PARIS (AP) — Five things to look for Monday at the French Open:
NADAL EYES 32: Keep an eye on Rafael Nadal’s service speeds against 83rd-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in the fourth round. After his previous match, Nadal said he’s been bothered by his back and that’s why he’s been serving slower than usual. Nadal is 62-1 with eight titles in his French Open career, and his lone loss (to Robin Soderling in 2009) is currently bracketed by a pair of 31-match winning streaks. Can Nadal get to 32 in a row this time? Lajovic, 23, is playing in only his second major tournament — and sought advice from another man from Serbia, Novak Djokovic, before facing Nadal. Djokovic, who has won his last four matches against Nadal, confirmed he chatted with Lajovic. “Well, I talked with him,” Djokovic offered with a smile. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
MURRAY VS. VERDASCO: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and No. 24 Fernando Verdasco will both be on court for a third day in a row. That’s because their third-round matches were both suspended because of darkness Saturday, and then resumed Sunday. The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament where Murray hasn’t reached the final, but he did get to the semifinals in 2011. “I feel like I can play good clay-court tennis,” said Murray, who is 9-1 against Verdasco. “But … to win this event, you need to play great clay-court tennis. That’s something I haven’t done yet.”
SPANISH QUARTET: With Nadal and Verdasco in action, along with 2013 runner-up David Ferrer and 41st-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, there is a chance for four Spaniards to reach the quarterfinals — and then play each other, guaranteeing two semifinalists from their country and, therefore, one finalist. There were four Spanish men in the 2003 French Open quarterfinals. Ferrer faces No. 19 Kevin Anderson of South Africa, while Garcia-Lopez takes on No. 23 Gael Monfils of France.
STEPHENS VS. HALEP: There’s only American singles player left and it’s 15th-seeded Sloane Stephens, who is based in Florida. She will play No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania, the highest-seeded woman left. This is the first Grand Slam tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968, where the top three women all lost before the fourth round. Stephens is into the second week at her sixth major in a row, the longest active streak among women, and she might be relieved to see the No. 4 beside Halep’s name: Four of the American’s last five losses at Grand Slams came against players ranked No. 1 or No. 2.
QUALIFIER TRIES TO KEEP GOING: Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands is ranked 148th and needed to go through qualifying rounds just to get into the main draw. If she can beat 28th-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany, Bertens would be the 10th qualifier to reach the French Open quarterfinals — and the lowest-ranked woman to make it that far in Paris since the field expanded to 128 players in 1983.
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