion is adjusting just fine.

The runner-up last year and in 2018, both times to Rafael Nadal, advanced to the fourth round for the fifth consecutive time, with another straight-set victory at Roland Garros in this year’s first encounter between seeded men.

The victim of the third-seeded Austrian’s fierce backhand and super-quick court coverage under the new roof on Court Philippe Chatrier was No. 28 Casper Ruud, dispatched 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

The 19-year-old Swiatek beat Canadian wild-card entry Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-2. Swiatek has so far lost only 13 games and not dropped a set on her way to the fourth round for the second consecutive year.

Svitolina defeated two-time French Open quarterfinalist Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4, 7-5.

Still, waking up in the players’ bio-secured hotel at 7 a.m. for the first match Friday on Chatrier, he was taken aback that dawn had to yet to break, as it would have done in May.

“Everything dark. Winter is almost coming,” he said. “That was a little bit weird.”

Thiem was broken only once, when he sent a forehand wide to give Ruud a 3-1 lead in the first set. He immediately broke back and converted six of his 15 break points in all. He also saved seven of the eight break points he faced.

Ruud was bidding to become only the second Norwegian to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

The first was his father and coach, Christian Ruud, at the Australian Open in 1997. He was watching Friday on Chatrier, which was again largely empty because of the daily limit of 1,000 spectators imposed on what is now the last Grand Slam of the year.