Coming up next: Rafa vs Novak
Rafael Nadal overcame a sluggish start and a stiff challenge from Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime with an enthralling 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win on Sunday to set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
This was only the third time in his 112 matches that Nadal was taken to the fifth set at Roland Garros and he ensured he kept his blemish-free record intact, wrapping up the win in four hours and 21 minutes to wild applause from the crowd.
Nadal will hope he can recover in time from the gruelling contest for his next outing, where the reigning champion awaits for their 59th career showdown.
The Spaniard, who will turn 36 on Friday, has lifted the Musketeers’ Cup a record 13 times but was ousted in the semi-finals last year by Djokovic.
“Of course we know each other well. We have a lot of history together,” Nadal said of Djokovic.“I am going to be focused, I will try my best. I don’t know what will happen but I will fight until the end.”
Earlier, Djokovic showed glimpses of his brilliant best to demolish Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 and book his place in the quarter finals. The world No. 1’s pace was too much for Argentine Schwartzman, who barely threatened despite enjoying a 3-0 lead in the second set.
From then on it was a one-way street for Serbian Djokovic, who won 12 of the remaining 15 games on a chilly Court Suzanne Lenglen.
“I have a lot of respect for him. He’s good guy on and off the court and he’s a claycourt specialist so it’s not easy especially in slow conditions with a ball that was not bouncing high,” said Djokovic of Schwartzman, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2020.
“I found the good serves at the right moments.”
The match looked nothing like the 2017 Roland Garros thriller between the pair, when Djokovic had to fight from two sets down to advance to the fourth round.
Djokovic, who has now reached the last eight here for the 13th year in a row, saved two break points at 1-1 before Schwartzman dropped serve to give his opponent early lead in the opening set.
He raced through it, barely troubled by his opponent’s drop shots and almost managing to get the extra shot. But the Argentine was not ready to give up and he broke for 2-0 in the second set and held for 3-0 only for Djokovic to raise his level again to break back with a crosscourt forehand winner.
Always ready with a good serve when needed, the Serbian staved off break points in the next game to level for 3-3, took the 15th seed’s serve again and wrapped up set two after another break.
Schwartzman showed signs of frustration when Djokovic left him red-faced with a delightful drop shot to go 3-2 up in the third. Djokovic ended the Argentine’s ordeal by winning his final service game to love.
Third seed Alexander Zverev battled nerves and an erratic serve to beat Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles 7-6 (11), 7-5, 6-3 to move into the last eight. The German had to save three set points in the first set and make a comeback from 4-2 down and 15-40 on his own serve in the second while also hitting seven double faults in a rollercoaster performance.
Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas thrashed Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in a lopsided contest to canter into the fourth round on Saturday.
Tsitsipas came into the Roland Garros clash with a 3-0 head-to-head lead over fellow 23-year-old Ymer.
There were no signs that things would be any different this time with Tsitsipas dominating proceedings from the onset on a sun-bathed Court Suzanne Lenglen.
He put on a clinical service display on the red clay, facing just a single break point on his delivery and losing only 10 points on his serve.
“Lot of good rallies from my side. We have a history, playing Mike from the juniors. We played each other a lot,” Tsitsipas said.
US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez won a baseline battle against American 27th seed Amanda Anisimova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to book her spot in the quarter finals of the French Open for the first time.
The only other time the Canadian left-hander made the second week of a grand slam was during her run to the final at Flushing Meadows in 2021 when she lost to fellow-teenager Emma Raducanu.
“Today (Sunday) was a very complicated game and I’m happy I managed to get through,” she said in an on-court interview, speaking in French.
“I knew she would fire a lot of winners and that I had to accept that and not get frustrated. I was so eager to get to play here. I’m happy all the hard work we’ve done, me, my father, paid off.”
In a disappointing day for India, both Sania Mirza and her partner Ivan Dodig and Rohan Bopanna and his partner Andreja Klepac lost their respective mixed doubles second round matches.
Sania and Dodig went down 4-6, 3-6 to the all-Brazilian pair of Beatriz Haddad Maia and Bruno Soares in the match that lasted one hour 15 minutes.
Later, Lucie Hradecká and Gonzalo Escobar defeated Bopanna and Klepac 7-6 (2), 6-4.