These hurdles have finally been overcome, but Zverev has had to dig deep.
The 13th-seeded Keys has not lost a set at Roland Garros.
While Zverev still has time to make his mark at the highest level, Thiem wants to do better right now as he is almost 25 and feels that two French Open semi-finals in 2016 and 2017 might not be enough to quench his thirst.
"Me and my brother (Mischa) are guys that spend three, four hours a day in the gym, lifting heavy weights, on the treadmill". I'm happy with all of my game. Zverev, who had spent more than two and a half hours than his Austrian opponent getting to this stage, hit 13 unforced errors to Thiem's miserly eight.
Zverev and Thiem have always been identified as the two younger players most likely to threaten Rafael Nadal's dominance on clay.
Having said this, Thiem's statistical edge is paper-thin and certainly not enough to justify a lower market price, so it is utterly evident that the market is factoring in a lack of faith in Zverev's ability to back up three consecutive 3-2 victories and in short, thinking that the German will be absolutely knackered from a fitness perspective.
"It's going to be a very tough match against him". The Austrian sealed his victory in the first set with an ace.
The 21-year-old world number three had battled through three consecutive five-setters on his way to the last eight, but his body failed him against claycourt specialist Thiem.
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"It's, I think, the match, especially in Germany and Austria, everybody was hoping for".
Zverev sank to his knees in celebration. He then patted Khachanov, a friend from their junior days, on the chest before pumping his arms to celebrate.
The fourth set saw a pivotal momentum change as Khachanov failed to take advantage of two break points in the fifth game before Zverev secured a break in the following game, before the second seed saved a further two break points to force a deciding set. With Zverev serving for the set at 5-4, he soon trailed 0-40.
In the third set, however, Nishikori stayed in touch as he served better and finished off points at the net, which unsettled Thiem who grew frustrated.
Kasatkina has had quite the whirlwind of a tournament and held it together to beat No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round, but can she put her game together to make it to a first major semi-final? "So I think we can make it legendary and that would be very nice", Thiem, 24, told reporters after his huge forehand helped him to destroy Japan's Nishikori. "Hopefully big things can happen here".
The Austrian routed a sluggish Kei Nishikori early, then hung for a 6-2, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 win.
Individuals Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens have now superior to the quarterfinals in any respect 4 majors after their comfy wins over Mihaela Buzarnescu and Anett Kontaveit, respectively. Both are in the quarterfinals in Paris for the first time.