Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal recorded new French Open landmarks as they moved effortlessly into the fourth round on Saturday, setting up intriguing duels with a pair of Italian teenagers seen as heir apparents to the Grand Slam superstars.
However, with his 40th birthday just two months away, Roger Federer showed that he is still a force after battling into the second week for the 15th time in a tie which ended in the early hours of Sunday.
All three will play Italians in the next round.
Federer, the 2009 champion, will be in the second week in Paris for the 15th time. His knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over the 59th-ranked German took place at a Court Philippe Chatrier devoid of fans and atmosphere due to a government-enforced Covid-19 curfew.
The 39-year-old, who underwent two knee surgeries last year and is playing just his third event since the 2020 Australian Open, goes on to face Italy’s Matteo Berrettini for a quarter-final spot.
Novak Djokovic moved effortlessly into fourth round for the 12th successive year on Saturday, setting up an intriguing duel against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti while defending champion Rafael Nadal will meet Jannik Sinner in a rematch of last year’s quarter-finals.
The third seeded Nadal reached the French Open fourth round for the 16th time with his third win of 2021 over Britain’s Cameron Norrie. Nadal, chasing a 14th Roland Garros title and record-setting 21st Grand Slam, won 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
World No 1 Djokovic, the champion in Paris in 2016 and chasing a 19th Grand Slam title, brushed aside 93rd-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-1, 6-4, 6-1.
The Spaniard, who now has a record in Paris of 103 wins against just two losses since his 2005 debut, defeated Sinner in the quarter-finals at last year’s tournament. Nadal’s victory also put him into the last 16 of a major for the 50th time.
His 103 wins in the French capital puts him ahead of Roger Federer’s mark of 102 victories at the Australian Open and 101 at Wimbledon.
Musetti defeated compatriot Marco Cecchinato in five sets Saturday to reach the last 16 on his Grand Slam debut while fellow Italian teen Jannik Sinner eased past Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.
The 19-year-old Musetti overcame 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist Cecchinato 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 after taking his fifth match point to become only the sixth man since 2000 to make the last 16 at his first major.
Djokovic, beaten by Nadal in the 2020 final, said he was a fan of Musetti with whom he practised in Monte Carlo this year.
“He’s got a lot of firepower from both forehand and backhand,” Djokovic said.
“He can play with a lot of spin. He’s got a great feel, comes to the net. He can play short balls, dropshots. He can flatten out his serve. He can open up with a good kick and slice.”
Nadal defeated Sinner in the quarter-finals in 2020 but expects a much tougher assignment on Monday.
“Jannik is not the best fourth round, without a doubt, he’s a dangerous one,” said Nadal.
Sinner, seeded 18, made it to the second week, easing past Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-1, 6-4, 6-1
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) bt Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Matteo Berrettini (ITA x9) bt Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-4
Roger Federer (SUI x8) bt Dominik Koepfer (GER) 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5
Rafael Nadal (ESP x3) bt Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Jannik Sinner (ITA x18) bt Mikael Ymer (SWE) 6-1, 7-5, 6-3
Diego Schwartzman (ARG x10) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-4, 6-2, 6-1
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) bt Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
With AFP Inputs
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