Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both fought off teenaged Italian opponents on Monday to start the second week of the French Open by seizing quarter-final places,
The leading title contenders both moved into their 15th quarter-finals at Roland Garros as they each denied 19-year-old challengers.
Top seed Djokovic came from two sets to love down for the fifth time in his career, changing his clothes and changing the rhythm as he wore down Lorenzo Musetti 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 and advancing as the Italian retired with cramping after coming close to the upset.
“I would say I felt more nervous starting the match than when I was two sets down,” Djokovic said.
“I even liked the fact that I lost the first couple of sets, because I was playing under a certain kind of tension and wasn’t able to hit my shots.
“But credit to him for playing well in important moments.”
Nadal went down an early break to Jannik Sinner but didn’t waste time in storming back for a 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 victory at the Chatrier court where he has dominated for more than a decade and a half.
“He started well in the first game, and I made the mistakes,” 13-time Paris titleholder said.
“I was lucky to get back and then the match changed a lot. In the second set I was able to play a great level of tennis.”
Djokovic will next tangle with a second Italian in Matteo Berrettini while Nadal goes against Diego Schwrtzman, whom he defeated here in the semi-finals last September.
“It’s always a challenge to play him,” the 35-year-old Spaniard said. “I always need to play well.
“He’s coming in with big confidence, so let’s see. You cannot expect an easy opponent at this stage of a Grand Slam.”
Djokovic dropped the first two sets against Musetti and looked like going out.
But the Serb made a strategic off-court change of clothes after the second set and came back with a fresh mental attitude which sparked his total turnaround.
Musetti otok a medical timeout after the third set but he said later it was only low back pain and fatigue.
Unheralded 10th seed Schwartzman scored his fourth straight-sets victory as he put out German Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6(9), 6-4, 7-5 to next line up against Nadal.
The Argentine needed three hours to get past 13 aces from his heavy-hitting opponent while going without an ace himself.
The South American ended with 39 winners and 53 unforced errors, breaking eight times from his 15 chances.
Schwartzman’s one win over Nadal came in the Rome quarter-finals last September; he has lost their other ten matches, five of which were played on clay including a 2020 Paris semi.
“Before (any) match against Rafa, you have to walk on the court thinking you can win the match,” he said.
“You cannot think about Rafa on the other side of the net. If you think about the four, five hours you are going to play, if you think about Rafa in Roland Garros, he’s very difficult to play.
“You must think how to play your best game.”