Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will go head to head in a clay-court clash of the titans after both players sealed their place in the French Open quarter-final.
Djokovic cruised through 6-1 6-2 6-3 against Frenchman Richard Gasquet while Nadal beat America’s Jack Sock 6-3 6-1 5-7 6-2 to set-up a 44th meeting between the duo.
Nadal is bidding to become the first player in the Open era to secure 10 titles at a single major tournament while Djokovic is hoping to win at Roland Garros for the first time and complete a career grand slam.
The Spaniard has won 70 of his 71 French Open matches, but it is Djokovic who is the form player this year, having registered 26 consecutive victories and beaten Nadal on clay in Monte Carlo in April.
“It is probably the toughest quarter-final of my career here in Roland Garros, without a doubt,” Nadal said.
“And, no, the winner of that match will not be the Roland Garros champion, they will be semi-finalist of Roland Garros.
“That’s makes a big difference. Even if it’s a special match, it is a quarter-final match. It will not be a final like other years.”
Djokovic has been a class apart so far in 2015, winning four of the five Masters tournaments as well as the Australian Open in January.
“Of course, he’s by far the best player in the world,” Nadal said.
“He’s brimming with confidence, he has exceptional form.
“He’s won almost all the matches since the start of the year. He hasn’t had a lot of defeats, only two defeats.
“But I’m like any other opponent. It’s a match. It’s a complicated match, of course but I will have to compete with confidence and determination and self assurance, as well.”
Nadal endured his worst ever build-up to the French Open after he failed to win any of the four European clay-court tournaments he played.
Losses to Stan Wawrinka and Fabio Fognini, in particular, dented the Spaniard’s confidence but he insists returning to Roland Garros, and winning, has restored belief.
“When you play well, when you win matches, confidence is back, confidence is strong,” Nadal said.
“When you step out on the court without being frightened, without being jittery, this is an important asset. If you want to win important matches, that’s a big asset.
“But my situation is different to that of Novak. I will try to play one of my best matches, and in so doing, I will have the opportunity to beat him.
“I love Roland Garros. I love the tournament. I love the courts. I will pull out all the stops to win the match.”
Djokovic has lost all of the pair’s previous six meetings in Paris, including last year’s final when he was beaten in four sets, but the 28-year-old insists this time feels different.
“It does feel different because it’s quarter-finals,” Djokovic said.
“I’ve never won against him at Roland Garros, but on the other hand I was close a couple of times.
“And the fact that I’ve had a great season this year and I’m feeling good from every aspect of my game allows me to have belief and reason to go on the court and try to win.”
Roger Federer is also through to the last eight after he beat France’s Gael Monfils 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-1.
Play had been suspended for darkness on Sunday night with the score one set all but the Swiss dominated on Monday morning, winning two sets in one hour and two minutes.
“I feel there is a lot of tennis left for me to play here,” Federer said.
“I know there is a chance. At the same time, I know how hard it is.
“I’m just very pleased to get back in the quarters. It really means a lot to me.”
Federer will play fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka and Britain’s Andy Murray is up against Spain’s David Ferrer.
Murray beat France’s Jeremy Chardy 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-2 while Ferrer eased past Croatian Marin Cilic 6-2 6-2 6-4.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is the last Frenchman in the draw.