Paris: When claycourt machine Rafa Nadal faces his old friend Richard Gasquet the 10-time Roland Garros champion gets a free ride and that was again the case as he bulldozed past the local favourite 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the French Open last-16 on Saturday.
Top seed Nadal won the first 12 points of the match and opened up a 5-0 led before Gasquet finally got into the contest, but it was once more too little, too late for a player who had been labelled the ‘Mozart of tennis’ in his teenage years.
Gasquet actually won their last encounter — but it was at the Kooyong Classic exhibition event this year.
When it matters Nadal must know he won’t get into trouble, having not dropped a set against a player who was his rival in the juniors since 2008.
There was a sense of inevitability about the outcome when both players made their appearance on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Nadal is the huge favourite to lift the Musketeers Cup for a record-extending 11th time.
“I played very well, I’m sorry for Richard, he is a good friend and a good person,” said Nadal, who played a few rallies with a ball boy after his match.
Gasquet was totally overwhelmed on Saturday, finding himself trailing 5-0 after 12 minutes, and the Parisian crowd felt it could be an express washout.
In a bid to give the home fans something to shout about, Gasquet spurred himself into action and with a few beautiful shots reduced the gap to 5-3.
But Nadal was in no mood for a marathon and he bagged the first set on serve before putting Gasquet to the sword again at the beginning of the second and third sets, making sure there was no hope of a comeback amongst the Frenchman’s supporters.
The 31-year-old took his run of consecutive completed sets at the French Open to 34, just seven shy of the record held by Bjorn Borg between 1979 and 1981.
Nadal, who lost only two points in the first five games, will next play Germany's world number 70 Maximilian Marterer, who beat Estonian lucky loser Jurgen Zopp.
Italian maverick Fabio Fognini edged a topsy-turvy five-setter against British number one Kyle Edmund to reach the fourth round.
King of the unpredictable, the 18th seed mixed dazzling brilliance with careless errors and even lost 16 points in a row at one stage before prevailing 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Edmund’s level also fluctuated throughout the three-hour 34 minute contest in which both players needed medical timeouts.
After breaks were swapped like hot potatoes in the opening four sets, the decider went with service until Australian Open semi-finalist Edmund stepped up to serve at 4-5.
The 23-year-old then buckled, going 0-40 down, and although he saved one match point, Fognini forced the error on the next to reach the last 16 for only the second time on his 11th appearance at Roland Garros.
With Marco Cecchinato also through, Italy has two players in the fourth round here for the first time since Corrado Barazzutti and Adriano Panatta survived that far in 1976.
Argentine tennis player Diego Schwartzman beat Croatia's Borna Coric 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the final 16 round of the French Open for the first time in his career.
Schwartzman, World No 11, sealed the win in two hours and 31 minutes.
His next opponent is to be South Africa's Kevin Anderson, World No 7, who beat Germany's Mischa Zverev 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4) in two hours and 47 minutes.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jun 02, 2018 22:18:27 IST