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Alcaraz Breaks New Ground With Khachanov Win In Paris

  • Posted: May 29, 2022

Alcaraz Breaks New Ground With Khachanov Win In Paris

Spaniard will next play Zverev in the quarter-finals

Carlos Alcaraz has broken new ground all season, and he did so again on Sunday in Paris.

The Spaniard reached his first Roland Garros quarter-final with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win against 21st seed Karen Khachanov. The sixth seed will next play third seed Alexander Zverev for a place in his first major semi-final.

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Alcaraz saved a match point in the fourth set of his thrilling second-round five-setter against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Since that moment, he has shown the form that made him one of the leading favourites at the clay-court major.

In the third and fourth rounds, Alcaraz has won all six of his sets — against Sebastian Korda and Khachanov — by a margin of 6-4 or greater. The 19-year-old lost serve just once against Khachanov to advance after two hours and 14 minutes.

The story of the match could be told by one sensational point at 3-3 in the third set. Khachanov hit a smart, dipping forehand passing shot and then snuck a lob over his teen opponent’s head with his next shot. But Alcaraz had the answer, hitting a stunning tweener lob over Khachanov’s head to break serve.

The 21st seed battled hard throughout to make inroads against Alcaraz, but the sixth seed always seemed to have the answer.

<a href=''>Carlos Alcaraz</a>
Photo Credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Khachanov made 35 unforced errors, which did not help his cause. But part of that was because Alcaraz forced him to go for more with his own play. Khachanov is one of the biggest hitters on the ATP Tour, but his power, depth and spin did not seem to bother the Spaniard.

Alcaraz hit 37 winners compared to just 19 for the 26-year-old. Khachanov broke for the first and final time in the third set, but the Spaniard got it right back with his stunning tweener.

Alcaraz needed six match points to complete his win, but he finished the job when Khachanov was unable to put a backhand passing shot in play. The 19-year-old will now turn his attention to Zverev, whom he defeated just weeks ago in the Mutua Madrid Open final.

Zverev leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 2-1, but Alcaraz has significantly improved since his two losses against the German last year. At the Caja Magica, he lost just four games against Zverev to lift the trophy.

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Nadal On Facing Djokovic: 'It's Going To Be A Big Challenge'

  • Posted: May 29, 2022

Nadal On Facing Djokovic: ‘It’s Going To Be A Big Challenge’

Spaniard discusses state of his game after defeating Auger-Aliassime

Rafael Nadal was happy to battle through a tough five-set challenge on Sunday against Felix Auger-Aliassime at Roland Garros, but the Spaniard knows it will only get tougher.

Next up for the 13-time champion will be World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who has handed the lefty two of his three losses at the clay-court major.

“I didn’t play these kind of matches for the past three months, so [it is] going to be a big challenge for me. Of course he already won I think [his] past nine matches in a row, winning in Rome and now winning here in straight sets every match. Probably he will be confident,” Nadal said. “I know how my situation is and I accept it well. I’m going to fight for it.”

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It is easy to forget that Nadal missed a month-and-a-half after the BNP Paribas Open due to a stress fracture in one of his ribs. Then after a quarter-final showing at the Mutua Madrid Open, the Spaniard lost in the third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia while visibly struggling due to his long-term foot injury.

For those reasons, Nadal said he “can’t complain much”.

“I am in [the] quarter-finals of Roland Garros. Two weeks and a half ago, even if I had good hopes, positive hopes after Rome, I [didn’t even] know if I would be able to be here,” Nadal said. “So just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if [it is] going to be my last match here in Roland Garros in my tennis career. That’s my situation now.”

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Nadal explained that it was a “tough process” dealing with his reoccurring foot injury. In recent weeks he has explained that the injury is something that will not go away.

“That’s why I am just trying to enjoy as much as possible and fight as much as I can to keep living the dream that is [to] keep playing tennis and be back in a very advanced round of Roland Garros, playing against the World No. 1,” Nadal said. “Let’s see. I hope to be able to give myself a chance to play at the highest level possible.”

Nadal is now a jaw-dropping 109-3 at Roland Garros, where he will face Djokovic for the 10th time and 59th time overall. Although Djokovic leads their ATP Head2Head series 30-28, Nadal has claimed seven of their nine meetings on the Parisian terre battue.

The Spaniard is well aware that taking out Djokovic, who has not lost a set through four matches, will be difficult. But he is not going to do anything different than usual ahead of this matchup. Instead, the lefty’s process will be simple.

