Paris, May 29 (EFE).- Spanish tennis icon Rafael Nadal took five sets to vanquish Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6 and 6-3 at the French Open on Sunday, but now he moves ahead to the quarterfinals where he will face off against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.
This is the third time in the 112 matches he has played in Paris where the Spaniard has taken the maximum number of sets to defeat his rival, emerging victorious all three times.
This time around, Nadal battled for 4 hours and 21 minutes, showing a level of play against the No. 9-ranked Canadian a good bit below what he had displayed in earlier rounds.
Auger-Aliassime’s trainer is currently Toni Nadal, Rafa’s uncle, who trained his nephew up until 2017.
On the hunt for his 14th title in Paris, Nadal had trouble moving ahead to the next round, with his 21-year-old rival forcing him to up his play, but backing him up to the abyss of defeat, which would have been the fourth such result in the French capital.
The temperature had dropped several degrees and a very cool breeze was blowing during the match.
Clearly uncomfortable, Nadal dropped the first set, something he has done only twice before, but he took the second set and improved his service, managing to take the third set also and making it appear that he had found his stride.
However, the Canadian once again surprised with his impressive serve, which he maintained all the way through the long and grueling match, drubbing Nadal again in the fourth set.
Everything hung in the balance in the fifth tiebreaking set, a situation to which only two previous rivals – American John Isner in the first round in 2011 and Djokovic in the epic semifinal match in 2013 – have brought Nadal.
Nevertheless, Nadal waited in the fifth set for any crack in Auger-Aliassime’s service and finally found it in the eighth game, breaking him and subsequently triumphing to move to the quarterfinal round.
Meanwhile, Djokovic had secured an easy win over Argentina’s Diego Schwartzmann 6-1, 6-3 and 6-3 in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
The upcoming contest will be their 59th encounter, the 10th at Roland Garros, where Djokovic has beaten Nadal only twice but is now seeking his third French Open trophy and his 21st Grand Slam, which would tie him with the Spaniard Meanwhile, in other Paris tennis action, Spain’s Bernabe Zapata gave a great account of himself but went down to defeat at the hands of Germany’s Alexander Zverev 7-6 (11), 7-5 and 6-3 in 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Zapata, No. 131 in the world, made it to the Round of 16 in a big tourney for the first time and had a chance to take the first two sets – getting out in front by 4-1 in the first and 4-2 in the second – but couldn’t bring it home at the crucial moments.
Zverev will now play in the quarterfinals in Paris for the fourth time, facing off against Carlos Alcaraz (No. 6) after the 19-year-old Spaniard defeated Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-1, 6-4 and 6-4 in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
This will be Alcaraz’s second quarterfinals round in a Grand Slam tourney after the US Open last year.
Alcaraz, who played masterful tennis throughout the match, is the youngest player to reach the quarterfinals in two big tournaments since Ukraine’s Andrey Medvedev did so in 1993.
In other action, the pair made up of Spain’s Marcel Granollers and Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos moved to the doubles quarterfinals by defeating Great Britain’s Jonny O’Mara and Jackson Withrow, from the US, 6-1, 6-1. Now, they winners will play Holland’s Wesley Koolhof and the UK’s Neal Skupski to try and reach the semifinals.
And Brazil’s Rafael Matos and Spain’s David Vega Hernandez beat Belgium’s Sanders Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-4, 3-6 and 6-7(6) and will now go up against El Salvador’s Marcelo Arevalo and Holland’s Jean-Julien Rojer, who had defeated Germany’s Tim Puetz and New Zealand’s Michael Venus 6-4, 2-6 and 6-1.
In women’s doubles play, Italy’s Martina Trevisan (No. 59) and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez (No. 17) will face off in the quarterfinals against Americans Coco Gauff (No. 18) and Sloane Stephens (No. 64).