Defending champions Nadal, Swiatek advance at French Open

Paris, Jun 6 (EFE).- Reigning French Open men’s champion Rafael Nadal and his counterpart on the women’s side, Iga Swiatek, both won their matches Saturday to book their spots in the fourth round.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, in pursuit of a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros, downed Briton Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the round of 16 for a 16th time.

Poland’s Swiatek, who was only 19 when she lifted the trophy here last year, beat Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 7-6, 6-0.

While the man Nadal defeated in last year’s final, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, is headed to the round of 16 for the 15th time overall and the 12th year in a row after dispatching Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in straight sets.

Also moving on will be world No. 8 Roger Federer, though only after an epic four-set battle with 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer.

The Swiss great, who turns 40 in August, needed more than 3 1/2 hours to prevail 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 over his 27-year-old German opponent in a match that ended well after midnight.

Ironically, the day’s most dramatic contest took place with no fans in the stands because of Paris’ 9:00 pm pandemic curfew, a development that spurred renewed criticism of the tournament’s decision to schedule night matches.

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic together account for 17 of the last 20 men’s Grand Slam finals.

Norrie “is having the best season of his career, winning plenty of matches,” Nadal said after the third-round contest. “But I found a way to be through, that’s the most important thing for me … I was able to win in straight sets, and that’s so important for me.”

Djokovic was likewise pretty satisfied with his performance.

“It couldn’t be much better than this, especially the first and third sets. I served well, moved well and made him play,” he said after thrashing Berankis 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 in 92 minutes.

The 34-year-old Serb’s next opponent is Italian youngster Lorenzo Musetti, who made it past fellow countryman Marco Cecchinato 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Argentine Diego Schwartzman booked his place in the last-16 by beating German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 in a dominant display.

“I guess I had a ‘late’ start today,” Swiatek said after Kontaveit pushed her to a tie-break in the first set with a “dominating” display.

“But I’m really happy, I had 0-2 against her (career to date), and I sort of broke that, so yeah, I’m really happy about that,” the world No. 9 said.

The day’s biggest upset was on the women’s side, as Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina fell 6-3, 6-2 to unseeded Czech players Barbora Krejcikova.

Only three of the 10 top seeds among the women remain in the tournament, Swiatek, Sofia Kenin – who beat fellow American Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday – and Serena Williams.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettino bested Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will face Federer in the fourth round. Next up for Nadal is another Italian, Jannik Sinner, who defeated Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.

Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff got past Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz Garfia 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 to set up a round of 16 class with Schwartzman.

Coco Gauff, 17, will be playing in the round of 16 for the first time after fellow American Jennifer Brady retired with an injury following her 6-1 loss in the first set.

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