Day 8: Three things to look out for

 - Stephanie Livaudais

Roland-Garros 2022 heats up as we enter the second week

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

With the Roland-Garros quarter-finals looming just over the horizon, Sunday in Paris promises plenty of fireworks between familiar foes.

Here’s what we’re keeping an eye on as the round of 16 kicks off.

Nadal takes on Felix – and uncle Toni – on Chatrier

A buzz of anticipation sent fans at Roland-Garros aflutter when Rafael Nadal closed out his third-round match. Not because of the way he did it - a straightforward win over Botic van de Zandschulp - but because of who he’d go on to face next: Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Let’s throw out their head-to-head history for a moment. Although Nadal has the 1-0 advantage, there’s one important factor to consider that wasn’t there during their 2019 meeting in Madrid.

Nadal’s uncle and long-time coach, Toni, who departed the 21-time Grand Slam winner’s team in 2017, is now a regular fixture in Auger-Aliassime’s camp.

The 21-year-old Canadian hired Toni last year and the move has been paying off since as Auger-Aliassime has been consistently making the latter stages at the majors and has picked up a maiden ATP title earlier this season in Rotterdam.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, Roland Garrros 2022 first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The ninth seed has enjoyed a solid clay-court swing in the build-up to Paris, reaching four consecutive quarter-finals in Barcelona, Estoril, Madrid and Rome.

But he’ll be without Toni in his corner when he takes on 13-time Roland-Garros champion when they square off on Sunday, with the Spanish coach making it clear he won’t give away any tips on how to defeat his nephew.

Thankfully, Auger-Aliassime has the rest of his coaching team to fall back on, spearheaded by his long-time mentor Frederic Fontang. Still, when the players take to Court Philippe-Chatrier for the third match of the day session, it will be all on him to find a way through. 

“I don’t know if I need insight on how Rafa plays, to be honest; I think we all know what he does well,” Auger-Aliassime told press with a smile.

“It’s up to me, at the end of the day, when I come on the court to try to find solutions.”

The winner will go on to face either defending champion Novak Djokovic or No.15 seed Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals.

A meeting between Nadal and Djokovic would be a rematch of the 2012, 2014, and 2020 Roland-Garros finals.

Anisimova v Fernandez: Part Deux

Opening the action on Court Philippe-Chatrier, No.27 seed Amanda Anisimova and No.17 Leylah Fernandez will treat fans to the second edition in what many hope is becoming a budding rivalry.

Earlier in the season, we got a glimpse of what could have been when these two meet for the first time in Indian Wells on hard courts.

After 20-year-old Anisimova claimed the opening set 6-2 in their second-round match, lefty Fernandez raised her level to save four match points and win the second in a 7-6(0) tiebreak.

But the match ended abruptly when Anisimova retired due to illness shortly after, leaving fans wanting more.

They’ll get plenty on Sunday, with Ansimova having found some of her best tennis of the season on clay, reaching the quarter-finals or better in every event she’s played.

The 2019 semi-finalist took down four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka in the opening round here, and she’s looking to keep building on her momentum against the reigning US Open winner.

“My game has always been pretty good when it comes to clay,” Anisimova said. “It just fits my game style well and I just enjoy playing on it because it gives me more time and it's just fun for me.”

Can Khachanov send Alcaraz crashing back to earth?

No.21 seed Karen Khachanov will try to end 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz’s teenage dream when they meet for the first time in the Chatrier night session.

At 26, Khachanov is the veteran in the match-up and he’s got plenty of experience on the terre battue, having reached the fourth round here five times in six appearances – including a run to the quarter-finals in 2019.

But Alcaraz has been consistently in the winners’ circle in 2022 – especially on clay, where he’s lifted three of his four trophies this season – and his meteoric rise over the past 12 months has taken him to a career-high No.6 in the world and positions him as the favourite in this clash, as well as the tournament at large.

Karen Khachanov, Roland Garros 2022, second round© Andre Ferreira/FFT

The teenage Murcian has settled in nicely at Roland-Garros during his second main-draw appearance, having survived a five-set thriller against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round and recording a statement win over Sebastian Korda in the third.

Alcaraz’s coronation in Paris is starting to feel more and more inevitable as the tournament goes on. But he will be expecting a battle from the big-hitting Khachanov, who rained down 65 winners against Cameron Norrie on his way to the fourth round.

“I just practice with him just once, but I watch other matches from him, so I know that it's going to be a tough match,” Alcaraz told press after his third-round win.

“But at the same time, he's a tough opponent and I like those matches.”