IMAGES from Day 7 matches at the French Open
When claycourt machine Rafael Nadal faces his old friend Richard Gasquet the 10-time Roland Garros champion gets a free ride and that was again the case as he bulldozed past the local favourite 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the French Open last 16 on Saturday.
Top seed Nadal won the first 12 points of the match and opened up a 5-0 led before Gasquet finally got into the contest, but it was once more too little, too late for a player who had been labelled the 'Mozart of tennis' in his teenage years.
Gasquet actually won their last encounter - but it was at the Kooyong Classic exhibition event this year.
When it matters Nadal must know he won't get into trouble, having not dropped a set against a player who was his rival in the juniors since 2008.
There was a sense of inevitability about the outcome when both players made their appearance on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Nadal is the huge favourite to lift the Musketeers Cup for a record-extending 11th time.
"I played very well, I'm sorry for Richard, he is a good friend and a good person," said Nadal, who played a few rallies with a ball boy after his match.
He has now won 30 sets in a row on the Parisian red dust and his last-16 opponent, 70th ranked 22-year-old German Maximilian Marterer, does not exactly seem equipped to cope with the Mallorcan's range of weapons.
Gasquet was totally overwhelmed on Saturday, finding himself trailing 5-0 after 12 minutes, and the Parisian crowd felt it could be an express washout.
In a bid to give the home fans something to shout about, Gasquet spurred himself into
But Nadal was in no mood for a marathon and he bagged the first set on serve before putting Gasquet to the sword again at the beginning of the second and third sets, making sure there was no hope of a comeback amongst the Frenchman's supporters.
Serena sets up Sharapova showdown after beating Gorges
Former World No 1 Serena Williams stamped her class during her 6-3, 6-4 demolition of Germany's Julia Gorges in their third round match.
Williams took only 75 minutes to deliver the knockout punch that flattened the German 11th seed 6-3 6-4 and set up a heavyweight fourth-round showdown with Maria Sharapova.
"I feel like every match I play I'm getting better. I'm playing tougher opponents and I'm hanging in there," said Williams, whose trophy collection includes three Suzanne Lenglen Cups.
"There is still a way to go but it's moving in the right direction. It's going to hopefully keep going."
After such an impressive performance it is now not inconceivable that come next Saturday she will be celebrating a fourth triumph in Paris and cementing her place alongside Margaret Court as the holder of a record 24 Grand Slam titles.
Sharapova steals main stage spotlight by destroying Pliskova
Maria Sharapova was back on Roland Garros' main stage for the first time in three years and put on a dazzling display as she demolished Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 6-1.
Absent from the tournament for the last two years after failing a drugs test in 2016, organisers opted not to roll out the red carpet for her comeback as they scheduled her away from the main Philippe Chatrier court for her opening two matches.
Next up will be a meeting with either her long-time nemesis Serena Williams, who has beaten Sharapova in 18 successive encounters dating back to 2005.
Halep subdues Petkovic after tight early tussle
Top seed Simon Halep maintained her steady progress through the French Open draw when she beat Germany's Andrea Petkovic 7-5, 6-0 to reach the fourth round.
Relegated to the new Court 18 for the day, the Romanian had to battle for an hour to take the opening set but sped through the second with a minimum of fuss.
Petkovic, a semi-finalist in 2014 but now ranked 107, needed treatment on her right knee at the start of the second set and was no match for the twice runner-up.
Halep, cheered on by a noisy gaggle of Romanian fans, finished it off with a clinical backhand winner.
She will face 16th seed Elise Mertens in round four.
Del Potro powers on with menacing display
Juan Martin del Potro fired a menacing warning to those already writing Rafael Nadal's name on the French Open trophy with a bludgeoning 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 third-round defeat of Spanish claycourter Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
The seemingly unstoppable Nadal might be the red-hot favourite to claim an 11th title at Roland Garros next weekend but Argentine powerhouse Del Potro could prove a significant obstacle in the semi-finals.
The way the fifth seed overwhelmed Ramos-Vinolas on Court Philippe Chatrier with his serve and forehand working like clockwork will not have gone unnoticed in the Nadal camp.
"I think I was a bit lucky in the first set because Albert made me run a lot, but I had control of the match in the end and played well in the right moments," Del Potro said.
"I'm playing better every day. Claycourt is not my favourite but I'm enjoying playing here."
