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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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Rune Books Tsitsipas Showdown In Roland Garros Debut

  • Posted: May 28, 2022

Rune Books Tsitsipas Showdown In Roland Garros Debut

#NextGenATP Dane competing in third Grand Slam

Holger Rune shined in his Court Philippe Chatrier debut Saturday night, fending off home favourite Hugo Gaston and the Paris crowd to extend his dream debut at Roland Garros. The #NextGenATP Dane scored an impressive 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win to set up a fourth-round showdown with fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The match was a great spectacle, filled with lengthy rallies and plenty of twists despite the straightforward scoreline. There were 10 combined breaks of serve, with the 19-year-old Rune converting on seven of his 11 break chances. 

Gaston ignited a party atmosphere under the Chatrier lights by breaking in the opening game of the match, but Rune responded brilliantly by winning five straight games to quiet the crowd. After the Dane cruised through the second set with a pair of breaks, he raced out to a 5-1 lead in the third to put one foot in the fourth round.

But neither Gaston nor the Paris crowd gave up, and Toulouse native closed to 3-5 much to the delight of his supporters. Stepping to the line to serve out the match for the second time, Rune got the better of some lengthy rallies to get over the line without any additional drama.

Both men eclipsed 30 winners, with Rune hitting 38 to his opponent’s 31. Many of those winners came at the end of punishing rallies, with Ruud frequently pulling his opponent out of position. The Dane’s control of all aspects of the match was underlined by his healthy edge in short (plus seven), medium (plus nine) and long (plus seven) rallies.

Rune, playing in his third Grand Slam, picked up his first victory at that level by upsetting 14th seed Denis Shapovalov in the Paris opening round. He beat Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen in the second round before getting past the 21-year-old Gaston. The Dane has not dropped a set on the fortnight, and only dropped more than three games in a set once, when Shapovalov took him to a third-set tie-break.

The 2019 Roland Garros boys’ singles champion and a former junior World No. 1, Rune made his ATP Tour debut in 2021 and his Grand Slam debut at the 2021 US Open, where he took a set off Novak Djokovic in the opening round. He took two sets off Soonwoo Kwon in a five-set first-round loss at the 2022 Australian Open and claimed his first tour-level title in Munich on May 1.

The 19-year-old’s rise to a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 40 has been a quiet one, certainly compared to his contemporary Carlos Alcaraz, but the Dane maintains a strong sense of self-belief — a prerequisite for such success at an early age. While Alcaraz is known for his powerful and all-action game, Rune exudes a quiet confidence with a smooth and finesse-based attack which was on full display on centre court Saturday night.

Rune, who first broke into the Top 100 in January, began playing tennis at age six with his sister, who is four years older. The 19-year-old describes himself as relaxed and even lazy off the court, and is a fan of football and basketball as well as cinema. Before he made his breakthrough on the ATP Tour, Rune was a hitting partner at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, where he got the chance to hit with the likes of Roger Federer and Djokovic. He even got some serving tips from former World No. 2 Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s coach.  

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Fittingly, Rune will meet Tsitsipas, the winner of that year’s Nitto ATP Finals title, in the fourth round. It will be their first ATP Head2Head meeting.

The Dane is one of two unseeded players among the last 16 standing at Roland Garros fourth round, alongside Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

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Djokovic Meets Italian Pop Star Eros Ramazzotti At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 28, 2022

Djokovic Meets Italian Pop Star Eros Ramazzotti At Roland Garros

Pop legend watches World No. 1’s third-round victory over Bedene in Paris

As Novak Djokovic eased past Aljaz Bedene at Roland Garros on Friday, a bona fide superstar of Italian music was enjoying the on-court rhythm of the World No. 1’s third-round display.

Eros Ramazzotti, who has sold over 60 million records across a 30-year career, was in the stands on Court Philippe Chatrier to witness Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory. Ramazzotti, a singer, instrumentalist and songwriter who is also hugely popular in the Spanish-speaking world, is a long-time tennis fan but was paying his first visit to Roland Garros as a guest of the French Tennis Federation.

ATP WTA Live App

“I always follow tennis and enjoy watching matches,” said the 58-year-old Ramazzotti, who has performed duets with a catalogue of stars including Cher, Tina Turner, Luciano Pavarotti and Ricky Martin. “The site is very impressive, I had never been here before. It was nice to see the behind the scenes and meet some of the players.

“John McEnroe used to be my favourite player, but this generation has a lot of amazing athletes and it’s really fun to follow the sport.”

A seven-time year-end No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Djokovic’s own Italian language skills are well-known. Two years ago, the Serbian even visited one of Italy’s most well-known music festivals in Sanremo, where he sang ‘Terra Promessa’, one of Ramazzotti’s most famous songs.

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Zapata Miralles On Cup Final Ticket Hunt & His Dream Roland Garros Run

  • Posted: May 28, 2022

Zapata Miralles On Cup Final Ticket Hunt & His Dream Roland Garros Run

Spanish qualifier faces Zverev in maiden Grand Slam fourth-round appearance

Bernabe Zapata Miralles did not think he would be in Paris on Saturday, but his best performance in a Grand Slam at Roland Garros has scuppered any plans the 25-year-old Valencian may have made before the event kicked off.

