Novak Djokovic broke a tie with rival Rafael Nadal by reaching the French Open quarterfinals for the record 17th time, never truly in trouble during a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Juan Pablo Varillas on Sunday.
“Well, I’m proud of it, but my attention is already on the next match,” said Djokovic, who will play No. 11 Karen Khachanov for a semifinal berth that could come against No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. “I know what my goal is here. I’m trying to stay, mentally, the course and of course not look too far.”
That’s because Djokovic is closing on bettering Nadal in a more prestigious category: Grand Slam singles championships. Both currently sit at 22. For Djokovic, that total includes two at Roland Garros, in 2016 and 2021, and he can become the first man to own at least three trophies from each major tournament.
Nadal is a 14-time champion in Paris but is missing this time because of a hip injury; he had arthroscopic surgery Friday night that is expected to sideline him for the rest of the year.
“I really hope that his rehabilitation process can go well and that we can see him next season. He’s so important for our game, on and off the court, one of the greatest legends of tennis in the history of the game,” Djokovic said. “We want to see a healthy Rafa, no question about it.”
Alcaraz extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 11 matches — he won the U.S. Open in September, then missed the Australian Open in January with a leg injury — by beating No. 17 Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
Alcaraz’s opponent in a second consecutive quarterfinal at Roland Garros will be No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas or Sebastian Ofner.
The No. 3-seeded Djokovic, meanwhile, is this far for the 14th time in a row at the French Open and for the 55th time overall at all majors. Roger Federer, who retired with 58, is the only man to reach more.
Djokovic takes an 8-1 head-to-head mark into Tuesday’s meeting with Khachanov, who defeated Lorenzo Sonego 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-1.
“He’s one of the toughest tasks, toughest opponents,” Khachanov said about Djokovic, “and you cannot count him out.”
Elina Svitolina, participating in her first Slam since having a baby in October, made her way into the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) win against No. 9 Daria Kasatkina, who was in the final four in Paris a year ago. Svitolina, who is from Ukraine, skipped the postmatch handshake against her Russian opponent because of the ongoing war; Kasatkina offered a thumbs-up to Svitolina.
Next for Svitolina is a matchup against the winner of Sunday’s night match between No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, and Sloane Stephens, who won the 2017 U.S. Open.
Two unseeded women will play each other in another quarterfinal: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 runner-up at Roland Garros, and Karolina Muchova.
Pavlyuchenkova, who missed last year’s tournament as part of a lengthy absence with a knee injury, got past a third consecutive seeded opponent, No. 28 Elise Mertens, by a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 score. Muchova was a 6-4, 6-4 winner against Elina Avanesyan, who lost in qualifying but got into the main draw when another player withdrew.
Against the 94th-ranked Varillas, who had never won a Slam match until this event and then took three in a row in five sets, Djokovic was, not surprisingly, at his dominant best at Court Philippe Chatrier on a warm, sunny day.
The 36-year-old from Serbia finished with more than twice as many winners, 35-15, and fewer unforced errors. He went 15 for 17 on trips to the net. He put in 80% of his first serves. He converted 6 of 12 break points while dropping his serve only once.
All in all, a no-drama showing in under two hours from Djokovic, who hasn’t ceded a set yet through four matches. He’s had his less-than-amiable back-and-forths with some spectators over the past week in Paris, but when this one ended, Djokovic gestured as though to hug everyone as he heard some chants of his two-syllable nickname, “No-le!”
“You always want to receive that love from the crowd,” Djokovic said. “Of course I felt great.”