Nadal on course for Djokovic quarter-final

Staff WritersReuters
Rafael Nadal celebrates beating Botic van de Zandschulp at Roland Garros.
Camera IconRafael Nadal celebrates beating Botic van de Zandschulp at Roland Garros. Credit: AP

Rafael Nadal has remained on course for a Roland Garros rematch with Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals after brushing aside Botic van de Zandschulp in straight sets.

Nadal, the No.5 seed, beat the Dutch No.26 seed 6-3 6-2 6-4 in the French Open third round on Friday.

Nadal has 13 Roland Garros titles among his record 21 majors but the Spaniard was denied a 14th last year when he went down in the semi-finals to eventual champion Djokovic.

The world No.1 was also in good form on nearby Court Philippe Chatrier, where he beat Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene 6-3 6-3 6-2.

Djokovic will face Argentina's Diego Schwartzman, who beat Grigor Dmitrov in sraight sets, while Nadal will take on Canadian ninth-seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, now coached by his uncle Toni Nadal.

Not that Nadal could foresee a problem. "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."

The winners of those two matches will meet in mouth-watering quarter-final.

Van de Zandschulp staged a brief fightback in the third set when he won three games in a row from 4-0 down but Nadal, who will turn 36 next week, was not unduly threatened.

"Straight sets, it was my best match of the tournament for two sets and a half," he said.

Carlos Alcaraz's meteoric rise continued when the Spanish prodigy produced yet another awe-inspiring performance to outplay American Sebastian Korda 6-4 6-4 6-2 and reach the last 16 of the French Open for the first time.

Facing the only man to beat him on clay this year, the sixth-seeded teenager, who saved a match point in the second round, showed his full range on a packed court Philippe Chatrier - mixing powerful forehands with gravity-defying drop shots.

The 27th-seeded Korda threw everything at his opponent, only for the ball to come back quicker and with more power and the American faded in the third after a high-octane fight in the first two sets.

"It's amazing to play in front of such a great crowd in this atmosphere on a night session," said the 19-year-old Alcaraz, who stunned the crowd with some serve and volleying.

"I'm having fun, I love playing tennis on such great courts, I love playing in France. Serve and volley is a weapon that I have so I use it."

Alexander Zverev muscled his way into the fourth round with a no-nonsense 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 7-6 (7-5) victory over American Brandon Nakashima.

It was a welcome change for the German third seed, who had to save a match point in a five-set thriller in the previous round at Roland Garros.

"I raised my level a lot today, it was a different match. I prefer this. This is much better for me, I don't lose too much hair. The atmosphere was amazing," said Zverev.

He will face Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who reached the fourth round at a slam for the first time by beating American 23rd seed John Isner 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-7 (7-5) 6-3.

Karen Khachanov became the first man at this year's French Open to eliminate an opponent seeded in the top 12, beating No.10 Cameron Norrie 6-2 7-5 5-7 6-4 in the third round.

The 21st-seeded Khachanov improved to 5-0 in third-round matches at Roland Garros, although he only has reached the quarterfinals in Paris once, in 2019.

With AP

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