Rafael Nadal drops a set but sweeps past Goffin in Paris
Roger Federer becomes oldest man to reach French Open fourth round since 1972
Rafael Nadal beat David Goffin to reach the fourth round of the French Open. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty
The 11-time champion had won all his matches in straight sets the last three years apart from in the quarter-finals 12 months ago, when he lost one set against Diego Schwartzman.
Nadal tore through the opening two sets against 27th seed Goffin but the Belgian fought back impressively to take the third before the Spaniard completed a 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3 victory.
On the 10th anniversary of his most famous defeat, when he was beaten in the fourth round by Robin Soderling to lose on the Paris clay for the first time, Nadal seemed in a hurry to write a happier story on May 31at.
He raced through the first five games, and Goffin, who had won his first two matches with impressive ease, struggled simply to get a foothold in the match.
But things changed in the third set as Goffin matched his opponent stride for stride before breaking serve for the first time in the match in the ninth game and serving it out.
It was the first set Goffin has managed to win against Nadal in four meetings on clay, and the earliest round in which the 32-year-old has lost a set here for six years.
But Goffin was unable to turn a set into a real challenge to Nadal, who wrapped up victory after two hours and 49 minutes.
Earlier Federer celebrated his 400th Grand Slam match with an easy victory over Norway’s Ruud, winning 6-3 6-1 7-6(10-8) to become the oldest male player to reach the fourth round at the French Open since 1972.
The 37-year-old Swiss showed little mercy to his 20-year-old opponent, whose father Christian reached the third round when Federer first played on the ‘terre battue’ of Roland Garros as a wild card entrant in 1999. Federer lost that year in the first round.
The world number three needed little more than an hour to pick up the first two sets, but a rare lapse in concentration allowed Ruud, ranked 63, to pick up an early break in the third set.
The Swiss reeled the youngster back in, forcing the game to a tie-break where he squandered three match points before going on to win.
“I liked how he figured things out after going on a tough run there of nine games,” Federer said in a post-match press conference. “The third set could have gone either way. He had chances early, then later, and then again after. It was nice to see him hang in there.
“He’s got a great attitude, very calm, very quiet, maybe very Norwegian.”
Federer was making his first appearance at Roland Garros since he reached the quarter-finals in 2015. He withdrew from the event in 2016 and missed the entire clay court season in 2017 and 2018 to focus on grass.
“I thought (today’s game) was tough, even though I had a good run there for a while. That also is very important for me, to know... that I can run through a set and a half and just take care of business. Gives me confidence for the next match, that’s for sure,” Federer said.
As he signed autographs at the end, a female fan said: “Roger, I’ve never seen you sweat before, this is crazy.” Federer quipped back: “I know, I don’t know what’s going on, I must be getting old!”
Federer is vying for his second French Open title 10 years after his first in 2009, which would set a record for the longest gap between winning a second title at a Grand Slam in the Open era. He will meet Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round.