Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic on track for SF clash

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won their respective round of 16 matches on Monday

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won their respective round of 16 matches on Monday

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic scored contrasting wins over Italian teens on Monday to stay on track for a blockbuster semifinal clash at the French Open.

While Nadal contained big-hitting Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 in the Round of 16, Novak Djokovic fought back from two sets to oust Lorenzo Musetti 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 to enter the quarterfinals.

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Musetti, whose versatile game had Djokovic off-kilter in the first two sets, retired due to cramps and lower back pain.

“I actually felt, I would say, more nervous when I was starting the match than when I was two sets down,” said Djokovic.

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“To be honest, I even liked the fact that I lost first couple of sets, because I just played under [a] certain kind of tension and wasn’t able to go through my shots… But credit to him for playing well in [the] important moments.

“After I lost the second set and went out to change and came back on the court, I just felt different.”

Dominating Italians

In a match marked by dramatic swings of momentum, 13-time champion Nadal stayed calm and maintained his momentum to take down 19-year-old Sinner in two hours and 20 minutes.

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Nadal improved to 3-0 in his head-to-head against the 19-year-old, and to 50-5 against Italian players overall.

Nadal has now reached 15 quarter-finals at Roland Garros, the all-time joint-most alongside Djokovic, who also advanced on Sunday.

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“I was up, serving for the set in the first set, but it’s a long way to go to win against Rafa. Obviously very disappointed how it went today. But he played better than me,” Sinner admitted.

“In the beginning he was playing well. Then at some point he was not pushing the ball that hard anymore, so I went up with the break. Then after he changed it once more. The way to [get] to that level is very long, still very, very long.”

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Nadal will next face Diego Schwartzman.