Day 8: Three to watch

 - Nick McCarvel

The final eight beckons and Sunday has blockbuster written all over it

Stephens - Sabalenka

The puzzle pieces are falling into place at Roland-Garros 2023, with spots in the quarter-finals on the line on Day 8.

For two-time champion Novak Djokovic, it’s a day that he can book a 14th consecutive quarter-final in Paris. In fact, in 18 previous appearances, Djokovic has been to the last eight 16 times.

Standing in his way is 27-year-old Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas, who is seeking not only his first Roland-Garros quarter-final, but first at a major in just his third appearance.

It’s a day that also features the continued comeback story of Elina Svitolina, who at this time a year ago was still months away from welcoming her daughter, Skai, who was born in October.

Sabalenka-Stephens light up the night

There has been an aura on court around both Aryna Sabalenka and Sloane Stephens this Roland-Garros, the respective major champions playing confident, power-laden tennis through the first three rounds.

Three is also the tally for the No.2 seed Sabalenka, who has a 3-0 record against the American, though each of those matches have gone the distance. Stephens, who calls Roland-Garros her favourite tournament, will need to showcase her ability to turn defence into offence against Sabalenka, who is yet to drop a set this fortnight.



“I think that it will be a great match,” said Stephens, 2018 runner-up here. “It's obviously another opportunity to go out there and try to make the quarters of a Grand Slam. Who doesn't want to do that?”

The women are set to take centre stage in Sunday’s featured night session.

Sloane Stephens, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Alcaraz eyes Musetti revenge

Few players can say they are undefeated against world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, but Lorenzo Musetti is one of them.

Sunday sets a rematch between the two young guns, the 21-year-old Musetti, seeded 17th here, having beaten Alcaraz less than a year ago in the finals of Hamburg, their lone meeting, also on red clay. But that was over three sets, and that was also before Alcaraz headed into another stratosphere, winning the US Open and rising to the world’s top ranking.

“It's a big challenge for me,” Alcaraz confirmed of the Musetti clash, though the 20-year-old Spaniard looked in imperious form against Denis Shapovalov in the third round.


The Italian not only calls Alcaraz a friend, but also says he’s inspiring a whole new era in men’s tennis: “He started a [new] way, a new generation,” Musetti told reporters. “He won the first Grand Slam title after the big three, so I think it's an inspiration for us, whoever is behind him, trying to push him and to get closer.”

Tsitsipas continues quiet march

While all eyes have been focused on the potential Alcaraz-Djokovic clash in the semi-finals, 2021 runner-up here Stefanos Tsitsipas has made a quiet march into his fifth consecutive fourth round at Roland-Garros for the loss of just one set.

It’s Tsitsipas who could stand in Alcaraz’s way come the quarter-finals, and to get there the Greek No.5 seed will have to halt the inspired run of Sebastian Ofner, an Austrian qualifier ranked 118th in the world.


Ofner has compiled six wins at RG 2023, including over another Sebastian – Korda – in round two and then veteran Fabio Fognini over five sets on Friday.

“He might not be the guy who you see very often [on the ATP Tour]... but I'm sure he's on a good streak right now, he's feeling good with his tennis,” Tsitsipas said. “I'm going to approach the match with seriousness and professionalism.”