Clinical Nadal stays on track for historic title

RAFAEL Nadal secured his 25th consecutive win at the French Open yesterday after dispatching Fernando Verdasco in straight sets.

Nadal was always in control of the all-Spanish fourth-round encounter, posting a 6-1 6-0 6-2 triumph that keeps his quest to equal Bjorn Borg’s record of four consecutive Roland Garros titles well on track.

Verdasco, who defeated number 15 seed Mikhail Youzhny in the last round, appeared completely at a loss as to how to deal with the unrelenting power of the clay-court maestro, and meekly succumbed in the opening two sets.

Verdasco received treatment for a leg injury at the end of the second set and was visibly labouring as the third began.

The 24-year-old hobbled along bravely, playing a couple of supreme winners and claiming a break of serve for 1-1 as he gradually began to shake off his injury.

Nadal immediately hit back, however, and broke in the next game before holding serve to go 3-1 ahead.

A further break of the Verdasco service followed only for Nadal to drop his serve for the second time in the set in the sixth game to give his opponent hope at 4-2.

But that was as good as it got for Verdasco, and Nadal broke again in the next game before holding out for a place in the last eight, where he will play another Spaniard in 19th seed Nicolas Almagro.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic ensured there would be three Serbians in the French Open quarter-finals after sweeping aside France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets yesterday. The number three seed brushed aside his French opponent 6-4 6-3 6-4.

Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis put Michael Llodra to the sword to set up an encounter with Djokovic in the last eight. The 19-year-old Gulbis rarely looked flustered as he posted a 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 6-3 triumph.

Meanwhile, Jelena Jankovic admitted that she made life difficult for herself before progressing to the quarter-finals.

The Serbian, seeded number three at Roland Garros, suffered a second-set collapse against Agnieszka Radwanska on her way to an eventual 6-3 7-6 (7/3) triumph.

After easing home in the first set, Jankovic looked ready to wrap up the match when she opened up a 5-1 lead in the second before Radwanska mounted a stunning fightback. The 14th-seeded dragged herself level in the set before forcing a tie-break that went the way of the Serbian.

“I made it a lot harder work than it should be,” said Jankovic. “I should have finished the match earlier, but I let her come back.

“I was struggling at the end, but I managed to win the tie-breaker and finish it in two sets.”

The match was punctuated by a couple of lengthy breaks for Jankovic to receive treatment for an arm injury, but Radwanska failed to capitalise as her opponent began to labour with the discomfort. “I had problems with my arm and I just didn’t do what I was supposed to finish the match,” Jankovic said.

“I will have more time to recover and then get ready for the [next] match.”

That match will be against Roland Garros debutant Carla Suarez Navarro, who cruised to victory over Venus Williams’ conqueror Flavia Pennetta earlier on Sunday.

Jankovic’s compatriot Ana Ivanovic is also into the last eight after a 6-0 6-0 victory over Petra Cetkovska.

Last year’s runner-up at Roland Garros, second seed Ivanovic was too strong in every facet of the game for Cetkovska.

However, Ivanovic insisted her resounding win over her Czech opponent was much harder than the one-sided scoreline suggested.

“It was much tougher than it probably looked, or the result indicates,” said Ivanovic.

Ivanovic’s opponent in the next round will be 10th-seeded Swiss player Patty Schnyder, who posted a 6-2 6-4 victory over Slovenia’s Katarina Srebotnik, the 27th seed, on Suzanne Lenglen Court.

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