PARIS (AP) — For the first time in his career, Rafael Nadal will make a fifth straight appearance in the French Open quarterfinals.
Nadal won a record 32nd straight match at Roland Garros on Monday, beating Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 to improve on his own record by one.
Nadal is an eight-time French Open champion with a 63-1 record on the red clay in Paris. His only loss came in the fourth round in 2009, when he was a four-time defending champion for the first time.
Another upset never seemed possible this time, despite complaints of pain in his back that slowed his serves in the previous round.
“I don’t want to talk too much about this thing today,” Nadal said of his injury. “I have important match to come. Today I won a match in good shape. We’ll see what’s going on in the future.”
Playing on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal’s favorite court in the world, the top-seeded Spaniard controlled the match from the start. He then won 17 straight points to open the second set, taking a 4-0 lead before finally sending a backhand wide to make it 15-15 in the fifth game.
Later in that set, Lajovic held three break points at 0-40, but Nadal saved them all and held. It wasn’t until late in the third, with the match far out of reach, that Lajovic did manage a break – the only game he won in the final set.
“I played with no mistakes and having the control with the backhand, with the forehand from the baseline,” Nadal said. “Sure, you never know what’s better, but in theory, the theory says that it’s better win like this than win longer matches.”
Nadal has won 13 major titles, and is the only man to win eight at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments. With another championship at Roland Garros this year, he would become the first man to win five straight French Open titles.
And he’s looking rather unbeatable.
The Spaniard, who turns 28 on Tuesday, has lost only 23 games through four rounds, only four more than he lost in reaching the quarterfinals in 2012.
Nadal will next face fifth-seeded David Ferrer, the man he beat in last year’s French Open final. Ferrer defeated 19th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
In April, Ferrer beat Nadal on clay in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo.
“Always when you have a loss in the last confrontation, that can (have an) effect. Or not. I don’t know,” Nadal said. “I will tell you after tomorrow. But at the end, important thing for me is I am in quarterfinals here.”
Also Monday, Andy Murray defeated Fernando Verdasco of Spain 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (3) and will next face Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals. Monfils advanced by beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.
In the women’s tournament, fourth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania beat Sloane Stephens of the United States 6-4, 6-3, and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4.
Kuznetsova and Halep will meet in the quarterfinals, while 10th-seeded Sara Errani of Italy will face Andrea Petkovic of Germany.
Errani defeated sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 7-6 (5), 6-2. Petkovic beat unseeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Petkovic overcame an inconsistent serve in the early match on Court Philippe Chatrier.
The 28th-seeded German was broken three times in the first set, once in the second and three more times in the third. But she was able to earn seven breaks of her own – all in the final two sets – to advance to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the second time in her career.
Bertens, ranked No. 148, had been bidding to become the lowest ranked woman to reach the French Open quarterfinals since the field at the clay-court major was expanded to 128 players in 1983.
After splitting the first two sets, the players exchanged breaks quickly and often in the third. Each of the first five games went to the returning player, with Petkovic finally holding to lead 4-2.
Both players were broken once more, but Petkovic was able to hold in the last game with a forehand winner on match point.
“It was super tough, because I didn’t know her at all,” Petkovic said. “I just stalked her on YouTube yesterday the whole day, and I was already impressed yesterday.”