Del Potro was given a fight in the first set but after squandering a 5-3 lead he broke Ramos-Vinolas in the 12th game to move ahead.
There was still plenty of resistance in the second set but Del Potro piled on the pressure as Ramos-Vinolas served at 4-5 and pulled two sets clear.
The third was a formality as del Potro moved into the last 16 on the Paris clay for the first time since 2012.
Kvitova's hot streak ended by Kontaveit
Petra Kvitova's hot streak on clay ended in disappointing fashion as the Czech lost 7-6(6), 7-6(4) to Anett Kontaveit in a delayed third round match on Saturday.
Kvitova, one of seven women's Grand Slam champions in action on Day Seven, was edged out in a tight tussle on Court One -- snapping a 13-match winning run.
The eighth seed began in confident fashion against the Estonian she beat on the way to the Madrid title last month, but a 3-1 lead turned into a 5-3 deficit.
Kvitova recovered to take the opener into a tiebreak but Kontaveit, herself in fine form on clay, edged it 8-6.
Kontaveit rallied from 2-4 in the second set but squandered two match points when serving at 5-4 -- missing two regulation forehands -- and Kvitova dug in to level at 5-5. The 25th seed served for the match again at 6-5 but faltered once more.
She received a gift in the tiebreak though when Kvitova slammed a smash long at 3-5 and although Kontaveit double-faulted on her first match point she sealed her first career win over the twice Wimbledon champion on the next one.
Cilic canters into fourth round
Marin Cilic brought out his A-game to swiftly dispatch hapless American Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the third round.
The Croatian third seed whipped nine aces and 35 winners past Johnson to reach the last 16 for the fifth time in 12 visits.
Those fans packed into the intimate Court One bullring might have hoped for a longer contest than the 94-minute drubbing but the Croatian made sure not everyone went away disappointed.
One fan in the stands was left buzzing with excitement after Cilic handed over a neatly folded official towel as a memento.
Cilic will next face Italian showman Fabio Fognini for a place in the quarter-finals.
Unpredictable Fognini outlasts Edmund to reach last 16
Italian maverick Fabio Fognini edged a topsy-turvy five-setter against British number one Kyle Edmund to reach the fourth round.
King of the unpredictable, the 18th seed mixed dazzling brilliance with careless errors and even lost 16 points in a row at one stage before prevailing 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Edmund's level also fluctuated throughout the three-hour 34 minute contest in which both players needed medical timeouts.
After breaks were swapped like hot potatoes in the opening four sets, the decider went with service until Australian Open semi-finalist Edmund stepped up to serve at 4-5.
The 23-year-old then buckled, going 0-40 down, and although he saved one match point, Fognini forced the error on the next to reach the last 16 for only the second time on his 11th appearance at Roland Garros.
With Marco Cecchinato also through, Italy has two players in the fourth round here for the first time since Corrado Barazzutti and Adriano Panatta survived that far in 1976.
Muguruza makes easy progress into last 16
Former champion Garbine Muguruza reached the French Open last 16 on Saturday with a comfortable 6-0, 6-2 win over Australia's Sam Stosur.
Spanish third seed Muguruza, the 2016 winner in Paris and the reigning Wimbledon champion, fired 15 winners past Stosur, the 34-year-old 2010 runner-up and former US Open champion.
After wrapping up the first set in just 25 minutes, Stosur only got on the board in the third game of the second.
"I knew this would be very tough against a former US Open winner and a player who has made the final here," said 24-year-old Muguruza.
"If I didn't play my best tennis, I realised that it would be very hard.
"Coming back here to Court Philippe Chatrier where I won two years ago always brings special feelings inside me." The Spaniard goes on to face Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine who knocked out Slovakian 19th seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-4.
The third seed, who lifted the Suzanne Lenglen Cup in 2016, wasted little time on Court Philippe Chatrier, allowing Stosur only 10 points in the opening set as she sprayed the court with winners.
Hitting the ball as if her life depended on it, Muguruza opened up a 2-0 lead in the second set but Stosur, who reached the final at Roland Garros in 2010, briefly fought back.
The Australian levelled for 2-2 but she then paid dearly as Muguruza bagged the remaining four games to set up a meeting with Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, who downed two seeded players on her way to the last 16.
Tsurenko has now reached the last 16 in Paris for the first time, equalling her best run at a Slam at the 2016 US Open.
