French Open 2020: Rafael Nadal sees off qualifier Sebastian Korda – DN
Twelve-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal raced into the quarter-finals with a straight-set victory over American qualifier Sebastian Korda.
Korda said in the build-up that Nadal, 34, was his “idol” but the 20-year-old struggled to match the clay-court specialist on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Spanish second seed Nadal, chasing a fourth successive title at Roland Garros, took the match 6-1 6-1 6-2.
He will face Jannik Sinner next after the Italian beat Alexander Zverev.
The 19-year-old, ranked 75 in the world, put in a superb performance to beat the US Open finalist 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-3.
Meanwhile, US Open champion Dominic Thiem came through a scare to beat French wildcard Hugo Gaston in five sets.
Debutant Gaston, who defeated 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka to reach the last 16, found himself two sets down but fought back to level against an increasingly frustrated Thiem.
The 20-year-old world number 239 had the support of a vocal home crowd inside Court Philippe Chatrier, where up to 1,000 fans have been allowed for this tournament.
But it was Thiem who earned the vital break in the deciding set and he was able to close out on his second match point to win 6-4 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-3.
“It was an amazing match by both of us,” said the 27-year-old Austrian, who hit 59 winners but made 63 unforced errors.
“I haven’t seen for a very long time a player with such a big touch in his hands, his drop shots are from another planet.
“If he continues like this, he will be a huge, huge player and make a lot of joy in this stadium in the future.”
Thiem will now play Argentine 12th seed Diego Schwartzman who reached the quarter-finals with a 6-1 6-3 6-4 victory over Italian Lorenzo Sonego.
Korda gets lesson from hero Nadal
Korda, whose dad Petr the 1998 Australian Open champion and reached the final in Paris in 1992, the youngest American man to reach this stage at Roland Garros since 19-year-old Michael Chang in 1991.
He grew up watching video tapes of Nadal and even named his cat Rafa after the 19-time Grand Slam champion.
It promised to be the perfect start for the French Open debutant, who had two break points in a nine-minute opening game.
The world number 213 failed to convert as a ruthless Nadal held and then won the following four games on his way to clinching the opening set in 40 minutes.
He eased to the second set in blustery conditions in Paris, before Korda broke early in the third with a combination of fierce backhands.
But Nadal, who is yet to drop a set this tournament, hit back by taking the final six games to win in one hour and 55 minutes.
“I am quite happy about the way that I am playing, and the practices I am feeling every time a little bit better and better,” said Nadal.
Korda said he loved the whole experience of playing his idol, despite his heavy defeat.
“He almost hit an around-the-net forehand and I was kind of begging for it to go in because that would have been the coolest thing ever,” he said. “And then he hit a running forehand winner on me at the lines. I just said to myself, ‘This is awesome’.
“I don’t know if anyone’s ever asked him for an autograph after a match, but that was definitely the coolest moment of my life and one I’ll never forget for sure.”.-PUNA