Triple champion Rafael Nadal eased closer to French Open history on Thursday as potential dangerman David Nalbandian became the biggest casualty of the tournament.
Second seed Nadal brushed aside French qualifier Nicolas Devilder 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 to take his Roland Garros record to 23 wins in 23 matches as he continued his campaign to emulate Bjorn Borg as the only man to win four titles in a row. The Spaniard’s reward is a match-up with Finnish 26th seed Jarkko Nieminen for a place in the last 16.
Argentine sixth seed Nalbandian, who had been scheduled to face Nadal in the quarterfinals where he would have boasted a 2-0 career record over the champion, was a shock loser to French wildcard Jeremy Chardy 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. Joining him at the exit door was American seventh seed James Blake who fell 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to Ernests Gulbis of Latvia. The burly Nalbandian had been touted as one of the main obstacles in the way of a third straight final between Nadal and Federer even though his form of late had been poor.
He raced to a two-set lead, but then Chardy, the world 145, playing in only his sixth ATP Tour-level event at the age of 21, stepped up the pace and dominated exchanges from the baseline.
“For me this the best match I’ve ever played - a top 10 in a Grand Slam,” Chardy said.
Blake had been the flag-bearer of an American revival at the French Open, but he was always in trouble up against Gulbis, the first Latvian to play at the top level in tennis.
“I felt like I could have won this match and had better success here,” the 28-year-old Blake said after failing to match his run into the third round here in 2006.
Federer in third round
Roger Federer was briefly rattled before he swiftly moved into the third round of the French Open with a 6-7 6-1 6-0 6-4 win over Spaniard Albert Montanes.
The world number one looked nonchalant in a scrappy first set before punishing his opponent with a string of winners. The Swiss top seed will face Croatian Mario Ancic for a last-16 spot.
He also remained on course for an all Swiss quarter-final clash with Stanislas Wawrinka after the later breezed past Marin Cilic 7-6 7-6 6-1.
Women: Jelena Jankovic (SRB) beat Marina Erakovic (NZ) 6-2, 7-6 (5); Flavia Pennetta (ITA) beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1; Venus Williams (US) beat Selima Sfar (TUN) 6-2, 6-4; Katarina Srebotnik (SLO) beat Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 6-0, 7-5; Iveta Benesova (CZE) beat Peng Shuai (CHN) 6-4, 6-3
Men: Roger Federer (SUI) beat Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-0, 6-4; Fernando Verdasco (ESP) beat Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5; Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) beat Diego Junqueira (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 6-2; Rafael Nadal (ESP) beat Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-4, 6-0, 6-1; Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) beat Pablo Andujar (ESP) 7-5, 6-0, 6-7(4), 7-6(3); Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) beat Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; Jeremy Chardy (FRA) beat David Nalbandian (ARG) 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2; Ernests Gulbis (LAT) beat James Blake (USA) 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.