Nadal follows champion's instinct to crush Korda

Twelve-time Roland-Garros champion ousts US qualifier Sebastian Korda in straight sets to reach last eight.

 - Alex Sharp

The statistics, the longevity, the unrivalled consistency continues to bamboozle.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, seeking title No.13 in Paris next Sunday, produced another ruthless and dominant display. 

His 97th Roland-Garros match win was a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 passage past Next Gen qualifier Sebastian Korda on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Four matches, four straight-sets victories and into a record 14th quarter-final. Here's what we have learned so far from the Spaniard’s progress in Paris.

Nadal keeps serving up success

We are fully aware of the astonishing capabilities of the world No.2’s groundstrokes, however, his serve continues to be underrated.

His first serve is only averaging 177kmh across four matches so far this campaign, but considering the blustery conditions and his dominance, it continues to provide the platform for victory. 

The 34-year-old has won 75 per cent of points when landing his first delivery, the high rate punctuated by the 19-time Grand Slam champion clattering 106 winners on court so far.

It is accurate and has plenty of spin, which is exemplified by just two breaks of his serve across the four contests.

The master of adapting

Cast your mind back to the Roland-Garros 2019 semi-final, the 39th instalment of ‘Fedal’.

Nadal and familiar foe Roger Federer had to compete in a whirlwind on court and it was the Spaniard who managed to adapt in straight sets.  

The sweeping gusts provided similar conditions on court against Korda. While the American’s radar fluctuated, Nadal managed to reset his shot gauge at either end of the court with aplomb. 

“With these conditions out there, with that wind, it's unpredictable what the ball can do,” the reigning champion said.

“So we need to be ready and just you need to be quick enough mentally and physically to have the right answer when the ball is moving every single way, no? So just to be focused and to understand that a day like today you're going to have mistakes.”

Efficiency the key

Nadal will no doubt have seen top seed Novak Djokovic bulldoze through his opening encounters. Neither of the two top-ranked men has surrendered a set. Nadal has only relinquished a measly 23 games in total.

With a 97th Roland-Garros victory - a record 14th quarter-final on the Parisian terre battue - Nadal is clicking into gear and making sure his reserves are as full as possible for the latter stages of the fortnight.

No comebacks required, no early turbulent battles, Nadal is navigating the gauntlet with his effervescent mixture of power play, ruthless front-running and efficiency.

Nadal not feeling the heat… for now

The world No.2’s champion’s mentality remains rock solid despite the magnitude of what is on the line this fortnight in Paris.

Can he match Federer’s all-time leading 20 majors? Can he halt Djokovic joining the debate? Nadal, as usual, is focused on the immediate step ahead. 

I am coming here with a clear goal. My goal is just to be every day at my 100 per cent and give me a chance to produce the best result possible. So I am in quarter-finals, very happy for that. No, I cannot say I feel less pressure now. I feel probably exactly the same," said the Spaniard, , who will take on Italian 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner in the last eight.

“I'm just focused on what I am doing and trying to play better every single day, and that's it. I'm in quarter-finals without losing a set and having very positive scores. So, I can't complain at all.

"I am doing a lot of things well, I think. Sinner, it will be a tough battle. I am quite happy about the way that I am playing and the practices I am feeling every time a little bit better and better.”

Idol inspires fast-rising teenager

 The qualifier quite rightly grabbed plenty of headlines on a magnificent trip to the Roland-Garros fourth round. The 20-year-old, son of 1992 finalist Petr, proclaimed he was the “happiest man in the world” taking on his childhood idol.

Korda, who named his cat ‘Rafa’ after the 12-time champion, made sure he got a memento, a signed shirt from the Spaniard just after match point. What a run and what a prospect .

“It was an unbelievable moment for me and I couldn’t have written it any better,” said the American, who moved to the brink of the top 130 following his Roland-Garros run.

“Qualifying for my first Grand Slam, winning my first tour-level match, and then playing Rafa on Chatrier in the fourth round of a Grand Slam, it’s a big blessing.

“I now have the self-belief that I can keep up with these guys. It's been a real privilege to play here and kind of get those experiences under my belt. I'm really looking forward to what the future holds.”