Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal capped a blockbuster French Open clash on Friday as they both reached the last 16, while Carlos Alcaraz prepared to face the only man to beat him on clay this year.
Defending champion Djokovic and 13-time winner Nadal are on track to meet in the quarter-finals, with the Spaniard finishing in the top four at Roland Garros for only the second time.
World number one Djokovic cruised to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Slovenian Aljaz Bedene and Nadal beat Dutch 26th seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 .
“I’m always very motivated when I get on the court, with the desire to produce my best every time. It’s not always possible to do that, but today was very good,” said Djokovic.
The 35-year-old Serb is aiming to become Paris’ oldest men’s singles champion in the Open era as he chases a record 21st Grand Slam title.
Next up for Djokovic, who was also the French Open champion in 2016, is a match against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, the 15th seed.
Nadal, a 21-time major champion, improved his record at Roland Garros to 108-3 after seeing off 2021 US Open quarter-finalist Van de Zandschulp.
He has now reached at least the fourth round in 17 of 18 visits to Roland Garros, with the exception of 2016 when he retired in the third round due to a wrist injury.
“I think I played a good match against a good player. I’m very happy to have won,” Nadal said.
The Spaniard had a break point for 5-0 in the third set, but Van de Zandschulp refused to turn, winning four of the next five games before Nadal put in his second match point, after saving a ball break between the two.
“You always feel a bit nervous to finish the match, so I’m happy to have finished in straight sets,” said Nadal, who faces Canada’s ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime for a place in the last eight.
In a twist to this clash, Toni Nadal, the Spaniard’s uncle and former coach, is working with Auger-Aliassime.
“I think it was my best match of the tournament so far in two and a half sets, so I’m very happy with it.”
Zverev moves on
Third-seeded and 2021 semi-finalist Alexander Zverev ended American Brandon Nakashima’s run, winning 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5 ).
The German Olympic champion, who saved a match point in the second round, will next face Bernabe Zapata Miralles, the 131st-ranked Spaniard who beat John Isner in five sets.
27th-seeded and 2019 semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova advanced to the last 16 as injury-plagued Karolina Muchova retired 6-7 (7/9), 6-2, 3-0 after falling and twisting her ankle halfway through. the second set.
Last year’s US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez beat Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber. 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).
Coco Gauff, the youngest player remaining at Roland Garros, made the last 16 with a straight-set victory over Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the tournament at 36.
2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens ended French teenager Diane Parry’s run in straight sets, while Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann beat two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka 4- 6, 7-5, 7-6 (10/5).
After saving match point in a thrilling five-set match against compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Spain’s teenage star Alcaraz takes on Sebastian Korda, the 27th American seed who won their encounter in Monte Carlo last month .
“I believe in myself and of course I work hard every day,” said Alcaraz, 19.
“You must have a good goal, good dreams. Of course, try to follow your dream. Work hard every day. I think that’s the secret.
“I’m still young, but I would say quite an experienced player now. I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, playing in a Grand Slam. Like I said, physically I’m strong . Mentally, I’m strong, as well.”