In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – a statement largely true until Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene and made the French Open his own.

Since breaking through for his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005, only three other men – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – have managed to interrupt Nadal's dominance in Paris.

Nadal has won 13 French Open men's singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year's edition.

Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against defending champion Nadal adding to his mammoth and unprecedented haul in the French capital, where the second grand slam of the year gets underway on Sunday.

On the women's side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is looking to follow in the footsteps of Belgian great Justine Henin.

As all eyes shift to Court Philippe Chatrier and its surroundings, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

The 'King of Clay'

Nadal will open his title defence against Australian Alexei Popyrin. Since 2000, only Nadal (13) and Gustavo Kuerten (two) have won the French Open more than once.

The 34-year-old swept aside world number one Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer's all-time record. Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while has won each of the last 30.

The record for most slam titles on the men's circuit will also be up for grabs, with Nadal and the returning Federer seeking to snap their tie.

In the last 25 years, the number one seed has won the French Open on only five occasions – Nadal (2018, 2014 and 2011), Djokovic (2016) and Kuerten (2001). It does not bode well for top seed and 18-time major champion Djokovic, who is looking to close the gap on foes Nadal and Federer.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, who will face Tennys Sandgren in the first round, has reached the final in seven of the last 10 slams he contested, claiming six titles. However, the Serbian star has only featured in five French Open deciders (W1 L4) – fewer than in any of the other three major tournaments.

 

Declining Federer, Nadal challengers?

The French Open will be a welcome sight for tennis fans as Swiss great Federer, who has not played a slam since the 2020 Australian Open due to his troublesome knee and the coronavirus pandemic, makes his comeback.

Seeded eighth ahead of his opener against Denis Istomin, 2009 French Open champion Federer has only contested nine slam finals over the last 10 years (W4 L5) after reaching that stage in 22 major events in the previous decade (W16 L6). Since the beginning of 2016, the 39-year-old has only taken part in one French Open, in 2019, where he reached the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev has been flirting with a breakthrough slam triumph. The second seed is a finalist at the Australian Open (2021) and US Open (2019). Medvedev has reached the semi-finals in two of his most recent three appearances at a grand slam after going further than the fourth round in only one of his previous 13 major tournaments. However, the Russian has lost in the first round in each of his four Roland Garros appearances.

US Open champion and fourth seed Dominic Thiem has played two finals at Roland Garros (2018 and 2019) – more than in any other slam – but lost both of them against Nadal. He has won 80 per cent of his games at the French Open, his best win rate in any of the four majors.

Andrey Rublev is the only player to have taken part in the quarter-finals during each of the past three grand slams, including the 2020 French Open. But the seventh seed – who fired down 53 aces at Roland Garros last year, at least 14 more than any other player – is yet to progress further than that round.

Aslan Karatsev enjoyed a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park in February, the Russian qualifier making it all the way to the semi-finals. Only one qualifier has reached the semi-final stage at the French Open: Filip Dewulf in 1997.

 

Iga in 14-year first?

Having never progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, Polish teenager Swiatek broke through for her maiden slam title via the French Open last year, upstaging Sofia Kenin.

The 19-year-old Swiatek – who will return as the eighth seed in her defence, starting against Kaja Juvan – could become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin in 2005-2007 (three in a row). Only three players have won multiple titles in the women's tournament at the French Open in the 21st century: Henin (four), Serena Williams (three) and Maria Sharapova (two).

Swiatek could claim the French Open and Rome's Internazionali d'Italia in the same campaign. Only Serena Williams (2002 and 2013), Sharapova (2012), Monica Seles (1990), Steffi Graf (1987) and Chris Evert (1974, 1975 and 1980) have achieved the feat previously.

Swiatek celebrated slam glory in the absence of world number one and defending champion Ash Barty in 2020. No player has won more games on clay this season than Australian top seed Barty and Veronika Kudermetova (both 13).

