The three main title contenders moved a step closer to the blockbuster stage of the French Open as all three marched into the fourth round with straight set victories and in the case of Rafa Nadal and Djokovic, the pair are now one match away from meeting in the quarter finals with the winner then expected to go on and take on Carlos Alcaraz for a place in the final.
Today has been a very good test and very positive test, because I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt Rafa Nadal
Reigning champion Djokovic strolled to a 6-3 6-3 6-2 win over Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene while the 13-time champion Nadal eased past the Dutch 26th seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-2 6-4 and, in the evening match, Alcaraz avenged his Monte Carlo defeat – his only loss this season – by dispatching Sebastian Korda of the US 6-4 6-4 6-2.
“I’m always very motivated when I get on the court, with the desire to produce my best level each time. It’s not always possible to do it, but today it was very good,” said Djokovic following his solid performance.
“Today has been a very good test and very positive test, because I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt,” said Nadal after winning his 108th match at Roland Garros.
“It’s amazing to play in such a great atmosphere. I think the people enjoyed the match and I’m glad to play in front of such a good crowd. In the early matches, I’m trying to have fun out there. I love playing tennis and playing on these courts, so I’m enjoying every second” said Alcaraz who is set to become the youngest male player to reach the second week in Paris since 2006.
So, with all the three main protagonists gaining in confidence, tennis fans are eagerly awaiting the next few rounds in the top half of the draw which also includes Alexander Zverev who came through a tight match with American Brandon Nakashima, 7-6(2) 6-3 7-6(5).
As regards their individual third round matches, the 35-year-old world No.1 from Serbia, who is aiming to become the Open Eras oldest men’s singles champion in Paris as he chases a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam title
Djokovic controlled Bedene throughout their match for his 8th successive victory and 19th without dropping a set.
“It’s subjective. You can’t play a perfect match, but you always try to play close to perfection. I have big expectations on my level every day, whenever I enter a tennis court, when I am at training, to try and play my aggressive tennis. It’s not always possible but today, I did really well,” Djokovic commented.
“I have grown in Serbia playing a lot on this surface. But all tournaments are different. Here in Paris, the courts are perfect. It is a very high standard, it’s one of the greatest tournaments in the world so motivation is easy to find.”
While Djokovic triumphed on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal kept his own record perfect on Court Suzanne Lenglen by dispatching the US Open quarter finalist from Holland, Botic van de Zandschulp, but not before being forced to quell a sudden surging fight back in the third set when he lost four straight games after leading 5-0.
“For two sets and a half I was playing at a very positive level,” Nadal revealed acknowledging his opponent’s sudden late surge. “You always feel a little bit the nerves to finish the match, so I’m happy to be through in straight sets.”
Next up for Rafa, though, is Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime who is being coached by his uncle, Toni Nada, a fact which doesn’t really worry him.
“I already talked with Toni after my match,” Nadal admitted. “For me it’s very simple. He’s my uncle. I don’t think he will be able to want me to lose, without a doubt, but he’s a professional and he’s with another player. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if he’s going to stay in the box or not, but I don’t care. I have zero problem with that. So it’s not a story at all for me.”
Next up for Djokovic, who was also French Open champion in 2016, is a match-up with Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, the 15th seed, who comfortably defeated the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-1 6-2.
The Match of the Day was without doubt, the Alcaraz versus Korda clash which was given top billing in the evening session and the American put up a good fight to try and emulate his Monte Carlo victory but, after the first set, just didn’t have the firepower or stamina to match, let alone get the better of, the 19-year-old world No.6!
Korda had five opportunities to break Alcaraz but each time failed to pierce the young Spaniard’s strong defences.
Karen Khachanov is Alcaraz’s next opponent after the Muscovite upset Britain’s No1 and the events 10th seed, Cameron Norrie 6-2 5-7 7-5 6-4.
“I just practised with him once, but I’ve watch other matches from him, so I know that it’s going to be a tough match,” said Alcaraz.
“But at the same time, he’s a tough opponent and I like those matches.”
Alexander Zverev battled his way into the last 16 after just gaining the better of Nakashima and will face the Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles who stunned USA’s John Isner 6-3 3-6 6-4, 6-7(5) 6-3.
Success against the Spaniard could see the German world No.3 having to the test himself against Alcaraz in the quarters.
On Saturday fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas returns to take on Mikael Ymer, the Swede who dispatched Britain’s No.2 Dan Evans, while the second seed Daniil Medvedev meets Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic and, no doubt hoping to keep the Tricolour flying longer by extending his last visit to the French Open, Gilles Simon against the former US Open champion from Croatia, Marin Cilic.