Soon after the qualifier beat John Isner on Friday to book himself a place in the last sixteen in the French capital, Zapata Miralles started a special campaign when he sat before the media at his post-match press conference — he asked for help sourcing a ticket for Saturday evening’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France.

“This is a public announcement. If anyone has a ticket…I’d like to go!” the Spaniard joked. “Tomorrow [Saturday] I’ll watch the match…if I can do so in the stadium, it would be better. I’m from Valencia but I support [Real] Madrid. I want Madrid to win the Champions League final against Liverpool!”

ATP WTA Live App

By beating Isner, Zapata Miralles moved into the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, as well as earning himself the opportunity to go even further at the clay-court Grand Slam. On Sunday, the Spaniard will face Alexander Zverev for a place in the quarter-finals at the second major of the year.

“I’m trying not to think too much about being in the last 16,” Zapata Miralles acknowledged. “I’m still exhausted and in shock. I’ve tried to focus on the match and forget about the result and the round. It’ll start to sink in when I return home, honestly.

“I’m very excited. It’s a tournament that I love, and I didn’t expect to reach the round of 16. It’s a dream. I’m just thinking about improving and continuing to work hard. I have mental lows, the matches are long for me. It’s more exciting playing in these rounds, but I find it much harder to make the effort to play these matches.

“I’m going to try and keep up this level of work every week, if possible.”

Zapata Miralles is now reaping the rewards of hours of hard work behind the scenes, while he tries to find the best way to prepare to face Zverev.

“Now it’s time to rest and get ready for Sunday,” said the Valencian. “I don’t know if I’ve reached my limit or not, but I’m not too concerned. I just want to work well. If I’ve given my all on court, I can go home with peace of mind. I’ll find it hard to manage the nerves, but I’ll try and forget about them.”

To do so, Zapata Miralles may follow the lead of one of his idols, all of whom have helped him progress in one way or another. “On a mental level, [Rafael] Nadal is the best in history,” said Zapata Miralles. “I followed David Ferrer from when I was young, as he’s Valencian, and now I often watch Pablo Andujar.”

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Alcaraz Turns The Tables On Korda In Paris

  • Posted: May 27, 2022

Alcaraz Turns The Tables On Korda In Paris

Spaniard to face Khachanov in fourth round

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Carlos Alcaraz did just that against Sebastian Korda on a chilly Friday night at Roland Garros.

The sixth-seeded Spaniard fell to Korda last month in Monte Carlo, his only clay-court loss this year, but it was Alcaraz’s night in Paris as he completed a convincing 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win to reach the fourth round. In what was also a rematch of last year’s championship match at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, Alcaraz hammered 24 winners and broke Korda four times to advance in two hours and six minutes.

“It’s amazing to play in such a great atmosphere. I think the people enjoyed the match and I’m glad to play in front of such a good crowd,” said Alcaraz in his on-court interview. “In the early matches, I’m trying to have fun out there. I love playing tennis and playing on these courts, so I’m enjoying every second.”

It was a significantly shorter night than his second-round match on Wednesday with Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The 19-year-old saved a match point in the fourth set against his fellow Spaniard before forcing a deciding set and ultimately prevailing after four hours and 34 minutes.

A lengthy recovery process immediately following the match paid dividends against Korda. Showing no signs of his brutal battle two days earlier, Alcaraz scampered about the court and leaned into his powerful groundstrokes with full force.

“I would say that I’m aggressive all the time,” said Alcaraz. “It doesn’t matter if I’m losing, winning, tough moment, tough match, I keep my style the whole match.”

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Alcaraz secured the first break of the night just nine minutes into play, ripping a forehand winner for a 2-1 lead. While the American was pushed to the brink in most of his service games, Alcaraz continued holding comfortably and served out the set on his first attempt.

Korda had two chances to break Alcaraz at 2-1 in the second set, but succumbed to his opponent’s aggressive play on both. One game later, the sixth seed yelled in delight after hitting a forehand winner to break Korda. Showing that he’s still adding new tools to his game, Alcaraz served-and-volleyed three times while serving for the set at 5-4 and went on to take a commanding lead.

The Spaniard turned up the heat in the final stages of the match, reeling off five consecutive games and five straight baseline winners to wrap up play. Alcaraz didn’t face a break point throughout the night.

Awaiting Alcaraz in the next round is No. 21 seed Karen Khachanov, who took out No. 10 seed Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. Khachanov let slip a 4-2 lead in the third set, but regrouped strongly to advance in three hours and 37 minutes.

Although the 26-year-old arrived to Paris with a 4-5 record on clay this season, his most consistent Grand Slam success has come at this event. Khachanov reached the quarter-finals in 2019 and the fourth round on three other occasions.

“I just practised with him once, but I’ve watch other matches from him, so I know that it’s going to be a tough match,” said Alcaraz. “But at the same time, he’s a tough opponent and I like those matches.”

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