Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both reached the French Open quarterfinals on Monday, while the two stalwarts of the tennis world held back the rise of tennis’s future stars.
After fighting back from two sets down to defeat 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, world No. 1 Djokovic remained on track to become the first man to win all four Slams twice in over 50 years.
Rafael Nadal, the 13-time major champion bidding for a record 21st title, won his 104th match at the French Open by defeating Italian 19-year-old Jannik Sinner in straight sets.
In the women’s draw, Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejcikova, and Maria Sakkari each reached the quarterfinal stage of a Slam for the first time, while defending champion Iga Swiatek enjoyed a smooth run.
In the opening two sets, Musetti, a 76th-ranked player making his Grand Slam debut, had Djokovic in trouble, leading 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-2) with three games to play.
Djokovic leveled the match by winning the next two games, 6-1, 6-0, before Musetti withdrew at 4-0 down in the decider with cramps and a back injury.
“I like to play young guys in the best of five because even at two sets down, I feel I still have my chances,” said 18-time major winner Djokovic.
“I feel physically fit, I have won most of my five-setters and that experience helps.”
During his Grand Slam career, Djokovic has fought back from two set deficits five times.
Djokovic, the 2016 champion and chasing a 19th major, reeled off 53 of the last 61 points as he made a quarterfinal at the majors for the 49th time.
“I was not able anymore to win a point, and so I decided to retire,” said Musetti.
“But it was a fantastic experience for me. I was playing my best tennis.”
Third seed Nadal downed 18th-seeded Sinner 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 and goes on to face Diego Schwartzman of Argentina who he defeated in the semi-finals in 2020.
The Spaniard now has 104 wins at Roland Garros against just two losses since his debut there in 2005, and Monday’s win extended his run of consecutive sets in Paris to 35.
In the semifinals, Spain’s world No. 3 is in line to face Djokovic, who is ranked no. 1.
“I started well but was a little too defensive. I gave him the chance to come inside the court and play his best shots. That was a mistake,” said Nadal after reaching a 44th Slam last-eight.
“I broke back at 5-4 in the first set and the match changed after that. I played at a great level.”
In the third set, Nadal hit 31 winners and Struff scored just 10 points.
The 10th seed defeated Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (11-9), 6-4, 7-5 to reach his third French Open quarterfinal.
Gauff defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in 53 minutes, 6-3, 6-1.
Since Nicole Vaidisova reached the quarterfinals of the 2016 French Open, she is the youngest woman to reach this stage of a Slam.
On Court Philippe Chatrier, the American teenager, seeded 24th, broke her Tunisian opponent three times without facing a break point.
“I am super happy to reach my first Grand Slam quarterfinal. I played really well,” said Gauff.
Gauff, who famously raced to the Wimbledon fourth round in 2019 as a 15-year-old qualifier, faces Krejcikova for a place in the semifinals.
She also advanced to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal by beating runner-up and former American Jennifer Brady 6-2, 6-0. Open champion Sloane Stephens.
Even so, Krejcikova confessed she nearly didn’t make it.
“Half an hour before the match, I didn’t even want to step on the court,” said the 25-year-old.
“I had to lock myself in the physio room and I had to talk to my psychologist. I was actually crying.”
The fourth seed, Sofia Kenin, was knocked out 6-1, 6-3 by Sakkari, who reached her first Slam last-eight.
After beating Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-4, the world number 18 will face reigning champion Swiatek.
Poland’s eighth seed has won 22 consecutive sets at Roland Garros.
Swiss star Swiatek is seeking to become the first woman to win the Paris title in four consecutive years since Justine Henin won the title three times in a row from 2005-2007.