Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal closed in Friday on a blockbuster clash at the French Open as both reached the last 16, while 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest man to make the second week in Paris since 2006. Reigning champion Djokovic and 13-time winner Nadal are on course to meet in the quarter-finals, with the Spaniard seeded outside the top four at Roland Garros for just the second time.
World number one Djokovic strolled to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene and Nadal eased past Dutch 26th seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. "I'm always very motivated when I get on the court, with the desire to produce my best level each time. It's not always possible to do it, but today it was very good," said Djokovic.
The 35-year-old Serb is aiming to become the oldest men's singles champion in Paris in the Open era as he chases a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam title.
Next up for Djokovic, who was also French Open champion in 2016, is a match-up with Argentina's Diego Schwartzman, the 15th seed. Nadal, the 21-time major champion, improved his record at Roland Garros to 108-3 after seeing off 2021 US Open quarter-finalist Van de Zandschulp.
He has now reached at least the fourth round in 17 of 18 visits to Roland Garros, with the exception of 2016 when he withdrew in the third round with a wrist injury.
"Today has been a very good test and very positive test, because I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt," said Nadal.
The Spaniard had a break point for 5-0 in the third set, but Van de Zandschulp refused to roll over, winning four of the next five games before Nadal put away his second match point, having saved a break point in between the two.
"You always feel a little bit the nerves to finish the match, so I'm happy to be through in straight sets," said Nadal, who plays Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime for a place in the last eight.
In a twist to that clash, Toni Nadal, the uncle and former coach of the Spaniard, is now working with Auger-Aliassime.