EXCITING fourth round action continued at Roland Garros overnight, with headliners Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal gaining victories to become the first ever ATP players to reach 15 French Open quarter-finals.
Djokovic overcame a scare from 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, losing the first two sets before coming back to win 6-7 6-7 6-1 6-0 4-0 in three hours and 27 minutes. Musetti retired with injury in the fifth set due to cramps and lower back pain. The Italian won 85 points in the first two sets with 25 winners, but won just 17 points in the next three sets with only five winners. Errors crept into his game and cost him a chance at a major upset, but Musetti said he has taken plenty from his maiden Grand Slam experience.
“I came here to play my first Grand Slam in the main draw, and I made second week taking two sets against the world number one,” Musetti said. “I think I take away a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions, but [also] a lot of experience. Now I know how can I play, how far I am from the [best players] on the Tour, like Nole. So I know that if I play good I can stay at this level. I will go home, rest a bit, and work for Wimbledon.”
Nadal had a comfortable straight sets victory against another 19-year-old Italian, Jannik Sinner. The Spaniard and four-time defending champion won 7-5 6-3 6-0, eliminating Sinner from the Roland Garros for a second straight year. Sinner had a chance to serve for the first set at 5-4, but Nadal thwarted that opportunity and controlled the remainder of the contest. After the match, the 13-time French Open champion said he was happy with his response in that situation.
“From that moment [at 4-5 in the first set] to 7-5, 4-0 [in the second] I think I played a very good level of tennis,” Nadal said. “Then again, [I made a] couple of mistakes and he played well, honestly. [From] 4-3 until that moment to the end of the match, I think I played great.”
Nadal has now remarkably won his last 34 matches and 35 sets at Roland Garros. His next challenge will be Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.
Schwartzman, who entered the French Open on a four-match losing streak, has not lost a set in the tournament and took care of German Jan-Lennard Struff overnight 7-6 6-4 7-5. His clash with Nadal will mark his fifth career quarter-final and his third at Roland Garros. Schwartzman is ecstatic with his current form, particularly given his poor play in the lead up to the tournament.
“I love this country, I love Paris, I think my best tennis is always here,” Schwartzman said. “It was not a good clay season, but when I came the first day here, I was feeling very well again. I’m very happy to be back, very happy to be in the quarter-finals again. I’m not very happy to maybe play Rafa in the next round, but let’s see what happens this time.”
One less match was played overnight than originally scheduled due to Swiss superstar Roger Federer’s withdrawal from the event on Monday. The 20-time Grand Slam champion released a statement on Twitter to alert fans of his decision.
“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of Roland Garros today,” Federer said. “After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation, it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery. I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”
Federer stated in the lead up to the tournament that his goal was to win on grass rather than clay, so we should have seen a decision like this coming. Although Federer’s withdrawal is a huge disappointment for tennis fans, it should mean that the 39-year-old will be fit and raring to go at Wimbledon in just over two weeks’ time.
It also means that Italian Matteo Berrettini automatically advances to the quarter-finals and will face-off against Djokovic on Wednesday night. While the Serbian has a 24-3 record for the season so far, he knows that he will have his work cut out against the world number nine.
“[He has a] big serve, big forehand – two big weapons,” Djokovic said. “He’s in form, he finished last year very strong. He started this year strong as well, beating Dominic Thiem in Australia, playing [a] really good ATP Cup. He just has so much firepower in his game. [I will] need to be at [my] best in order to have a chance to win.”
In their one previous head-to-head meeting at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, Djokovic defeated Berrettini 6-2 6-1.
ROLAND GARROS ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 6-7 6-7 6-1 6-0 4-0
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Jannik Sinner (ITA) 7-5 6-3 6-0
 Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 6-4 7-5
 Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated  Roger Federer (SUI) W/O
Picture credit: Philippe Montigny/FFT