Only Barty (three) has won more titles than third seed Aryna Sabalenka (two) in 2021 – the Belarusian is one of two players currently ranked in the top 20 in the WTA yet to reach a major quarter-final, alongside Maria Sakkari.

In a field also including four-time slam champion and reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka – the second seed – Sabalenka could become only the third woman to win the Madrid Open and French Open in the same season after Serena Williams in 2013 and Sharapova in 2014.

As for fourth seed Kenin, she could be just the fourth American player to reach back-to-back Roland Garros finals, after Serena Williams (2015-16), Martina Navratilova (1984-1987) and Evert (1973-1975, 1979-80 and 1983-1986).

 

All eyes on Serena

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

While the French clay is not one of her favourite surfaces, it could be the scene of a remarkable achievement following a lengthy wait.

Roland Garros is where Williams has the lowest winning percentage (84 per cent) and where she won the fewest titles (three, at least half as many as the other slams).

Williams won her maiden French Open in 2002 and could hoist the trophy aloft 19 years after her first success in Paris. The longest span between two majors wins for a single player in the Open era is already held by Williams (15 years between 1999 and 2014 at the US Open).

Irina-Camelia Begu awaits the seventh seed in the first round.

Novak Djokovic survived a second-set fightback from Andrej Martin to seal his place in the final of the Belgrade Open on Friday.

The world number one looked well placed to cruise to victory after taking just 38 minutes to win the first set 6-1, but qualifier Martin hit back in the second to force a decider.

Djokovic swiftly regained composure, though, with a bagel settling the contest 6-1 4-6 6-0 in his favour, and he will now have the backing of his home crowd as he looks to clinch his third Belgrade Open title and warm up for the French Open in style.

"I'm super excited to play in front of a Serbian crowd. This is my home town," said Djokovic, who previously won at the event in 2009 and 2011.

"I'm always excited, but also nervous, coming out on the court and playing in front of my home crowd. It's a very unique feeling. You feel a lot of pressure and expectations. But I'm just happy to fight for a trophy.

"I thought I started and finished the match really well, so I'll try to take those positive feelings into tomorrow's final. I also had some letdowns in concentration towards the end of the second set, and I'll try to correct those mistakes for tomorrow."

Standing in the way of a second title of the season for 34-year-old Djokovic is another qualifier, Slovakian Alex Molcan, who came from behind to beat Federico Delbonis 4-6 6-4 6-4.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open, Sebastian Korda, who has yet to drop a set this week, triumphed in an all-American semi-final contest, beating Tommy Paul 6-3 6-3 to reach his second Tour-level final.

Korda's win sets up a final against Italian Marco Cecchinato, who is aiming for his fourth career singles title after overcoming Jaume Munar 7-6 (7-2) 1-6 6-1.

Novak Djokovic felt he produced his best performance of the year in breezing past Federico Coria at the Belgrade Open for a milestone victory.

World number one Djokovic needed a little under an hour to beat Coria 6-1 6-0 on Thursday and set up a semi-final with Andrej Martin on home soil.

The victory moves the 34-year-old above Argentine great Guillermo Vilas for the fifth-most victories in the Open Era with 952.

He is 70 wins adrift of fourth-placed Rafael Nadal (1,022). Ivan Lendl (1,068) is third, behind Roger Federer (1,243), with Jimmy Connors holding the record of 1,274 wins.

Djokovic won 53 of the 75 points played against Coria and dropped just one game to remain on course for a third crown in Serbia ahead of the French Open.

"It was a great display," Djokovic said in his on-court interview. "It's probably one of the best matches, if not the best match, I played this year. I felt fantastic from the first point.

"It was the first time that I played against Coria and I tried to impose an aggressive style from the very beginning and not allow him to have too much time to play around. I played a phenomenal second set, really flawless.

"It's not always possible to play like this. But I think this definitely helps me feel better on the court. I think everything worked perfectly for me today."

Martin awaits Djokovic in the last four after the world number 119 recovered from a set down to beat Dusan Lajovic 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Alex Molcan remains in the hunt for a shock triumph in Belgrade, meanwhile, after beating Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-0 to set up a showdown with Federico Delbonis.

