Novak Djokovic fought in the fourth round of the French Open for the 14th consecutive year on Friday, while Carlos Alcaraz also made progress, after women’s third seed Jessica Pegula and men’s seventh seed Andrey Rublev were dumped from the tournament.
Djokovic made headlines this week with his comments about Kosovo, but his progress on the field has been relatively uneventful, reaching the second week without dropping a set.
The Serbian star was forced to work hard by Spain’s 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who served for the first set and missed a set point in the second, but won 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I thought if I lost the second set we would play five hours today, but I’m proud of the performance,” said Djokovic.
Two-time champion Djokovic, who has also reached the quarterfinals of the French Open for the past 13 years, will face Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas in the last 16.
The 36-year-old will hope to break his tie with injured rival Rafael Nadal at the top of the all-time men’s list of big winners at Roland Garros.
He is just one title behind Serena Williams’ record of 23 Slams and two behind Margaret Court’s overall record.
Djokovic, who has to meet world number one Alcaraz in the semifinals, has now won three of his four matches with Davidovich Fokina.
The first two sets lasted two hours and 47 minutes as Davidovich Fokina severely tested Djokovic’s form.
But the world number three broke as he trailed 6-5 in the opening set before making up a 3-1 deficit to win a tiebreak.
Davidovich Fokina missed a set point to tie the game before Djokovic won another breaker before being booed by the crowd for taking a medical time out.
“I find that disrespectful and I honestly don’t understand that,” said Djokovic, who made short work of the third set.
Alcaraz defeated Canadian 26th seed Denis Shapovalov for losing just seven games in the night game.
The Spaniard cruised to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win, with the only slight blip trailing 4-1 in the second set.
However, he won seven games in a row after that wake-up call to set up a fourth-round encounter with Italian 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti, who defeated British number one Cameron Norrie 6-1, 6-2, 6- 4 decommissioned.
“I knew in the second set I would have my chances to come back a little bit and that’s what I did,” said Alcaraz.
The 20-year-old is bidding for a second straight Grand Slam title after winning the 2022 US Open and missing this year’s Australian Open through injury.
– Sonego banger –
Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego fought back from two sets down to knock out Rublev to reach the last 16 for the second time.
The world No. 48 was two points from defeat in a fourth set tiebreak, but triumphed 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 after three hours and 42 minutes.
Sonego will face Russia’s 11th seed Karen Khachanov for a possible quarterfinal encounter with Djokovic.
“I played more aggressively than in the first and second set because when he’s aggressive it’s hard to compete against him,” he said.
Eleventh seed Khachanov ended Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis’ run with an entertaining 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) victory.
Stefanos Tsitsipas continued his bid for a maiden Grand Slam title with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory over former semifinalist Diego Schwartzman.
The Greek fifth seed, who lost a two-set lead to Djokovic in the 2021 final, will next play Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner after making the second week for a fifth straight year.
American Pegula’s hopes were finally dashed by a 6-1, 6-3 defeat to Belgium’s Elise Mertens.
The number three in the world, Pegula, has never reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament.
The former Australian Open semifinalist will next face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, runner-up in 2021.
– Sabalenka ‘not safe’ –
Aryna Sabalenka declined to hold an official post-match press conference after reaching the last 16 for the first time with a straight-set win over Kamilla Rakhimova.
The Belarusian claimed she “didn’t feel safe” when asked to condemn her country’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine at a press conference earlier this week.
The second seed has yet to drop a set in the tournament after a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 victory against world No. 82 Rakhimova.
Sabalenka will face former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the fourth round.
Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, a semi-finalist last year, raced past American Peyton Stearns 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour.
The ninth seed then takes on Elina Svitolina on Sunday for a place in the quarterfinals.
Ukraine’s Svitolina reached the fourth round in her first Grand Slam appearance since the 2022 Australian Open with a 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Anna Blinkova.