King of clay Nadal eyes record French ti­tle

CityPress - - Sport - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­ver.sibiya@city­press.co.za

Af­ter two weeks of in­tense play dur­ing the French Open in Paris, big fish have fallen and min­nows have raised their heads.

With two ma­jor up­sets in the women’s cham­pi­onship al­ready, only the bravest will sur­vive a fi­nal week that cul­mi­nates with the women and men’s fi­nals, on Satur­day and Sun­day re­spec­tively.

Nine-time men’s cham­pion Rafael Nadal will take on Span­ish com­pa­triot Roberto Bautista Agut in a last-16 match to­day.

Agut is ranked out­side the top 200 and, if that is any­thing to go by, it should be a walk in park for in-form Nadal, who won three con­sec­u­tive clay ti­tles – Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid – be­fore his loss in the Ital­ian Open last month.

De­fend­ing men’s cham­pion No­vak Djokovic, who strug­gled in the last 32 to come from a set down to beat Ar­gen­tine Diego Schwartz­man (5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1) takes on Spa­niard Al­bert Ramos Viño­las.

No French player has won a Grand Slam ti­tle since 1983 and chances of a win on home soil this year sig­nif­i­cantly less­ened with the exit of men’s world No 11 Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga, who was elim­i­nated by Ar­gen­tine Renzo Olivo on Wed­nes­day.

On the women’s side, the big­gest shock of the French Open was def­i­nitely world No 1 An­gelique Ker­ber’s loss on the first day, as she be­came the first women’s top seed to lose in the open­ing round of the tour­na­ment. Her loss to Rus­sian Eka­te­rina Makarova (6-2, 6-2) was fol­lowed by the de­feat of eighth­seeded Jo­hanna Konta of the UK by Tai­wan’s Hsieh Su-wei on Tues­day.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Gar­biñe Mugu­ruza will be hop­ing to take an­other step to­wards de­fend­ing her ti­tle when she plays Kristina Mlade­n­ovic to­day.

Mugu­ruza pro­gressed to the last 16 af­ter a win against 29th seed Yu­lia Putint­seva on Fri­day.

PHOTO: PETR DAVID JOSEK / AP

ON COURSE Rafael Nadal will play against coun­try­man Roberto Bautista Agut to­day

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