Eighth seed Delbonis advanced to his second semi-final of the season following Roberto Carballes Baena's withdrawal through illness.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Sebastian Korda eliminated Yoshihito Nishioka to set up an all-American semi-final with Tommy Paul, who took down Jan-Lennard Struff with a 6-2 6-4 victory.

Richard Gasquet was another seeded player to fall as he lost 6-1 6-1 to Jaume Munar, with the Spaniard now set to take on Italian wild card Marco Cecchinato – a straight-sets winner against lucky loser Norbert Gombos – for a place in the final.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could meet at the semi-final stage of the French Open, while Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty are in the same half of the draw.

Nadal will start his quest to win the Paris grand slam a staggering 14th time with a first-round encounter against Australian Alexei Popyrin next week.

Defending champion Nadal, the third seed, is in the same half of the draw as fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Federer, who could face the Serbian world number one in the last eight.

Top seed Djokovic, who is two major titles shy of the record of 20 held by Federer and Nadal, will take on Tennys Sandgren in the first round.

Swiss great Federer will come up against a qualifier in round one at Roland Garros, while two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is up against Pablo Andujar.

Pole Swiatek claimed her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year and takes on her close friend Kaja Juvan in the first round.

World number one Barty, who did not travel to Paris to defend her title in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has will make her return at the clay-court major against Bernarda Pera.

Serena Williams comes up against Irina-Camelia Begu, while last year's runner-up Sofia Kenin must do battle with the 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in a standout first-round match.

Carla Suarez Navarro can expect plenty of support when she takes on Sloane Stephens in her first tournament since successfully completing cancer treatment.

Novak Djokovic celebrated putting his name into "another history record book" after his victory over Mats Moraing at the Belgrade Open.

Djokovic's 6-2 7-6 (7-4) triumph on Tuesday set up a quarter-final tie against Federico Coria, and put the world number one level with Argentine great Guillermo Vilas for the fifth-most match wins in the Open Era (951).

It was his 17th win of the season, as the 34-year-old looks to prepare for the French Open with a third title success in his home tournament.

"With this win I managed to put my name in another history record book," Djokovic said following his victory.

"Obviously being in the same conversation with Vilas and the legends and greats of our game, it makes me really fulfilled and very joyful."

Djokovic has some way to go to make it into the top four on the all-time list, however.

He is 71 wins adrift of Rafael Nadal (1,022), who sits fourth. Ivan Lendl (1,068) is third, behind Roger Federer (1,243), who still has Jimmy Connors' record of 1,274 Open Era wins in his sights.

Despite a tight start, Djokovic got away from Moraing by winning four straight games.

Moraing hit back in set two to force a tie-break, but his illustrious opponent had too much quality.

"I was twice a break up in the second set so I maybe could have finished out the job earlier, but credit to him for fighting, for playing really well, for playing very courageous, very bold tennis," Djokovic said.

After turning 34 on Saturday, Djokovic received a bye to the second round of the Belgrade Open. He lost in the semi-finals of the Serbian Open last month, and came into this event on the back of a defeat to Nadal in the Rome Masters final.

Next up is Coria, who defeated Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2, though Djokovic's compatriot Pedja Krstin dropped out, crushed 6-0 6-0 by Slovakian Alex Molcan.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, fifth seed Richard Gasquet defeated Daniel Altmeier 6-3 6-3, while Sebastian Korda defeated Andreas Seppi to tee up a tie with top seed Lorenzo Sonego. 

Lorenzo Musetti claimed his 13th tour-level win of 2021 by overcoming Gianluca Mager, and the Italian's reward is a meeting with Yoshihito Nishioka, who beat Sam Querrey.

World number one Novak Djokovic will face Mats Moraing in the second round of the Belgrade Open on Tuesday.

Moraing, who is ranked 252 places below Djokovic, beat Egor Gerasimov 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 in a gruelling encounter on Monday.

