Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after defeating Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru during their fourth-round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on Sunday, June 4, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP
Novak Djokovic reached the French Open quarter-finals for the 14th straight year on Sunday as world number one Carlos Alcaraz edged past Lorenzo Musetti to stay in a clash with the 22-time Grand Slam champion.
Third seed Djokovic ended the surprise run of Peruvian outsider Juan Pablo Varillas, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, and has yet to drop a set in four matches.
The Serb, chasing a third Roland Garros crown, is in a record 17th French Open quarter-final after reaching the last eight at a major for the 55th time.
“I’m proud of it, but my attention is already in the next match,” said Djokovic, who faces Russian 11th seed Karen Khachanov for a place in the semi-finals, where Alcaraz could wait.
“I know what my goal is here. I’m trying to stay mentally the course and of course not look too far.
“Obviously today’s performance gives me a lot of confidence about how I felt, about how I played.”
Varillas, 27, is the first player from Peru to reach the second week of a Grand Slam since Jaime Yzaga reached the quarter-finals of the US Open 29 years ago.
Djokovic went 4-0 up in the opening set only for Varillas to break in the next game and then have a chance to get back on serve in the seventh game.
But once Djokovic grabbed a 5-2 lead, it was clear for him as he closed out the victory in just two hours.
Khachanov made his third straight Grand Slam quarter-final after recovering from a poor start to beat Lorenzo Sonego 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7), 6-1.
Djokovic holds an 8-1 record against Khachanov, winning their only previous meeting at the French Open in 2020.
Alcaraz looked every bit the tournament favorite as he dismantled the talented Musetti in straight sets to return to the French Open last eight.
Musetti was unbeaten in three rounds but Alcaraz turned the Italian 17th seed aside in almost two hours, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to avenge last year’s defeat on clay in the Hamburg final.
“I think I played such a great level, really high quality of shots. I played a really complete match from the first ball until the last and I’m pretty happy to get through this tough round,” said Alcaraz.
The 20-year-old faces a tough next assignment in 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, who eased past Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.
“The clash we’ve all been waiting for,” said Tsitsipas, the Greek fifth seed who has lost all four meetings with Alcaraz. “I think everyone was expecting it, right? And it’s here. It’s game on.”
Aryna Sabalenka defeated 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 in a topsy-turvy encounter in the night session — the first women’s match featured in the primetime slot this year.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka raced to a 5-0 lead in the opener but Stephens saved four set points as she rallied in five games to bounce back to level.
Second seed Sabalenka later got past the tie-break and held off Stephens again in a tight second set to continue her best run in Paris.
The Belarusian clashed with politically charged Elina Svitolina who, playing in her first Grand Slam since becoming a mother, reached the quarter-finals for the fourth time.
The Ukrainian beat Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) for her seventh win in seven meetings against last year’s Russian semi-finalist.
As in all her matches, Svitolina chose not to shake hands with her Russian opponent in protest of the war in Ukraine. Belarus is also a key military ally of Moscow.
Kasatkina still gave her rival a friendly thumbs-up.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 runner-up, rallied from a set and a break down to beat Belgian 28th seed Elise Mertens 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
The Russian, whose ranking dropped to 333 after a serious knee injury, is the lowest-ranked Grand Slam quarter-finalist in the tournament’s history.
Pavlyuchenkova will face Karolina Muchova for a place in the last four after the Czech defeated lucky loser Elina Avanesyan 6-4, 6-3.