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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic edge closer to superstar showdown in French Open quarter-finals

Rafael Nadal enters the last 16 of the French Open with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Dutchman Botic Van De Zandschulp… leaving the 13-time champion on a collision course with Novak Djokovic in the quarter of next week final at Roland Garros

  • Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic approach each other in French Open quarter-finals
  • The Spaniard has a difficult fourth-round draw against Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime
  • Djokovic takes on the Argentinian Diego Schwartzmann who is through to the next round

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic remain terrified of their expected clash in the quarter-finals of the French Open next week.

To keep on his side of the bargain, Nadal now has to beat Felix Auger Aliassime, and at least he knows his next opponent won’t get insider.

The Canadian is currently coached by Toni Nadal, the most instrumental figure in his famous cousin’s stellar career, but he has long warned his current player that he will step aside if the two meet.

Rafael Nadal (pictured) and Novak Djokovic are close to a quarterfinal in Paris

Djokovic advances to fourth round at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal (left) and Novak Djokovic (right) are close to quarterfinals in Paris

Watch every Roland-Garros match live and exclusively on discovery+ and Eurosport

That will now happen in their fourth round match, after the 13-time champion – supported by Zinedine Zidane in the stands – steamrolled his way into the last sixteen, beating Dutchman Botic Van De Zandschulp 6-3 6 -2 6-4 .

Auger Aliassime fully accepts the unusual coaching situation ahead of his next match: “I don’t know if I need insight into how Rafa plays, to be honest,” he said.

“We had the discussion, it was black and white from the first time we started working together because we knew there was a possibility that I would end up playing Rafa if I work with Toni. I think Toni will watch from a neutral spot and enjoy the game.

Nadal faces a tough fourth round match against rising Canadian star Felix Auger Aliassime

Nadal faces a tough fourth round match against rising Canadian star Felix Auger Aliassime

“I know this question will come up a lot, so I just want to say that for me Rafa’s career and what he did with Toni is much bigger than the game this weekend.

“What he did to his uncle won’t take away from either side and I think we just have to see it as a bigger picture. It’s one game, let’s play.’ The Spaniard has completely dispelled all concerns about the long-term problem with his left foot, which often hurts him.

At the Italian Open fifteen days earlier, a dejected Nadal stumbled off the track after defeating Canadian Denis Shapovalov with all sorts of bleak predictions about his chances at Roland Garros.

Still, the much-improved Dutchman was no match for a champion who, in the past, closed his chances for Paris before coming to a boil.

Djokovic had way too much for Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, who lost in two sets in the third round

Djokovic had way too much for Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, who lost in two sets in the third round

As experienced Nadal viewers will attest, he can often be found in front of Paris, playing his chances in one form or another, before ramping up his level as Grand Slam week progresses.

At least he’s looked better here in the early rounds than in normal years, and no one has come close to taking a set from him.

Djokovic will next meet Argentina pocket dynamo Diego Schwartzmann, having proved far too good for Aljaz Bedene, the Slovenian who once changed his nationality to British but turned around when it became clear he could not play in the Davis Cup.

For the Serb, who won 6-3 6-3 6-2, it was another and longer turning point in his fortune. Following his deportation from the Australian Open, he will be flying in Paris, although he will be wary of Schwartzmann, who has previously been highly competitive against him on clay.

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