Preview: Next Gen Finalists Alcaraz, Korda Pitted In Paris
The Roland Garros men's singles third round begins on Friday in Paris, with the top half of the draw back in action after a day's rest. Four of the tournament's Top 6 seeds are in action in a star-studded top half of the bracket, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev.
All of the Top 12 seeds have reached the last 32 in Paris, the first time that's happened at a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2011.
 Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs.  Sebastian Korda (USA)
If he is to reach the Roland Garros last 16 for the first time, Alcaraz will have to get through the only man to beat him on clay this season. The Spaniard holds a 17-1 record on the dirt in 2022, winning titles in Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona and Madrid. But Sebastian Korda spoiled his start to the European swing with a 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 6-3 decision at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters as both men made their Monaco debuts.
Alcaraz and Korda also met at the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals last November, where the Spaniard won a straight-sets final. Their third-round showdown on Court Philippe Chatrier will be a third meeting in seven months.
Since that defeat in Monte Carlo, Alcaraz has not lost a match. The 19-year-old won back-to-back titles in Barcelona and Madrid and has extended his win streak to 12 in Paris.
For the second time on that 12-match run, he won after saving a match point on Wednesday against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Alcaraz did the same against Alex de Minaur in the Barcelona semi-finals, when he saved two match points before going on to win the title in his home nation.
Alcaraz's red-hot run has seen him rise to No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, with many pundits predicting him to rise to the top spot in short order. But the 19-year-old is handling the pressure like a seasoned veteran — despite the fact that a win over Korda would make him the youngest man to reach the Roland Garros fourth round since Djokovic in 2006.
"It's great that the people talk about you, think that I'm going to be No. 1 in the world, but of course it's a little bit [of] pressure on me. But I try not to think about it. Of course [to] be No. 1 in the world is my dream, my dream since I start playing tennis.
"So I'm working harder on it, but trying not to think about it."
Korda booked his third-round place with straight-sets wins over John Millman and Richard Gasquet. With a win over Alcaraz, the American would equal his debut run to the fourth round as a qualifier at Roland Garros 2020.
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs.  Botic van de Zandschulp (NED)
Nadal has cruised into the third round in typically dominant fashion, dropping just 14 games in six sets against Jordan Thompson and Corentin Moutet. The 13-time Roland Garros champion is two wins away from a potential quarter-final showdown with Novak Djokovic, a contest that would be a rematch of the pair's 2021 semi-final, won by the Serbian.
The fast start is a welcome one for Nadal, who played just two clay events in the buildup to Roland Garros following a rib fracture that sidelined him for six weeks. In Rome, he lost to Denis Shapovalov as his movement was hampered by his chronic foot injury. But it's so far, so good in Paris.
"Preparation hasn't been perfect, so I didn't anticipate a perfect start to the tournament," Nadal said after downing Moutet for his 300th Grand Slam match win. "But [I] have been quite well. I am positive about the things that I did out there tonight. Of course there is room to improve and I need to improve if I want to keep having chances to go deeper.
"Tomorrow [is] another day to keep finding solutions and keep finding the best feelings possible. Let's see. I am happy now. [It's] just about focus on the things that I need to keep going to keep doing to be better and better."
Nadal's 300 Grand Slam match wins are the third-most all-time, behind only Roger Federer an Djokovic.
|Player||GS Match Wins||GS Titles|
|1. Roger Federer||369||20|
|2. Novak Djokovic||325||20|
|3. Rafael Nadal||300||21|
|4. Jimmy Connors||233||8|
|5. Andre Agassi||224||8|
Botic van de Zandschulp led Fabio Fognini by two sets to love before the Italian retired from their match Wednesday, confirming the 26-year-old's first trip to the third round in Paris. Last May, the Dutchman qualified for his first Roland Garros and reached the second round as the World No. 154. Since then, he has shot up to a career-high of No. 29 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings behind a breakout run to the US Open quarter-finals — where he was the only man to take a set off eventual champion Daniil Medvedev — and a trip to his first ATP Tour final less than a month ago on the clay of Munich.
The Dutchman beat Casper Ruud and Miomir Kecmanovic in Germany but was forced to retire with chest pains against Holger Rune in the title match. All three of those men progressed to the Roland Garros third round with Thursday wins.
Seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam, Van de Zandschulp is gearing up for his first match against a member of the Big Four. He and Nadal will play on Court Suzanne Lenglen in what will be the Spaniard's first Roland Garros match outside Chatrier since the 2021 third round.
 Diego Schwartzman (ARG) vs.  Grigor Dimitrov (BEL)
Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov meet for the second time this season and the fifth time overall on Court Simonne Mathieu. The Bulgarian leads the ATP Head2Head series 3-1 and has won the last three meetings, including in Madrid earlier this month. Prior to that 6-0, 6-3 victory for the Bulgarian, their most recent meeting came in 2017 at Wimbledon.
Dimitrov blitzed into the Roland Garros third round with one-sided wins over Marcos Giron and Borna Coric. He dropped just three games in his first four sets combined and beat Coric 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round. The former World No. 3 has had big results on big stages already this season, reaching the Monte Carlo semi-finals in April and the Indian Wells quarter-finals in March.
The popular Bulgarian, who can match his best result at Roland Garros (2020) by reaching the fourth round, was asked about the impact of having full crowds at Roland Garros for the first time since 2019.
"I have always appreciated the fans, but this time they are part of it even more," he said. "I think after such a break away from everything, especially the fans, it's just great to finally see and feel that energy.
"I have realized ever since everything is getting back to normal... 'Wow, this makes a huge difference.' You feel the energy, and the crowd I think appreciates it even more. Also, that's partly why we enjoy the sport itself. Without the fans, we definitely won't be the same."
Schwartzman matched Stefanos Tsitsipas and Zverev by battling back from two sets down to stay alive in Paris. The Argentine turned the tables on Jaume Munar in a 2-6, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old started the European clay swing strongly with a quarter-final run in Monte Carlo and a semi-final showing in Barcelona, but fell in the second round in both Madrid and Rome. He is seeking his fourth Roland Garros in the past five years, including a run to the 2020 semis, where he lost to eventual champion Nadal.
Best Of The Rest
Novak Djokovic continues his title defence against Aljaz Bedene on Chatrier as the Serbian looks to maintain his perfect set record this fortnight after wins over Yoshihito Nishioka and Alex Molcan. The World No. 1 is on a seven-match win streak following his Rome title run. Slovenia's Bedene is into the Roland Garros third round for the third time, but has never advanced beyond that stage.
Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) May 25, 2022
Third seed Zverev faces American Brandon Nakashima after saving a match point in his comeback against Sebastian Baez on Wednesday. The German has been in fine form on the European clay, reaching the Barcelona final as well as semi-finals in Monte Carlo and Rome. Nakashima, making his Roland Garros debut, has won consecutive clay-court main-draw matches for the first time this season to reach the third round.
Ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime is also in action Thursday. After earning his first Roland Garros wins, he faces Filip Krajinovic for a spot in the last 16. In a third Friday matchup between seeded opponents, 10th seed Cameron Norrie battles 21st seed Karen Khachanov on Mathieu.
In doubles action, Ram/Salisbury face Miomir Kecmanovic and Nicholas Monroe, while Granollers/Zeballos take on the French pair of Adrian Mannarino and Albano Olivetti. Top seeds Ram/Salisbury reached the Roland Garros quarter-finals in 2019 and 2020 and have won Grand Slam titles at the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 US Open.