“Have some stretching, my physio. Then eat something probably,” Nadal said, cracking a smile. “Have some sleep. Have a good practice tomorrow and rest tomorrow afternoon. That’s it. Nothing special.”

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Koolhof/Skupski Ease Through To Roland Garros QFs

  • Posted: May 29, 2022

Koolhof/Skupski Ease Through To Roland Garros QFs

Sixth seeds to face Granollers/Zeballos in quarter-finals

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski continued to bring their best form to the Roland Garros clay on Sunday when they cruised past all-American duo Mackenzie McDonald and Tommy Paul in the third round.

The Dutch-British pairing struck 32 winners to McDonald and Paul’s 12 in a 6-3, 6-2 victory as they charged to their second Grand Slam quarter-final of the year. Koolhof and Skupski, who currently lead the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Team Rankings after picking up four titles in 2022, have dropped just one set in Paris so far.

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The sixth seeds face a tough test in the last eight, however, where fourth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos await. The Spanish-Argentine team beat Jonny O’Mara and Jackson Withrow 6-1, 6-1 to advance to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the first time in three attempts.

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Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer came good in the deciding set to prevail in their third-round meeting with seventh seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus. Arevalo and Rojer ran out 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 winners to advance to their maiden Grand Slam quarter-final together. The 12th-seeded Dutch-El Salvadorian pairing is chasing a third tour-level title of the year in Paris.

Arevalo and Rojer will next face Rafael Matos and David Vega Hernandez after they overcame Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6). Matos and Vega Hernandez are making their Grand Slam debut as a team at Roland Garros, and they held their nerve to clinch a deciding set tie-break against their Belgian opponents. The Brazilian-Spanish pair has already enjoyed success on clay this year, lifting a maiden tour-level trophy in Marrakech in April.

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Dominant Djokovic Seals QF Berth In Paris

  • Posted: May 29, 2022

Dominant Djokovic Seals QF Berth In Paris

World No. 1 will face Nadal or Auger-Aliassime in last eight

Novak Djokovic continues to deal in straight-sets victories at Roland Garros.

A high-quality fourth-round performance took the top seed past Diego Schwartzman at the clay-court Grand Slam in Paris on Sunday afternoon. The World No. 1 saved seven break points while converting six of his own in a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory to set a quarter-final showdown with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal or Felix Auger-Aliassime in the French capital.

After easing past Yoshihito Nishioka, Alex Molcan and Aljaz Bedene in his opening three rounds in Paris, Djokovic produced another convincing display to see off the threat of the 15th seed Schwartzman. The World No. 1 required five sets to overcome the Argentine in the pair’s previous meeting at Roland Garros in 2017, but his all-around level this time around was such that Schwartzman was unable to drag the top seed into another drawn-out battle.

The win means Djokovic is now 16-0 in fourth-round matches at the clay-court Grand Slam, and it moves the two-time champion into a 13th straight quarter-final in Paris. Daniil Medvedev, Nadal, Hubert Hurkacz, and Holger Rune are the other players left in the draw that are yet to drop a set at this year’s tournament.

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The early signs on Court Suzanne Lenglen suggested a tight encounter in store for an energetic Parisian crowd. Djokovic fended off two break points to hold in the third game as Schwartzman proved typically difficult to break down in the opening exchanges, but those opportunities proved to be as good as it got for the Argentine in the first set. Djokovic broke twice to ease to the opening set as his return game began to fire.

A change of tactics from Schwartzman brought some respite early in the second set. The Argentine attempted to quell the flow of winners from the Djokovic racquet by increasing the aggression on his own groundstrokes, and the 15th seed soon found himself 3-0 up as the Serbian momentarily lost his way.

The revival was short-lived, however, as Djokovic raised his level to reel off seven games in a row with a stunning display full of clean hitting, clever drop shots and relentless defence that left Schwartzman again scrambling for a foothold in the match.

Schwartzman had showcased his trademark resilience in coming back from two sets down to defeat Jaume Munar in the second round, but the Argentine was unable to exert enough consistent pressure on his opponent to threaten a similar feat against Djokovic. After the Serbian had stormed to the second set, the World No. 1 made his move by breaking in the sixth game of the third, showing some delightful touches at the net on his way to a two-hour, 15-minute win.

