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Collision course: Djokovic, Nadal roll into last 16 at French Open


Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal closed in Friday on a blockbuster clash at the French Open as both reached the last 16, while Carlos Alcaraz prepared to face the only man to beat him on clay this year.

Reigning champion Djokovic and 13-time winner Nadal are on course to meet in the quarter-finals, with the Spaniard seeded outside the top four at Roland Garros for just the second time.

“I’m always very motivated when I get on the court, with the desire to produce my best level each time. It’s not always possible to do it, but today it was very good,” said Djokovic.

Next up for Djokovic, who was also French Open champion in 2016, is a match-up with Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, the 15th seed.

He has now reached at least the fourth round in 17 of 18 visits to Roland Garros, with the exception of 2016 when he withdrew in the third round with a wrist injury.

The Spaniard had a break point for 5-0 in the third set, but Van de Zandschulp refused to roll over, winning four of the next five games before Nadal put away his second match point, having saved a break point in between the two.

“I think it was my best match of the tournament so far for two-and-a-half sets, so I’m very happy with that.”

Amanda Anisimova, the 27th seed and a 2019 semi-finalist, advanced to the last 16 as injury-plagued Karolina Muchova retired down 6-7 (7/9), 6-2, 3-0 after falling and twisting her ankle midway through the second set.

Coco Gauff, the youngest player left in the French Open, made the last 16 with a straight-sets win over Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the tournament at 36.

“I believe in myself, and of course I work hard every day,” said the 19-year-old Alcaraz.

“I’m still young, but I would say pretty experienced player now. I feel comfortable playing on the big stadium, big matches, playing in a Grand Slam. As I said, physically I’m strong. Mentally I’m strong, as well.”

The German Olympic champion meets Brandon Nakashima of the US who is enjoying his best Grand Slam run on his Roland Garros main-draw debut. 

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