After a somewhat hesitant start to his campaign of his record extending ten titles in the French Capital, Rafael Nadal seems to have restored normal service as he ruthlessly took out the 27th seeded Richard Gasquet, the last remaining French hope in the men’s draw. Nadal who had dropped only 35 games enroute to winning his tenth title last year, recorded a 6-3,6-2,6-2 win.
Nadal now boasts a 82-2 record at Roland Garros, and advances to the round of 16 at the majors for the 40th time in his career, becoming only the sixth player in Open Era to have attained the feat. Nadal has now won 34 consecutive sets in Paris, eclipsing his previous best of 32 in a row from 2007-2009. Only Bjorn Borg, who won the title six times (1974-5, 1978 to 81) holds the record of 41 consecutive sets, a feat he achieved in 1979-81. In addition it was his 16th win against the 31st ranked Gasquet, who is regarded as having one of the best single handed backhand.
Next up for the top ranked Nadal is the unseeded 22 year old German Maximilian Marterer who defeated the lucky loser from Estonia Jurgen Zopp 6-2,6-1,6-4. Zopp, ranked a lowly 136th in the world , got into the main draw as one of the qualifiers withdrew from the main event, looked completely exhausted after playing two five set matches.
Marin Cilic, seeded third and an underachiever on clay, displayed dazzling form as he defeated the unseeded American Steve Johnson in straight sets 6-3,6-2,6-4. The 2014 U.S. Open champion Cilic will next play the Italian Fabio Fognini, seeded 18th, who earned a hard fought 6-3,4-6,3-6,6-4,6-4 win against the fast improving 16th seeded Kyle Edmund of Great Britain.
The 2009 champion, Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, whose best performance in Paris was a last four defeat at the hands of the eventual champion Roger Federer, just three months before his sole triumph in a grand slam, was tested by the left handed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first two sets but finished strongly 7-5,6-4,6-1. He now faces the big serving John Isner, the lone American left in the men’s draw, who had a 7-6(1),6-4,7-6(4) win against another Frenchman Pierre- Hugues Herbert.
Isner, seeded ninth halted Del Potro’s run of 15 consecutive matches earlier in March this year, defeating the fifth seed Tower of Tandil in the Semi-finals at Miami, where he went on to record his maiden Master’s series title beating Alexander Zverev in the final.
Another Argentine, the diminutive 5 feet 7 inch tall Diego Schwartzman, had a surprisingly easy 7-5,6-3,6-3 win over the Croat Borna Coric. The 11th seed from Buenos Aires, seeded 11th, next plays the sixth seeded South African Kevin Anderson who won 6-1,6-7(3),6-3,7-6(4) against the elder Zverev sibling, left handed Mischa Zverev.
Two matches that were suspended on Friday, both involving French players, ended in disappointment for the home crowd as the 15th seeded Lucas Pouille and the 32nd seeded Gael Monfils lost. Karen Khachanov of Russia only needed seven games on Saturday to get past Pouille, 6-3,7-5,6-3 to book a meeting with the second seeded German Alexander Zverev.
The eighth seeded David Goffin of Belgium saved four set points in the fourth set before recording a 6-7(6),6-3,4-6,7-5,6-3. Goffin led by a break in the third set after the pair split the first two sets on Friday, but the colourfull Frenchman broke serve twice to claim the third set 6-4. Monfils served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, but Goffin broke back in a marathon tenth game saving four match points. He broke again in the twelveth game to force a decider which he won 6-3. He next plays the Italian Marco Cecchinato in the round of sixteen on Sunday.
Following is the list of matches to be played in the round of 16 with my pick mentioned first :-
Alexander Zverev (2) v. Karen Khachanov (-)
Dominic Thiem (7) v. Kei Nishikori (19)
David Goffin (8) v. Marco Cecchinato (-)
Novak Djokovic (20) v. Fernando Verdasco (30)
Diego Schwartzman (11) v. Kevin Anderson (6)
Rafael Nadal (1) v. Maximilian Marterer (-)
Juan Martin Del Potro (9)
Marin Cilic (3) v. Fabio Fognini (18)
All three former women’s champions have advanced to the fourth round on Saturday. Serena Williams beat the German Julia Gorges 6-3,6-4, Maria Sharapova overpowered Karolina Pliskova 6-2,6-1 and third seeded Garbine Muguruza was too strong for the 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-0,6-2. World number One Simona Halep beat the German Andrea Petkovic 7-5,6-0. However, another German, former world number Angelique Kerber won 7-6(4),7-6(4) against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.
Keeping the French hopes alive is the seventh seeded Caroline Garcia who beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1,6-3. Belgium’s Elise Merterns beat the Russian Daria Gavrilova 6-3,6-1. The U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens of the U.S.A. required all her reserves of stamina to overcome the Italian Camila Giorgi 4-6,6-1,8-6. The Estonian Anett Kontaveit upset the two time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6(6),7-6(4) and the Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko upset Magdalena Rybarikova of Serbia 6-2,6-4.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]