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Djokovic keeps French Open title bid open

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Novak Djokovic made the French Open quarter-finals for the 11th consecutive year on Monday and the world No1 has a shot to win an 18th Grand Slam title if he can get past Spanish clay king Rafael Nadal. AFP

Djokovic keeps French Open title bid open

Novak Djokovic defeated Karen Khachanov in straight sets to make the French Open quarter-finals for the 11th consecutive year on Monday while Sofia Kenin escaped trouble to also clinch a spot in the last eight.

Top seed and 2016 champion Djokovic won 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 against Russian 15th seed Khachanov to draw level with Rafael Nadal on a record 14 quarter-final appearances in Paris.

Djokovic faced his toughest assignment so far but Khachanov was unable to derail his bid to become the first man in half a century to win all four Grand Slam titles twice.

The Serb hit 44 winners and has yet to drop a set in the tournament, losing only 25 games in four rounds. He improved his record in 2020 to 35 wins against just one loss.

“It was a very even match, perhaps more difficult than the result showed,” said Djokovic, who is chasing an 18th Grand Slam title.

He admitted to suffering an “awkward moment of deja vu” after unintentionally hitting a ball which smashed into the head of a line judge while trying to return serve.

The incident came just weeks after Djokovic was defaulted at the US Open in New York for swiping angrily at a ball which hit a female line judge, standing just behind him, in the throat.

“I’m actually trying to find the linesperson and see if he’s okay because I saw he had a little bit of a bruise,” said Djokovic.

The world No1 will face Pablo Carreno Busta, the man who benefited from Djokovic’s US Open disqualification, for a spot in the last four after the Spaniard swept German qualifier Daniel Altmaier aside in three sets.

Stefanos Tsitsipas overcame an eye problem to become the first Greek man to reach the last eight of the French Open with a 6-3, 7-6 (11/9), 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov.

The 22-year-old will now take on Andrey Rublev in a repeat of the recent Hamburg final which was won by the Russian.

Fifth seed Tsitsipas has won 12 successive sets at the tournament having been two sets down to Jaume Munar in the opening round.

Rublev, the 13th seed, also advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time after battling past Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).

In a match which featured 12 breaks of serve, the 22-year-old Rublev had been a break down in the second and third sets. He also had to save three set points in the fourth.

“I knew it would be tough,” said Rublev who arrived in Paris having reached his second US Open quarter-final last month.

“I had a little bit of luck today. There was a lot of wind so you are going to lose your serve a lot in those conditions.”

‘Super proud’ Kenin

Australian Open champion Kenin recovered from a set down against Fiona Ferro, the last home player left in the singles draw, to advance 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

“I feel like I’m playing really well,” said Kenin, who cried into her towel after sealing victory. “I’m super proud to be in the quarter-finals.”

The 49th-ranked Ferro, who won on clay in Palermo in August, threatened an upset as she reeled off six games on the bounce to grab the opening set.

But Kenin, who was taken to three sets in the first two rounds, stormed back to move into a quarter-final match-up with either Tunisian 30th seed Ons Jabeur and Danielle Collins.

Their tie was rescheduled for Tuesday due to rain that restricted play to just Court Philippe Chatrier for much of the day.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova returned to the last eight at Roland Garros for the first time since 2012.

Seventh seed Kvitova, who missed last year’s tournament due to an arm injury, defeated China’s Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-4 and will next play German veteran Laura Siegemund.

“After eight years to be in the quarter-final again, it’s great. I’m really happy for that, that I’m still able to play on all surfaces,” said Kvitova, a semi-finalist eight years ago.

“When the roof is closed it’s like being indoors and I really love to play.”

Siegemund, 32, advanced to her first Grand Slam singles quarter-final after defeating former junior champion Paula Badosa of Spain 7-5, 6-2.

She became the fourth unseeded player to make the last eight, joining Iga Swiatek, Nadia Podoroska and Martina Trevisan.

Siegemund won last month’s US Open women’s doubles titles alongside Vera Zvonareva.

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