Novak Djokovic overcame some rain frustrations to beat lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galan 6-0 6-3 6-2 to reach the fourth round of the French Open.

In advancing to that stage for an 11th straight year, the world number one equalled a Roland Garros record held by his long-time rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and set up a fourth-round tie with 15th seed Karen Khachanov.

Djokovic had never lost to a lucky loser and world number 153 Galan, whose first two wins at a grand slam came earlier this week, was no match for the Serbian - the victory confirmed in two hours and eight minutes.

The two had a prolonged stay on Philippe Chatrier, though, as the match was suspended in the second set while they waited for the roof to close - something that Djokovic had called for long before it happened - on a rainy Paris evening.

The roof being open was an irritant to the Serbian in the first set, not that it prevented him from taking the opener with ease as Colombian Galan failed to produce a single winner.

However, the ongoing drizzle continued to frustrate Djokovic in the second, particularly following back-to-back double faults, and the roof started to close after Galan won his first game with a brilliant cross-court forehand.

Heavier rain started to fall and the world number one called a halt to proceedings himself when Galan slipped, leading to a second-set suspension while the roof fully closed, with Djokovic amusing himself by grabbing a brush and helping out the baseline maintenance.

Upon the resumption, his second successful break of the second set put him six games from victory and he duly wrapped up the win without dropping serve.

Data slam: French Open win number 71 for Djokovic

He may have only won this grand slam on one occasion - in 2016 - but this was Djokovic's 71st victory at Roland Garros, taking him past Federer for the second-most in the event's history. Clay-court king Nadal is the only man with more French Open victories and Djokovic remains some way off his total of 95.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic - 38/28
Galan - 18/25

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic - 2/2
Galan - 4/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic - 7/13
Galan - 0/5

Stefanos Tsitsipas claimed his 25th win of the year to progress to the last 16 of the French Open.

The fifth seed became the first Greek player to reach this stage at Roland Garros on multiple occasions after overcoming Aljaz Bedene.

Tsitsipas and Grigor Dimitrov will meet for the first time in the fourth round, with each having had curtailed time on court on Saturday as their respective opponents retired.

Marton Fucsovics set up a showdown with in-form Andrey Rublev, but the day arguably belonged to Daniel Altmaier, whose remarkable run continues after he dispatched world number eight Matteo Berrettini.

 

TSITSIPAS READY FOR REAL TEST

Tsitsipas barely broke sweat as he advanced to the last 16, with Bedene retiring with a foot problem in the third set.

The pair had only been on court for 80 minutes, Tsitsipas having taken a commanding 6-1 6-2 3-1 lead against the clearly hampered Slovenian.

While the match inevitably lost a level of intrigue, the same cannot be said for Tsitsipas at these finals. The 22-year-old, whose personalised face masks have been a hit at the championships, has also made a point of keeping his media duties interesting.

Perhaps that comes in part from the young Tsitsipas' journalistic background. "I was a journalist when I was 11, 12 years old. I had this Facebook page, which I very often updated with news about Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic," he explained.

"I was really into it. Every day after school I would check the results, check the current, latest tennis news. I would update it. It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed doing it.

"Journalism and press and media, I love this a lot. I do understand how it operates, how it works. So for me, you know, I'm a tennis player, and if something works, I'm on the court the next day  trying to do the same thing. For me sometimes there isn't really much for me to say tactical-wise or match-wise because I'm just trying to follow the things that have been working for me."

Tsitsipas will now meet Dimitrov, who had even less time on court against Roberto Carballes, the Spaniard retiring at 1-6 3-6 down with a little over an hour played.

It is the first time Dimitrov, a semi-finalist at each of the other majors in his career, has reached the second week in Paris.

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

Altmaier produced the finest two hours and 15 minutes of his career as he defeated Berrettini, a semi-finalist at last year's US Open, in straight sets.

The seventh seed lost 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 to the German qualifier, who is ranked 186th in the world and nearly did not compete in Paris due to injury.

"My coach and I have been working so hard to be here, and while I've struggled with a few injuries, I am super-pleased it’s at Roland Garros," said Altmaier, who is just the fifth qualifier since 2000 to reach the last 16 of a men's slam.

"Before qualifying, I was struggling with an injury, so I wasn't sure I was going to play. I hope the crowd and the TV audience enjoyed watching, as I want to entertain."

Next up for Altmaier will be Pablo Carreno Busta – himself a US Open semi-finalist just three weeks ago – after he beat compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-4 in three hours and 22 minutes.

FUCSOVICS READY FOR RUBLEV

Rublev's winning streak stretched to eight matches as he made light work of big-serving Kevin Anderson, winning 6-3 6-2 6-3 in just 94 minutes.

