Paris | Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal into fourth round
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are safely through to the fourth round of the French Open for a record 14th time.
I guess it's mainly due to the fact that I didn't come here for many years. A few months ago, I didn't know what to expect with anything. Now I know where my level's at. I still don't know exactly where my absolute best is, but I feel like it could be there. Roger Federer
The pair move ahead of American former world number one Budge Patty for most fourth-round appearances in Paris.
Federer, a French Open champion in 2009, also became the oldest person to reach this stage of a Grand Slam since Jimmy Connors at the US Open in 1991.
The 37-year-old beat Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-3 6-1 7-6 (10-8) and is the first to play 400 Grand Slam matches.
The third seed, who is playing in his first French Open since 2015, will face Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round.
Reflecting on his return to Roland Garros, Federer said: “I feel that my 20 years on the tour went too fast. When I started on the tour, Ruud was hardly born.
“I guess it’s mainly due to the fact that I didn’t come here for many years. A few months ago, I didn’t know what to expect with anything. Now I know where my level’s at. I still don’t know exactly where my absolute best is, but I feel like it could be there.”
Nadal, who recorded a 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3 victory over Belgian 27th seed David Goffin on Philippe Chatrier, will play Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Londero.
“The first set-and-a-half was really fantastic, incredible. It’s difficult to play so well. I did everything perfectly. Serving. Almost all the time I was attacking,” said the defending champion.
“I was controlling the direction, the height of the ball, the width, the length of the ball. I was moving into the ball, and my opponent could not find any place to be.”
Federer’s victory over Ruud was fairly routine after the Swiss broke twice in the opener and went on to win nine games in a row, taking a 5-0 lead into the second.
But world number 63 Ruud, playing in the French Open for only the second time, bounced back to break in the third and although Federer immediately broke back, the Norwegian took it to a tie-break.
He saved two match points then had set point at 7-6 in the tie-break but Federer’s experience came through in another straight-set victory.
Nadal was also made to work for his win despite easing to a two-set lead in an hour and 15 minutes.
Goffin, a quarter-finalist in 2016, was broken twice in the first two sets but broke late in the third to take Nadal into an unexpected fourth set.
The Belgian ran out of steam though, as Nadal showed composure to regain his dominance and wrap up the win in just under three hours.
It is only the second time in 17 matches in Paris that defending champion Nadal has dropped a set and he remains on course to face Federer in the semi-finals.
The Spaniard, who is bidding to become the first player in history to win 12 singles titles at any Grand Slam event, last dropped a set against Argentinean Diego Schwartzman in last year’s quarter-finals.
Elsewhere, Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori came through a thrilling five-set battle with Serb world number 32 Laslo Dere on Court One.
The two-time quarter-finalist won 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 4-6 8-6 in four-and-a-half hours after coming back from two breaks down in the fifth set and will face French world number 38 Benoit Paire in the fourth round.
Earlier, Frenchman Lucas Pouille, seeded 22nd, lost 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 6-3 3-6 9-7 to Slovak world number 55 Martin Klizan after the match was suspended during the fifth set for bad light on Thursday evening.
Pouille later criticised ticket holders and told a French radio station: “They’d rather have a glass of champagne than watch the tennis, that’s the main reason they come. They should [fill the stands] with people who want to watch the tennis.”
Compatriot Nicolas Mahut, 37, who was described as tennis’ answer to Benjamin Button in a press conference on Thursday, lost 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 7-6 (7-3) to Argentine world number 68 Mayer, who faces Federer next.
He was in tears after losing the fourth set tie-break and waved goodbye to the Simonne Mathieu court with his son by his side.
Stan Wawrinka’s match against world number 46 Grigor Dimitrov was suspended because of bad light, with the Swiss 24th seed leading 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4).
Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and world number 60 Filip Krajinovic were not able to finish their match either. The Greek 20-year-old is up 7-5 6-3 5-5 going into Saturday.