The top players all know how to win, but they also know that there are different ways of doing it. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic demonstrated those differing approaches on a busy day six of Roland Garros.
Every top player enjoys an emphatic victory, but occasionally they notch up wins that are almost a little too emphatic. That’s what happened to Rafael Nadal who, on the eve of his 31st birthday, obliterated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-0 6-1 6-0 in exactly 90 minutes.
Nadal was simply brilliant during his 100th best-of-five set match on the red clay (his win-loss record is a staggering 98-2), hitting 27 winners en route to the Last 16.
“I was expecting, obviously, a very, very difficult match, but not something like this,” Basilashvili lamented later. “The score is quite embarrassing, you know, but I have to accept it.”
If Rafael Nadal was emphatic, Novak Djokovic was anything but in the next match scheduled on Chatrier. The No.2 seed needed three hours 18 minutes to put Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman down, eventually winning 5-7 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-1. In grinding out the five-set win, Djokovic avoided the ignominy of becoming the first defending champion since 2004 to go out before the Last 16.
Djokovic will face Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the fourth round, the Spaniard coming through a bruising five-setter or his own against Lucas Pouille 6-2 3-6 5-7 6-2 6-1.
Elsewhere, Pablo Carreno Busta beat Grigor Dimitrov 7-5 6-3 6-4; Dominic Thiem was similarly emphatic against Steve Johnson, winning 6-1 7-6(4) 6-3; and there have been calls for a safety review after David Goffin was forced to retire from his match against Hector Zeballos after getting in caught in the back fencing on Suzanne Lenglen.
Rolling back the years; 2017 feels like a season for doing that. And just as Roger and Rafa have rediscovered their best in the men’s game, Venus Williams appears to be doing the same in the women’s. Elise Mertens was no match for the American, who cruised to a 6-3 6-1 win in little over an hour.
“My goal is to improve every round and today I feel like I improved even more than the last rounds,” Venus opined post-match. “I feel confident that the next round is going to be another opportunity to improve and to play better.”
If Venus had it easy, Kristina Mladenovic had it anything but. The Parisian favourite was forced to dig very deep during her two hour 46 minute 7-5 4-6 8-6 win over American Shelby Rogers. The French No.1, who fought back from 2-5 down in the third, was gushing with affection for the Paris crowd: “I went through so many emotions during this match that I don’t know what to say. Your support helps me so much. I had goosebumps.”
Elsewhere, Garbine Muguruza won a tough first set before running away with the match against Yulia Putintseva 7-5 6-2; Svetlana Kuznetsova needed more than three hours to beat Shuai Zhang 7-6(5) 4-7 7-5; and Sam Stosur romped to the win over Bethanie Mattek-Sands, winning 6-2 6-2.
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