Djokovic is seeking his 83rd Tour-level title as he warms up for the French Open, the main draw of which begins on May 30.

Fellow home favourite Dusan Lajovic, the highest seed to compete on day one, will meet Jeremy Chardy next after beating Ricardas Berankis in straight sets.

Eighth seed Federico Delbonis required three sets to see off Lukas Klein, while seventh seed Miomir Kecmanovic – another Serbian in the draw – was beaten 6-3 6-2 by Pablo Cuevas.

Veteran Fernando Verdasco set up a contest with Adrian Mannarino after an impressive 7-5 6-2 win over Lucas Pouille.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, all of Monday's play had to be cancelled due to persistent rain.

Fifth seed Richard Gasquet is in action on Tuesday.

Rafael Nadal believes his ability to handle pressure was key to a record-extending 10th Internazionali d'Italia win on Sunday.

Nadal overcame Novak Djokovic 7-5 1-6 6-3 to seal his first Masters 1000 triumph of the year, while improving to 4-2 in the finals he has played against the Serbian at the Foro Italico venue in Rome.

Victory also gave Nadal a 36th Masters 1000 crown, moving him level with Djokovic's all-time record since the series was established in 1990.

The 34-year-old king of clay-court tennis was delighted to get his hands on the trophy for a 10th time and said there has been no let-up in his motivation to succeed.

"It's amazing to have the trophy with me again, one more time here in Rome," Nadal said.

"I really wanted this 10th here in Rome. After achieving 10 at Roland Garros, 10 in Monte Carlo, 10 in Barcelona, I really wanted this one. It's a super important tournament for me.

"I went through a lot of things during the week. Some positive, some great moments, some lucky moments, suffering moments. At the end I think I played a very solid week of tennis. It's the right moment to win an important title."

Nadal added, quoted on the ATP website: "I don't put extra pressure on myself at all. I want to win every day and every tournament that I play. But the passion and the motivation to try is always the same. I know how to handle the pressure."

Nadal plans to rest for a few days before making minor tweaks to his game ahead of a tilt at a record-breaking 21st grand slam title at the French Open, which starts on May 30.

"I'll take a couple of days off and then start working," Nadal added. "I think I can work on a couple of things that I can do a little bit better. I think I have been improving this week, but I need to keep going with those improvements, because when you improve, you're able to do it every day for a longer time.

"I just need to keep going. I know what I need to work on over the next couple of weeks, and I'm going to do it. Work, relax mentally, and work the right way."

Djokovic spent almost five hours on court on Saturday in his rain-delayed quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas and subsequent semi-final triumph over Lorenzo Sonego.

However, he insisted fatigue was not behind his defeat.

"Not at all, I did not feel any fatigue," Djokovic said. "He managed to break my serve and played better, that's it.

"Until the last shot it was quite close. I had my shot to win it, but it wasn't meant to be. I didn't feel fatigue. Actually, I was very happy with the way I felt on the court. I could have gone for another few hours.

"I could have easily gone out of this tournament in the quarters. I'm very pleased with my fighting spirit. The level of tennis was higher and higher, actually.

"Yesterday I played great. Today I thought I also played at a high level. Unfortunately the decisive moments in the first and third sets just went his way. It was a bit unfortunate."

Rafael Nadal sealed a record-extending 10th Rome Masters title with a 7-5 1-6 6-3 win over Novak Djokovic at the Internazionali d'Italia.

It marked a first Masters 1000 triumph of the year for Nadal, who improved to 4-2 in the finals he has played against Djokovic at the Foro Italico venue.

Victory also secured Nadal a 36th Masters 1000 crown, moving him level with Djokovic's all-time record since the series was established in 1990.

Djokovic spent almost five hours on court on Saturday in his rain-delayed quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas and subsequent semi-final triumph over Lorenzo Sonego, but he showed no signs of fatigue in the opening stages in Rome.

The Serbian broke in Nadal's first service game to go 2-0 up, although Spaniard Nadal hit back in the next game before levelling matters at 2-2.

Nadal then broke again, taking advantage of an unconvincing service game from Djokovic at 5-5 on his way to sealing the opening set in one hour and 15 minutes.

Djokovic survived a break point at 1-1 in the second set, before breaking Nadal in the next game to move 3-1 ahead.

The Serbian reeled off five games in a row in all, setting up set point with his fifth ace of the match. He forced a backhand error from Nadal to take the second set in 43 minutes.

Nadal saved two break points at 2-2 in the final set, which provided him with the confidence to break to love and open up a 4-2 lead.

He sealed victory in two hours and 50 minutes, converting his second championship point when Djokovic sent a backhand long.

Novak Djokovic dug deep in the face of fierce Roman resistance to set up a showdown with Rafael Nadal in the men's final at the Internazionali d'Italia.

World number one Djokovic came from a set down overnight to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 7-5 7-5 early on Saturday, before returning to the court to face Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the evening.

The Rome crowd raucously rallied behind Sonego, who beat Andrey Rublev earlier in the day, and the 26-year-old rose to the challenge but eventually fell to a 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 defeat.

Djokovic had match points before serving for it at 6-5 in the second set, yet it was to prove a stirring game as the noisy home crowd encouraged Sonego, who snatched a gutsy break. The tie-break looked set to be wholly one-sided when Djokovic raced 3-0 ahead, but it was soon back on serve, partisan spectators at the Foro Italico roaring in delight at a double fault from the Serbian.

From 4-2 behind, Sonego surged to 6-4 ahead in the tie-break. He failed to convert a first set point when ripping a forehand into the net, but the set was his when Djokovic sent a backhand service return long.

Sonego then had 0-40 against the Djokovic serve at the start of the decider, but he could not force the break, and the top seed gained strength from that escape, eventually cruising to victory.

Five-time Rome champion Djokovic said on Amazon Prime: "I bounced back very well after the second set. Maybe if he started with a break up in the third, things would look differently. I also had my chances and I only had myself to blame for not closing the match in straight sets.

"But he's a quality player, very dynamic, it's not easy to play against him and obviously he had the crowd behind him. It was an electric atmosphere. In the end I managed to close out the match really well."

Looking ahead to tackling Nadal, Djokovic said: "I need to recover. Hopefully I'll have fresh legs because that's what I definitely will need and it's necessary to have a chance against Rafa. He also had some tough matches [this week] and hopefully I'll be fresh and I'll give it all."

While Djokovic and Sonego thrashed away into the night, nine-time champion Nadal had no such workload issues on Saturday.

Nadal beat Alexander Zverev on Friday to set up a semi-final against American Reilly Opelka, and the Spaniard snatched a 6-4 6-4 win from that contest to reach the title match.

Novak Djokovic had to battle back more than once before eventually getting the better of Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rome, keeping alive his hopes of a sixth Internazionali BNL d'Italia title.

The reigning champion was in trouble when play was halted in the quarter-final clash on Friday, trailing by a set and a break before persistent rain forced an early end to proceedings.

However, Djokovic was able to get back on level terms before the duo played out a see-saw deciding set that twice saw Tsitsipas hold control.

The sixth seed – seeking a first win over the world number one on clay at the third attempt – even had the chance to serve out for the match when 5-4 ahead, only to falter with the finishing line in sight.

Djokovic instead claimed three games in a row to finally prevail after three hours and 16 minutes on court. He has little time to recover, though, as his semi-final match is scheduled for later on Saturday.

Next up will be Italian Lorenzo Sonego, the home favourite having produced a comeback of his own to see off Andrey Rublev 3-6 6-4 6-3 in another contest held over from Friday.

Djokovic will hope for a more straightforward encounter after being pushed all the way by Tsitsipas, who will rue his missed chances.

The Greek led 2-1 in the final set after clinching a break that led to his opponent throwing his racket in frustration, earning him a code violation.

He had openings to extend that advantage in the fifth game before losing his serve in the eighth, only to quickly forge his way back in front to move to the brink.

