Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic to meet at French Open

Rafael Nadal expects the “toughest quarter-final of my career” against Novak Djokovic at the French Open.

Nine-time champion Nadal beat Jack Sock 6-3 6-1 5-7 6-2 in round four to claim a record 70th win at Roland Garros.

The Spaniard is trying to become the first player in the Open era to win 10 titles at any Grand Slam event.

Nadal has defeated Djokovic – who beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-1 6-2 6-3 – six times in the French Open, including in each of the last three years.

However, the Spaniard has only won one tournament since Paris last year, while top seed Djokovic is on a 26-match winning streak.

“It is not the final, you know,” said Nadal, who will turn 29 on Wednesday. “It’s a quarter-final. And, no, the winner of that match will not be the Roland Garros champion.

“They will be a semi-finalist of Roland Garros. That makes a big difference. Even if it’s a special match, it’s a quarter-final match.”

Djokovic, 28, is hoping to win the one major title that has so far eluded him and thus complete the career Grand Slam.

After an impressive start against Sock, Nadal faltered as he failed to serve out the match and was broken twice in succession as the world number 30 took the third set.

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic has won 26 successive matches since losing to Roger Federer in the final of the Dubai event

But the 14-time Grand Slam champion regained control early in the fourth to win in two hours and 52 minutes.

Djokovic needed two hours to see off home favourite Gasquet, dropping serve once in the final set but breaking straight back and serving out the win.

“Of course it is a different approach mentally when you play Nadal in quarter-finals than any other player,” said the Serb.

“There is no doubt about that. I’m going to try to keep my routine the same and not give so much importance to the match.

“I know what I need to do to have a chance to win. That doesn’t mean that I will win. The future is unpredictable.”

How did Liverpool signings perform this term? Phil Thompson rates them

Liverpool spent nearly £100m last summer on signings, but how did they get on in their first season at Anfield? Phil Thompson takes a look and gives them all a rating out of 10.

The Reds brought in eight new players on permanent deals after narrowly missing out on the Premier League title in 2013/14.

But after a disappointing campaign that saw them finish sixth, did any of them impress Thompson and who has “underachieved greatly”?

Sky Bet Transfer Specials:

Liverpool to sign Christian Benteke this summer – 13/8

Emre Can – 8

Emre Can: Has impressed Thommo
Emre Can: Has impressed Thommo

THOMMO SAYS: “If it wasn’t for the last six games or so I might have given him a nine – he’s certainly been the best of the lot in my opinion. But I’d probably give him an eight – he’s done well, he’s had to play numerous positions and he just got on with it and adapted.

“I think people forget how young he is too, and that maybe contributed to his bad end to the season, but he’s done really well overall.”

Adam Lallana – 7

Adam Lallana: Season has been interrupted by injuries
Adam Lallana: Season has been interrupted by injuries

THOMMO SAYS: “I’m a great liker of Adam Lallana, so I’ll give him a seven. The problem Adam has was that every time he got a good run in the side he went and picked up an injury, so he’s been unfortunate in that sense. But he’s got great ability and hopefully next year he can stay free of injury and get himself a solid run in the first team.”

Alberto Moreno – 6

Alberto Moreno: Showed early promise, and dance moves
Alberto Moreno: Showed early promise, and dance moves

THOMMO SAYS: “I’d give Moreno a six out of 10. He showed early promise and hopefully he’ll be better off with the experience of one full Premier League season under his belt.

“He’s another who has had to play in a couple of different positions – left midfield and left-back, where he looks much more comfortable – but I think he’s got the potential to kick on, so long as he learns from his first season.”

Dejan Lovren – 6

Dejan Lovren: Has lacked consistency this season
Dejan Lovren: Has lacked consistency this season

THOMMO SAYS: “Dejan Lovren never seemed to get to grips with what was expected of him, particularly when Liverpool were changing from a back four to a back three, he just didn’t seem to understand his role.

“He had a good period in the side in the second half of the season and for that I’ll give him a six, but he hasn’t been anywhere near consistent enough.”

Rickie Lambert – 6

Rickie Lambert: Has not had many opportunities
Rickie Lambert: Has not had many opportunities

THOMMO SAYS: “Rickie hasn’t had enough chances to actually shine, so you can’t really say he was good or bad. I think he only had six or seven starts in the Premier League – that’s not enough to get going – but I’ll give him a six for his efforts when he was on the field.”

Mario Balotelli – 5

Mario Balotelli: Has 'underachieved greatly', according to Phil Thompson
Mario Balotelli: Has ‘underachieved greatly’, according to Phil Thompson

THOMMO SAYS: “It’s a poor five out of 10 for Balotelli. There isn’t a lot you can say about his season – it’s obvious – he’s underachieved greatly. I would be surprised if he’s at Anfield next season. I know his agent has been saying he will be, but I just can’t see it working out.”

Lazar Markovic – 5

Lazar Markovic: Signed from Benfica
Lazar Markovic: Signed from Benfica

THOMMO SAYS: “I’d probably give Markovic a five – he’s just not really done it for me. He had a decent spell when he was playing as a wing-back, when Brendan Rodgers started using that formation, but he’s certainly not done anywhere near enough to justify the hype he had when he first came in.

“We’ve not seen enough of that blistering pace that he’s supposedly blessed with, so I’m expecting a lot more from him next season.”

Conclusion

Did Brendan Rodgers spend wisely last summer?
Did Brendan Rodgers spend wisely last summer?

“Most of these players are going to be at the football club for a few years yet, because they’ve been bought under the Moneyball strategy, but it’s difficult to always make that work in this country.

“So, now, Liverpool’s squad is absolutely crying out for more experience – players in their late 20s with Premier League or Champions League experience – people of that ilk will help the club go forward again.

“That might mean paying higher salaries rather than trying to invest in young gems, but that’s the game these days.”