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Nadal edges closer to French Open final

Double defending champion Rafael Nadal eases into the French Open last 16 with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 win over Spanish compatriot Albert Montanes.

sports Updated: Jun 02, 2007 23:31 IST

Double defending champion Rafael Nadal celebrated his 21st birthday a day early by easing into the French Open last 16 on Saturday with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 win over Spanish compatriot Albert Montanes.

Nadal, who turns 21 on Sunday, will face either Australian 14th seed Lleyton Hewitt or 20th seeded Finn Jarkko Nieminen for a place in the quarter-finals.

Nadal took his Roland Garros record to 17-0 and he has hardly looked in trouble in the first week where he has progressed into the fourth round without losing a set.

In his only previous meeting against Montanes, the second seed had allowed his opponent just one game in a 6-1, 6-0 win on the clay of Acapulco in 2005.

Nadal was quickly into his stride on Saturday breaking in the fourth and six games although the opening set took almost an hour to decide with point after point being decided by brutally long rallies in the 29-degree heat.

The 26-year-old Montanes, the world number 50, has never got beyond the third round of a Grand Slam before and despite some dogged resistance, he lacked the speed and the tenacity to really trouble the champion.

Two more breaks in the third and ninth games gave Nadal a two-sets lead and he nipped ahead with another break in the second game of the third to build the platform for another comfortable win.

Montanes's cause, virtually hopeless from the start, wasn't helped by an ugly unforced error count of 60 compared to the champion's 21.