Rafael Nadal breezed past Lleyton Hewitt for the third time in four years at Roland Garros on Friday as the four-time champion took another confident step closer to a record fifth French Open title.
Nadal won 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to clinch a 31st consecutive win at the tournament and will now tackle either compatriot David Ferrer or Robin Soderling of Sweden for a place in the quarterfinals.
"For sure it was my best match here so far," he said.
The 22-year-old Spaniard stormed to two quick breaks to lead 5-1 in the first set against the former world number one before wrapping up the opener after just 30 minutes.
He broke again to love in the first game of the second but the gritty Hewitt, who fought back from two sets down to beat Ivo Karlovic in the first round, clinched his first break of the contest to level the set at 2-2.
But it was a brief respite as Nadal, six years younger than the former Wimbledon and US Open winner, broke back to lead 4-3 with a breathtaking forehand, picked up at his toes.
Nadal won nine of the match’s last 10 games to take victory after less than two hours on court.
Fernando Verdasco edged closer to another potentially epic Grand Slam showdown with Nadal after taking the hard road to see off Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro.
Eighth seed Verdasco needed nine match points to defeat the 31st seed Almagro 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (10/8) in their third round clash and will next face Russian 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko, a two-time semi-finalist.
Serbian fourth seed Novak Djokovic reached the third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win over Ukrainian qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Djokovic will face German 29th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber who put out Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 champion, for a place in the last 16.
Chilean 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez, twice a quarter-finalist and the junior champion in 1998, ended the hopes of French wildcard Josselin Ouanna, who put out Marat Safin in the previous round, with a 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 win.
Gonzalez will take on 30th seeded Romanian Victor Hanescu, who stunned French seventh seed Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, for for a place in the quarter-finals.
Davydenko saw off Stanilas Wawrinka of Switzerland, another former junior champion, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Croatian 13th seed Marin Cilic who knocked out Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.