Twelve-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal sent a message to the field on Sunday with a dominant fourth-round victory in which he only lost four games. Top seed Novak Djokovic replied on Monday with an impressive performance of his own.
Djokovic beat 15th seed Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals on the Parisian clay for the 11th consecutive year. It is the second straight edition in which Djokovic has reached the last eight without dropping a set. The Serbian has accomplished that feat three times in his 16 appearances.
Djokovic, who is now 35-1 in 2020, was the far more opportunistic player, which proved critical on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The 2016 champion converted five of his 14 break points, while Khachanov only took advantage of two of his nine opportunities. Djokovic used that edge to triumph after two hours and 23 minutes.
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The 33-year-old knew Khachanov, who beat him in the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters final, was a dangerous opponent. Djokovic didn’t allow the Russian to get into an aggressive rhythm, playing aggressively throughout to extend his ATP Head2Head series lead to 4-1.
Throughout the tournament, Djokovic has used his drop shot in the heavy conditions, even admitting after his first-round match that he was perhaps using it too often. But on Monday, the 17-time Grand Slam champion took it to Khachanov. When the 15th seed has time to set up and swing, he is as powerful as anyone on the ATP Tour. So Djokovic went after his own shots to stop that from happening, hitting 44 winners to 31 for the Russian. He only made 28 unforced errors.
The top seed’s only hiccup — a slight one at that — came in the third set. Djokovic used a drop shot to earn an early break, but Khachanov never stopped battling. The Russian got back on serve when Djokovic pushed a backhand down the line into the net, and at 2-2 he got two opportunities to lead by a break. The drop shot proved key again for the Serbian, who never looked back.
Djokovic broke in the next game when Khachanov misfired on a big forehand and rolled from there. The Serbian hit a big forehand to clinch his victory.
The World No. 1 will next play 17th seed Pablo Carreno Busta or German qualifier Daniel Altmaier for a spot in the semi-finals.