Rafael Nadal will compete in the Roland Garros third round for the 17th time from as many trips to Paris, beating Alexei Popyrin and Richard Gasquet to reach the last 32. The 13-time champion defeated Popyrin 6-3, 6-2, 7-6, played well in the opening two sets, and overcame a 5-2 deficit in set number two to prevail in the tie break after fending off a set point at 3-5.
On Thursday night, Rafa delivered his 17th win from as many matches against Richard Gasquet, ousting the Frenchman 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes, advancing into the third round and securing the 102nd victory in Paris from 104 encounters.
Nadal will face the Briton Cameron Norrie in a battle for the fourth round, already playing against him in Barcelona in April. The Johannesburg native has already scored 25 victories in 2021, 16 of those on clay in the last two months despite having only eight when the season started!
Aware of a dangerous opponent on the other side of the net, Nadal understands that he must bring his A-game to beat an in-form opponent who plays on a high level week after week. Nadal toppled Norrie 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and 34 minutes in the Barcelona Open quarter-final to enter the last four.
Nadal hit 22 winners and 17 unforced errors for his 64th Barcelona triumph from 68 encounters at one of his favorite events. Rafa lost serve once and earned four breaks that carried him home, closing the opener in 40 minutes and working harder in the second.
The crowd favorite closed the third game with a service winner and stole Cameron's serve a few minutes later to gain the advantage. The Spaniard hit a service winner to open a 4-1 gap and seized the fourth break chance in the next one to move further in front.
Rafael Nadal and Cameron Norrie will play for the second time this spring.
Nadal closed the opener with a hold at love at 5-1 and placed a perfect forehand return winner in the second set's third game for a break at love.
From 30-0 down in game four, Rafa won four straight points to avoid troubles and keep the serve intact after finishing it with an ace. Out of a sudden, the Spaniard played some loose strokes in game eight and experienced two break points, repelling them with winners before Cameron converted the third to level the score at 4-4.
Staying calm, Rafa grabbed a break at love a few minutes later and sealed the deal with a forehand winner in game ten to reach the last four. "Cameron is a great player; he has won a lot of matches this year. He is very consistent, playing on a high level every week and scoring wins against notable rivals; I know it won't be easy against him.
I have to be ready to play my best tennis, as it's not comfortable to compete against the rivals of his style of play. I hope to be ready for the match and will train on Friday to prepare the best I can," Rafael Nadal said.