Anderson, the former world number five, hit 33 unforced errors and won just four points on Rublev's first serve as he fell to the Russian.

Rublev will now face Fucsovics, who beat Brazil's Thiago Monteiro 7-5 6-1 6-3. It will be their first meeting since the 2017 Davis Cup, when Fucsovics fought from two sets down to help Hungary to a 3-1 victory.

"We were different players," said Fucsovics. "Right now he's just about to break in the top 10. I got more matured. I have more experience. I'm fit now, fitter than ever. I'm looking forward to playing a good match against him, try to break through finally to the quarter-finals."

Hugo Gaston was the toast of Roland Garros as the young Frenchman announced himself to the tennis world by sinking former champion Stan Wawrinka.

Ranked a lowly 239th in the world, Toulouse-born Gaston was tackling a player who has reached two French Open finals and eyeing a third trip to the title match.

Left-hander Gaston had other ideas though, and in a third-round contest that was halted by rain for over two hours in the third set, he scored a 2-6 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-0 over the illustrious Swiss.

That victory came on a Friday when 12-time champion Rafael Nadal produced what he described as his best tennis so in his favourite grand slam, as he and Dominic Thiem remained on course for a semi-final showdown.

Lorenzo Sonego won an epic third set tie-break against Taylor Fritz, taking it 19-17 to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time, while his fellow Italian Jannik Sinner and American Sebastian Korda also entered previously uncharted territory in their careers.

GASTON'S BIG MOMENT

Already the last French player standing in the men's singles, the prospect of Gaston ending Wawrinka's hopes looked slim, with the three-time grand slam winner having looked sharp in the first two rounds, beating Andy Murray and the useful German Dominik Koepfer.

Yet Gaston, a wildcard entry who only turned 20 last Saturday, gave French tennis a major shot in the arm with a terrific performance.

He and Wawrinka had to retreat to the locker room at 2-2 in the third set, with the match finely poised, and an immediate break on the resumption from Gaston spoke volumes for his focus.

The deciding set was strangely one-sided, and Gaston, who benefited from 74 unforced errors from the Wawrinka racket, was able to celebrate the greatest moment of his fledgling career.

He said afterwards: "It's crazy what's happening. I tried to play my game, I went on the court to win."

Addressing the small crowd on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, he added: "I didn't necessarily think I would win, but you pushed me. Thank you all."

On the prospect of facing Thiem, Gaston said: "It's going to be a crazy experience. I will do everything to win too."

The ATP revealed Gaston is the lowest-ranked player to reach the fourth round of the French Open since Arnaud Di Pasquale in 2002 achieved the feat when 283rd in the world.

THIEM IN RUUD HEALTH

Thiem, the third seed, dashed to a 6-4 6-3 6-1 win against Norway's Casper Ruud. It was a case of the Austrian making light work of what looked a tricky task against a player who reached semi-finals in Rome and Hamburg before coming to Paris.

He got the job done in two and a quarter hours, and at that stage would have been expecting to face Wawrinka in the fourth round.

Thiem will no doubt do his homework on Gaston before they play, with the recently crowned US Open champion targeting a third visit to the French Open final, having been runner-up in each of the last two years.

"Of course I'm starting to feel all the last weeks physically, also emotionally," Thiem said. "I really love this tournament, and I would love to go deep to play well. I'll do everything to get a good recovery."

RAFA BEGINNING TO PURR

A 96th match win at Roland Garros from Nadal came moments after Gaston's thunder-stealing moment.

He swept away the hopes of Italian Stefano Travaglia, a 6-1 6-4 6-0 victory emphasising the form Nadal is running into, having delayed his post-lockdown return to action and skipped the US Open.

Next for Nadal is Korda, and the son of former French Open runner-up Petr Korda revealed that as a youngster he had a pet cat Rafa, named after the Spanish great.

"That says a lot about how much I love the guy," Korda said.

Responding to that bombshell, Nadal said: "Well, that means that I have been on the TV for such a long time, that's the main thing. The same like when I was a kid, I was watching Sampras, Agassi, Carlos Moya.

"Another negative thing is that it means I'm 34. That's another point that is not beautiful. But I'm happy to hear that. I know he's playing great. He's a very young kid with a lot of power. I think he has an amazing future - hopefully not yet."

Rafael Nadal steamed through to the French Open fourth round as he fended off Stefano Travaglia on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Italian Travaglia has a surname that translates to mean 'troubles', but Nadal was given no real cause for concern in a 6-1 6-4 6-0 victory.

Such was his control that the Spaniard won 82 per cent of points on his second serve, higher than his first-serve rate.

