Rafael Nadal joined compatriots David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo in the last eight of the French Open on Monday while continuing a trend at this year’s tournament of snuffing out recent challenges to the reigning order by the young guns of the ATP Tour.
Nadal completed a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Kei Nishikori, who beat Roger Federer on Madrid’s clay, following in the example of world number one Novak Djokovic who exacted revenge in similarly emphatic style on Grigor Dimitrov in round three. The up-and-coming Bulgarian had beaten the world number one in the Spanish capital.
But any court gossip over a possible regime change has been mercilessly put down on the Parisian clay. Ferrer, Robredo and Tommy Haas, who crushed Mikhail Youzhny to set up a clash with Djokovic, have a combined age of 97 and the other quarterfinalists so far are seasoned campaigners in Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The five-set format is the great test of a clay-court contender, as borne out by the number of last-eight appearances or better among the remaining players: 22 in total. Only Haas and Tsonga have yet to reach a semifinal in Paris but have done so in other Grand Slam events.
Tsonga faces Federer in the quarterfinals while either Stanislas Wawrinka or Richard Gasquet will square off against Nadal. If the seedings pan out, it will be number one versus number three and two versus four. The future stars of the Tour may have their day elsewhere, but the top order continues to impose itself in Grand Slams.