Sport Tennis Business as usual: Federer, Djokovic and Nadal all advance in French Open
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Business as usual: Federer, Djokovic and Nadal all advance in French Open

After 14 months on the sidelines due to injury Roger Federer is back in fighting form. Photo: PA
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Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have all progressed to the fourth round of the French Open and set up clashes with talented Italian youngsters.

Federer survived a late-night scrap with German Dominik Koepfer, eventually winning 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 in three hours and 35 minutes with the time approaching 1am local time at Roland Garros.

It was Federer’s first taste of a grand slam match played without fans, courtesy of the Paris 9pm COVID-19 curfew, and it was not an experience he seemed to enjoy.

The Swiss though raised his total to a record 68 trips to the round of 16 at majors by seeing off the 27-year-old left-hander.

“It was very important for me, I certainly hadn’t practised for three hours 35 minutes,” Federer told reporters.

“I certainly didn’t expect to win three matches here.

“Playing without fans I knew was going to hit me at some point. It maybe benefits players like myself who are very focused when they go to practice. It wasn’t easy tonight, was unique in many ways, but I’m happy I found a way.

“I was playing for all those watching at home on TV.”

And one those viewers included former world No.1 one Andy Murray, who summed it up nicely on Twitter.

“I’m not bothered by the outcome of this match at all. Just seeing Federer at 39 off the back of 2 knee surgeries playing to an empty stadium at 12.30am getting fired up is inspirational to me. Do what you love,” the Scot wrote.

The 20-time grand slam champion will next face Italy’s Matteo Berrettini after the number nine seed beat South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo in straight sets 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 6-4.

Earlier, Djokovic and Nadal stormed into the next round with the Serb needing just 92 minutes to defeat Ricardas Berankis 6-1 6-4 6-1, becoming the first man in the Open era to reach round four in Paris for 12 consecutive years.

Next up he faces 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti who has made it through on his grand slam debut after defeating compatriot Marco Cecchinato 3-6 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-3.

Nadal extended his run of consecutive matches won at Roland Garros to 33 and consecutive sets to 32 with a 6-3 6-3 6-3 victory over Cameron Norrie.

Like Djokovic, Nadal will also face a 19-year-old Italian young gun in Jannik Sinner.

“Me and Jannik, I think we are the future of Italian tennis, and of tennis in general,” Musetti said.

A quarter-finalist last year, Sinner progressed with a 6-1 7-5 6-3 victory over Mikael Ymer.

Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who only turned 18 a month ago, was hoping to make it a teenage triumvirate through to the last 16 but he was beaten 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 by German Jan-Lennard Struff.

Tenth seed Diego Schwartzman made the semi-finals last year and is having another good run, beating Philip Kohlschreiber 6-4 6-2 6-1.

-AAP