"I played my best match so far this year at Roland Garros. I hope I can play this way until the end," Nadal said in an on-court interview.

These early rounds are more important than usual for Nadal, who arrived in France short of match activity after sitting out the Western and Southern Open and the US Open.

Although he returned to action at the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, that was his first tournament since February, and a quarter-final exit to Diego Schwartzman was a worrying setback for the greatest clay-court player in history.

Step by step, Nadal is going through the gears in Paris, the 12-time champion inching towards the form that has brought him such rich rewards on previous visits to the French capital.

To win a 13th title at this tournament, which would move him level with Roger Federer's all-time men's record of 20 career grand slams, Nadal is likely to have to beat Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals and Novak Djokovic in the title match.

Travaglia had some spark to his game, and he played a number of clever shots that made the second set a contest, but few have ever had the tools to stop Nadal on this surface and the world number 74 was inevitably found wanting.

Next for Nadal is a last-16 clash with Sebastian Korda, the American son of former French Open runner-up Petr Korda.

Data slam: Volley good show from Nadal

It ended with a volley, and Nadal was often coming in close, winning 19 of 23 points where he attacked the net. He won six of seven break points and said afterwards that it was his most aggressive performance so far this fortnight. The serving is looking good, he remains a baseline master, and the fact Nadal is marauding front and back of the court augurs well for what lies ahead.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Nadal - 28/13
Travaglia - 13/24

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Nadal - 2/0
Travaglia - 1/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Nadal - 6/7
Travaglia - 0/0

Novak Djokovic needed just an hour and 23 minutes to swat aside the challenge of Ricardas Berankis at the French Open and reach a new career milestone.

A 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory was as ruthless and rapid as the scoreline suggests, with Djokovic racing through to the third round.

They had played twice before, and Berankis tested Djokovic before losing in two tight sets at August's Masters 1000 tournament in New York.

But Thursday's match produced exactly the same scoreline as in their first clash, seven years ago in the first round of the US Open, and showed the gulf between the world number one and the player ranked 66th on the men's tour.

Victory means Djokovic racked up a 70th win in singles action at Roland Garros, having already reached that mark at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

His French Open wins tally has now equalled that of Roger Federer, who is absent this year as he recovers from knee surgery. Djokovic and Federer sit joint second on the all-time list for the most wins in the men's singles at Roland Garros, behind clear leader Rafael Nadal, who has chalked up 95 victories in 97 matches.

Court Philippe-Chatrier has seen Djokovic come and go quickly in both his matches so far, with the thrashing of Berankis completed in 15 fewer minutes than it took the Serbian to see off Sweden's Mikael Ymer in round one.

Novak Djokovic set his sights on French Open glory after thrashing Mikael Ymer in the first round on Tuesday.

The Serbian, seeking to put his US Open disqualification firmly behind him, made an early statement of intent with a 6-0 6-2 6-3 victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

It took Djokovic one hour, 38 minutes to get the job done, with Ricardas Berankis awaiting in the second round.

And the world number one is determined to chase down a second crown at Roland Garros, having triumphed in 2016.

"I'm ready physically, mentally, emotionally to go deep in the tournament," said Djokovic.

"Hopefully I can have another successful year here in Paris. 2016 was a dream come true.

"Obviously the only French Open title I have won in my career, and it was a very long anticipated title."

 

TSITSIPAS AND RUBLEV, UNITED AGAIN BY FIVE-SETTERS

Two days after they went head to head in the Hamburg European Open final, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas were back in action in Paris.

And both at one stage looked in serious danger of first-round exits, with their efforts of the past week in Germany seemingly catching up on the seeded pair.

Rublev, who got the better of Tsitsipas in Hamburg, trailed Sam Querrey by two sets on Tuesday. Tsitsipas also slumped two sets behind in his clash with Spain's Jaume Munar.

But both staged spectacular fightbacks, with Russian 13th seed Rublev edging out American Querrey 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-4 6-3 and Greek fifth seed Tsitsipas prevailing 4-6 2-6 6-1 6-4 6-4.

"Although I started well, I was kind of switched off again later during the first set," Tsitsipas said. "Whatever I was trying to do, most of my shots were landing out and nothing was going my way.

"It was crazy what was happening out there, and I couldn't find any solutions. I feel like I was just turning down the hill, and I'm happy that I took my time.

"I started thinking a little bit more. Started figuring out why I was rushing so much and why I was going for extreme things. After a bit of processing and thinking, I think that helped settle things down and have a fresh new start of the match."

Rublev accepted his display against Querrey was dismal, saying: "I was feeling completely tight. I choke another level. From the first point of the match till the last match of the match I was completely frozen. I couldn't do one step, I could only hit, I was tight like I don't know."

