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French Open PIX: Alcaraz, Djokovic power into quarters

Last updated on: June 05, 2023 09:22 IST
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Images from Day 8 of the 2023 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris on Sunday.

IMAGE: Carlos Alcaraz had way too much firepower and grit for 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti, who also got tortured at the net on Court Philippe Chatrier, during Day 8 of the 2023 French Open at Roland Garros on Sunday. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

World number one Carlos Alcaraz bulldozed his way into the French Open quarter-finals with an awe-inspiring 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 crushing of Italian Lorenzo Musetti on Sunday.


The 20-year-old Spaniard, whose maiden run at Roland Garros ended in the last eight last year, next faces Stefanos Tsitsipas or Sebastian Ofner with a potential mouthwatering semi-final clash against Novak Djokovic looming.

On paper, Musetti had all the tools to unsettle Alcaraz - the touch, a superb backhand and a victory on clay in their only encounter. On court, however, the Italian had nothing to bother his opponent.

Alcaraz had way too much firepower and grit for the 17th seed, who also got tortured at the net on Court Philippe Chatrier.

"I had a high quality of shots, I played really aggressive and he played a complete match from the first point to the last so I'm happy to be through to the next round," said Alcaraz, watched by his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who lifted the Musketeers Cup 20 years ago.

"I try not to think about being world number one or the pressure. All these thoughts, I keep them out of my mind. I just want to enjoy myself, entertain the crowd, and smile. This is the key to everything."

IMAGE: Carlos Alcaraz celebrates winning his fourth round match. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Musetti won the first two games of the match but it was all downhill from there as he hit a brick wall, Alcaraz finding the best defence in all circumstances and relentlessly attacking when he saw the tightest opening.

The Spaniard bagged five games in a row and the first set quickly before getting a 2-0 advantage in the second, finding gravity-defying angles and showing his outstanding skills at the net.

Musetti fought back for 2-2 but that was not enough to unsettle Alcaraz, who peppered the court with winners including jaw-dropping shots over, or around, the net.

Alcaraz won four games in a row to take the second set and finished his demolition job in the third.

Djokovic edges closer to Grand Slam record

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his fourth round match against Pablo Juan Varillas of Peru. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

World number three Novak Djokovic inched closer to a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title by crushing Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on Sunday to reach the French Open quarter-finals.

The Serbian, who is currently tied with Spain's Rafa Nadal at 22 majors, was untroubled by his 94th-ranked opponent, the first Peruvian in 29 years to reach a Grand Slam fourth round, on a windy day on Philippe Chatrier court.

He attacked Varillas at every opportunity to avoid being drawn into lengthy baseline battles that had seen the 27-year-old win all his three previous rounds in five-set marathons.


IMAGE: Novak Djokovic inched closer to a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Varillas lost the vast majority of the shorter rallies and could not find a way back into the match as Djokovic set up a quarter-final against 11th seed Karen Khachanov.

A two-time champion in Paris, Djokovic has now reached the quarter-finals at the French Open for a record 17th time, one more than 14-time champion Rafael Nadal who is absent this year due to injury.

Tsitsipas blasts past Ofner to make French Open quarter-finals

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates winning his fourth round match against Austria's Sebastian Ofner

IMAGE: Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates winning his fourth round match against Austria's Sebastian Ofner. Photograph: Benoit Tessier

Stefanos Tsitsipas stepped up his bid for an elusive first Grand Slam title as the Greek fifth seed dismantled Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 on Sunday to book his place in the French Open quarter-finals.

Tsitsipas was left broken-hearted after a five-sets defeat by Novak Djokovic in the 2021 Roland Garros final before another loss to the Serbian at January's Australian Open, but the 24-year-old has barely put a foot wrong in Paris this year.

Tsitsipas, who has only dropped one set in his four matches, will face his biggest test when he meets world number one Carlos Alcaraz in the last eight.

The Greek fifth seed continued his charge by battling back from an early break to wrap up the first set and surged through the next, as Ofner's hopes of being the first qualifier to make the quarter-finals of the claycourt major since Marcelo Filippini in 1999 faded fast.

The Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd began a Mexican wave in the third set and Ofner soon found himself trailing 5-0 as the world number 118 struggled to deal with the Tsitsipas tsunami.

He was finally put out of his misery by the Greek who closed out the victory on serve.

Sabalenka survives first set implosion to overcome Stephens

Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka celebrates winning her fourth round match against Sloane Stephens of the US

IMAGE: Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka celebrates winning her fourth round match against Sloane Stephens of the US. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

World number two Aryna Sabalenka weathered a spectacular first set implosion to beat American Sloane Stephens 7-6(5) 6-4 on Sunday and advance to the French Open quarter-finals.

The Belarusian, who will face Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in the last eight, gave Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, no hope at the start, unleashing a barrage of baseline missiles that left the 30-year-old stunned and looking around for help.

Sabalenka, the hardest-hitting player on the women's tour and the 2023 Australian Open champion, raced to a 5-0 lead with Stephens winning a total of just eight points.

But the American, no stranger to the Paris big stage after reaching the final in 2018, was not done yet, clawing her way back and saving a set point at 5-2 to cut the deficit.