The triumph improves Djokovic’s ATP Head2Head series lead over Schwartzman to 7-0 and improves his match record at Roland Garros to 85-15. Only Nadal (108) has won more matches at the second major of the year.

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Day 8 Preview: Alcaraz Seeks Second Slam QF

  • Posted: May 29, 2022

Day 8 Preview: Alcaraz Seeks Second Slam QF

Djokovic, Nadal, Zverev also in action

The Roland Garros fourth round begins on Sunday, with men’s singles play exclusively on Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen. Four of the tournament’s Top 6 seeds are on the schedule as the stacked top half of the draw resumes play, with defending champion Novak Djokovic, 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, third seed Alexander Zverev and sixth seed Carlos Alcaraz all seeking quarter-final berths.

All of the Top 8 seeds are through to the Roland Garros fourth round, the fourth time that has happened in Paris across the last eight years (2015, 2017, 2019).

In doubles action, the quarter-final stage will be set following Sunday’s play, with four matches on tap.

[6] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. [21] Karen Khachanov

Alcaraz was a surprise quarter-finalist at the 2021 US Open, when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Cameron Norrie in a breakout fortnight. It may be an even bigger surprise if he does not reach the quarters at Roland Garros.

The 19-year-old — who had already won his first ATP Tour title (Umag) when he made that New York run — entered Paris as one of the title favourites. His performance at the clay-court major has not disappointed; entering Roland Garros on a 10-match win streak following titles in Barcelona and Madrid, he has extended that streak to 13.

The Spaniard saved a match point in a five-set epic against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round but avoided any such drama in a dominant three-set win over 27th seed Sebastian Korda on Friday.

“Very happy to be in the fourth round for the first time,” Alcaraz tweeted in Spanish after his win. “But we want more!”

Alcaraz took the match to the American, using his offensive gameplan to great effect.

“I’m aggressive all the time. It doesn’t matter that if I am losing, winning, tough moment, tough match,” he said, when asked what differentiates him from other players. “I keep my style the whole match. I would say that that’s the difference.”

Alcaraz will know that Karen Khachanov is also a very aggressive player, though the two are contesting their first ATP Head2Head matchup.

“I just practised with him just once, but I watch other matches from him, so I know that it’s going to be a tough match,” the Spaniard previewed. “He’s a tough opponent and I like those matches.”

The 21st seed won three four-setters to advance to the fourth round, beating Nuno Borges, Hugo Dellien and 10th seed Cameron Norrie on the way. He had four clay wins on the season entering Roland Garros, including a run to the Belgrade semi-finals, where he lost in three sets to Djokovic.

Khachanov is seeking his second run to the Roland Garros quarter-finals (2019) and his third Grand Slam quarter-final overall (Wimbledon 2021). He also claimed the silver medal at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

[5] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [9] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)

Nadal meets Felix Auger-Aliassime in the lone fourth-round matchup between Top 10 seeds. It’s the second ATP Head2Head meeting between the pair, but the first since “Uncle Toni” began working with the Canadian in 2021. Toni Nadal coached his nephew Rafa from childhood and was a part of his team until stepping away in 2017. He was with Nadal for 16 of his record 21 Grand Slam singles titles, and 10 of his record 13 Roland Garros crowns.

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“I already talked with Toni after my match,” Nadal said following a straight-sets win over 27th seed Botic van de Zandschulp. “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.

“I know the feelings that we have between each other. I know he wants the best for me. Now he’s helping another player. But honestly, for me, it’s zero problem, and I know he wants the best for me.”

Nadal previously faced Auger-Aliassime in Madrid in 2019, earning a 6-3, 6-3 victory. But the Canadian was 18 at the time and had just broken into the Top 30 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He enters this fourth-round matchup at a career-high of No. 9, having reached the quarter-finals or better at each of the past three majors, including his run to the 2021 US Open semi-finals.

“I think I’m a much different player than I was three years ago,” the 21-year-old said, reflecting on “good memories” from his previous meeting with Nadal. 

Addressing the situation with Toni, the Canadian is not expecting any inside information on his opponent. 

“I don’t know if I need insight on how Rafa plays, to be honest. I think we all know what he does well,” he said with a smile. “I don’t think Toni will tell me anything new about how Rafa plays.

“But we had the discussion — it was black and white from the first time we started working together. We knew it was a possibility that eventually I would play Rafa when I’m working with Toni. And actually now he’s present here in this Grand Slam. But I think Toni will watch from a neutral place and enjoy the match.”