 

BERRETTINI FEELING OLD...AT 24!

Matteo Berrettini breezed past Vasek Pospisil 6-3 6-1 6-3 before railing against the relentless march of time.

At just 24, the Italian is already feeling like a veteran after seeing the impressive exploits of compatriots Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti, who are both teenagers.

"Now it's crazy. Until last year I was the young one," exclaimed Berrettini, who faces Lloyd Harris in round two.

"Now these two are with big steps stepping in. I mean, my career is completely different compared to theirs. They started really young.

"This is my third Roland Garros, and I'm 24. Probably them at 24, they would have played already maybe six Roland Garros. It's definitely different."

 

GASQUET AND SIMON LEAD FRENCH CASUALTIES

Canadian ninth seed Denis Shapovalov was tested by experienced Frenchman Gilles Simon but won through 6-2 7-5 5-7 6-3, while 18th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov drubbed another Frenchman in Gregoire Barrere, landing a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win.

Roberto Bautista Agut added to the French misery, sinking fellow veteran Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-1, and lesser-known players also exited their home grand slam as Ugo Humbert, Quentin Halys and Harold Mayot also bowed out.

Daniil Medvedev suffered a stunning late-night defeat to Marton Fucsovics after Rafael Nadal beat Egor Gerasimov in the first round of the French Open on Monday.

Fourth seed Medvedev became the biggest casualty in the men's draw at Roland Garros as Hungarian Fucsovics, ranked 63, won 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-1 on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

It was after 11.30pm in Paris when the 28-year-old Fucsovics secured the first win against a top-five opponent in his career under the floodlights.

Medvedev lost the second set when he was given a point penalty for smashing his racket on an evening to forget for the Russian, who prompted raised eyebrows from his opponent when he won a point with an underarm serve.

Nadal overcame Gerasimov 6-4 6-4 6-2 and made notable strides from his quarter-final loss to Diego Schwartzman at the Internazionali d'Italia, while US Open champion Dominic Thiem also cruised into the second round.

The shocks came as eighth seed Gael Monfils, a semi-finalist in 2008, lost 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 to Alexander Bublik while 19th seed and rising star Felix Auger Aliassime was defeated by Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5 6-3 6-3.

Monfils' compatriot Corentin Moutet was knocked out by qualifier Lorenzo Giustino in a marathon five-setter and clay-court specialist Fabio Fognini tumbled out in four sets in his match with Mikhail Kukushkin.

NADAL RESUMES NORMAL SERVICE

Having struggled on serve in his surprise defeat to Schwartzman in the last eight in Rome, Nadal was much improved in that regard against Gerasimov.

He won 82 per cent of points on his first serve, with his improvement in that area leaving Nadal satisfied after coming through the first test in his quest for title number 13.

"I am trying to serve with high percentage. That's the first step that I have to do," said Nadal. "When I know that I can have a big percentage of first serves, then is the moment to increase the speed and increase the aggressiveness on the serve, no? Step by step. Today was the first step.

"Tomorrow, another day for practice. That's the only thing that I try to look at at this tournament, no? Try to be happy about every single improvement and try to give me a chance to be better every day."

THIEM NOT CAUGHT COLD BY CILIC

Thiem, fresh off his victory at Flushing Meadows, comfortably prevailed in a battle of US Open champions with Marin Cilic, spoiling the Croatian's 32nd birthday.

Thiem triumphed 6-4 6-3 6-3 and, while much has been made of the cold and the heavier balls at this year's event, the conditions are of no concern to the Austrian.

He said: "Conditions, I'm used to them or I know how to play in those kinds of conditions obviously because in Austria, we have many days like that. And then from junior times and when I started to play professional on the futures in March in Croatia or Czech Republic, there were many tournaments with similar conditions. Cold, heavy balls.

"So, it's not really something new for me, and it helps against guys like Marin, because it's a little bit easier to return many serves back in the court and to run down almost every ball. So, I like these conditions. And anyway, we have to do the best we can, because it's a very special year."

MOUTET LOSES SIX-HOUR MARATHON

There was more disappointment for the small number of home fans as Moutet followed Monfils in tumbling out of the tournament, albeit in significantly more dramatic fashion.

Moutet will have been expected to come through his clash with Giustino with little difficulty but was outlasted in an epic that was finally settled after six hours and five minutes of play.

Giustino progressed 0-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 18-16 and fell to his back in celebration as he came through a marathon encounter.

Asked for his thoughts on the contest, Moutet said: "My feelings, I don't know. We played a really long match, so I don't know. I don't feel anything in my body right now. I feel empty."

Rafael Nadal breezed into the second round of the French Open with a straight-sets win over Egor Gerasimov at Roland Garros.

