Day 6: Three to watch

 - Nick McCarvel

Friday holds a special feeling at RG2023 as players eye coveted week two spots.

Alcaraz - Shapovalov

There are plenty of featured days each Roland-Garros fortnight: ones that hold special tension for players and fans alike.

The first Friday, Day 6, is one of them. It marks the start of third-round play, and a true pivot of the event into its business end, with coveted spots in the round of 16 on offer in both the men’s and women’s singles draws as the middle weekend gets underway.

This year, Friday is set to deliver again in Paris, with all eyes on the continued potential of a Carlos Alcaraz-Novak Djokovic semi-final showdown; the winners of the three most recent major men's singles titles are both due to play.

Should that final four clash take place it will be a week from Friday – another RG day to look forward to.

Shapovalov offers Alcaraz challenge

For the world No.1 to keep his campaign alive, he’ll have to get past his stiffest of tests so far this week, taking on the big-hitting Canadian lefty Denis Shapovalov, the No.26 seed.

It’s their first meeting, but the two have practised together in Barcelona at Alcaraz’s training base, and Carlitos is well aware of the dynamite that can come off the Shapo racquet: “Everybody knows his level. He's a really dangerous player.”


Denis Shapovalov, Roland-Garros 2023, first round © Julien Crosnier/FFT

Shapovalov has already had his best effort in Paris, having previously made the second round just twice. He’s 0-8 in his career when playing a world No.1, but has a trio of top-five wins to his name. He also loves a big stage, which this match will certainly have as the featured night session battle on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The attack plan for Shapovalov? Go big and then go bigger. He has the firepower to oust Alcaraz, but can he maintain the consistency?

RG resurrections: Pavlyuchenkova, Fognini and more

The opening five days have already offered a host of storylines that will be on display on Friday, including the resurgence of 2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 31-year-old who has slipped to No.333 in the singles rankings.

She has looked like her 2021 self so far, however, beating up-and-coming teen Linda Fruhvirtova and then taking out No.15 seed Liudmila Samsonova. She meets another Anastasia – Potapova – for a spot in the fourth round.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, second round, Roland-Garros 2023© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Pavlyuchenkova’s fellow 30-something (and crowd favourite) Fabio Fognini has played vintage tennis, too, especially in a three-set stunner over No.10 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round.

The Italian is looking for just his fourth last-16 run in 16 Roland-Garros appearances, with Austria’s Sebastian Ofner, who took out Australian Open semi-finalist Sebastian Korda, standing in his way.

The throwback stories are aplenty. Also in action on Friday: new mum Elina Svitolina; former semi-finalist Diego Schwartzman; and Sloane Stephens, the 2018 runner-up. All finding some of their best tennis when it matters most.

Djokovic faces ADF test

It was no easy three-setter for 2015 and 2021 champion Djokovic when he beat Marton Fucsovics in round two, and his passage into the second week doesn’t get easier when he meets feisty Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Davidovich Fokina won their most recent meeting, last year on clay in Monte-Carlo, so the 29th seed will likely draw from that experience, though toppling Nole over five sets is nearly a different sport altogether.

Novak Djokovic, 2e tour, Roland-Garros 2023 ©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

The Spaniard has faced two Frenchmen to open the tournament, but he could have the crowd on his side on Chatrier, where fans are never shy about cheering for the underdog.

Djokovic, astoundingly, is into his 18th consecutive third round, having only failed to get past this point once, in 2005. He’s looking for an 88th RG victory on Friday, while Davidovich Fokina, a quarter-finalist here in 2021, is after his eighth.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, R1, Roland-Garros 2022Cedric Lecocq / FFT