Sports, Tennis

Nadal, Djokovic set up quarter clash as Alcaraz cruises


By AFP
Published : 30 May 2022 08:08 PM

Rafael Nadal set up a blockbuster French Open quarter-final against world No 1 Novak Djokovic Sunday when he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime in a five-set fourth round epic and pledged to "fight until the end".

Nadal, the 13-time champion at Roland Garros and holder of a record 21 Grand Slam titles, triumphed over the Canadian 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a match which lasted four hours and 21 minutes.

It was only the third time in his 17-year, 112-match career in Paris that Nadal had been stretched to five sets.

Nadal and Djokovic will meet for the 10th time at Roland Garros and 59th overall in a rivalry stretching back to 2006.

"We know each other well, we have a lot of history. The only thing I can say is that I will be focussed, try my best and fight until the end," said Nadal on facing the defending champion Tuesday.

Djokovic has been responsible for two of Nadal's three defeats in Paris - in the quarter-finals in 2015 and last year's semi-finals.

Nadal hailed 21-year old Auger-Aliassime, who has been working with his uncle and former coach Toni since April last year.

"Felix is a great player. He's very young with a lot of power and great mobility," said the 35-year old Spaniard who has made the last-eight for the 16th time.

Ninth-ranked Auger-Aliassime raced into a 3-1 lead in the first set and battled from three break points down to edge 4-1 ahead. Nadal retrieved one of the breaks in the seventh game but the 21-year-old Canadian held his nerve to pocket the opener.

Two loose forehands at 3-5 in the second set opened the door for 35-year old Nadal while the third set swung the Spaniard's way in the third game when three rapid, defensive scrambles forced an error from his opponent. Auger-Aliassime then rallied to level the tie.

In a tense finale, Nadal converted the sixth of 22 break points he had carved out to lead 5-3 and held his nerve to claim his 109th victory at Roland Garros.

Djokovic also reached the quarter-finals for the 16th time when he eased to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory against 15th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

"It's a huge challenge and probably the biggest one that you can have here in Roland Garros. I'm ready for it," said Djokovic of facing his old rival.