Seeking a remarkable 13th title at the clay-court grand slam, Nadal had suggested the conditions and heavier balls he described as "slow and dangerous" could impact his hopes.

He came into Monday's meeting with the world number 83 having only played one tournament since February due to the coronavirus pandemic, losing to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals in Rome.

Neither the balls nor any Nadal rust could prevent him from claiming a 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory, though, Gerasimov's admirable resistance fading after he turned his ankle in the third set.

The first break came Nadal's way courtesy of a deft drop shot and that was enough to claim the first set, which he wrapped up with an ace out wide.

Gerasimov showed impressive athleticism for a man of his 6ft 5in frame but could not find his range when it mattered, and he fired a forehand long to hand Nadal the second set.

The Belarusian looked on course to prolong the inevitable after breaking for the first time to start the third to take a 2-0 lead.

However, Nadal soon erased the deficit and Gerasimov was never the same after receiving heavy strapping on his ankle in a medical timeout following a tumble on the decisive point of the set's fourth game.

Nadal will face world number 236 Mackenzie McDonald in the second round.

Andy Murray tasted defeat in his first match at the French Open in three years, going down in straight sets to Stan Wawrinka on the opening day of action at Roland Garros.

Competing in just his third grand slam singles match since the 2019 Australian Open due to hip surgery and the coronavirus pandemic, Murray could not live with the 2015 winner.

Wawrinka held serve throughout to prevail 6-1 6-3 6-2 in a time of one hour and 37 minutes as he set up a meeting with Dominik Koepfer in the second round.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner eliminated 11th seed David Goffin and British number one Dan Evans lost to Kei Nishikori in five sets.


Lethargic Murray falls at first hurdle

Grand slam winners Murray and Wawrinka served up a treat when they met in the semi-finals here in 2017, but there was far less drama involved in this latest clash.

Wildcard entrant Murray lacked any sort of spark and looked subdued for the duration of the one-sided match as he failed to break his opponent's service game.

Wawrinka, who has himself slipped down the rankings, broke Murray in the third, fifth and seventh games as he eased into a one-set lead.

It was a similar case in the second set, with the Swiss continuing to dominate and earning an all-important break in the sixth game to leave Murray on the ropes.

And any hope of a fightback from Murray, as was the case in last month's five-set victory over Yoshihito Nishioka in the US Open first round, were soon ended for good.

Murray squandered three break points in the second game of the final set and Wawrinka did not look back, seeing out the game with an ace in an easier victory that expected.


Sinner stuns Goffin 

Sinner caught the eye when becoming the first Italian to win the Next Gen ATP Finals 10 months ago and he is now making his mark in majors.

The 19-year-old won 11 games in a row en route to a convincing 7-5 6-0 6-3 victory and will now take on French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi in the next round.

"He maybe didn't feel that well on court," Sinner said in his post-match interview. "I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused."

 

Nishikori sees off Evans in five sets 

British number one Evans was seeking his first win at Roland Garros but, dealt a tough hand against former world number four Nishikori, it was a fourth first-round exit in five years.

After a sluggish start that saw him drop the first set, Nishikori soon recovered and took a 2-1 lead in the contest, only for Evans to show good fighting spirit in the fourth set.

Despite battling back from 0-3 in the deciding set, Evans' revival was short-lived as he went down 1-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 in three hours and 49 minutes.

"The end result was that I lost," Evans said. "I lost another first round which is a little disappointing and now I get ready for the indoor hardcourts."

Isner sails through, Coric falls

World number 23 John Isner made light work of Elliot Benchetrit, holding serve throughout in a routine 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory to set up a meeting with Sebastian Korda.

Borna Coric had less success against Norbert Gombos, though, the 24th seed exiting the tournament with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 defeat.

The US Open quarter-finalist lost serve in a gruelling third game and that was a sign of things to come against his stubborn opponent.

Gombos, who reached round three in 2017, recovered after losing the second set to get over the line and produce a big upset on an eventful opening day in Paris.

Andrey Rublev heads to Roland Garros with a third title of the season secured after Stefanos Tsitsipas let victory slip from his grasp at the Hamburg European Open.

As the French Open began, Rublev and Tsitsipas were almost 600 miles away in northern Germany, duking it out for ATP Tour silverware.

Both will arrive in the French capital after a string of fine clay-court results; however, Rublev will be the happier man after a 6-4 3-6 7-5 success in the final saw him pocket the €79,330 winner's cheque.

Rublev pouched trophies at the start of the year in Qatar and Adelaide, and only Novak Djokovic has won more matches on the tour this season than the 22-year-old Russian's haul of 25 victories.

