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Federer struggles as Nadal cruises

Nadal crashed into the third round with his 55th consecutive clay court victory, while Federer had to struggle his way against Nicolas Massu.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 14:46 IST

Defending champion Rafael Nadal struck the first psychological blow in his French Open title race against Roger Federer on Friday.

While Nadal cruised into the third round with his 55th consecutive clay court victory, world number one Federer endured a lengthy struggle to put down the resistance of Chile's Olympic champion Nicolas Massu.

Federer squeezed past 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 7-5 in a 2hr 35min encounter and will now face Czech 20th seed Tomas Berdych for a place in the quarterfinals.

Nadal took 30 minutes less to beat American lucky loser Kevin Kim 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in a match held over from Thursday and now faces French 29th seed Paul-Henri Mathieu for a fourth round spot.

Federer, bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, was in cruise control early on against the gritty Massu.

But he then inexplicably suffered a bout of mid-match nerves when he served for the match at 6-5 in the third set before he regained the initiative in a tight fourth set.

Nadal turns 20 on Saturday and is determined to make it a double celebration by seeing off his French opponent.

"Although I will be playing a Frenchman, I don't think there will be any extra pressure. It's just a tennis match and I will have to play well," he said.

Federer wasn't the only man struggling.

Third seeded Argentinian David Nalbandian came back from two sets down to beat Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 2-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and now meets compatriot and qualifier Martin Vassallo Arguello for a place in the quarter-finals.

Gaston Gaudio, the 2004 champion, hammered out an ominous warning that he is returning to his best form by disposing of 2003 winner Juan Carlos Ferrero to move into the last 16.

The Argentinian's reward is a last 16 date with Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko who put out 1998 champion Carlos Moya of Spain, 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.

America's James Blake, the eighth seed, recovered from a first set loss to defeat dangerous Spanish teenager Nicolas Almagro.

Blake had dropped the opening set when play was suspended on Thursday but he thrived in the sunnier, faster conditions on Friday to record a 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 win.

The American faces French 25th seed Gael Monfils for a place in the last 16.

Croatian 12th Mario Ancic, who was fined 3,000 dollars for a bust-up with Chile's Paul Capdeville in his previous match, made the fourth round for the first time with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over Spain's Albert Montanes.

Ancic will face Spanish seventh seed Tommy Robredo who put out the Czech Republic's Lukas Dlouhy 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

Women's top seed Amelie Mauresmo brushed aside the dangerous Serb Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-3 to set up a fourth round tie with Czech 16th seed Nicole Vaidisova.

"Everything was perfect today," said the 26-year-old Mauresmo bidding to add her home title the Australian Open crown she captured in January.

"The sun was back, the public was into it and everything was in line."

Fourth seed Maria Sharapova, who is scheduled to face Mauresmo in the semi-finals, also reached the last 16 by defeating Alicia Molik of Australia 6-0, 7-5.

The Russian will next play compatriot Dinara Safina for a place in the quarterfinals.

Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters also ruthlessly exposed the gulf in talent in women's tennis when they stormed into the third round.

Hingis, the 12th seed, crushed Zuzana Ondraskova of the Czech Republic, ranked a lowly 114 in the world, 6-1, 6-3 in just 49 minutes.

Clijsters, the second seed, took six minutes longer to see off Spain's Conchita Martinez Granados, the world's 95th best player, 6-0, 6-3.

Hingis, who has never won the French Open, now faces Croatia's Ivana Lisjak for a place in the last 16 while Clijsters takes on Spanish 26th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Russian sixth seed Elena Dementieva beat Viktoriya Kutuzova of Ukraine 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 and takes on Israel's Shahar Peer, the 31st seed, for a place in the last 16.

Switzerland's Patty Schnyder, the Swiss seventh seed, reached the fourth round with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 win over Julia Vakulenko of Ukraine.

Schnyder will take on American 11th seed Venus Williams who beat Karolina Sprem of Croatia 7-5, 6-3 for a place in the quarterfinals.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Russian eighth seed, beat China's Li Na 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) and has a date against ninth seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy.