• French Open, Day Nine

Nadal cruises into French Open quarter-finals

ESPN staff
June 3, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Rafael Nadal eased into the quarter-finals of the French Open with victory over Japan's Kei Nishikori © AP
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Rafael Nadal celebrated his 27th birthday by earning a place in the quarter-finals of the French Open with a straight sets victory over 13th seed Kei Nishikori.

The Japanese No. 1 started brightly and threatened early on, but seven-time Roland Garros champion Nadal never really got out of second gear in a 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory.

Nadal has a 100% record against Nishikori, winning all four previous matches between the pair, and that record never looked in danger on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The Spaniard started sluggishly and a couple of under-hit forehands allowed Nishikori to claim two break points in just the fourth game. But Nadal rallied to save both and then had two break points of his own in the very next game. Nishikori managed to pull it back to deuce, but from there Nadal hammered his opponent with a series of lassoing forehands to earn the first break.

The two traded the next four games until, serving for the set, Nadal whipped a breath-taking backhand from an outrageous angle to set up the set points and a 1-0 lead.

Nishikori gathered himself to hold serve in the opening game of the second, but it was to be his last of the set as Nadal started to find his rhythm and that familiar forehand assault.

In the third game, Nadal crushed one wide which Nishikori does remarkably well to reach, but Nadal was prowling at the net and took the gift of an open court to set up his first break points of the second set.

At 3-1, Nadal stepped up a gear and took little time in moving into a 40-0 lead in the fifth game. A shell-shocked Nishikori then prods a forehand just long of the baseline and his chances really began to flat-line.

The Japanese looked like he had some fight in him in the following game, taking three points from Nadal's serve, but the Spaniard proved too tough and, faced with a set point advantage, Nishikori's two-handed effort strayed wide and it looked over for the world No. 15.

Three holds of serve into the third set and Nishikori started to have trouble with his ball toss as the breeze around Court Philippe Chatrier starts to cause problems. Nishikori found himself two break points down and a mis-timed forehand lands long and wide to gift Nadal the game.

Nadal was in cruise control, and he almost looked too comfortable in the ninth game when Nishikori rallied to set up two break points. But it wasn't to be and Nadal recovered to earn a quarter-final spot with easily his best performance of this year's French Open so far.

French Open officials then surprised Nadal with a giant cake as the crowd sang happy birthday to the king of clay.

Nadal will face Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals after the Swiss ninth-seed came back from two sets down to win a dramatic encounter with Richard Gasquet on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

In what was easily the most enthralling match of the 2013 French Open so far, ninth seed and home favourite Gasquet raced into two-set lead, but Wawrinka dug deep and pulled it level before taking the fifth to seal a 6-7(7-5) 4-6 6-4 7-5 8-6 victory in a match which lasted four hours and ten minutes.

It is the fifth time Gasquet has been beaten from two sets up at a grand slam.

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