Nadal books place in last eight

Defending champion Rafael Nadal battled through to the quarter-finals of the French Open with a 7-5 6-3 6-3 victory over Ivan Ljubicic.

It was far from a vintage performance from the top seed, who will face either Robin Soderling or Gilles Simon in the last eight, particularly for a set and a half, but he was still too good for veteran Ljubicic.

The first set was dominated by errors from both men, with Nadal giving back an early break before making a decisive move in the 11th game.

Ljubicic seemed upbeat about his chances before the match as he discussed Nadal’s confidence crisis but on the court it was a different matter as the Croatian struggled to find anything approaching his best form.

Ljubicic had beaten the Spaniard on two previous occasions, including at Indian Wells last year, and he battled well to hold his serve at the start of the second set.

But once Nadal had broken to go 4-3 in front, it was relatively straightforward for the world number one, who gradually began to play better.

His shots, which had been sitting up invitingly, were now landing just inside the lines and biting wickedly into the clay.

Ljubicic briefly threatened a fightback in the third set but Nadal had chances in every one of the 32-year-old’s service games and he wrapped up victory in two hours and 26 minutes.

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