French Open: Nadal edges Auger-Aliassime in thriller to book Djokovic date

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal celebrates his hard-fought win. Photo: Reuters/Yves Herman

Paris: Rafa Nadal overcame a sluggish start and a stiff challenge from Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime with an enthralling 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win on Sunday to set up a mouth-watering quarterfinal with world number one Novak Djokovic.

This was only the third time in his 112 matches that Nadal was taken to the fifth set at Roland Garros and he ensured he kept his blemish-free record intact, wrapping up the win in four hours and 21 minutes to wild applause from the crowd.

Earlier, Novak Djokovic showed glimpses of his brilliant best to demolish Diego Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 6-3.

Djokovic's pace was too much for Argentine Schwartzman, who barely threatened despite enjoying a 3-0 lead in the second set. From then on it was a one-way street for Serbian Djokovic, who won 12 of the remaining 15 games on a chilly Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Nadal will hope he can recover in time from the gruelling contest for his next outing, where the reigning champion awaits for their 59th career showdown.

Novak Djokovic
Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his fourth round match against Argentina's Diego Schwartzman. Photo: Yves Herman/ Reuters

The Spaniard, who will turn 36 on Friday, has lifted the Musketeers' Cup a record 13 times but was ousted in the semifinals last year by Djokovic.

"Of course we know each other well. We have a lot of history together," Nadal said of Djokovic. "I am going to be focused, I will try my best. I don't know what will happen but I will fight until the end."

Djokovic, who has now reached the last eight here for the 13th year in a row, saved two break points at 1-1 before Schwartzman dropped serve to give his opponent the early lead in the opening set.

He raced through it, barely troubled by his opponent's drop shots and almost managing to get the extra shot.

But the Argentine was not ready to give up and he broke for 2-0 in the second set and held for 3-0 only for Djokovic to raise his level again to break back with a crosscourt forehand winner.

Always ready with a good serve when needed, the Serbian staved off break points in the next game to level for 3-3, took the 15th seed's serve again and wrapped up set two after another break.

Schwartzman showed signs of frustration when Djokovic left him red-faced with a delightful drop shot to go 3-2 up in the third.

Djokovic, back on the Grand Slam scene after being barred by local authorities from playing at the Australian Open over his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, ended the Argentine's ordeal by winning his final service game to love.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.