Day 10: Three to watch

 - Simon Cambers

Alcaraz and Djokovic are closing in on one of the hot topics of RG2023 - a possible semi-final meeting between the pair.

Djokovic Alcaraz Tsitsipas

Quarter-finals action kicks off on Tuesday with an unmissable schedule that features Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Aryna Sabalenka and lots more. Here are three things to look out for on Day 10.

One last step to that semi-final

Since the moment the draw for the men’s singles came out, we’ve been building toward this point. On Tuesday, the much talked about semi-final between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic could be set in stone.

World No.1 Alcaraz and 22-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic are not quite there yet but the anticipation is rising and they will be keen to come through their respective quarter-finals without too much unnecessary drama.

That might be easier said than done, though, because both face tricky assignments on Court Philippe-Chatrier, with Alcaraz taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas under the lights and Djokovic meeting Karen Khachanov in the last match of the day session.

Alcaraz will be the big favourite against Tsitsipas, having won all four of their previous meetings. The Spaniard, chasing his second Grand Slam title, has dropped just one set on his way to the last eight but despite his head-to-head advantage, he’s taking nothing for granted.

“It could be a great match,” Alcaraz said. “We have played great matches. I won every match that we have played, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to win every match that we are gonna play. I have to be really focused. He's a really tough opponent. But of course his game is a good game from my side.”

Novak Djokovic, huitièmes de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Philippe Montigny / FFT

No.3 seed Djokovic, in his record 17th Roland-Garros quarter-final, has dominated his battles with Khachanov, winning eight of their nine clashes. And worryingly for the world No.11's chances, the Serb says he’s coming into top form at the right time, through to the last eight without dropping a set.

“Quarter-finals, Khachanov, I know what my goal is here,” he said. “I'm trying to stay mentally the course and of course not look too far. Obviously the performance of today [beating Juan Pablo Varillas losing just seven games] gives me a great deal of confidence about how I felt, about how I played.”

Muchova and Pavlyuchenkova back in the fight

The first women’s quarter-final will be a story of resurgence, between two players who have been through their fair share of injuries in recent years.

Czech Karolina Muchova, twice a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon and a semi-finalist at the Australian Open, is into the last eight for the first time in Paris. She fell outside the world's top 200 last August after injuring her ankle at Roland-Garros 12 months ago.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova reached the final here in 2021, losing out to Barbora Krejcikova, but missed last year’s Roland-Garros through a serious knee injury, which kept her off the tour for the rest of the year.

Karolina Muchova, huitièmes de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Muchova says she knows she’ll have to be at her absolute best to cope with the power of her 31-year-old opponent, but Pavlyuchenkova is just happy to be here, having admitted that at one stage she had doubts that she would ever win another match.

“Of course I had a lot of thoughts and fear,” said Pavlyuchenkova. “I believed, I worked so hard, and even with all the failures that I had this year, earlier this year, and there was like sometimes ridiculous matches that I lost, still kept on believing, working hard, and just persistence and patience.”

Sabalenka v Svitolina: swinging freely

Until this year, Aryna Sabalenka had not been past the third round at Roland-Garros; clay always seeming to test her patience to the limit.

But winning her first Grand Slam title at this year’s Australian Open seems to have broken that curse and this year she’s playing with freedom, which makes her doubly dangerous. She's also gunning for Iga Swiatek's top spot, and has the chance to dethrone the Polish world No.1 at Roland-Garros this fortnight.

Aryna Sabalenka, Roland-Garros 2023, fourth round©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Her opponent, though, is fast becoming the story of this year’s Roland-Garros. Elina Svitolina has marched through to the quarter-finals in her first Grand Slam event since she became a mother last October.

The darling of the crowd - thanks in part to her marriage to one of French tennis' all-time heroes in Gael Monfils - which has helped her battle through to the last eight but like Sabalenka, she is also playing with less pressure than when she was ranked as high as No.3, chasing her first Grand Slam title.

“I think this is one of the things that I noticed that right now I don't have that pressure that I used to have before,” she said. “Of course, me personally I put kind of pressure for myself because I want to win a slam. This is the ultimate goal for me. But definitely not the pressure from outside.

“No one expects that I'm going to come into Roland-Garros and make quarter-final at the beginning of the tournament. That's why I feel like this really helps me. I feel almost like I'm 17 again coming on the tour fresh. I'm not defending any points. Not here, not next week. Definitely, I feel more free.”