Roger Federer acknowledges the applause after betaing Belgium's David Goffin at Roland Garros. Picture: Pavel Golovkin/AP
Roger Federer acknowledges the applause after betaing Belgium's David Goffin at Roland Garros. Picture: Pavel Golovkin/AP

Federer makes history, Nadal closes in on 12th French title

ON A day when evergreen Roger Federer set another record as he smashed Casper Ruud in their Battle of the Generations, Rafael Nadal remained on course for a 12th French Open crown - on the ten-year anniversary of his worst defeat on the red clay of Paris.

Swiss ace Federer enjoyed a 6-3 6-1 7-6 victory in round three of the French Open in his record 400th Grand Slam singles match.

Nobody, either male or female, has played in more matches across the four slams on the circuit.

The 37-year-old took just over two hours as he dispatched of the 20-year-old world No.63 from Norway.

Federer, the winner of 20 Slam titles, made his debut at the highest level at the 1999 French Open.

Ironically in the same draw here 20 years ago was Christian Ruud, the father and coach of Casper, who reached a career-high ranking of 39 in the world during his time on the ATP Tour.

In their first meeting together, the No.3 seed was no in mood to hang around on a hot afternoon in Paris against an opponent playing only his eighth Slam match.

Federer won the first set 6-3 on Court Suzanne Lenglen within 38 minutes and then enjoyed two breaks of serve in the second, coming close to inflicting a "bagel" on his junior opponent.

Ruud, who is learning his trade at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, refused to buckle in the third set and forced the tie-breaker, even enjoying a set point at 7-6.

Yet Federer displayed his seniority and class in the decisive moments, securing the result on the fourth match point.

By wrapping up the result in straight sets, it means Federer has yet to drop a set during his spell here at Roland Garros this year.

Federer, in his first French Open since 2015, will next play French wildcard Nicolas Mahut or Argentine Leo Mayer in the last 16.

And though Nadal and Novak Djokovic remain the favourites to lift the trophy a week on Sunday, Federer is quietly moving through the draw as he chases a second French Open title.

His last triumph was 10 years ago and he has the year '09 etched on to his trainers.

Reigning champion Nadal was made to work over the course of three hours as he beat Belgian David Goffin 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3 in the third round at Roland Garros.

Goffin won the third set in front of a shocked crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier, meaning Nadal dropped just his 26th set in 15 successive years of tennis in Paris.

Rafael Nadal is chasing his 12th French Open title. Picture: Getty Images
Rafael Nadal is chasing his 12th French Open title. Picture: Getty Images

It also means the Spaniard is the first of the top three players to drop a set during this week's tournament.

Nonetheless, Nadal and Federer have both booked their spots in the last 16 for the 14th times in their careers.

This moves them ahead of Budge Patty (1946-58) at the top of the all-time list for most appearances at this stage of the men's singles draw.

Nadal, 32, is the undisputed King of Clay and if he lifts the trophy one more time, it would surpass the 11 Australian Open singles titles won by Margaret Court in Melbourne.

Yet Nadal would certainly have acknowledged the symbolism of the date of his victory over Goffin - May 31.

It was on this day exactly a decade ago when he was unexpectedly defeated in the fourth round by Swede Robin Soderling.

The result was one of the biggest upsets in tennis history and it probably still gives Nadal nightmares and the cold sweats all these years later.

It represented Nadal's first defeat in 32 matches in this Slam and until 2016, when he lost in the third round, it was the worst he had performed on clay in Paris.

News Corp Australia

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