A potentially classic quarterfinal matchup between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal could be on the way, but first the two French Open favorites must gut past Saturday’s third round matchups at Roland Garros.
No. 1 Djokovic fought through a bit of a scary moment in his second round matchup with Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller. The Serb, who’s seeking his first French title, slipped late in the second set and injured his right groin muscle but received treatment and finished up a 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory.
It was the 28th consecutive win of the year for Djokovic as he next faces Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis in the third round on the Philippe-Chatrier Court. The two have never squared off before, but 19-year-old Kokkinakis owns a 7-9 record his season and lost both of his matches on clay.
Later over at the Suzanne-Lenglen Court No. 6 Nadal also meets another opponent he’s never seen before, Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov. Ranked No. 120 in the world, Kuznetsov, 24, did make it as far as the Round of 16 in Geneva earlier this month with victories over No. 49 American Donald Young and No. 48 Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer.
Defending champion Nadal coasted past Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro in the second round 6-4 6-3 6-1, and he’s yet to lose a set in the tournament.
Prior to Nadal vs. Kuznetsov, Great Britain’s No. 3 Andy Murray will face Australia’s No. 30 Nick Kyrgios, an opponent he’s bested twice before. Kyrgios, 20, played a hard-fought 6-3 7-6 (5) 6-3 letdown to Murray in the Australian Open quarterfinals earlier this year and last year he fell to the Scotsman in straight sets in Toronto.
Over on the women’s side, No. 1 Serena Williams managed to avoid a second-exit in consecutive years after losing the first set to Anna-Lena Friedsam. The American’s early slip up began rumblings of a repeat of last year’s loss to Gargine Muguruza, but Williams gutted out a 5-7 6-3 6-3 win to stay on course for her third French title.
Williams next faces Belarus’s No. 27 Victoria Azarenka, a 25-year-old rising star whose gone 3-15 against Williams in their 18 previous matchups.
Start Time: 5:00 a.m. EDT
TV Channel: Tennis Channel (5 a.m. – 12 p.m.); NBC (12 p.m. - 3 p.m.)