Tennis: Djokovic, Alcaraz on track for French Open showdown, Sabalenka snubs press again

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain plays in the 4th round match against Lorenzo Musetti of Italy REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz competes in the 4th round match against Lorenzo Musetti of Italy. (REUTERS)

PARIS – Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz moved closer to blockbuster French Open semi-finals with smashing wins on Sunday as Belarusian tennis player Aryna Sabalenka skipped another press conference due to being asked to comment on the fight in Ukraine earlier in the tournament.

Djokovic, who was chasing a men’s 23rd Grand Slam record to overtake Spaniard Rafa Nadal while the injured champion was absent, edged Peruvian marathon runner Juan Pablo Varillas by a margin. 6-3 6-2 6-2 in the 8th round clash.

A two-time champion in Paris, Djokovic has now reached the quarter-finals in Paris for the 17th time, one goal ahead of Nadal.

“I’m proud of all the records, but that also means I’m not young anymore,” said the 36-year-old Djokovic. “It’s the best level of tennis I’ve ever played here so I’m very pleased.”

World number one and top seed Alcaraz, another tenacious Spaniard who was backed to usurp 14-time champion Nadal, came back to win 6-3 6- 2 6-2 against Italian Lorenzo Musetti.

World number two Sabalenka, who was repeatedly called out by Ukrainian players to oppose the war, reached the quarterfinals by beating American Sloane Stephens 7-6(5) 6-4.

But she dropped out of her news conference for a second time after doing the same on Friday citing mental health reasons and said she did not feel safe after being grilled in what Russia called a “war”. special military service” in Ukraine.

Belarus was an important staging area for the invasion.

Sabalenka’s next opponent is Elina Svitolina, who sealed a 6-4 7-6(5) victory over Russian 9th seed Daria Kasatkina to continue her first Grand Slam in her first major tournament since. when her daughter Skai was born in October.

Russians Roll Up

Prior to that, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova went deep to return to the quarterfinals for the first time since she finished second two years ago when fellow Russian Karen Khachanov also battled on a bright Sunday.

Pavlyuchenkova, who was beaten by Czech Republic Barbora Krejcikova in the 2021 final, skipped last year’s edition as well as the second half of the season to treat a knee problem and entered the match after three sets. in the last two encounters.

She was retested by 28th seed Elise Mertens but recovered from a set and a break to seal a 3-6 7-6(3) 6-3 win over three hours.

Pavlyuchenkova, who dropped to world number 333 after being forced to take a five-month break last year, is the lowest-ranked French Open quarter-finalist in the Open Era.

Khachanov, the 11th seed, also showed a lot of determination as he beat Italian Lorenzo Sonego 1-6 6-4 7-6(7) 6-1 to reach the round of eight for the second time.

“After the first set and a half, I thought, what am I doing here, he was hitting everywhere so I decided all I could do was fight,” said Khachanov, who reached the semi-finals in the match. his last duel, said. two Grand Slams in New York and Melbourne.

There were dramatic scenes on Court 14 when Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi were disqualified in the third round of women’s doubles after Kato hit a ball down the court between points and hit a ball girl causing her to sob.

Kato was initially warned by referee Alexandre Juge but Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, who were leading 7-6(1) 1-3 at the time of the incident, pointed to out to him that the ball girl was crying.

“No, no, let me explain it to you. She (Kato) didn’t do it on purpose, she (the ball girl) wasn’t hurt,” Juge said.

“She (Kato) didn’t do it on purpose? She’s crying,” Sorribes Tormo said, pointing at the ball girl.

“And she has blood,” Bouzkova added.

After talking to the girl, the referee returned to his chair and announced the end of the match by disqualifying Kato and Sutjiadi causing boos from the crowd.


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