With her own first serve wilting, Sabalenka, in complete freefall by now, missed another two set points at 5-4 on Stephens' serve before her opponent spectacularly levelled and then held to take it to a tiebreak.

The Belarusian, looking win a second Grand Slam trophy, managed to pull herself together at the last moment, clinching the first set on her fourth opportunity.

She cut down on the unforced errors in the second set but again Stephens battled back from 4-2 down to level before Sabalenka broke again to go 5-4 up and serve out the match.

"It was crazy match. I'm super happy with this win," Sabalenka said in comments given to women's governing body WTA after she refused to do a post-game interview for the second time in a row.

The Belarusian had said on Friday she had felt unsafe with journalists' questions focusing on her country's support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and had again released comments through the WTA.

"It was really tough battle and that she came back from 0-5, and it says a lot that she's a great fighter," Sabalenka said.

"I think it was just like few key moments which I didn't finish right, and then she (Stephens) started to believe in herself a little bit more.

"I was just keep telling myself that I have been through a lot of tough situation, and I went through all of those craziness, so I'm strong enough to handle this tiebreak and that gave me so much power, so much belief."

She will have to keep her cool in the next round as well against Svitolina, who has repeatedly called on all Russian and Belarusian players to be banned over the Russian invasion of her country.

Svitolina returns to French Open quarters

IMAGE: Ukraine's Elina Svitolina is quickly rediscovering the form that took her to the last eight in Paris in 2015, 2017 and 2020. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

A charged-up Elina Svitolina powered into the French Open quarter-finals for the fourth time with a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over Russian ninth seed Daria Kasatkina on Sunday as she kept alive hopes of winning a maiden Grand Slam title.

The Ukrainian is brimming with confidence after winning the Strasbourg title last month following her maternity break and is quickly rediscovering the form that took her to the last eight in Paris in 2015, 2017 and 2020.

"I definitely wouldn't have dreamt of this when I was giving birth," said Svitolina, whose daughter Skai was born in October. "It's unbelievable to be able to compete.

"And going all the way to the quarter-finals is a special feeling. I hope I can push even further, I'm really motivated for the next few matches."

In the quarter-finals, Svitolina will take on world number two Aryna Sabalenka or 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens who meet in the night session later.

She began brightly on a shadowy Court Suzanne Lenglen to bag two early breaks before handing one straight back to Kasatkina, but the 28-year-old ensured that was the only blip in the 45 minutes she took to wrap up the first set.

Svitolina, who is married to French player Gael Monfils and enjoys huge support among local fans, roared back from 2-0 down in the second set with both players struggling to hold serve and got her nose in front with some heavy hitting late on.

"It was a wonderful atmosphere and I'm really thankful for your support," Svitolina added. "I can see what Gael has been experiencing all these years and I'm thankful to the French people for their support."

With popular Russian singer Zemfira - an opponent of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine - watching from Kasatkina's box, Svitolina squandered a match point and got pulled into a tiebreak where the pressure mounted.

But Svitolina settled her nerves to wrap up the contest and, while there was no customary handshake at the net, Kasatkina gave her opponent a thumbs-up before walking away.

Pavlyuchenkova, Khachanov enter last eight

IMAGE: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova celebrates winning her fourth round match against Elise Mertens of Belgium. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova dug deep to return to the French Open quarter-finals for the first time since her runner-up finish two years ago while fellow Russian Karen Khachanov also fought his way through on a bright Sunday at Roland Garros.

Pavlyuchenkova, who was defeated in the 2021 final by Czech Barbora Krejcikova, skipped last year's edition as well as the second half of the season to nurse a knee problem and came into the match after three-setters in her last two encounters.

IMAGE: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was defeated in the 2021 final by Czech Barbora Krejcikova. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

She was tested again by 28th seed Elise Mertens but rallied from a set and a break down to seal a 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 victory in a little more than three hours.

Pavlyuchenkova, who has slipped to world number 333 after being forced to stop playing completely for around five months last year, is the lowest-ranked French Open quarter-finalist in the Open Era.

IMAGE: Karen Khachanov made it to the French Open quarter-finals for the second time. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Khachanov, the 11th seed, also showed plenty of resolve as he battled past Italian Lorenzo Sonego 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-1 to reach the last eight for the second time.

"After the first set and a half, I was thinking, what am I doing here, he was hitting all over the place so I decided all I could do was fight," said Khachanov, who has reached the semi-finals in his last two Grand Slams in New York and Melbourne.

Doubles pair disqualified after ball girl is hit

There were dramatic scenes on Court 14 as Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi were disqualified from their women's doubles third-round match after Kato struck a ball down the court between points and hit a ball girl to leave her sobbing.

Kato was initially warned by chair umpire Alexandre Juge but Czech Marie Bouzkova and Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo, who were leading 7-6(1) 1-3 at the time of the incident, pointed out to him that the ball girl was crying.

"No, no, let me explain to you. She (Kato) didn't do it on purpose, she (the ball girl) didn't get injured," Juge said.

"She (Kato) didn't do it on purpose? She's crying," Sorribes Tormo said, pointing to the ball girl.

"And she has blood," Bouzkova added.

After speaking to the girl, the umpire went back up to his chair and announced the end of the match by disqualifying Kato and Sutjiadi to spark boos from the crowd.

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