Yet a gripping set of tennis that saw a combined total of 16 break-point opportunities somehow went Djokovic's way, a memorable victory wrapped up when Tsitsipas slashed a tired-looking backhand wide.

Novak Djokovic's Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarter-final with Stefanos Tsitsipas was halted by persistent rain on Friday with the world number one a set and a game down.

Reigning champion Djokovic, who is seeking a sixth triumph in Rome, struggled to get going against Tsitsipas and trails 6-4 2-1 ahead of the scheduled resumption of play on Saturday.

The top seed lost serve in the first game and continued to make some uncharacteristic errors that saw him trail 4-1 at one point.

While Djokovic did earn a first break in the sixth game, Tsitsipas stood firm to take the opening set and was in total control when again breaking his opponent early in the next set.

However, soon after the Greek had opened up a 2-1 advantage, the worsening conditions led to a pause in proceedings and organisers were eventually forced to bring the day's play to an end.

Djokovic, who converted just one of his six break point opportunities, will return to the court on Saturday and will need to improve if he is to join Rafael Nadal in the final four.

Nadal exacted some revenge on Alexander Zverev earlier on Friday to reach the semi-finals for a 12th time.

The Spaniard lost to Zverev at the same stage of the Madrid Open seven days ago but responded to questions over his form by easing through this latest encounter.

Nadal, who saved two match points before beating Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, raced 4-0 ahead in the first set against Zverev and had little trouble seeing the job through.

Aiming for a record-extending 10th title in the Italian capital, Nadal saved all eight break points he faced in the second set to advance 6-3 6-4 in two hours.

"I played more solid than Madrid. Conditions are different," he said in his post-match interview. "Here the conditions are a little more normal. I was able to control a little bit more."

"I'm happy. I played a very solid match with not many mistakes, playing the way that I have to. It's an important victory for me against a great player."

Nadal will face Reilly Opelka for a place in the final, the American beating qualifier Federico Delbonis 7-5 7-6 (7-2) to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

Opelka entered the tournament on a six-game losing streak, but he kept his good run going in Rome by earning the only break of the opening set in the 12th game.

Both players held throughout the second set and it was big-serving Opelka who prevailed 7-2 in the tie-break.

The day's other quarter-final between Lorenzo Sonego and Andrey Rublev also fell victim to the bad weather and will get under way on Saturday.

Rafael Nadal was forced to work hard to avoid becoming the biggest scalp in the last 16 at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Thursday.

Rival Novak Djokovic had already sealed his progress earlier in the day, beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in dominant fashion, but Nadal found life hard against Denis Shapovalov.

The Spaniard has already uncharacteristically lost twice on clay courts this season and was heading for a third as he trailed Shapovalov 3-6 0-3.

Even after Nadal recovered to take the second set, he faced two match points in the decider, battling bravely to a vital hold of serve that took the match well beyond the three-hour mark and into a tie-break.

There, Nadal finally took control, running out a 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) winner to reach the last eight and gain some much-needed minutes on the court.

"It's an important victory for me [to] be able to win matches like today, three hours and 27, in the Barcelona final three hours and 38, long matches," said Nadal.

"To be able to win these kinds of matches against young players gives me confidence with my body."

There had been no such test for Djokovic in his 6-2 6-1 rout, although the world number one felt that was in part due to his improving form.

"I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against [Taylor] Fritz a few days ago," he said. "I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better."

Djokovic will face fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas next after his straight-sets defeat of Matteo Berrettini.

For Nadal, Alexander Zverev is a similarly tricky opponent having come through three sets against Kei Nishikori.

But not every seed made it through, as Dominic Thiem succumbed to the last remaining home hopeful in Lorenzo Sonego, a dramatic 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) victor.

A meeting with Andrey Rublev is the Italian's reward, while there will be at least one unseeded player in the last four as Federico Delbonis prepares to take on Reilly Opelka.

Novak Djokovic cruised into the quarter-finals of the Internazionali d'Italia with a straight-sets demolition of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Thursday.

