Nadal leads Spanish onslaught
Rafael Nadal tightened a Spanish stranglehold on the bottom half of the French Open draw yesterday, while Andy Murray set up a last 16 round clash with Richard Gasquet.
The top seed coasted into the fourth round with a lop-sided 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 win over qualifier Eduardo Schwank of Argentina.
Earlier sixth-seeded David Ferrer flattened Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in just 101 minutes, whilst 12th seed Nicolas Almagro saw off the challenge of Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
Murray looked to be over the lower back problems that beset him in the previous round as he defeated Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Nadal, who turned 26 yesterday, had Schwank on the defensive from the start, jumping out into a 4-0 lead that set the tone for the entire match.
In the end he conceded just eight games taking his total in three games to a meagre nine plus.
The Spaniard is set on winning the French Open for a record seventh time in eight years, having first played at Roland Garros in 2005 as an 18-year-old .
The 30-year-old Ferrer, who has yet to make it past the quarter-finals at Roland Garros despite being one of the best players on clay for the last few years, had Youzhny by the throat from the start, winning the first set 6-0 and leading 2-0 in the second before the Russian got off the mark.
Thereafter Ferrer conceded just another three games as he set up a last 16 round meeting with Marcel Granollers of Spain who beat France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu.
“This match was easier than planned, and I was immediately into the match,” he said. “When the situation was a bit difficult, I managed to overcome these difficulties.
Almagro’s routine win over Mayer was his seventh straight victory following his title triumph in Nice last week.
His previous best at Roland Garros were quarter-final appearances in 2008 and 2010 and on both occasions he lost to Nadal who he will face again should the two Spaniards make it through to the last eight.
Also through to the last 16 was eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia who worked his way past Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
There was better news for home fans with the victory of 17th seed Richard Gasquet 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 over Tommy Haas.
Maria Sharapova stormed into the last 16 brushing aside China’s Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-1, while semi-final rivals Li Na and Petra Kvitova laboured to reach the second week.
Sharapova on song
Second seed Sharapova fired 27 winners past 28th seed Peng in a 66-minute Philippe Chatrier court demolition.
The Russian, a semi-finalist in 2011, and seeking a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, has lost just five games in three rounds.
She will next face Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova who put out Russian 22nd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 7-5.
Defending champion Li Na, the seventh seed, battled back to defeat America’s Christina McHale 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
The 30-year-old Li had to draw upon her 10-year age gap to prevail over the 36th-ranked American, who had fallen in the first round in 2010 and 2011.
Wimbledon champion Kvitova, 22, reached the last 16 for the third time but she did it the hard way, serving up eight double faults and committing 37 unforced errors in her 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 win over Russian world number 109 Nina Bratchikova.
She was only saved by her fierce, flatly hit groundstrokes which left the Portugal-based Bratchikova gasping.
Other result: Kanepi bt Wozniacki 6-1, 6-7, 6-3.