07/06/2022
Rafael Nadal won 21 Grand Slam singles titles
events: May 22 – June 5 place: Roland Garros, Paris
Coverage: Live transcript and radio commentary for selected matches on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, the BBC Sport website and app

Rafael Nadal put his French Open quarter-finalist against long-time rival Novak Djokovic by winning an impressive five-set match against Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in Paris.

Spaniard Nadal, 35, dropped from his sets for the first time in this year’s event but rebounded to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Top seed Djokovic converted the pace to defeat 15th seed Diego Schwartzman.

The 35-year-old Serbian showed his best form of the tournament so far, winning 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in his fourth-round match.

Fifth seed Nadal set up his 59th career game with Djokovic – a player record – by defeating ninth seed Auger Aliassime to claim his 109th victory in 112 matches at the French Open.

Nadal looked seriously in danger of suffering from his first exit from Roland Garros since 2009 when Auger-Aliassime showed quality and composure to force the fifth set on Court Philippe Chatrier.

This was only the third time that Nadal had led to a decisive action on Paris clay.

In front of an excited crowd, Nadal once again showed why he stands out on the pitch as he celebrated the greatest successes of his career.

Nadal found an extra level when it mattered, using all his experience to keep his mind clear at crucial moments.

At 4-3 in the third set, he extended to throw a winning forehand on the line for two break points and convert the second by lunging forward to open in a backhand.

As he prepared to serve for the win, Nadal’s name was echoed around Chatrier and he took the win – nearly four and a half hours later – on his first point in the match with some clever touches on the net.

“Without a doubt, it was a very important victory for me,” said Nadal, who had not lost before the fourth round at Roland Garros.

“I didn’t start the match well, I had a lot of break opportunities but I couldn’t convert. After coming back in the next two stages I got a much better third.

“I am very happy with the situation in the end because I was able to play more aggressively and go into the net more. It definitely made a difference.”

Elsewhere, Alexander Zverev booked his place in the quarter-finals despite a patchy performance against Spanish qualifier Bernabé Zapata Miralles as the third seed prevailed 7-6 (13-11) 7-5 6-3.

The 25-year-old German faces the winner of Sunday evening’s session between Spanish teen Carlos Alcaraz and Karen Khachanov.

Djokovic uses crowd energy to beat Schwartzman

Novak Djokovic sets a French Open quarter-final record number 16 in men’s singles by defeating Diego Schwartzman

Two-time champion Djokovic has reached the French Open after playing fewer tournaments than usual this year, but he has shown signs of peaking in time.

Schwartzman, a 2020 semi-finalist, should be Djokovic’s toughest test yet.

But Djokovic defeated the diminutive Argentine in a professional performance that was less comfortable than the goal line suggested.

Djokovic was removed from Australia and banned from playing in that year’s inaugural Grand Slam event, then banned from entering the United States to play in Indian Wells and Miami because he had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

After an early exit from his return to compete in Monte Carlo, he has continued to improve ever since, reaching the clay court Grand Slam after winning the Italian Open in Rome.

In Paris, he started with straight sets victories against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, Slovakian Alex Mulkan and Slovenian Aljaz Biden.

Despite his status as one of the sport’s greats, Djokovic doesn’t seem to enjoy the same love at Roland Garros as Nadal or Roger Federer, and some boos were heard when he went to court to face Schwartzman.

Supported by the raucous crowd in Paris Suzanne Lenglen’s second court, Schwartzman blossomed with energy in the early stages.

Djokovic had to defend well to hold his ground in his first match, then broke in the next before making three more matches for the first set.

The frank support continued in Schwartzman’s favour, with Djokovic sarcastically nodding his “agreement” as he trailed 3-0 at the start of the second set.

Momentum quickly turned back and a typical roar from Djokovic, who seemed to have used the crowd’s support for Schwartzman as added motivation, marked the moment in his 3-3 draw.

Three more matches culminated in an excellent turnaround and after a difficult start in the third set, Djokovic advanced 4-2, extending his record 100 percent over Schwartzman into the seventh inning.

Zverev defeats qualifier Zapata Miralles

In contrast to Djokovic’s dominant performance, Zverev showed enough quality in an often flawed performance to end Spain’s unseeded Zapata Miralles race.

The straight goal line easily complimented the German, who made 63 unforced errors and eight double faults but he did well for most of the big match, scoring 34 wins for his opponent’s 13.

In the end, he proved his impressive conversion rate of picking up eight out of nine difference-breaking chances, particularly on the 62-minute first marathon set in which he defeated Zverev 13-11 in the tiebreak.

World number 131 Zapata Miralles, who has won only one Grand Slam match prior to this tournament, won twice in the second set with breaks but lost five of seven matches 4-2.

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