Stosur's arsenal of shots and tricks, which usually make her a formidable opponent on all surfaces, were not enough for the Australian to bother Muguruza.
The Spaniard had too much power and she was a bit surprised the win came so easily.
"I was surprised in a way, because I knew it was going to be a battle. The last match, three sets, I'm very happy this time it was not as dramatic as the previous one," said Muguruza, referring to their clash at Brisbane earlier this year.
"She plays well. Maybe it wasn't her best day."
Muguruza would not get carried away, though, only focusing on the next round before anticipating a possible quarter-final clash against Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams.
"The week has been positive, but I'm not trying to think too much ahead. And now I'm going to think about my match against Tsurenko," she said.
Khachanov downs Pouille to set up Zverev last-16 clash
Hard-hitting Russian Karen Khachanov knocked out France's number one player Lucas Pouille 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 in the third round after the rain-hit match resumed on Saturday.
Khachanov, who will be in the last 16 for the second year in a row, always had 15th seed Pouille on the back foot and now takes on German 'wunderkind' Alexander Zverev.
The match was interrupted by rain on Friday with world number 38 Khachanov having won the first two sets and the Russian was just as focused when play started again on Court Philippe Chatrier on Saturday.
"It was tough to be interrupted, you think about the match all night, it was really difficult for the both of us," said Khachanov, who had already beaten Pouille in the final of the Marseille Open this year.
Khachanov trains in Spain and has a lot of claycourt practice under his belt which told against Pouille, who appeared exhausted on Friday after just two sets.
The Frenchman had threatened a comeback in the second set when he broke for 4-2, but Khachanov stayed ice cool and broke back, then won 11 of the 17 remaining games.
He ended the contest with an exquisite lob to claim an emphatic win.
Stephens clings on to advance in Paris
Sloane Stevens declared she does not look "very presentable" when she is out and about exploring Paris but there was nothing shabby about her determination on Saturday as she clung on for dear life to reach the fourth round.
Playing at Roland Garros for the first time since being crowned U.S. Open champion last September, Stephens' chances of reaching the last 16 here for a fifth time looked in jeopardy for much of the third set until she finally overcame Italian Camila Giorgi with a 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 victory.
The American 10th seed had dropped just six games in her previous two matches and stepped onto a sunbathed Court 18 holding a perfect record against Italian opponents at majors.
But such statistics mattered little to Giorgi and she left Stephens yelling "What the hell's going on?" after breaking the American to go 6-5 up in the final set.
Giorgi came into the contest knowing she had the game to trouble the American, having won their last two encounters in straight sets, and it was no different on Saturday as she served for the match at 5-4 and again at 6-5.
But Stephens held her nerve to break back on both occasions and was mightily relieved when she saw Giorgi's backhand zip beyond the baseline on her first match point.
"Going out there I knew it was going to be a battle. She plays kind of crazy but in a good way. I just stuck in there and waited for my opportunities and took advantage of them when I could," said Stephens.
"I just tried to stay tough. I fought really well."
Giorgi left Stephens gasping time and again as she sent 44 winners flying past the American, who was also broken five times.
But so powerful was the 57th ranked Italian's brutal groundstrokes that she often sprayed them long and wide and a tally of 53 unforced errors paved the way for her downfall.
Stephens will hope her body does not suffer too much fatigue from the two hours and 26 minutes tussle as she will be back on court on Sunday for a showdown with Petra Kvitova's conqueror, Estonian 25th seed Anett Kontaveit.
The win also allowed Stephens to extend her stay in Paris. Now that she is a bona fide member of the Grand Slam winners' club, does she get mobbed in the streets?
"Not so much. I normally look like -- I wouldn't say a homeless person, but I look like not very presentable. I'm not really recognisable because I always have a hat on and I look kind of crazy. No one approaches me."
Impressive Garcia races into French Open last 16
Caroline Garcia suffered some late jitters but produced an impressive performance to beat Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1, 6-3 and reach the last 16.
The seventh seed played neatly throughout, committing only 13 unforced errors -- three times less than in the previous round -- to set up a meeting with German Angelique Kerber or Belgian Kiki Bertens.
Garcia, who reached the quarter-finals here last year for her best Grand Slam result, raced through the opening set as Begu appeared unable to follow the Frenchwoman's high pace from the baseline.
Garcia, however, had trouble finishing it off as she needed 13 minutes to win the last game.