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Nadal hoping to avoid another fourth-round banana skin

A year to the day after suffering his only defeat at Roland Garros, four-times champion Rafael Nadal can expect a more comfortable ride in his fourth-round encounter with Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci on Monday.
By HT Correspondent | Reuters, Paris
UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2010 09:20 AM IST

A year to the day after suffering his only defeat at Roland Garros, four-times champion Rafael Nadal can expect a more comfortable ride in his fourth-round encounter with Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci on Monday.

The mighty Spaniard, back to his brilliant best after winning the three claycourt Masters earlier this year, beat the 24th seed two years ago 7-5 6-3 6-1 in the first round in Paris.

"Playing Rafa two years ago means at least I know what to expect. And I learnt a lot from that match, but he is still one of the best claycourt players of all time," Bellucci told Reuters.

The match will be played third on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Nadal bowed out in a four-set defeat to Swede Robin Soderling on a gloomy day last year.

Justine Henin, also looking to claim a fifth crown here, is not expecting to have it easy against seventh-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia, who reached the last four last year at Roland Garros.

"Sam is a great player on clay. Probably her best surface. She has a big serve, big forehand. She can play very heavy, also. So I know it's going to be a tough one," said the 22nd-seeded Belgian, who will be playing for the fifth consecutive day after dusk interrupted her two previous matches.

World number three Novak Djokovic will open proceedings on Centre Court against surprise package American Robby Ginepri, who beat former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the previous round.

The Serbian will be followed by top seed Serena Williams playing against Israel's Shahar Peer, the 18th seed.

In case Nadal slips up, Nicolas Almagro or Fernando Verdasco will make sure a Spaniard reaches the last eight as they face each other on Lenglen.

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