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Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Benoit Paire advance, will face each other

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, reacts after beating Sergiy

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, reacts after beating Sergiy Stakhovsky, of Ukraine, during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in New York. Photo Credit: AP

From a strictly provincial, American tennis perspective, the impending fourth-round U.S. Open match between Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Benoit Paire might seem je jeune. But there is nothing insignificant or dull about it to the participants, the first a former Australian Open finalist and the other playing this deep in a Grand Slam event for the first time in 20 appearances.

Their rendezvous is scheduled for Sunday with Tsonga, the Open's 19th seed, an obvious favorite over the Party of the Other Part who, until six weeks ago, never had won a title of any sort during his eight years on the pro tour.

But to finally prevail in the Swedish Open, Paire defeated Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo in the final, then beat Robredo three days later in Hamburg. And Friday, it was Robredo, seeded 26th, whom Paire chased out of the Open, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 6-1.

Tsonga dispatched 60th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.

"Yeah, sure, he is French," Paire said of Tsonga. "We are both friends between two French players, so we will see. I will just stay focused on my game."

As the Open progresses, a rearrangement of the pecking order -- based on rankings -- is beginning to feel like standard procedure, and the whole process was begun with Paire's first-round victory over last year's Open runner-up, Kei Nishikori.

Seven of the top 10 women's seeds already are gone. And Friday, among the men, No. 10 Milos Raonic of Canada was beaten in straight sets by No. 18 Feliciano Lopez of Spain, 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-3, shortly after Belgium's No. 15 David Goffin retired with stomach problems after taking the first two sets against No. 23 Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.

Goffin said he woke feeling queasy, took medication and attempted to push on, but he had to surrender at 2-6, 5-7, 6-3, 3-1 (ret.). That made him the 15th player to retire after only five days of play, tying the full-tournament record for the Open set in 2011, though he said his problem had nothing to do with heat.

Two championship contenders who did prevail Friday, No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and 2014 champ Marin Cilic, didn't exactly have an easy day, either.

Djokovic defeated No. 25 Andreas Seppi of Italy in what Djokovic described as "a really, really, really tough three sets," 6-3, 7-5, 7-5. "Just glad to get through this one," he said. "But again, a win is a win."

Cilic needed five sets to get rid of 56th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-1.

"You're always going to take the positive out of anything," Cilic said. "I'm happy with the fighting spirit today. I wasn't playing so well.

"But the worst part is when you play well and lose. When you play bad and win, that's always most pleasing."

It provides a certain je ne sais quoi.

Nadal ousted: In a match that ended at 1:25 a.m. Saturday, Rafael Nadal squandered a two-set lead and lost to Italy's Fabio Fognini, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. This marks the first year since 2004 that Nadal did not win a Grand Slam event.

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