Idol Nadal ousts Korda to reach French quarters

While there have been upsets in the women’s draw, it’s business as usual for Rafael Nadal among the men at the French Open.

Against a player who loves him so much that he named his cat after him, Nadal showed no mercy with Sebastian Korda, seeing off the 20-year-old qualifier with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 thumping Sunday on Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the 14th time.

Nadal has yet to drop a set in his pursuit of a 13th French Open crown that would give him 20 major titles overall, tying Roger Federer’s record.

Korda, the son of 1998 Australian champion Petr Korda, got swept away by Nadal’s power on the red clay but did get consoling words of encouragement from his 34-year-old tennis idol, who said the youngster’s play was “really impressive.”

“All of our generation, we try very hard to be passionate,” Nadal said. “If that’s a good inspiration for the young generation, that’s good.”

Nadal’s opponent will be dangerous debutant Jannik Sinner. By making the men’s last eight as a newcomer, the 19-year-old Italian matched a feat last achieved by Nadal himself, in 2005, on his march to the first of his 12 titles in Paris.

So impressive has Sinner been on the clay that his 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win against US Open finalist Alexander Zverev hardly seemed like an upset, despite the 68-spot gulf separating them in tour rankings. Sinner pulled the sixth-seeded German this way and that with precision groundstrokes and unfurled his wingspan to make 21 winners at the net.

Korda’s long-term sights are set on winning at least two Grand Slam titles, one more than his dad. In the meantime, the spanking from Nadal was “definitely the best moment of my life.”

“Super awesome,” he said. “I asked him for a signed shirt when we were tapping rackets and he said, ‘Yeah, no problem.’ So I have one in my bag right now. So I’m super stoked.”

Although Nadal and Sinner have practiced together, their match will be the first between the 34-year-old and the youngest man in a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Novak Djokovic in 2006.

“A big challenge,” Nadal said. “Amazing potential. He moves the hand very quick and he’s able to produce amazing shots.”

After his loss, Zverev said that he was unable to compete with full force due to illness.

“I’m completely sick. I can’t really breathe, as you can hear by my voice,” Zverev told reporters, in a video conference while wearing a black mouth-and-nose covering. “I had fever as well. Yeah, I’m not in the best physical state. [Sinner] plays well, but I didn’t do anything today. Everything I was doing I was just putting the ball in the court and letting him do everything.”

After Zverev lost in the final of the US Open, he revealed that his parents had tested positive for COVID-19, but showed no symptoms. On Sunday, when a reporter seemed to be leading up to asking about COVID-19, the German player shut him down, refusing to take the question due to past history with the reporter.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN’s Pete Bodo was used in this report.

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