Rediff.com  » Sports » PICS: Alcaraz, Nadal, Djokovic cruise; Azarenka exits

PICS: Alcaraz, Nadal, Djokovic cruise; Azarenka exits

Last updated on: May 28, 2022 04:43 IST
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Images from Day 6 at the French Open, at Roland Garros, in Paris, on Friday.

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates victory over Sebastian Korda of the United States in the French Open men's singles third round, at Roland Garros in Paris, France, on Friday.

IMAGE: Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates victory over Sebastian Korda of the United States in the French Open men's singles third round, at Roland Garros in Paris, France, on Friday.. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Carlos Alcaraz's meteoric rise continued on Friday when the Spanish prodigy produced yet another awe-inspiring performance to outplay American Sebastian Korda 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 and reach the last 16 of the French Open for the first time.

 

Facing the only man to beat him on clay this year, the sixth-seeded teenager, who saved a match point in the second round, showed his full range on a packed court Philippe Chatrier - mixing powerful forehands with gravity-defying drop shots.

The 27th-seeded Korda threw everything at his opponent, only for the ball to come back quicker and with more power and the American faded in the third after a high-octane fight in the first two sets.

Alcaraz, who now has an 18-1 win-loss record on the red dirt this season after winning titles in Barcelona and Madrid, will next face 21st-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov before a potential quarter-final clash against third seed Alexander Zverev.

"It's amazing to play in front of such a great crowd in this atmosphere on a night session," the 19-year-old Alcaraz, who stunned the crowd with some serve and volleying, said.

"I'm having fun, I love playing tennis on such great courts, I love playing in France. Serve and volley is a weapon that I have so I use it."

Should the stars align for Alcaraz, he could eventually take on either world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic or 13-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal in the last four.

"If I am winning, I just play against one of them. I think I'm ready. It's different to play against them," he said.

"I mean in the Masters 1000 or another tournament it's best-of-three and in Grand Slam it's best-of-five, but I would say I'm ready."

Alcaraz got off to a brilliant start and had a couple of double break points at 3-1, only for Korda to stave them off with a service winner and an ace.

But the Spaniard was untroubled on his service games and he wrapped up the opening set having lost only six points on serve.

Korda found his range early in the second set and set up two break points but Alcaraz held firm and showed his ability to find the best shot at the best moment - including a sublime lob while on the back foot to go 30-0 up in the fifth game.

He won that game with a superb forehand winner down the line.

Korda saved set points at 5-3 but yielded under pressure in the 10th game, returning long to hand Alcaraz a two-set lead.

It quickly went downhill from there for Korda, who dropped serve again with a volley into the net in the seventh game and capitulated on the first match point when Alcaraz unleashed a backhand winner down the line.

Nadal whips Zandschulp to enter third round

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IMAGE: Rafael Nadal faces Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime next. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

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.

 

Fifth seed Nadal has won a record 13 Roland Garros titles and 21 majors 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 Serbian 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 Grand Slam.

While top seed Djokovic will next meet Argentine Diego Schwartzman, Nadal faces Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime before their potential clash in the last eight.

"He's one of the players in better shape on the tour, without a doubt," Nadal said of Schwartzman, who is working with the Spaniard's long-time former coach and uncle Toni.

"It's a round of 16. I know I have to play at a very high level to have chances to keep going. It's going to be a good test. In some way, that's what I need. "Today has been a very good test too and a very positive test because I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt.

For two sets and a half I was playing at a very positive level."

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 rest 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.

A well-known Real Madrid fan, Nadal said his "intention and goal" was to attend the Champions League final on Saturday night at Stade de France in northern Paris when the Spanish side take on Liverpool.

Djokovic near-flawless in rout of Bedene 

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IMAGE: Novak Djokovic made short work of Aljaz Bedene.  Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes

Novak Djokovic powered past Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 with a near-flawless performance to reach the French Open fourth round and stay firmly on course to challenge for a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam triumph.

The 35-year-old world number one, who was on court for less than two hours, next plays 15th seed Diego Schwartzmann of Argentina and if victorious could face 13-times winner Rafael Nadal in what would be a mouth-watering last eight clash.

"It's not possible to play perfectly but to strive to play close to perfection," Djokovic said in an on-court interview.

"I want to play my characteristic game, my aggressive game. It is not always possible but today it was very good."

Djokovic's next opponent is a claycourt specialist and the Serbian warned of Schwartzmann's speed and work ethic although the top seed has won all six of their previous encounters.

"He is one of the quickest players on tour. His best results in his career came on clay," Djokovic told a news conference later. "Playing against him you always expect the ball to come back. I expect a physical battle."

On Friday, however, Djokovic had an easy match against Slovenian Bedene, ranked 195th in the world after an eight-month layoff and return to action in March, who was no match for the 35-year-old's power and near-flawless service games.

The Serbian wasted three break points at 2-1 in the first set but quickly got another chance to breeze through it in just over 30 minutes.

He got two more breaks in the second to clinch it as quickly as the first with Bedene failing to carve out a break chance in the match, and winning just five points on Djokovic's serve in the first two sets.

The third set went in similar fashion with Djokovic breaking early and Bedene, who made twice as many unforced errors as his opponent, failed to respond before the top seed triumphed when the Slovenian netted a forehand after an hour and 44 minutes.

No drama as Zverev powers into last 16

Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates after winning his third round match against Brandon Nakashima of the United States.

IMAGE: Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates after winning his third round match against Brandon Nakashima of the United States. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Alexander Zverev muscled his way into the fourth round with a no-nonsense 7-6(2), 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over American Brandon Nakashima.

It was a welcome change for the German third seed, who had to save a match point in a five-set thriller in the previous round at Roland Garros.

"I raised my level a lot today, it was a different match. I prefer this. This is much better for me, I don't lose too much hair. The atmosphere was amazing," said Zverev, who will next take on Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

The 20-year-old Nakashima had never beaten a top 20 player and did not seem in a position to do so after a tight opening.

The American struggled to handle Zverev's raw power and gradually faded away despite a good effort to derail the German, who this time stayed on track throughout.

Zverev was below his best at the start but found an opening in the tiebreak to take the first set on a sun-kissed Court Suzanne Lenglen.

The German broke for 3-1 in the second set with a backhand winner and held throughout to take a two-set lead despite some decent defensive play by his opponent.

The match seemed to be in the bag for Zverev when he took Nakashima's serve to open a 3-2 lead in the third set, but the world number 75 broke straight back and forced another tiebreak.

Olympic champion Zverev, a semi-finalist here last year, fell 4-2 behind but found the best angles to turn it around and secure a straightforward victory in the end.

Azarenka sent packing by 23rd seed Teichmann

IMAGE: Viktoria Azarenka slumped to a shock three sets defeat to Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann. Photograph: Danielle Parhizkaran/USA Today/Reuters

Twice Grand Slam champion Viktoria Azarenka slumped out of the French Open after Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann battled from a set down to win 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) and secure a spot in the fourth round on Friday.

The Belarusian 32-year-old former world number one, seeded 15th in Paris, powered from 3-0 down at the start of the first set and then again from 4-3 behind to win the next three straight games to secure the opening set.

Azarenka looked to be cruising to a comfortable victory when she broke Teichmann to go 4-2 up in the second with her powerful baseline play and continuous drop shots dictating the game.

But in a reversal of the opening set, it was the 24-year-old Swiss left-hander's turn to battle back, mixing it up and clinching five of the next six games to force a decider.

Teichmann kept up the pressure and, after the pair traded two breaks each, won the tiebreak following more than three hours to reach a Grand Slam fourth round for the first time. 

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