Fifth seed David Ferrer emerged victorious from a five-set epic against Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt to edge through to the fourth round of the French Open.
The Spaniard came through a topsy-turvy tussle 6-2 3-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 in more than three and a half hours to set up a clash with in-form Radek Stepanek.
The match could have gone either way but in the deciding set, Ferrer picked up the key break in the ninth game and held his nerve to serve out for the victory.
Earlier, 21st seed Stepanek wasted little time seeing off Spain’s Tommy Robredo in straight sets.
The gritty Czech, who proved he is a threat on clay by beating world number one Roger Federer in Rome recently, demolished the 12th seed 6-3 6-2 6-1 in overcast conditions on Court Seven.
Stepanek has lost just one set in three matches at Roland Garros this year - and that was a tie-break in his second-round win over Jiri Vanek.
And he believes he could turn out to be the surprise of the tournament.
“I am definitely feeling comfortable on clay, although I believe I can play good tennis on any surface,” said Stepanek, who has made the fourth round for the first time here.
“I don’t think there are many players left with a style like I’m playing.
“I believe I can play everything, from the back, at the net, serve and volley. I can mix up my game.”
Big-serving Chilean Fernando Gonzalez came from two sets down to oust ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka in another thriller.
Wawrinka, who has enjoyed a superb 2008, made a great start on Court Two and looked in cruise control as he went 3-0 up in the third set.
But 24th seed Gonzalez dug deep and fought back to clinch a 5-7 2-6 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory and a last-16 match with Robby Ginepri.
The unseeded Ginepri kept the American flag flying in the men’s draw with a 6-4 6-4 6-4 win over France’s Florent Serra.