As he continues to break records and set personal ones, Rafa Nadal strode into the French Open quarter-finals for a 12th time to equal that set by his rival Novak Djokovic on Sunday!
The Spaniard’s 6-3 6-2 7-6(4) victory over Germany’s Maximilian, ranked 70, was also his 900th win at Tour level as he takes over the third spot in the all-time table of ‘Most Matches won at Grand Slams’ with 234 victories, overtaking Jimmy Connors.
Nadal celebrated his 32nd birthday on Sunday as he continues his quest for that extraordinary 11th title at Roland Garros where he has also now won 37 consecutive sets, just four short of Bjorn Borg’s record set between 1979 and 1981.
The match in general terms has been positive. 6-3 6-2 was a very positive 12 games for me. Then, in the third set, I had the chance at the beginning to get the break and probably take an important advantage to close the match, but I didn’t convert it. I then made a couple of mistakes with my serve, and then I suffered in a tough third set. I stopped legs a little bit, in terms of playing aggressive, and that, of course, made the match more equal. He’s a good player Rafa Nadal
“I don’t feel old. But I am 32, and I have been here since 2003, so it’s a long way, a lot of years,” he said.
“I started very young. That’s a real thing. But, no, I feel happy to be here. Being honest, I am enjoying the day by day on the tour and I hope to keep doing this for a while.”
Nadal blasted 39 winners past Marterer, who was only the second player at the event to force him into a third set tiebreak. He certainly pushed him hard but never threatened to cause an upset.
“The match in general terms has been positive,” said Nadal. “6-3 6-2 was a very positive 12 games for me. Then, in the third set, I had the chance at the beginning to get the break and probably take an important advantage to close the match, but I didn’t convert it. I then made a couple of mistakes with my serve, and then I suffered in a tough third set. I stopped legs a little bit, in terms of playing aggressive, and that, of course, made the match more equal. He’s a good player.”
Nadal will face Argentinian Diego Schwartzman for a semi-final spot, after the 11th seed staged a thrilling comeback to down sixth seed Kevin Anderson 1-6 2-6 7-5 7-6(0) 6-2.
“It’s always good to see him in the quarter-final because he’s a good friend, a good person. He’s a worker, and I’m happy to see him having all this success. Hopefully not too much!” Nadal said with a broad smile. The two had enjoyed a practice session earlier in the week and the diminutive Argentine has also trained at his Academy in Mallorca.
Nadal was caught cold in the opening stages as some big hitting from Marterer set him back by two games.
But it didn’t take Nadal long to figure out his opponent, reeling off four straight games en route to an inevitable one-set lead.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion raced through the second set in just 38 minutes, breaking his opponent’s serve twice.
But then Marterer — who was playing in the main draw for the first time – showed he was doesn’t done as moved into a 3-1 lead early in the third in an attempt to at least take a set off the ‘King of Clay’. But the early threat proved short as the reigning champion struck back and though the German held on for a tiebreak, Nadal secured his place in the last eight after two-hours and 30-minutes on his second match point.
Meanwhile Schwartzman fought back from two sets down to stun Anderson and reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Having been outplayed in the first two sets, the 25-yer-old from Buenos Aires, took full advantage of Anderson’s sudden attack of nerves which hit him as he was serving for the match. The turn around was certainly dramatic as Schwartzman broke his big serving opponent to go on and claim the third set and set course towards the last eight
“Did you read David and Goliath? That’s why. That’s why,” said the 5’7” Schwarzman after toppling the 6’8” Anderson.
“I read it when I was young in the school, and I just try to think that when I see Kevin or the guys who have two metres.”
“It’s definitely one of the most emotional matches that I can say I have played,” he added. “I was a little bit upset because at the beginning of the match I didn’t expect the first two sets [to be so one-sided]. I was thinking about my first three matches here, and I started the match with confidence. And then after one hour I was down 6-1, 6-2… Maybe that just helped me to be focused.
“After the second set I tried to start the third set… more aggressive, trying to play good points because he was dominating the match in the first two sets,” Schwartzman continued.
Anderson’s collapse came after the Argentine vented his frustrations at chair umpire Marijana Veljovic over the sixth seed’s vocal self-urgings.
“I never see something like this. No matter if he played a good point or if I do a bad choice, he’s always saying something. Come on, shut up,” the 11th-seeded Schwartzman moaned during a changeover.
“It’s not respect. You have to have some respect for the (other) players because when I miss the ball, be quiet.
“Not every point saying ‘come on, yeah, yeah, come on. Shut up.”
The Serbian official told Schwartzman she agreed with him, but took no action. As it turned out it wasn’t necessary as the South American took the win with his eighth ace after some four hours of play.
Will he be able to topple Nadal who holds a 5-0 record against him? That will become evident on Wednesday.
“I know it’s [Nadal’s] second home, and it’s going to be a really tough match,” said Schwartzman. “I need to recover well, because against him I need to run a lot and do my best.”
He was joined in the last eight by his compatriot, the fiftth seeded Juan Martin del Potro who reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2012 following his dismantling of the big serving American, John Isner, seeded nine, 6-4 6-4 6-4. For DelPo it was sweet revenge for his losses to him losses in both the Miami and Paris Masters.
“Being in the quarter-finals in a Grand Slam, in this particular Grand Slam, is very special, is something I’m very happy about and I’m playing well,” Del Potro said.
“It wasn’t an easy match. John is very dangerous. Nobody knows what he could do, playing in a match. The key of the match was only three breaks.”
Meanwhile his next opponent Marin Cilic, the third seed, looks set for a comfortable win until Fabio Fognini decided to make a match of it. Fortunately for the Croat he was able to hang on and progress 6-4 6-1 3-6 6-7(4) 6-3 hitting 44 winners in the prcess.
“It was a difficult. It was a tough day mentally. First two sets I played solid. I think Fabio was not playing that well. He was missing some balls, and I gave him opportunity in that third set,” Cilic said. “First few games in the fifth set I also was not returning well, and it was who is going to break first, and I was lucky it was me. I just continued to put pressure until those last couple points and then, lucky we got through.”
Cilic trails 10-2 against Del Potro in the personal battles of two former US Open champions.
“It’s always a tough matchup between both of us. I think we are always playing some tough matches, and I believe this one is going to be, for both of us, very tough,” Cilic said. “There’s going to be a lot of points played from the baseline that can make a difference… I think, in these kind of matches, not many points are differentiating the players. So it’s going to be extremely important to play every single point on a high level.”
Said del Potro, “Marin is a great player. We know each other a lot. We have played great matches in the past, many five-set matches together… I know how tough his game is, but I will try to be even better than today, play my tennis, and then see if I have a chance to win.”