Carreno Busta needs 7 MPs; Nadal, Djokovic to 11th Paris QF
PARIS (AP) For six match points - count `em, six! - Pablo Carreno Busta was oh so close to the biggest victory of his tennis career, an upset of No. 5-seeded Milos Raonic.
So close to reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. So close to setting up the ultimate test at the French Open, a match against nine-time champion Rafael Nadal.
And each of those half-dozen times Sunday, Carreno Busta could not seal the deal. Finally, on his seventh opportunity, the 25-year-old Spaniard came through, delivering a volley winner to beat Raonic 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-4, 8-6 in the fourth round at Roland Garros.
It took more than 4 hours, packed with such intensity that Carreno Busta cried afterward, he explained, ''to release the pressure I was feeling within.''
''I suffer, but I enjoyed,'' said the 20th-seeded Carreno Busta, who had never been past the third round at any major tournament. ''And, of course, if you win, you enjoy more.''
The expectation is that he will find less to enjoy on Tuesday, when he faces Nadal, who improved to 99-2 in best-of-five-set matches on clay by overwhelming No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. That put Nadal in the quarterfinals in Paris for the record-tying 11th time, equaling Roger Federer for the most appearances in that round in the professional era, which dates to 1968.
''I am in the quarterfinals, and I am healthy and I am playing well. That's the only important thing for me, no?'' Nadal said. ''The rest of the things (don't) matter.''
Later Sunday, defending champion Novak Djokovic pulled even with Federer and Nadal by getting to his 11th French Open quarterfinal, too - and eighth in a row - with a 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 19 Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Djokovic now meets No. 6 Dominic Thiem, a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 winner over Horacio Zeballos. It's a rematch of their semifinal last year, when Djokovic defeated Thiem in straight sets.
Against Raonic, Carreno Busta was within a point of victory three times while serving for the match and leading 5-4 in the fifth set. On the first, Raonic wrong-footed Carreno Busta with a forehand winner. On the next, Carreno Busta put a forehand long. And on the third, he dropped a forehand into the net.
The next four chances to end it came at 7-6. Once again, he had trouble. And Raonic, a Canadian who was last year's Wimbledon runner-up, did not give in easily.
On his fourth match point, Carreno Busta sent a backhand wide. On the next, Raonic delivered a backhand winner. On the sixth, Carreno Busta's forehand went awry. Finally, on No. 7, he converted.
''I hung on as much as I could,'' Raonic said.
Nadal, who turned 31 on Saturday, is not only chasing a record 10th title at Roland Garros, but also his 15th major championship overall, which would move him within three of Federer's career record. It's been three years since Nadal's previous Grand Slam trophy, which came at the French Open.
Through the first week this year, Nadal has dropped a total of only 20 games. Only once did Nadal fare better on the way to the quarterfinals at a major: He lost 19 games through four matches at the 2012 French Open.
That, plus Nadal's 3-0 head-to-head mark against Carreno Busta, might make some think the outcome of their fourth encounter is a foregone conclusion.
''If I think that I don't have chances, I will not play. So, for sure, I think I have chances,'' Carreno Busta said. ''Rafa is maybe the best player (on) this surface (in) history, and he's playing really good. But I will try.''
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