Nadal, Djokovic watching the French Open showdown

Djokovic Nadal

File – Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (L) and Spain’s Rafael Nadal shake hands at the end of their men’s singles semifinal tennis match on the 13th day of the Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine Pauzulet / AFP)

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will look to fight for the quarterfinals of a heavyweight French Open on Sunday, as Carlos Alcaraz hopes to extend his run after being the youngest person to reach the last 16 since 2006.

Record 13-time Roland Garros champion Nadal competes with Felix Agar-Aliasim, Canadian ninth seed Tony Nadal, uncle and coach of the Spanish star in the best part of three decades.

“For me, it’s very simple,” Nadal said.

“He’s my uncle. He doesn’t want to lose me. He wants the best for me and I want the best for him. But he’s a professional and now with another player. That’s zero problem.”

Auger-Aliassime began working with Tony Nadal in April 2021, four years after Nadal and his uncle spent 27 years in the trophy-loading association.

“We knew it was a possibility that I would play Rafa when I finally worked with Tony,” said Auger-Aliassime, who played his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open in September.

“I think Tony will watch from a neutral place and enjoy the match. This is another match for me.

“Rafa’s career and what he did with Tony is much bigger than Sunday’s match.”

Nadal’s record at the French Open is 108 wins against just three defeats.

He has reached at least the last eight of 15 of the 17 tours to Paris. Nadal lost to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 and withdrew with a wrist injury before the third round in 2016.

Another victory for Nadal will send him to the quarter-finals with Djokovic if he beats world number one and defending champion Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in his last 16 fight.

Alkaraj followed in Djokovic’s footsteps

Djokovic has won the previous six meetings with Argentina’s 15th seed Schwartzman, including a five-set win in the third round at Roland Garros in 2017.

Alcaraz, 19, is the youngest man in the second week of the French Open since Djokovic 16 years ago.

After saving a match point in the second round, the sixth pick has avenged against the only person to beat him on the ground this year, beating American Sebastian Corda in a straight set.

“I think I’m ready,” Alcaraz said. “If I can win this tournament I would say this is my gold ticket.”

He has won 20 of 21 matches on the ground this season and has since faced 21st seed Karen Khachanov.

Third-seeded and 2021 semi-finalist Alexander Zverev plays with qualifier Bernabe Zapata Mirales, the 134th-ranked Spaniard enjoying his best run in a major and dropping John Isner in the last 32.

Last year’s US Open runners-up Lelah Fernandez tackled American 26th seed Amanda Anisimova, who finished last four in Paris three years ago and knocked out Naomi Osaka in the first round.

Coco Goff, 18, is seeking a repeat of his quarter-finals a year ago when he met Belgium’s Alice Mertens, where Swiss 23rd seed Jill Teichman plays former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who lost in the 2018 Roland Garros final.

Aliaksandra Sasnovic will try to reach the Major Eight for the first time against Martina Travisan of Italy, the dazzling quarter-finalist of 2020.

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