Nadal wary of rejuvenated Almagro in Paris

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Rafael Nadal insists his perfect record of six wins in six meetings against Nicolas Almagro will count for nothing when the two Spaniards meet in the French Ope

Updated: June 01, 2010 11:14 IST
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Rafael Nadal insists his perfect record of six wins in six meetings against Nicolas Almagro will count for nothing when the two Spaniards meet in the French Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Four-time champion Nadal, who is bidding to become only the second man in history after Bjorn Borg to win five or more Roland Garros crowns, has dominated his compatriot in their six-year rivalry.

The world number two also dropped just three games to Almagro when they met at the same stage of the French Open in 2008.

However, on the clay of Madrid two weeks ago, Almagro, the 19th seed here, took the first set off Nadal in their semi-final meeting.

Nadal, with his 24th birthday being celebrated on Thursday, is aware that Almagro has altered enough as a player to be able to gatecrash the party.

"It's going to be very difficult, because the way he plays is really excellent," said Nadal, who has reached the last eight without dropping a set, and on Monday achieved his 200th career claycourt win by seeing off Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci in the fourth round.

"It's going to be complicated; he's going to be very aggressive. As far as I'm concerned, I'll try and play my way and do my best so that he feels a bit uncomfortable."

Almagro, playing in his second French Open quarter-final, reached the last eight by defeating countryman Fernando Verdasco in the last 16 having almost slumped to a first round defeat when he lost the first two sets against Dutch journeyman Robin Haase.

But the 23-year-old believes he is a better player than two years ago when he was trampled into the Paris dust by Nadal.

"My physical shape has improved a lot and from a mental standpoint, I'm much stronger now," he said.

"But the match is going to be very difficult because I'm playing Rafa. He is above all the other players on this surface

"In Madrid I played at a very good level. He came back. He played much better. He was playing much longer balls. For the next match it's going to be a battle. It's the one who can fight the longest that can win."

Wednesday's second quarter-final features third seed Novak Djokovic, a semi-finalist in 2007 and 2008, against Jurgen Melzer, the first Austrian man to get this far at Roland Garros since former champion Thomas Muster in 1998.

Djokovic, desperate to add a French Open crown to his 2008 Australian Open title, has endured a roller-coaster journey to the last eight, dropping the second set in three of his four matches.

But the 23-year-old Serbian is convinced his cause is being helped by all the attention being heaped on Nadal and defending champion Roger Federer, who are widely expected to contest a fourth final in five years.

"I think it's normal to talk about a Federer/Nadal final since both of them have been so dominant in last five years," he said.

"But I'm in this small group of players behind them that is trying to get to that final and force something that people don't expect."

Djokovic has a 2-0 winning record against Melzer, but warned of the danger posed by the Austrian who, at 29, is the oldest man left in the tournament and playing in his first Grand Slam quarter-final.

"He's been playing great. He's very aggressive. He can play defensive and offensive at the same time. That's what makes him very dangerous."

Melzer saw off Spanish ninth seed David Ferrer in the third round and believes he has nothing to lose against Djokovic.

"He's a hard fighter and gets a lot of balls back. He's a great counterpuncher, but I'm in the quarterfinals. I think I have enough game to go in there and beat him," said Melzer.

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