PARIS — Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer advanced into the French Open quarterfinals with identical victories but the two giants were for once upstaged on Sunday by an epic victory from another former champion, Stan Wawrinka.
Wawrinka and rising Stefanos Tsitsipas defied sweltering heat in the longest and classiest match of the tournament, which the 2015 champion eventually won 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 8-6 in 5 hours 9 minutes.
That was 1:14 hours longer than the combined 3:55 hours the 20-time Grand Slam champ Federer and 11-time Paris winner Nadal needed in their 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 center court wins over Leonardo Mayer and Juan Ignacio Londero, respectively.
Wawrinka, 34, won the titanic battle with the 20-year-old on the first match point when the chair umpire ruled his passing shot in.
Six seed Tsitsipas, this year’s Australian Open semifinalist, had wasted eight break points earlier in the climactic final set of a match that brought out the best from both players who engaged in a long embrace at the net when it was all over.
Tsitsipas won one point more than Wawrinka with 195 to 194 but converted only five of his 27 break points. He hit 61 winners to Wawrinka’s 62, while the unforced error rate from both was remarkably low under the circumstances with 48 for Tsitsipas and 55 for Wawrinka.
“It was unbelievable, there were so many emotions. I know it took a little long,” Wawrinka said in an on-court interview after both got an ovation from the fans.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Wawrinka is finally nearing his best form again in a long comeback from 2015 knee surgery.
He now faces another intriguing quarterfinal duel with Federer whom he beat in the same round en route to the title four years ago.
Federer only returned from that loss to Roland Garros this year and is still yet to drop a set as he reached a record-extending 54th place in the last eight of a Grand Slam.
The 37-year-old did not face a break point while breaking his 68th-ranked opponent six times en route to victory on the windy Philippe Chatrier court.
“It was good. Big serving, windy, it was tough conditions,” Federer said after his 401st match at the majors.
“Especially on one side you have a lot of wind in your back. It’s like you’re serving from sort of a tree, from a mountain, you know, and from the other one you feel like you’re playing up the hill. It is important to be focused there and I did that well.”
Federer is the third-oldest player in the tournament’s last eight, following Pancho Gonzales (40) in 1968 and Istvan Gulyas (39) in 1971.
His 54 quarterfinals (12 of them in Paris) put him 10 ahead of world number one Novak Djokovic who plays his fourth-round match against German Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday.
Nadal moved one ahead of Djokovic with a 13th Paris quarterfinal as he raised his extraordinary tournament match record to 90-2 in his success over the 78th-ranked tournament debutant Londero who managed to break the Spanish star once late in the third set.
Nadal also named the windy conditions difficult, saying “it was not so easy to find the feeling.
“But with those conditions, I think I did a lot of things well. Playing solid match against that player who is good. He’s very intense. Good shots from the baseline. Very aggressive. It has been a positive victory for me.”
In the quarterfinals, Nadal meets either seventh seed Kei Nishikori or Benoit Paire.
The women meanwhile had a Sunday of firsts, with teenager Marketa Vondrousova and her next opponent Petra Martic in their first quarters at the majors, and Johanna Konta claiming a first last eight berth at Roland Garros to set up a date with last year’s finalist Sloane Stephens.
The 19-year-old Vondrousova thrashed Latvian 12 seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 6-0 and is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
“It’s amazing. I played great match. She’s a tough player. So I’m just happy to be through and happy with my game,” said Vondrousova, a junior doubles champion at Roland Garros.
Martic, seeded 31st, rallied from 4-2 down in the final set to a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 comeback win over unseeded Kaia Kanepi.
Two-time grand slam semifinalist Konta meanwhile confirmed her recent return to form by ousting tournament number 23 Donna Vekic 6-2, 6-4.
Seventh-seed Stephens meanwhile rallied from 3-0 down in the first set to beat 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza, 6-4, 6-3. LLC.