Nadal climbs 4th in France, where he will face Djokovic

PARIS (AP) – At the end of the third match in five sets that Rafael Nadal has played in 112 career Roland-Garros appearances, as the sun and the temperature dropped and the chants of “Ra-fa! Raffa!” filled the evening air, the man known as the King of Clay showing precisely what this meant to him.

On each run, slip and catch a seemingly unreachable shot on the yellow racket of his opponent, Félix Auger-Aliassime; with each winning move placed in a corner; and with each well-landed volley, Nadal would jump or throw an uppercut or shout “Come on!” – and often all of the above.

Nadal passed his first serious French Open test by beating 9th seed Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in nearly 4:30 of an even and entertaining in the fourth round on Sunday at Court Philippe Chatrier.

And the reward? A promising clash with his rival Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

“Of course, we know each other well. We have a lot of history together,” said Nadal, who hadn’t dropped a set in the first week of the tournament before losing two to Auger-Aliassime, a 21-year-old Canadian with excellent serve. “Here we are at Roland Garros. It’s my favorite place, without a doubt. I don’t know what will happen, but the only thing I can guarantee is that I will fight until the end”.

Nadal improved to 3-0 in five-set matches in the clay court tournament which he dominated like no one has dominated a Grand Slam tournament. He’s 109-3 overall here, and two of those losses have come to Djokovic, including in the semi-finals last year.

That’s how important their rivalry is: Tuesday’s meeting will be the 59th between the two, more than two other male tennis players have faced each other in the sport’s professional era. Djokovic leads 30-28, although Nadal has a 7-2 lead at Roland Garros.

Djokovic, the defending champion, qualified for the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the 16th time in his career.

The Serbian world number one quickly recovered from a late start to the second set to earn a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over 15th-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman on court Susana Lenglen .

Djokovic has won all 12 sets he has contested so far in this year’s tournament and has lost only a total of 30 matches in four matches.

He trailed 3-0 in the second set before winning seven straight games to win that set and take a 1-0 lead in the third.

Djokovic has reached the quarter-finals in Paris 13 years in a row. He won the title in 2016 and last year part of his collection of 20 Grand Slam trophies. Only one man has won more: Nadal, with 21.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev, seeded third, will be in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the fourth time thanks to a 7-6 (11), 7-5, 6-3 victory over Spain’s Bernabé Zapata Miralles, 131st .

Zverev, 25, will face 19-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who leads the circuit with four titles this year, in the quarter-finals. Alcaraz, world number six, beat Russian Karen Khachanov, world number 21, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Alcaraz played with approaches from the back of the court to the net and shots pumped between the legs.

Zverev lost in the semi-finals a year ago at Roland-Garros. Her best Grand Slam performance was as a runner-up at the 2020 US Open.

Teenager Coco Gauff qualified for the Roland Garros quarter-finals for the second consecutive year by beating Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-0 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez also advanced with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Amanda Anisimova.

Italy’s Martina Trevisan beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (10), 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals in France for the second time in three matches.

Elite Boss

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