Federer, Nadal progress on rainy day

Updated: 02 June 2008 18:21 IST

David Nalbandian becomes the first big casualty at the French Open, beaten by reigning champ Rafael Nadal.


Triple champion Rafael Nadal eased closer to French Open history today as potential dangerman David Nalbandian became the biggest casualty of the tournament.

Second seed Nadal brushed aside French qualifier Nicolas Devilder 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 to take his Roland Garros record to 23 wins in 23 matches as he continued his campaign to emulate Bjorn Borg as the only man to win four titles in a row.

The Spaniard's reward is a match-up with Finnish 26th seed Jarkko Nieminen for a place in the last 16.

Argentine sixth seed Nalbandian, who had been scheduled to face Nadal in the quarter-finals where he would have boasted a 2-0 career record over the champion, was a shock loser to French wildcard Jeremy Chardy 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.

Joining him at the exit door was American seventh seed James Blake who fell 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to Ernests Gulbis of Latvia.

The burly Nalbandian had been touted as one of the main obstacles in the way of a third straight final between Nadal and Federer even though his form of late had been poor.

He raced into a two sets lead, but then Chardy, the world 145, playing in only his sixth ATP Tour-level event at the age of 21, stepped up the pace and dominated exchanges from the baseline.

"For me this the best match I've ever played - a top 10 in a Grand Slam," Chardy said.

"Even I said it was not possible. He never loses before the quarter-finals so I am surprised."

Nalbandian blamed his alarming slump on a painful muscle in his side.

"I started good and then I a problem with this muscle so I couldn't play my best all the way," he said.

Chardy's win brought some relief to slumping home hopes at Roland Garros and he next goes up against Dmitry Tursunov of Russia with a place in the last 16 beckoning.

Blake had been the flag-bearer of an American revival at the French Open, but he was always in trouble up against Gulbis, the first Latvian to play at the top level in tennis.

"I felt like I could have won this match and had better success here," the 28-year-old Blake said after failing to match his run into the third round here in 2006.

"Now I have to forget about this and move forward and figure out what happened in time for the grasscourt and hardcourt season."

Jankovic faces injury worries

In the women's tournament, third seed Jelena Jankovic reached the third round, but saw her hopes of lifting a first Grand Slam hit by a painful injury to her right forearm and elbow.

The 23-year-old Serb defeated Croatian-born New Zealander Marina Erakovic 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), but she needed extensive treatment to relieve the pain halfway through the second set.

"The pain started at the beginning of the second set and it was getting worse and worse," Jankovic said of her injury.

"The balls were heavier and from hitting a lot of them my arm got very tight. I started having pain and it is swollen.

The trainer came on and helped me get to the end."

There were no such problems for Venus Williams who powered past Tunisian qualifier Selima Sfar 6-2, 6-4 to join sister Serena in the third round. They could potentially meet in the semi-finals.

The French suffered a major casualty when Amelie Mauresmo had another Roland Garros nightmare in losing 6-3, 6-4 to Spanish qualifier Carla Suarez. It was her worst performance since losing in the first round in 2001 and left more question marks over her career.

There was some relief though from promising 18-year-old Alize Cornet who finished off a 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 win over Giselo Dulko of Argentina in a tie held over from late Wednesday.

Chinese hopes slumped with the defeat of Peng Shuai, who lost her second round tie 6-4, 6-3 to experienced Czech player Iveta Benesova.

Zheng Jie, who made the fourth round on her Roland Garros debut in 2004, will try to keep Chinese interest in the singles alive when she faces Russia's 21st seed Maria Kirilenko.

Last up on the Court Suzanne Lenglen was scheduled to be women's top seed Maria Sharapova who came within two points of losing in the first round on Wednesday to Russian teen Evgeniya Rodina before scraping through in three sets.

The world No.1 was drawn against Bethanie Mattek of the United States who had won just two games in her previous 10 Grand Slam tournament appearances.

Federer drops a set

Roger Federer needed a set to get going but he then confidently blasted his way into the third round of the French Open on Thursday with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-0, 6-4 win over Albert Montanes of Spain.

The top-seeded Swiss star looked out of sorts in a first set made difficult for both players by cool conditions and steadily increasing rain.

He saved two sets points at 4-5 down on his own serve before players, fans and officials alike were sent scurrying for cover as the rain intensified.

Ninety minutes later it was 27-year-old Montanes who was faster out of the blocks lifting the tie-breaker 7/5 with Federer's usually devastating forehand looking wobbly due to the heavy balls.

But with the sun starting to pierce the cloud cover, Federer promptly moved up a gear and raced into a 5-0 lead in the second set with two breaks of serve.

He bagged that set 6-1 and then broke Montanes three times in a row for 6-0 in his favour in the third. Having won 12 out of 13 games since losing the first set, it was clear he had completely turned the tables on the Spaniard.

Montanes held his opening serve in the fourth, but it was a lost cause as Federer opened his shoulders once again to grab the final break he needed two games later.

Federer is looking to win the only Grand Slam singles title that so far has eluded him in this his 10th Roland Garros campaign having lost to Rafael Nadal for the last three years, including the last two finals.

His form though coming into Paris has been disappointing with just one title to his name this year on clay at Estoril last month and seven defeats. He lost to Nadal in the finals at Monte Carlo and Hamburg.

Topics : Tennis Mahesh Bhupathi Novak Djokovic Jie Zheng Rafael Nadal
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