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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