Nadal sees off Auger-Aliassime in five-set thriller at French Open

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Rafael Nadal gritted his way through a five-set marathon on Sunday to reach the last eight at the French Open. The 13-time champion beat the 21-year-old Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 after four hours and 21 minutes of enthralling tennis.

An error strewn Nadal offered up the first set. But th 35-year-old knucked down and claimed the second 6-3 and swept through the third.

The veteran's troubles started at the start of the fourth. From having three game points he faltered and allowed Auger-Aliassime to break for a 2-0 lead.

And the Spaniard never recovered.

Position

After three hours and 27 minutes of play, the centre court crowd was confronted with something of a Halley's Comet - Nadal taken to a fifth set at the French Open.

Auger-Aliassime's execution was cold and devastating. He started with a 210km/h ace and finished it off with a volleyed winner into the mid court.

In the decider, Nadal fashioned the first break point at 1-0 up but Auger-Aliassime saved it with a big serve and winner before eventually levelling at 1-1.

The touches of brilliance emerged when Auger-Aliassime was attempting to level at 4-4.

Brilliance

A flicked forehand pass down the line brought up two break points for Nadal and though Auger-Aliassime saved the first with a service winner, Nadal converted the second for a 5-3 lead and the chance to serve for the match with new balls.

Despite losing the opening point, Nadal won the next two and two match points emerged following a trademark combination.

A sliced serve forcing the right hander out in the tramlines and the forehand along the line.

Triumph

The match was his after some angled net play left Auger-Aliassime stranded outside the tramlines allowing Nadal a simple push of the ball into the open court;

He raised his arms in triumph as the ovation started.

"Felix is a great young player," said Nadal of his vanquished adversary. "He plays with lots of power and mobility. He is a tough opponent who has been improving every year.

"I'm happy to win. Everyone knows this place is the most important tournament of my career."

Nadal will play top seed Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final in what will be their 59th meeting on the ATP circuit.

Djokovic, who beat Nadal on the way to the 2021 title, eased past the 15th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Third seed Alexander Zverev also moved into the last eight.

He kept his composure despite some difficult moments to dispatch the unseeded Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles in straight sets.

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