Cameron Norrie keeps British interest alive in Paris and is on course to record his best run at a Grand Slam championship by matching his previous third round appearances in his pursuit of making the second week at one of the four majors.
I'm feeling good, won some matches in a row and I'm through in straight sets. I'm where I want to be, in the third round Cameron Norrie
He defeated Australia’s qualifier Jason Kubler 6-3 6-4 6-3 and has set up a meeting with Karen Khachanov, a player he has beaten twice in their two previous clashes on European clay, following the Muscovite’s own 4-6 6-4 7-6(1) 6-3 second-round success against Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien.
Norrie, the world No.11, arrived in Paris having won the Lyons title on Saturday and was confident he could at least match his previous best at Roland Garros which he has now achieved.
The 26-year-old who is based in London, continued his fine form with a victory that was straight forward, but he did suffer a couple of bumps on the way as he was forced to dig a little deeper in the third set by the Aussie.
The left-hander won the opening set thanks to a single break of serve, then took the final three games of the second set after earlier exchanging breaks with the world number 160.
Kubler, making his Roland Garros main-draw debut, showed spirit to move into a 3-0 lead but Norrie fought back brilliantly to win six games in a row to seal a satisfying victory.
“I’m feeling good, won some matches in a row and I’m through in straight sets. I’m where I want to be, in the third round” said Norrie as he eyed a place in the last 16 of a major for the first time in his career.
“I got matches under my belt last week and then obviously played two clean matches to be through [here].”
Looking ahead to his next match, Norrie added: “Karen plays very well here. He’s super comfortable in these conditions.
“I think he’s made fourth round or quarter finals here before, so he’s got a lot of experience. He’s been Top 10 and he’s playing well. It’s going to be tricky, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
It was also a day when the big guns of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev were all back in action with the latter two coming close to being pushed out of this year’s event!
First it was Zverev, the world No.3 and a 2021 RG semi-finalist, who found himself struggling against Argentina’s Sebastian Baez and looked on the verge of suffering his earliest loss at a major in three years.
But he dug himself out of the hole to come back from two sets down to defeat the South American from Buenos Aires, 2-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 7-5 after three-hours and 36-minutes.
The 21-year-old Baez had an early break lead in the fifth but missed causing a major upset when he failed to convert a lone match point he held on Zverev’s serve at 4-5.
For Zverev it was his second comeback from two sets to love down and improves his record for five setters in Paris to 8 won and only one lost.
“This is the worst he will probably ever feel on a tennis court right now, this moment,” said Zverev of Baez. “It was such an incredible match, and I know it just too well because I lost the US Open final from being two sets to love up.
“You always get better from it and I wish him nothing but the best. He’s an unbelievably great kid, and he’s going to do a lot of great things in this sport, I think.
“I’m happy still being in the tournament right now,” Zverev added.
“I was planning my holiday in Monaco, where I was going to go and who I was going to go with and that relaxed me — thinking about the beach.
“You just have to find a way,” the German said ruefully.
Zverev next faces American Brandon Nakashima, a 7-6(6) 6-4 6-2 winner over Holland’s Tallon Griekspoor.
Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz also saved a match point in his five-set thriller with compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas, winning 6-1 6-7(7) 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4 after four-hours and 34-minutes.
“I feel tired,” said Alcaraz. “It was a great battle, a great match and we fought until the last point.”
The 19-year-old from Murcia, Spain, is attempting to become just the eighth teenager to capture a major men’s title and is expected to finally break the stranglehold of the Big Two but as this match showed, he has to gain more experience though his attitude, stubbornness, speed and variety of shot, is seemingly already at the necessary level to beat Djokovic and Nadal!
On this occasion he was pushed to the limit by the seasoned Ramos-Vinolas, 15 years his elder and whose best performance at a major came when he made the last eight in Paris six years ago.
Alcaraz, the tour’s dominant player in 2022 with a season-leading four titles, fought off a match point to break Ramos-Vinolas when he served at 5-4 in the fourth set.
He then clawed his way back from 3-0 in the decider, producing an outrageous backhand pass to retrieve the break and after a sensational baseline scramble, move 5-4 up before closing out victory to love with an ace.
Alcaraz goes on to face US 27th seed Sebastian Korda, the only player to defeat him this season (Monte Carlo) in what was his only loss in 19 matches on clay this year. The American breezed past France’s veteran Richard Gasquet 7-6(5) 6-3 6-3.
Meanwhile the Big Two sailed comfortably into the third round.
Nadal breezed past French wildcard Corentin Moutet 6-3 6-1 6-4 for the 300th Grand Slam win of his career to lie third behind Roger Federer (369) and Djokovic (325).
His French Open record now stands at a staggering 107 wins and just three losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.
“I think it was a good match against a very difficult player with lots of talent,” said Nadal, whose build-up to the tournament has been hampered by a foot injury.
“The last couple of months haven’t been easy. The victories help a lot.
“I’m happy I am through in three sets, that’s an important fact for me and that gives me the chance to keep working tomorrow and try to be ready for after tomorrow against a tough opponent.”
Nadal, the 13-time FO champion and holder of a record 21 grand slam titles, next faces Holland’s Botic van de Zandschulp, who benefited from Italy’s flamboyant Fabio Fognini’s third set retirement.
Djokovic made comfortable work of Slovakia’s Alex Molcan, the world number one winning 6-2 6-3 7-6(4) against a player now trained by his long-time former coach Marian Vajda.
“So far so good. I’m pleased with the way I’m feeling on the court,” Djokovic said after reaching round three at Roland Garros for the 17th straight year.
“It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well. Everything is going in the right direction. I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”
The top seed and defending champion will continue his bid for a third Roland Garros crown against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene, who took out Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas 4-6 6-4 7-6(5) 6-4.
Other winners on the day included Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, John Isner of the US, Canadas Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.
Taylor Fritz, who won a five setter in the first round, fell to Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapate Miralles 3-6 6-2 6-2 6-3 in what proved to be the only upset of Day Four.
Tomorrow, bottom half favourites Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev return as will Britain’s No.2 Dan Evans.