Nadal stays on course for possible Djokovic clash in quarterfinals
PARIS – Rafa Nadal hammered Dutch 26th seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-2 6-4 in the French Open third round on Friday to remain on course for a potential mouth-watering showdown against world number one Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
Nadal has 13 Roland Garros titles among his 21 majors — the highest among men — but the Spaniard was denied last year when he went down in the semi-finals to eventual champion Djokovic. Around the same time on nearby Court Philippe Chatrier, the Serb also put on a prolific display to book his spot in the fourth round with a 6-3 6-3 6-2 win over Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene to stay in the hunt for a record-equalling 21st major.
While Djokovic will next meet Argentine Diego Schwartzman, Nadal will take on Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime before their potential clash in the last eight. Van de Zandschulp began the match on a strong footing, breaking Nadal’s serve in the first game, but the Spaniard’s delivery looked almost impregnable for the remainder of the contest on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
In his first career meeting against the Dutchman, Nadal dictated terms from way behind the baseline, absorbing his opponent’s power and then bringing out his venomous forehand when required. Van de Zandschulp, currently at a career-high ranking of 29th, staged a brief fightback in the third set when he won three games in a row from 4-0 down but Nadal, who will turn 36 next week, had the cushion to not be threatened.
Nadal broke the 26-year-old’s service twice in each of the three sets, hit 25 winners while keeping a lid on his unforced errors. The left-hander closed out the contest with an overhead smash down the middle on his second match point.
“I had my chance with a break point for 5-0 then match was over but he made a great second serve,” Nadal said on court. “Then I played a bad game with my serve and he started to play aggressive and you feel a bit of nerves to finish the match. “Straight sets, it was my best match of the tournament for two sets and a half.”
Aliaksandra Sasnovich eliminated a Grand Slam champion for the second straight match to reach the fourth round at the French Open. The 47th-ranked Belarusian beat three-time major champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-6 (5) at Court Simonne Mathieu.
Coco Gauff reached the fourth round at the French Open by beating Kaia Kanepi. The 18-year-old Gauff, the youngest remaining woman in the draw, defeated the 36-year-old Kanepi, the oldest remaining woman, 6-3, 6-4. The 19-year-old Canadian beat Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 at Court Philippe Chatrier.