Day 10: Three things to look out for

Old adversaries and young up-and-comers. There's plenty going on in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Djokovic Nadal Roland-Garros ©Philippe Montigny / FFT
 - Simon Cambers

Get set for a firecracker of a Tuesday at Roland-Garros when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet for a 59th time, this time for a place in the semi-finals.

The first two women’s quarter-finals will also be played, with teenagers Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff looking to advance and Carlos Alcaraz will bid for a first semi-final at a Grand Slam event.

Here’s what we’re looking forward to.

Nadal-Djokovic, take 59 – at night

No two players have played each other more in the men’s game than these two, the pair owning 41 Grand Slam titles and 15 Roland-Garros trophies between them.

And though Nadal has won it 13 times and will forever be known as the best clay-court player of all time, the Spaniard faces a massive battle against the man who’s won 30 of their clashes to his 28 and who arrives in top form, having recently won in Rome.

>> Preview: Djokovic v Nadal by numbers

This time last year, it was Nadal who had won Rome, beating Djokovic in the final, only to lose out in a mesmeric semi-final battle.

A year on, so much has changed. Nadal has edged ahead in the Grand Slam battle with his Australian Open victory taking him to 21.

Djokovic has the edge on form and Nadal has also worked harder to get to this point, having scrambled past Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets in the previous round.

“I didn't play these kind of matches for the last three months, so going to be a big challenge for me,” Nadal said.

“Of course he already won I think last nine matches in a row, winning in Rome and now winning here in straight sets every match. Probably he will be confident.

“I know how is my situation, and I accept it well. I’m going to fight for it. I can't complain much. I am in quarter-finals of Roland-Garros. Two weeks and a half ago, even if I had good hopes after, positive hopes after Rome, I even don't know if I would be able to be here.

“So just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don't know if it’s going to be my last match here in Roland-Garros in my tennis career, no? That's my situation now.”

>> Ivanisevic on Djokovic: 'He's ready for best-of-10 sets if needed'

Defending champion Djokovic, on the other hand, seems full of confidence.

“I'm glad that I didn't spend too much time on the court myself up to quarter-finals, knowing that playing him in Roland-Garros is always a physical battle, along with everything else,” the world No 1 said.

“It happens. It's a huge challenge and probably the biggest one that you can have here in Roland-Garros. I'm ready for it. I like my chances.”

Teens eye semi-final spots

The first two women’s quarter-finals kick things off on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Tuesday and offer the chance for two teenagers to reach the semi-finals in Paris.

US Open runner-up Fernandez takes on Italy’s Martina Trevisan, a quarter-finalist for the second time in three years, while Gauff meets Sloane Stephens in an all-American battle.

It’s a second Slam quarter-final for both youngsters and more evidence of their progress through the ranks.

No.17 seed Fernandez will be favourite against Trevisan and has shown these past 10 days that she’s just as good, potentially, as she has already proven on hard courts, notably at the US Open last year where she went all the way to the final.

The left-hander looks a natural mover on the clay and though she admits she put too much pressure on herself after her US Open run, she’s found a happy balance that’s translating into results once more.

“I just wanted to be, like, more offensive, more aggressive, and improve my game as fast as possible,” said the 19-year-old Canadian.

“I think I just understood that there is a process, and it's still a long year, very long year, and I just need to calm myself down, calm my mind down, and just accept that things are going to be tough.

"Things are going to go sideways in a match, in a practice, and just understand that I got more tools in my toolbox that I can use and just find solutions.”

Gauff, at 18, is through to the last eight for the second year in a row, a testament to how comfortable she feels at Roland-Garros.

Like Fernandez, she’s learning on the job. “I definitely feel confident on the court, I feel like it really suits my game,” the American said.

“I feel like the previous tournaments this clay season I had some good wins but it wasn't really any outstanding results.

“I feel like it gave me a lot to learn from, and I think I'm taking those tough matches that I lost this season and really learning from them and I guess showing that I'm doing better.”

Alcaraz gets first big test

Carlos Alcaraz has passed every test that’s been put in front of him in his young career but the 19-year-old will find out a little bit more about how he deals with pressure at Grand Slams when he plays Alexander Zverev in the last eight on Tuesday.

Third seed Zverev is through to the quarter-finals for the fourth time in five years and with his big serve and powerful game, he may make life difficult for the Spaniard.

Zverev leads Alcaraz 2-1 in their head-to-head battles but both his wins came in 2021 on hard courts (one indoors, one out) and when they met on clay in the Madrid final this year, the German won just four games.

Alexander Zverev Roland-Garros 2021©Julien Crosnier / FFT

That, though, came after he played well into the early hours the night before and this time he should be more rested.

Alcaraz’s lone quarter-final at a Slam came at last year’s US Open but such has been his improvement since then, winning Miami and Madrid, that everyone expects him to deliver and reach the semis.

That could be the biggest chance Zverev has, that the pressure of the situation might get to him. On the evidence of his matches so far, though, the 19-year-old will be confident of getting through, where Djokovic or Nadal will await.