French Open 2021: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal surge into Round 4

·6-min read

It's a day of big names at the French Open as Round 3 comes to a close. The Big Three — Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer — all take the clay on Saturday. It's big day for American women as well, with Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens, Sophie Kenin, and Jessica Pegula all fighting to advance to Round 4.

Follow along below for updates on the final day of Round 3 play.

Roger Federer finds late life in an empty stadium

As far as tennis in 2021 goes, few moments were more surreal than a 39-year-old Roger Federer lagging in an empty stadium past midnight local time.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion found himself in trouble against Dominik Koepfer on Saturday, trailing by a break in the third set while tied 1-1. He responded with his own break, then prevailed in the tiebreaker and next set to survive a grueling match 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

All it took was three hours and 36 minutes.

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Federer is now set to face Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round, but told reporters after the match that he's not 100% sure he'll continue due to concerns about his readiness for grass season.

Rafael 'King of Clay' Nadal continues to reign

It's no big surprise that 13-time French Open champion Nadal won his Round 3 match against Cameron Norrie. Clay is where his skill set shines the brightest, and the bumps along the road to his 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win only showed why he's the King of Clay. 

For example, he let Norrie get ahead in the second set, and then he turned on the gas and won five straight games. He capped the mid-game comeback with this utterly fantastic court-spanning volley. 

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Here's another mind-melting return from Nadal.

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Who does that!? Well, Nadal does. He wasn't at his best on Saturday, but he still got the job done well and with flair. In Round 4, he'll face Italian Jannik Sinner, who is seeded at No. 18.

Coco Gauff advances on a walkover

Gauff barely broke a sweat during her Round 3 match against fellow American Jennifer Brady, who was seeded at No. 13. It lasted all of 23 minutes, with Gauff dominating Brady in the first set 6-1 before Brady retired due to a persistent foot injury that had flared up on Saturday. 

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Winning by default isn't how Gauff probably envisioned making it to Round 4 at Roland-Garros for the first time ever, but how she got there doesn't really matter. She'll have the opportunity to advance to the first Grand Slam quarterfinal of her entire career on Monday when she plays No. 25 seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisa.  

Djokovic cruises into Round 4

It was just another day at the office for Djokovic, who crushed his Round 3 opponent Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 in a match that lasted just one hour and 32 minutes. 

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Djokovic, who has yet to be tested at Roland-Garros, is through to his 12th straight Round 4 at the French Open, setting a new Open Era record for most consecutive Round 4 appearances at the French Open. He'll next face 19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti on Monday. 

Sloane Stephens stuns with another upset

Sloane Stephens is looking like her old self again, and it couldn't have happened at a better time. 

Stephens, ranked No. 59 in the world coming into the French Open, upset her second straight Top 20 opponent with her straight-sets win over No. 18 Karolina Muchova. Stephens sent Muchova home after a 6-3, 7-5 match that lasted nearly two hours. She had to battle in the second set when Muchova started to make a surge, but she kept her head down and pulled out her first trip to Round 4 since she was at Roland-Garros two years ago.

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After the match, Stephens said that she felt like she was about to break out recently, and she's pleased that the results are finally showing on the court. 

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In Round 4, Stephens will face Barbora Krejčíková, who knocked out No. 5 Elina Svitolina earlier on Saturday.

American women continue to shine as Kenin defeats Pegula

It's been an outstanding tournament for American women, and that was on full display with the Round 3 match between No. 4 Sofia Kenin and No. 28 Jessica Pegula. It was a highly competitive match, but Kenin pulled out the 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win after narrowly losing the first set. She smashed 24 backhand winners and showed no indication of the tough year she's been having, which has included an appendectomy and a high-profile split from her coach, who also happens to be her father. 

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Kenin, who made it to the finals at Roland-Garros last year, will face either No. 14 Elise Mertens or No. 17 Maria Sakkari in Round 4.

Seventh Top 10 woman exits competition as Elina Svitolina falls

It hasn't been a great tournament for top-ranked women, and that continued on Saturday. No. 5 Elina Svitolina was knocked out by No. 33 Barbora Krejčíková, making her the seventh Top 10 female player to exit Roland-Garros. 

Svitolina fell 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 39 minutes. She was really never able to get her footing against Krejčíková, who played confident tennis from her very first shot. 

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