Auger-Aliassime is in strong form, having reached the quarter-finals in each of his past four ATP Tour events, all on clay. But he has not beaten a player above him in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in that span, with a Madrid win over World No. 12 Jannik Sinner his best result.

Nadal holds a 6-2 record on clay this season, only competing in Madrid and Rome in addition to Roland Garros after a rib fracture forced a six-week layoff following his defeat to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final. That defeat ended the Spaniard’s perfect 20-0 start to the season, a personal best.

Both Nadal and Djokovic are seeking their 16th Roland Garros quarter-final as they look to extend the record they share. In the overall Grand Slam quarter-final count, Roger Federer leads with 58.

Most Slam QFs  Most RG QFs RG QF Years
Federer – 58 Djokovic – 15 ’06-08, ’10-21 
Djokovic – 51 Nadal – 15 ’05-08, ’10-15, ’17-21
Nadal – 45 Federer – 12 ’01, ’05-13, ’15

[1] Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. [15] Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

Djokovic, like Nadal, Daniil Medvedev and Holger Rune, has not dropped a set on his way to the fourth round. In fact, the Serbian has not dropped a set in any of his past eight matches, dating back to his Rome title run. The World No. 1 has breezed past Yoshihito Nishioka, Alex Molcan and Aljaz Bedene in Paris, dropping more than three games in a set just once, in a tie-break third set against Molcan.

Djokovic is 6-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against Schwartzman, but had to come back from two-sets-to-one down to earn a win at Roland Garros in 2017. The Serbian holds a 15-3 set record against the Argentine, taking the past eight in a row. But the pair have not met since the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals, and Djokovic is well aware of the threat his opponent poses.

“He’s one of the quickest players we have on Tour, and his best results in his career came on clay, so of course he’s a tough opponent without a doubt,” he assessed. “I know him well. We played some really good matches on different surfaces.

“So playing against him, you always have to expect another ball coming back. I’m ready for the physical battle. I haven’t spent too much time on the court. I have been striking the ball really well, so I look forward to that challenge.”

Schwartzman raced past 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2, to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros for the fourth time. He has never lost at that stage, advancing to one semi-final (2020) and two quarter-finals (2018, 2021). He holds a 20-7 clay record on the season and reached consecutive finals in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro final in February.

[3] Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP)

Zverev saved a match point and came back from two sets down to beat Sebastian Baez in the second round. He made the most of his second life by edging #NextGenATP American Brandon Nakashima, 7-6(2), 6-3, 7-6(5), on Friday to reach the fourth round for the 10th straight time at a Grand Slam.

The German reached two quarter-finals in his first 18 majors, but has been a second-week regular since 2020. He came within two points of his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2020 US Open and reached three additional semi-finals dating back to that year’s Australian Open.

“In the early stage of my career I think I was struggling with Grand Slams a lot,” Zverev said. “I was winning other tournaments and going deep at other tournaments, and Grand Slams were always the ones that I was struggling with.

“I’m happy that I can say that I’m hopefully also going to be stable [at the Grand Slams] in the future.”

Qualfier Bernabe Zapata Miralles had just one Grand Slam win in three previous main-draw appearances, but has scored upset wins over Americans Taylor Fritz and John Isner to secure the best result of his career. The World No. 131 is up to No. 96 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, all but assuring a breakthrough into the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings following the tournament.

As one of two unseeded men in the fourth round alongside #NextGenATP Dane Holger Rune, the Spaniard has flown under the radar in Paris. His lack of experience at tour-level — where he is 6-7 — could prove an advantage, with Zverev having relatively little knowledge of his style of play.

Zverev admitted to being unfamiliar with his opponent but credited Zapata Miralles for his strong week.

“Obviously he’s having the week of his life here, and playing a lot of great tennis,” he said. “So I need to be at my best to give myself the best chance to win against him. I think when you have a run like that, you want to keep it going. He’s going to look forward to that.”

The 25-year-old from Valencia bids to become the first qualifier and lowest-ranked player to reach the Roland Garros men’s quarter-finals since No. 140 Marcelo Filippini in 1999.

Doubles Third Round

Fourth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos headline the doubles action with their matchup against Jackson Withrow and Jonny O’Mara, while seventh seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski take on Americans Mackenzie McDonald and Tommy Paul.

In the only matchup between seeded teams, seventh seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus face 12th seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer.

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