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Big guns make moves

NEW YORK (AFP) — Rafael Nadal defeated close friend Richard Gasquet for the 18th time to reach the fourth round while world No. 1 Iga Swiatek made the Last 16 for a second successive year in the US Open here on Saturday.

The four-time champion Nadal took his record over Gasquet to a perfect 18-0 with a 6-0, 6-1, 7-5 victory to stay on course for a 23rd Grand Slam title.

Nadal has now won 34 straight sets against Frenchman Gasquet who he first played as a junior.

He was barely troubled, winning the first nine games of the contest before Gasquet got on the board.

Next up for the Australian and French Open champion is 22nd seed Frances Tiafoe for a place in the quarterfinals.

“He’s a great player, very charismatic, very fast,” said Nadal of the American.

Tiafoe made the Last 16 for a third successive year by seeing off Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (9/7), 6-4, 6-4.

The 36-year-old Nadal showed no ill effects of the bloodied nose he suffered when he accidentally bounced his racquet into his face in the second round.

“It’s a little bit bigger than usual but it’s okay,” he joked.

Carlos Alcaraz, widely-regarded as Nadal’s Grand Slam heir apparent, claimed a season-leading 47th win despite breaking one of his shoes.

The 19-year-old third seed defeated Jenson Brooksby of the United States 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on the back of 46 winners.

Alcaraz, a quarterfinalist in 2021, managed to break one of his tennis shoes as he slid to reach a ball mid-match.

“It’s the third time that I have done this. As you can see, I do a lot of sliding,” he said.

Alcaraz next faces 2014 champion Marin Cilic who fired 26 aces and 74 winners in total past Britain’s Dan Evans in a 7-6 (13/11), 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 7-5 win.

British seventh seed Cameron Norrie made the fourth round for the first time with a comfortable 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 win over Danish teenager Holger Rune.

He next faces Russian ninth seed Andrey Rublev who needed five match points to see off Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 2-6, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 7-6 (10/7).

Meanwhile, Swiatek downed unseeded Lauren Davis 6-3, 6-4.

Swiatek came back from 1-4 down in the second set to reel off five successive games against the American who called a medical time out in the first set to have her blood pressure taken.

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