After they split the opening two sets, It seemed a sure thing that Greek world number six Tsitsipas would wrap up the title after surging to a 5-3 lead in the decider.

However, he could not get across the line, with Rublev landing his first title at ATP 500 level by reeling off four successive games.

Tsitsipas was seeking his second title of 2020, having won in Marseille in February, but his win-loss record in ATP finals now stands at 5-7, with his inability to close out this match posing questions about his prospects of competing deep into the coming fortnight in Paris.

Rublev has only played the French Open once, losing in the first round three years ago. He faces an opener against American Sam Querrey, while Tsitsipas starts against Spain's Jaume Munar.

Andrey Rublev described the Hamburg European Open as "the most special tournament" in his life just now after setting up a final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 22-year-old Russian lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili in last year's final and will look to go one better after battling past Casper Ruud in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Rublev, aiming for a third title of 2020 and fifth of his burgeoning career, outfought Ruud on the way to a 6-4 6-2 win at the clay-court event.

"The match was really tough. I think everyone saw how tough it was, how [many] long rallies we had, how many chances both of us had," said Rublev.

He added, quoted on the ATP website: "It could [have been] easily 6-4, 6-2 to Casper’s side, but I was a little bit lucky. In the most important moments and at the end, the match was for me. I am really happy with the way I played today."

Rublev fell in the second round in Rome last week, following a run to the US Open quarter-finals, and his form has been inconsistent this year, yet sporadically brilliant.

Titles came in Qatar and Adelaide at the start of the year, and now another beckons in Germany.

The fifth seed said: "[It is] my first ever time that two years in a row I reached a final at the same tournament. For the moment, it is the most special tournament for me. We will see how it goes [on Sunday]."

Tsitsipas, seeded second, halted Chilean Cristian Garin in a three-set thriller he described as "nerve-wracking".

The Greek second seed will chase a second title of 2020 on Sunday, before joining Rublev in heading to the French Open.

A 7-5 3-6 6-4 success against Garin sent the world number six through to a 12th career ATP final, battle-hardened for the clash with Rublev.

The French Open also begins on Sunday, but Tsitsipas and Rublev are not due to begin their challenges in Paris on the opening day of the grand slam.

Novak Djokovic insists he is "back to normal" ahead of the French Open and determined to be the "best version" of himself in Paris after being thrown out of the US Open.

Djokovic left Flushing Meadows in shame this month, having been disqualified for striking a linesperson with the ball during his last-16 match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

The world number one was full of remorse but responded by winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome last week to take his tally of ATP Masters 1000 titles to a record 36.

Djokovic, who will play Mikael Ymer in the first round in a Paris major that starts on Sunday, says the dramatic incident in New York is still on his mind but it will not affect him in the final grand slam of the year.

"Obviously I am going to be extra careful of hitting a tennis ball around the court," said the 17-time major champion.

"That's something that is obviously staying in my mind after what happened in New York. It's going to stay there for a long time.

"Of course, I will make sure I don't make the same mistake twice. Whatever happened, happened. I had to accept it and move on. Of course, it was a shock for me and a lot of people.

"But that's life, that's sport. These things can happen. But I don't think that this will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court.

"I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

"I did not feel any kind of emotional disturbance or difficulty to actually be able to play or still express my emotions in whatever way. Of course, I try to keep my negative reactions on the court as less as possible.

"But I guess it happens as well. I'm not going to be down on myself because of that. I also try to kind of accept it and forgive myself for what happened and move on. I'm human being. I have flaws as everybody else.

"Regardless of the amount of years and experience that I have on the tour, these things can still happen. It's because I care. I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match.

"Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way. But it is what it is.

"As I said, I don't think significantly it does impact me that I'm unable now to show the fist pump or scream or something like that. It has happened in Rome already and everything is fine. I'm back to normal."

Roger Federer was once a habitual racket smasher but give him a chance and he'll duck this argument.

Rafael Nadal possesses just about the meanest snarl in tennis but he could let this argument drop happily too.

Even Novak Djokovic, no stranger to an argument, is averse to causing a rumpus in this case.

Yet the question of which of the Big Three is the greatest men's tennis player of all time can provoke boisterous debate beyond the locker room, sparking hostility even among the sport's Prosecco and prawn sandwich brigade. Never underestimate the ferocity of a tennis stan.

There may never be a satisfactory answer, given that in all likelihood, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will each end their careers on or around the 20 grand slam titles mark.

Considering Pete Sampras was once portrayed as super-human for reaching 14 slams, the achievements by the three titans of the modern game beggar belief.

Each man has taken tennis to new levels, in his own way, and as a new generation begins to rise, we have reached an apposite moment to examine the numbers that show how they have moved the sport forward.

