The 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal is through to his 16th quarter-final in Paris. Nadal overpowered Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in four hours and 21 minutes to remain undefeated in the clay-court five-setters and set the quarter-final clash versus Novak Djokovic!
It was Nadal's first test in Paris this year, and he had to give his best to emerge at the top against the young opponent who left his everything on the court. All five sets saw eight or nine games, and they could have battled for at least one more hour had we seen tighter sets.
Auger-Aliassime became the sixth player who took two sets away from Nadal at Roland Garros and the fourth who challenged the king of clay in a four-hour Roland Garros match. The young Canadian became the fourth player who took two sets away from Rafa in the Roland Garros match after Robin Soderling, John Isner and Novak Djokovic.
Rafael Nadal battled past Felix Auger-Aliassime at Roland Garros.
Still, he did not have enough strength to bring the victory home. Rafa grabbed 17 points more than Felix after outplaying him in the mid-range and most extended exchanges.
Nadal made the difference with the second serve, getting broken five times from nine chances offered to Auger-Aliassime and creating massive 22 break points! The Spaniard seized only six, which cost him more time on the court and energy ahead of the Novak Djokovic clash.
Felix saved break chances in the encounter's third game and broke Rafa in the next one to open a 3-1 gap. The Canadian survived another challenging service game and moved 4-1 ahead. Nadal got broken for the second straight time in game six to fall 5-1 down before pulling one break back in the next one.
Felix served for the opener at 5-3 and produced a fine hold to wrap up the opener and gain a boost. Nadal raised his level in the second set, endured a scary moment at 1-1 and kept the pressure on the other side for the rest of the set.
He broke Felix in game eight to open a 5-3 gap and wrapped up the set a few minutes later to level the overall score. Rafa controlled the pace in set number three, serving well and breaking the young gun in games three and seven for 5-2.
The Spaniard held at love while serving for the set in game eight to move two sets to one ahead and build confidence. Auger-Aliassime grabbed two early break at the beginning of the fourth set and served well in the second part to take it 6-3 and force a decider.
Starting all over in one of his most challenging Roland Garros matches, Nadal served well in the final set and forced the opponent to follow those numbers if he wanted to stay alive. Felix fought well ahead of the eighth game when Rafa broke him and sealed the deal on his serve in the next one.