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Djokovic, Alcaraz reach French Open last 16

By AFP - Jun 03,2023 - Last updated at Jun 03,2023

PARIS — Novak Djokovic battled into the French Open fourth round for a 14th consecutive year on Friday as Carlos Alcaraz also progressed, after women’s third seed Jessica Pegula and men’s seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev were dumped out of the tournament.

Djokovic has made headlines for his comments about Kosovo this week but his on-court progress has been relatively serene, reaching the second week without dropping a set.

The Serb star was made to work hard by Spanish 29th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who served for the first set and missed a set point in the second, but won 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I thought if I lost the second set we would play five hours today, but I’m proud of the performance,” said Djokovic.

The 36-year-old is hoping to break out of his tie with injured rival Rafael Nadal at the top of the men’s all-time list of major winners at Roland Garros.

He is just one title behind Serena Williams’ mark of 23 Slams and two adrift of Margaret Court’s overall record.

Djokovic, slated to meet World No. 1 Alcaraz in the semifinals, has now won three of his four matches with Davidovich Fokina.

The first two sets lasted two hours and 47 minutes, as Davidovich Fokina provided a stern test of Djokovic’s form.

Davidovich Fokina missed one set point to level the match before Djokovic won another breaker before being booed by the crowd for taking a medical time-out.

“That’s something that I find disrespectful and I frankly don’t understand that,” said Djokovic, who made short work of the third set.

Alcaraz thrashed Canadian 26th seed Denis Shapovalov for the loss of just seven games in the night-session match.

The Spaniard powered to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory, with the only slight blip when he trailed 4-1 in the second set.

He reeled off seven straight games after that wake-up call, though, to set up a fourth-round meeting with Italian 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti who dismantled British No. 1 Cameron Norrie 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

“I knew I’d have my chances in the second set to come back a bit and that’s what I did,” Alcaraz said.

The 20-year-old is bidding for a second straight Grand Slam title after winning the 2022 US Open and then missing this year’s Australian Open through injury.

Italian Lorenzo Sonego battled back from two sets down to knock out Rublev and reach the last 16 for the second time.

The World No. 48 was two points from defeat during a fourth-set tie-break but prevailed 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 after three hours and 42 minutes.

Sonego will face Russian 11th seed Karen Khachanov for a possible quarterfinal meeting with Djokovic.

“I played more aggressive than in the first and second sets because when he’s aggressive it’s tough to compete against him,” he said.

Eleventh seed Khachanov ended Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis’ run with an entertaining 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) win.

Stefanos Tsitsipas continued his bid for a maiden Grand Slam title with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 win over former semifinalist Diego Schwartzman.

The Greek fifth seed will next play Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner after making the second week for a fifth straight year.

American Pegula’s hopes were ended in comprehensive fashion by a 6-1, 6-3 loss to Belgian Elise Mertens.

World No. 3 Pegula has still never passed the quarterfinal stage of a Grand Slam tournament.

The former Australian Open semifinalist will next face 2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Aryna Sabalenka refused to do an official post-match press conference after powering into the last 16 for the first time with a straight-sets win over Kamilla Rakhimova.

The second seed is yet to drop a set in the tournament after a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 win against World No. 82 Rakhimova.

Sabalenka will face former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the fourth round.

Russian Daria Kasatkina, a semifinalist last year, raced past American Peyton Stearns 6-0, 6-1 in under an hour.

The ninth seed will next face Elina Svitolina on Sunday for a place in the quarterfinals.

Ukrainian Svitolina reached the fourth round on her first Grand Slam appearance since the 2022 Australian Open with a 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Anna Blinkova.


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