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Nadal recovers from a rare dropped set, while Federer feels in fine fettle

 

All good: Roger Federer is happy with how he’s playing
All good: Roger Federer is happy with how he’s playing

By Eleanor Crooks

Rafael Nadal dropped a set at the French Open for only the second time since 2015 but recovered to beat David Goffin and reach the fourth round.

The 11-time champion had won all his matches in straight sets the last three years apart from in the quarter-finals 12 months ago, when he lost one set against Diego Schwartzman.

Nadal tore through the opening two sets against 27th seed Goffin, but the Belgian fought back impressively to take the third before the Spaniard completed a 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3 victory.

The win saw Nadal match Roger Federer, who defeated Casper Ruud 6-3 6-1 7-6 earlier, by making the last-16 here for the 14th time, an all-time record.

On the 10th anniversary of his most famous defeat, when he was beaten in the fourth round by Robin Soderling to lose on the Paris clay for the first time, Nadal seemed in a hurry to write a happier story on May 31.

He raced through the first five games, and Goffin, who had won his first two clashes with impressive ease, struggled simply to get a foothold in the match.

But things changed in the third set as Goffin matched his opponent stride for stride before breaking serve for the first time in the match in the ninth game and serving it out.

It was the first set Goffin has managed to win against Nadal in four meetings on clay, and the earliest round in which the 32-year-old has lost a set here for six years.

But Goffin was unable to turn a set into a real challenge to Nadal, who wrapped up victory after two hours and 49 minutes.

Federer is the oldest man to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros since Nicola Pietrangeli in 1972, and the oldest at any Slam since Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.

The 37-year-old was happy to have had a bit of a test, saying: "I still don't know exactly where my absolute best is but I feel like it could be there. Maybe not. I'm happy to find out.

"I think for me the first goal has been reached by getting this deep into the tournament, and knowing where the game's at, knowing where the fitness is, the mind.

"Also now today, playing a breaker on clay, how to go through tougher points on clay, because you have to construct them a little bit differently.

"So I'm very pleased how I'm feeling and how I'm playing, and still trying to stay true to playing freely and with nothing to lose."

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