Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic are one win away from playing each other, and neither had a difficult time advancing on Friday at Roland Garros, losing only two games between them to opponents in Paris.
The No. 4-seeded Nadal was at the top of his game in steamrolling a hapless Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-0, 6-1, 6-0. The No. 5-seeded Raonic advanced when Spanish opponent Guillermo Garcia-Lopez retired with the Canadian leading 6-1, 1-0.
“Today was one of the best matches I have ever played, without a doubt,” said Nadal, who will next meet No. 17-seeded countryman Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. “I am really happy because I have a really good feeling. Every day my training is going very well, my practice. When I have a match, I play very well.”
Raonic will next meet No. 20-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, who busta-ed No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov out of the tournament 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem were other Top 10 seeds advancing Friday. The No. 2-seeded Djokovic weathered a five-set storm from Diego Schwartzman 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, while the No. 6-seeded Thiem moved past No. 25-seeded American Steve Johnson 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-3.
“It’s really tragedy what happened,” Thiem said regarding the recent passing of Johnson’s father. “You wish it on nobody. Especially him. He’s a very, very nice guy. It was, of course, very emotional for him. It also shows that there are way more important things than tennis. I think it was unbelievable tough for him to even play here.”
Djokovic said, essentially, what doesn’t break him can only make him stronger.
“Sometimes you need to be challenged in order for certain things to surface, which maybe are not surfacing if you’re winning comfortably,” the Serb said. “That’s going to happen more as I go deeper in the tournament because the matches and opponents are going to get tougher. I didn’t play too many five-setters the past couple of years. I see a lot of good things in it. I think it will put me in a good place mentally as well.”
Thiem will next face unseeded Argentine Horacio Zeballos, who advanced when No. 10 David Goffin injured himself sliding into the rolled-up tarp at the back of the court during the first set of their encounter Friday.
“He had an MRI, and the news is reassuring,” said Goffin’s coach, Thierry Cleemput. “There is no tearing of the ligaments and no bone that’s been broken, either. That’s the only thing we can say. We can’t say much more. There is an edema, and in 48 hours we will see how things go on.”
Djokovic will next meet No. 19-seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who toppled No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
Matches to look for on Saturday at the French Open are (1) Andy Murray vs. (29) Juan Martin del Potro, (15) Gael Monfils vs. (24) Richard Gasquet, and (3) Stan Wawrinka vs. (28) Fabio Fognini.
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