Djokovic beats Nadal record to reach Paris quarters

Novak Djokovic demonstrated his superior quality to swat aside Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas and reach a record 17th French Open men’s quarter-final.

The Serbian third seed, 36, won 6-3 6-2 6-2 on the Roland Garros clay and moved ahead of Rafael Nadal to take sole ownership of the last-eight record.

Djokovic is also aiming to overtake Nadal by winning a record 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title.

The two-time champion will play Russian 11th seed Karen Khachanov next.

Khachanov, 27, reached his third successive Grand Slam quarter-final with a 1-6 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 6-1 victory over unseeded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Spanish top seed Carlos Alcaraz, seen as Djokovic’s main rival for the title in the absence of injured 14-time champion Nadal, plays Italian 17th seed Lorenzo Musetti later on Sunday.


Drama-free afternoon for Djokovic

Drama tends to follow Djokovic around at a Grand Slam and, after he risked flaming political tensions in the Balkans by writing a slogan about Kosovo at the start of Roland Garros, he admitted he gains extra drive from controversy.

A physical third-round match against Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina also provided a talking point, leading to Djokovic saying afterward he did not have time to name his “long list” of injuries.

But the straightforward nature of beating Varillas meant it was a drama-free afternoon for the Serb.

Djokovic started edgily with a double fault and faced a break point in the opening game, saving that with an ace and then taking the Peruvian’s serve in the next game on his way to opening up a 4-0 lead.

Varillas clawed back one of the breaks in the fifth game, taking the chance with a bullet backhand winner on a second serve from the Serb.

In windy conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier, Djokovic continued to have issues with his ball toss and had to stop Varillas putting the set back on serve by saving another break point before holding for 5-2.

During that game came the only real bit of theatre.

Djokovic was booed by the French fans for a rather innocuous gesture of frustration following a Varillas winner for 30-40, thriving on the energy to deny the Peruvian and then, with a smile on his face, cupping his ear with his hand at the crowd.

Juan Pablo Varillas stretches for a ball in his French Open match against Novak Djokovic
Varillas had never made a Grand Slam main-draw match until Roland Garros, winning all of his opening three matches in five sets

Varillas, ranked 94th in the world, almost quit the sport in 2016 to return to university full-time and the decision not to retire has paid dividends with his best run at a major.

He was the first Peruvian man to reach the Roland Garros last 16 since Jaime Yzaga in 1994, but could not match his compatriot by going on to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final.

Djokovic, who won the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2016 and 2021, had only lost once on the Paris clay to a player ranked outside the world’s top 50 – Italy’s Marco Cecchinato in the 2018 quarter-finals.

After going a break up early in the second set, he was never going to be on the end of another shock and quickly wrapped up victory to reach his 14th consecutive quarter-final at Roland Garros.

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