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Top seeds Alcaraz, Swiatek advance to Western & Southern quarterfinals

MASON, Ohio -- Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek, the top-ranked players in tennis, got past adverse weather conditions and challenging opponents on Thursday to reach the Western & Southern Open quarterfinals.

Alcaraz overcame two rain delays totaling 2 hours, 35 minutes and 14th-seeded American Tommy Paul, who beat him last Friday in Toronto, for a 7-6 (6), 6-7 (0), 6-3 win in a match that lasted 3 hours, 9 minutes.

"You've got to stay focused," said Alcaraz, the defending U.S. Open champion and this year's Wimbledon titlist from Spain. "It's not easy to play and stop and play and stop. You can't do anything but be ready to play."

Alcaraz recovered after losing three match points during the 12th game of the second set, which lasted 24 points and more than 15 minutes. Blanked in the tiebreaker, he came right back to break Paul's serve in the first game of the final set.

"The main difference is he won and I lost," Paul said, distinguishing between Thursday and his victory last week. "It was a great match. Conditions were less than ideal, but he handled it like pro. He kept a great attitude."

Novak Djokovic had a much easier time, improving to 19-0 against Gael Monfils with a 6-3, 6-2 victory. The No. 2 seed advances to play ninth-seeded American Taylor Fritz, having won all six of their meetings.

Swiatek adjusted to a stiff wind and came from behind to advance to a matchup with 10th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win over China's Zheng Quiwen, who'd eliminated Venus Williams on Wednesday.

Vondrousova moved on with a 7-5, 6-3 win over American Sloane Stephens.

Swiatek took a locker room break after the first set and regrouped to roll to her three-set win, earning her first trip to the tournament quarterfinals. She committed 10 unforced errors in the final two sets after having 20 in the first set, played in a stiff wind from the west on the Grandstand court adjacent to the stadium court.

"I didn't cope well with the conditions," she said. "They were tricky with the wind. It was loud from the stadium. I took the time to focus on what I had to do. I played more safely. I started working with the wind. I was happy that I was able to problem-solve."

Swiatek also took the opportunity to take issue with followers making negative social media comments about her match.

"Well, today's match wasn't perfect," she said during an opening statement. "We all saw that, but the amount of hate and criticism that me and my team get after even losing a set is just ridiculous. I want to kind of encourage people to be more thoughtful when they comment on the internet."

Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev was knocked out by 16th-seeded Alexander Zverev, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Unseeded Hubert Hurkacz from Poland eliminated fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-3, 6-4.

Unseeded Czechs turned in the day's two biggest upsets. No. 3 American Jessica Pegula, coming off her title last week in Montreal, was ousted by Marie Bouzkova, 6-4, 6-0, while Karolina Muchova picked off her second seeded player in three rounds, eliminating eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

Fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan and fifth-seeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur advanced when their opponents retired for health reasons.