Tennis: German fourth seed Alexander Zverev survives French Open third round, as rain causes more disruption

Alexander Zverev has survived a big scare in an evening marathon at the French Open, as more rain delays kept defending champion Novak Djokovic waiting in the Roland Garros locker room, before a potential milestone.

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka has overcame Paula Badosa in a testing clash between best friends, while Russian-born Frenchwoman Varvara Gracheva has won plenty of new admirers, after she kept the flag flying for her adopted country.

Zverev provided the drama on Court Philippe Chatrier, as the German fourth seed was dragged into a battle by Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, before prevailing 3-6 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-6 (10-3).

Alexander Zverev celebrates his win at the French Open.
Alexander Zverev celebrates his win at the French Open. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I always struggle against him,"  said Zverev, after avoiding what would have been his earliest loss at Paris, since a first-round exit in 2017.

"I don't like to play against him, but all the credit to him for taking it all the way. Incredible player and fighter until the end.

"The atmosphere today was unbelievable. I loved every second of it."

With Grigor Dimitrov's match against Zizou Bergs shifted to the main showcourt, Djokovic had to twiddle his thumbs before his clash with Lorenzo Musetti, where the Serbian will target a 369th Grand Slam match win to equal Roger Federer atop the all-time list.

Sabalenka and Badosa put their friendship on the backburner in their seventh career meeting, which promised to go the distance, after a tight first set, where breaks of serve flowed freely.

Bidding to become the first woman since Serena Williams nine years ago to win the Australian Open and Roland Garros titles in the same season, Belarusian Sabalenka stepped up with power, precision and guile to seal a 7-5 6-1 win.

"On court, we're opponents, but off it we're friends," she said. "I just saw her right now, walking from her meeting, and she seems to be pissed a little bit."

Crowd favourite

After Corentin Moutet gave French supporters a night to savour, with victory over Sebastian Ofner, new crowd favourite Gracheva lit up a soggy day with a 7-5 6-3 win over Irina-Camelia Begu.

The last Frenchwoman left in the women's draw was treated to a rousing rendition of the national anthem 'La Marseillaise' and she joined the fans in celebration.

"I'll remember this moment until the end of my life," said a beaming Gracheva, who received her French passport in 2023, after living in the country for more than five years.

"It means that everyone accepts me, that I'm home here."

While Gracheva was centre of attention in the afternoon, fellow Moscow-born player Elena Rybakina continued to fly under the radar, as the fourth seed cruised past Elise Mertens 6-4 6-2.

Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 21st seed, closed out a 6-4 6-2 6-1 victory over American Ben Shelton under the Suzanne Lenglen roof, as persistent rain delayed action on the outer courts.

When play resumed, Alex De Minaur completed a 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-3 win over Jan-Lennard Struff to become the first Australian man into the fourth round at Roland Garros, since Lleyton Hewitt in 2007.

Melbourne Park women's runner-up Zheng Qinwen, however, reached the end of the road, after the seventh seed lost 3-6 6-3 7-6(6) to Russian Elina Avanesyan.

Fifth seed Daniil Medvedev battled past Tomas Machac 7-6(4) 7-5 1-6 6-4 and 17-year-old compatriot Mirra Andreeva continued to impress, with a 6-2 6-1 win over Peyton Stearns.

Victory made Andreeva the youngest player to reach the last 16 in Grand Slams on each surface, since Anna Kournikova in 1998.