The world number one took just an hour and 10 minutes to wrap up an emphatic 6-2 6-1 victory at the Foro Italico.

Davidovich Fokina broke the top seed's serve in the first game of the match, but that proved to be a false dawn for the Spanish qualifier.

Djokovic put the 21-year-old under huge pressure with another returning masterclass, breaking back immediately and on two more occasions to seal the first set.

The 18-time grand slam champion was relentless in the second set, forcing Davidovich Fokina's unforced error count up to 30 as he breezed into the last eight.

Djokovic, who has reached at least the quarter-final stage in each of his 15 appearances at the prestigious tournament in Rome, was waiting to learn whether he would face Stefanos Tsitsipas or Matteo Berrettini for a place in the semi-finals.

The Serbian said: "I thought I played well. He started well and broke my serve in the first game. I made some errors, but I managed to break back right away and establish the control and consistency on the court.

"I think from the back of the court I was just a bit more solid than him.

"He made some unforced errors and double faults in key moments, which obviously helped me get that necessary break forward.

"I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against [Taylor] Fritz a few days ago. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better."

Novak Djokovic returned following a rain delay to beat Taylor Fritz in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia after Felix Auger-Aliassime dumped Diego Schwartzman out.

Djokovic, playing his first match since a shock loss to Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals of the Serbia Open on home soil, dispatched American Fritz 6-3 7-6 (7-5) on Tuesday.

The world number one, who missed the Madrid Open, won the first three games of the match and saved both break points he faced in the opening set.

Fritz had broken for a second time in the second set to level at 5-5 when the rain came at the Foro Italico, but the top seed was able to come back out on court to finish off the job and will face Cameron Norrie or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round.

Auger-Aliassime secured the third victory over a top-10 opponent in his fledgling career, beating eighth seed Schwartzman 6-1 6-3 to move into round three.

The 20-year-old Canadian only needed 64 minutes to send the Argentine packing, converting five of the six break-point opportunities he earned.

Matteo Berrettini saw off Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the first round less than 48 hours after the Italian was beaten by Alexander Zverev in the Madrid Open final.

Gael Monfils was unable to win his first match since the Australian Open, as Lorenzo Sonego got the better of the fit-again Frenchman, who had been sidelined with a calf injury, 6-4 5-7 6-4.

Reilly Opelka moved into the last 16 with a 6-4 6-4 defeat of Lorenzo Musetti, while Pablo Carreno Busta's withdrawal due to lower back pain handed Kei Nishikori a walkover.

Daniil Medvedev and David Goffin were unable to start their second-round matches due to the weather in Rome.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal learned their round of 32 opponents after Monday's action at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome.

Taylor Fritz will be hoping for a first win over world number one Djokovic at the fourth attempt after recovering from 1-3 down in the first set to defeat Monte Carlo semi-finalist Dan Evans 6-3 6-2.

"We played twice on clay in 2018, in Monte-Carlo and Madrid," the American said, having bounced back from two down to take Djokovic to five sets in this year's Australian Open.

"I got beaten pretty bad those two times. I feel better prepared to play him now, after the match in Australia."

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner continued his superb form to set up a meeting with Nadal, a nine-time winner in the Italian capital.

Sinner dispatched Ugo Humbert 6-2 6-4 in 90 minutes for his 20th win of the season and will now look to improve upon a straight-sets loss to Nadal at Roland Garros last October.

World number 27 Aslan Karatsev matched Sinner's 2021 haul by overcoming Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 and is up next for Daniil Medvedev.

Marin Cilic will take on fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas after battling to a 4-6 6-2 6-3 triumph over Alexander Bublik, while Andrey Rublev and Dominic Thiem – also the beneficiaries of byes – will face Jan-Lennard Struff and Marton Fucsovics respectively after their straight-sets wins over lucky losers Aljaz Bedene and Yoshihito Nishioka.

The most notable casualty in Monday's round one action was Hubert Hurkacz who, who retired at 6-4 2-0 down to Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti.

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