PARIS (AFP) – Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz and third seed Alexander Zverev both saved a match point in five-set French Open thrillers, while 13-time winner Rafael Nadal and reigning champion Novak Djokovic eased into the third round Wednesday.
Alcaraz, widely tipped as a title contender, rallied from the brink to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, after four hours and 34 minutes.
“I feel tired,” said Alcaraz. “It was a great battle, a great match and we fought until the last point.”
The 19-year-old Alcaraz is attempting to become just the eighth teenager to capture a major men’s title, and backed as the man to break the stranglehold of Djokovic and Nadal.
But he was pushed to the limit by the seasoned Ramos-Vinolas, 15 years his elder and whose best performance at a Grand Slam came when he made the quarter-finals in Paris six years ago.
Alcaraz goes on to face US 27th seed Sebastian Korda, the last man to defeat him at Monte Carlo in April in what was his only loss in 19 matches on clay this season.
Zverev, a 2021 semi-finalist, dug himself out of a deep hole against Argentina’s Sebastian Baez to avoid his earliest loss at a major in three years.
Zverev overcame Baez, 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5, and will play Brandon Nakashima of the US for a place in the last 16.
– Nadal brings up triple century –
Nadal breezed past French wildcard Corentin Moutet, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, for the 300th Grand Slam win of his career. Roger Federer (369) and Djokovic (325) are the only men to have more than the record 21-time major champion.
His French Open record now stands at a staggering 107 wins and just three losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.
Djokovic made comfortable work of Slovakia’s Alex Molcan, the world number one winning 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) against a player trained by his long-time former coach Marian Vajda, the man who inspired most of his 20 Grand Slam titles.
However, Maria Sakkari became the fifth women’s top-10 seed to exit after going down 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4) to Czech world number 81 Karolina Muchova.
Sakkari, the fourth seed from Greece, was a point away from reaching the final at Roland Garros last year.
Her defeat left the women’s draw without four of its top six seeds as she followed defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur through the exit door.
Muchova will next play 27th seed Amanda Anisimova, who made the last four in Paris three years ago.
Former Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka also advanced to the third round.