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Beyond the Baseline

French Open Day 5 recap: Nadal wins; three American men reach third round

Rafael Nadal was relentless against 20-year-old Dominic Thiem. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images) Rafael Nadal was relentless against 20-year-old Dominic Thiem. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

PARIS -- After an eventful Wednesday that included the departure of Serena Williams, a sense of calm came across the grounds at Roland Garros as most of the favorites advanced to the third round. Rafael Nadal sailed past youngster Dominic Thiem, and Sloane Stephens showed off her usual Grand Slam form in beating Polona Hercog.

What happened?

Rafael Nadal took Dominic Thiem to school: I'm here to tell you, Dominic Thiem, that it gets better. The 20-year-old had the Chatrier crowd behind him, but Nadal played some of his finest clay-court tennis and bullied the Austrian. Nadal won 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 by shrinking the court with his defense and forcing Thiem to come out of his shoes trying to hit through him. Thiem acquitted himself well -- he broke Nadal twice and actually led 3-1 in the third -- and there's good reason to believe in his bright future. But Nadal is the present, and through two matches the eight-time champion has lost just 10 games.

Jack Sock and Donald Young join John Isner in the third round: For the first time since 2012 Wimbledon, three American men are into the third round of a Grand Slam outside of the United States. Isner booked his spot on Wednesday. Young notched Thursday's most surprising result, beating No. 23 Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 for just his second tour-level win on clay this season. Sock followed him by beating fellow American Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-4, 6-2. Both men have a chance at the fourth round, too, as Sock plays No. 83 Dusan Lajovic for a chance to possibly play Rafa, and Young faces No. 41 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who downed Stan Wawrinka on Monday.

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Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep headed for a blockbuster quarterfinal: Ivanovic fought off Elina Svitolina 7-5, 6-2 and Halep beat Heather Watson 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday. With Maria Sharapova on the other side of the draw, Ivanovic and Halep are the clear co-favorites to make it through the Li Na-less bottom half. The bad news is that they're in the same quarter. Neither woman has dropped a set through two matches.

Sloane Stephens advances: Stephens is doing what she has done at her last five majors: win. The 21-year-old American struggled to win back-to-back matches during the clay season, but hasn't dropped a set in Paris. After dispatching Hercog 6-1, 6-3, she'll face No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova on Saturday.

The French are looking strong: It's hard not to ignore how well the French players have fared, given that so many of them haven't been playing well or were injured before the tournament. Richard Gasquet, who had been out for about two months with a back injury, was very impressive in his straight-set win over Carlos Berlocq. Gael Monfils, who withdrew from his last tournament with an ankle injury, is into the third round after beating Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has been sharp as well. Throw in No. 103 Kristina Mladenovic, who backed up her upset of Li with a hard-fought, three-set win over Alison Riske, and the tricolore is flying proud this week.

Get to know Ajla Tomljanovic, who's into the third round of her first Grand Slam main draw

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