Men's tennis has three G.O.A.T.s and at this stage to pick one above another would be churlish.

FEDERER: ELDER STATESMAN, STILL LEADING THE RACE

From his Roland Garros debut in 1999 to a semi-final run at the Australian Open this year, the longevity of Federer has been almost as astonishing as some of his easy-on-the-eye tennis.

The list of records he has racked up is bewildering, beginning with his unmatched 20 men's slam singles titles. The Swiss was the first man to go beyond Sampras, and in the men's game he is the only player to win three slams in the same season three times (2004, 2006, 2007), make 10 successful title defences, and win more than 100 matches at two different grand slams - Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

He has reached an unsurpassed 31 slam singles finals (Nadal - 27, Djokovic - 26), and a mind-boggling 46 semi-finals at the four majors. Between the 2004 French Open, where he lost in the first round, and the 2010 edition at Roland Garros, where he fell in the quarters, Federer marched to the semi-final or further at 23 successive majors, winning 14 titles in that time.

Reaching seven or more finals in any grand slam is a superlative feat, but Federer has achieved that in three of the four majors (Wimbledon - 12, US Open - 7, Australian Open - 7), and twice won five consecutive titles at individual majors (Wimbledon 2003-07, US Open 2004-08).

And that is just scratching the surface.

He has spent the most weeks at world number one (310) and the most consecutively so (237), and sits third on the ATP list for the most aces in a career (11,344), behind only the towering duo of one-trick wonders Ivo Karlovic and John Isner.

NADAL: ONCE THE YOUNG UPSTART, FOR WHOM TWENTY WON'T BE PLENTY

Nadal can almost claim to have equalled Federer's 10 successful title defences, after retaining his crown nine times at Roland Garros, while winning Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, having had to miss the 2009 tournament through injury.

There are plenty of records the remarkable Spaniard can call his own though, beginning with his 12 French Open triumphs, the most titles won by a player in any of the four grand slam tournaments.

From 2005 to 2014, Nadal won at least one slam every season, the 10-year streak setting him apart from Federer and Djokovic who have never managed such consistency.

By securing Olympic singles gold in Beijing in 2008 and doubles at Rio in 2016, Nadal became the first man to claim the Games double on top of the career singles Grand Slam at all four majors.

The Mallorca native's win-loss percentage on tour is the highest in men's tennis, with 992 wins and 201 defeats amounting to an 83.2 per cent hit rate (Djokovic - 83.1, Bjorn Borg - 82.4, Federer - 82.1).

His 19 grand slams is not a record, of course, but another in Paris over the coming fortnight would take Nadal level with Federer.

DJOKOVIC: THE INTERLOPER WHO COULD OUTLAST THE DIAMOND DUO

Like Federer, Djokovic has reached eight or more semi-finals at each of the four majors, on his way to 17 slam titles. He was firm favourite for the US Open and an 18th slam earlier this month until being disqualified for carelessly hitting a ball that struck a linesperson.

Many expect Djokovic to pass both Nadal and Federer and nudge to 21, 22 slams, maybe higher still, yet the 33-year-old may find that a tall order as the likes of Dominic Thiem break through.

On and off the court, there have been moments to regret this year for Djokovic, but his career stands up to the best, and in many aspects he leaves Federer and Nadal standing.

The Serbian is the only player in tennis to have won all four majors, the end-of-year ATP Finals and each of the nine highly-prized Masters 1000 tournaments.

With his run of triumphs from Wimbledon in 2015 to the French Open in 2016, Djokovic became the first man to hold all four grand slam singles titles at the same time since Rod Laver in 1969 achieved a calendar clean sweep.

Nobody has won as many Masters 1000 titles in a career (Djokovic - 36, Nadal - 35, Federer - 28), or reached as many ATP finals in a season as Djokovic's 15 in 2015, when he won 11 tournaments.

Again, scratching the surface. Djokovic's records run to page after page, his place in the pantheon assured.

To think, he was once the interloper on the celebrated Nadal-Federer rivalry. Now he has a chance to outstrip both in the numbers game.

TOGETHER: DOMINANCE LIKE TENNIS HAS NEVER KNOWN BEFORE

Federer won his first major at Wimbledon in 2003, and taking in that and the grand slams that have come since, the combination of Basel's favourite son, Spanish superstar Nadal and Belgrade favourite Djokovic have scooped 56 of 68 singles titles.

Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, with three titles each, are the only two other men to win more than one slam during that 17-year span. Barely anyone else had a look-in.

Such dominance is without equal in tennis.

To take previous eras as comparison points, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors won all their grand slams between the 1974 Australian Open and the 1984 US Open, collectively gathering 26 titles across those 44 tournaments. Sensational, and it remains important to make that point, but the haul has been blown out of the water by the modern-day Big Three.

Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg were the next generation and scooped 20 slams (Lendl - 8, Becker - 6, Edberg - 6) from a 48-tournament stretch beginning at the 1984 French Open and running through to the 1996 Australian Open.

The mighty American triumvirate of Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier together earned 26 majors (Sampras - 14, Agassi - 8, Courier - 4) from the 1990 US Open through to the 2003 Australian Open - a 50-slam span.

Agassi won in Australia in 2003, and Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero took the French Open title in the spring. Come the English summer, it was Federer's turn at the wheel for the first time, that first Wimbledon title signalling the dawning of a new era.

LEGACY: THESE RECORDS COULD STAND THE TEST OF TIME

As the sun begins to slowly descend, with Federer now 39 years old and Nadal and Djokovic well into their mid-thirties, the famous wins in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York will become fewer, and soon they will belong to memory.

Another great generation will rise; perhaps not for some years to come, but doubtless they will rise.

Yet asking them to scale the winning heights of the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic triad might be another matter entirely.

Rafael Nadal is braced for the most difficult conditions he has ever faced at the French Open and believes new heavier balls could be "dangerous" for players at Roland Garros.

Nadal is a firm favourite to take his record tally of titles at Roland Garros to an astonishing 13 in Paris, where the final grand slam of the year starts on Sunday.

The Spanish great has the chance to match Roger Federer's record haul of 20 major triumphs in a tournament he has dominated, with his Swiss rival absent after undergoing knee surgery.

Yet Nadal comes into his favourite event, staged four months later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic, on the back of a rare clay-court loss to Diego Schwartzman in the Internazionali d'Italia quarter-finals.

Novak Djokovic said Nadal is beatable on clay and the 34-year-old agrees, particularly in much cooler climate with slower balls that he has become accustomed to. 

Asked about world number one Djokovic's comments, he said: "Yeah, 100 per cent true. I always have been beatable on clay. He beat me a lot of times. But at the same time is true that I had a lot of success in this surface.

"The situation is special. Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros for so many different facts. The ball is completely different.

"The ball is super slow, heavy. It's very cold. Slow conditions. Of course, the preparations have been less than usual. But you know what, I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible, to practice with the right attitude, to give me a chance.

"That's the main goal for me. Be competitive on Monday [when he plays Egor Gerasimov in the first round], and let's try. Just day by day. I know very well this place. Is about be patient, be positive just trying to find the positive vibes every single day."

Nadal says he has practiced with the new balls in his homeland and is not happy with the change, which he believes could cause players to sustain injuries.

"I practiced with the balls in Mallorca before the comeback. In Mallorca with warm conditions, the ball was very slow, I do not think it is a good ball to play on clay.

"That is my personal opinion. Is not the right ball to play on clay court. Even with these conditions it makes things tougher. But I knew before arrived here. No problem at all. I'll just accept the challenge.

"I really believe that the organisation needs to take a look on that for the next couple of years, for the health of the players, too, because the ball super heavy becomes dangerous for the elbow and for the shoulders, I think.

"But this year it is what we have. I'm just staying positive with this. I know we are going to have to play with this ball, so I need to find the best feelings possible with these conditions.

"That's what I am looking forward to, just practicing with the right motivation, right ambition, and then let's see what I can do or what I can't do."

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says it "deeply regrets" new government restrictions that will only allow 1,000 spectators per day into Roland Garros to watch the French Open. 

Tournament organisers were forced to reduce the number of people allowed into the famous venue on a daily basis from 11,500 to 5,000 last week due to new rules introduced to try and stop the rise in coronavirus infection rates. 

Just two days before the grand slam gets under way, the FFT has had to inform those with tickets that they may be left disappointed due to further restrictions. 

A daily draw will now take place to determine who will be able to attend what will be the last major of the year. 

A statement on the French Open website said: "Following the announcements made by government authorities, 1,000 spectators will be permitted to enter the Roland Garros grounds per day. 

"This cap applies across all 16 courts in the 12-hectare site and is equivalent to one 35th of the usual number of spectators that have attended in the first week of the main draw in previous years.    

"From the very outset of the public health crisis that our country is experiencing, the French Tennis Federation has consistently worked closely with government departments, to determine how to organise the tournament in the current situation.  It deeply regrets these new restrictions. 

"On Sunday, 27 September, the world's greatest players will compete in the main draw, in a transformed stadium, in a tournament broadcast in 222 countries around the world. 

"The new rules mean that we will be required to adapt our ticketing situation, by organising a draw for each day of the tournament among the current ticket-holders. These draws will be supervised by a legal custodian."

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