• French Open, Day Five

Nadal blazes past Istomin at Roland Garros

ESPN staff
May 31, 2012

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Rafael Nadal took a step closer to an historic seventh French Open title with a dominant victory over Denis Istomin.

The defending champion, who is bidding to become the first man to win seven titles at Roland Garros, underlined his status as red-hot favourite in Paris with an impressive 6-2 6-2 6-0 victory.

Despite some big hitting from Istomin, Nadal grabbed an early lead and never looked back as he strolled towards victory. A second break of serve was enough as the Spaniard coolly served out for the opening set.

Istomin had his chances - earning a break point after sending a winner flashing past Nadal, having sent the Spaniard scurrying backwards to retrieve a lob, but ultimately could not convert his chances.

As is so often the way with Nadal, it proved to be costly. Having seen a break point pass him by, Istomin swiftly found himself a break down as Nadal hit back with his customary ferocity.

Nadal demonstrated superb ability to convert defence into attack - throwing himself around the court to retrieve shots from the baseline before dispatching a blistering forehand that left Istomin rooted to the spot.

With Istomin's resistance dented, the third set took just 26 minutes as Nadal sailed into the third round - where he awaits either Eduardo Schwank, after he ousted Florian Mayer.

Nadal's fellow Spaniard David Ferrer pressed home his clay-court credentials as he sailed past home favourite Benoit Paire.

Ferrer, who is seeded to meet Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, needed less than two hours to wrap up a 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over the Frenchman. He will now face Russia's Mikhail Youzhny, who hit 53 winners in a 6-3 7-6(5) 6-4 win over Robin Haase.

On the other side of the draw, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga progressed to the third round unscathed. Tsonga had dropped the second set against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe when rain brought a halt to proceedings on Wednesday, but the Frenchman wasted little time in sealing a 6-2 4-6 6-2 6-1 victory.

Next up for Tsonga is Fabio Fognini who hung on to beat Viktor Troicki in a topsy-turvy five-setter. Fognini, a surprise quarter-finalist at Roland Garros last year, battled back from a set down to clinch a 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3 8-6 victory.

Later in the evening, there was another marathon match involving John Isner - as the American ultimately lost another gruelling five-setter against John-Henri Mathieu, 6-7 6-4 6-4 3-6 18-16.

Isner saved five match points in the decisive fifth set but could never create an opportunity to clinch matters for himself, as he once again ended up on the wrong side of the scoreline against a Frenchman in the second longest match in Roland Garros history.

Isner famously lost to Nicolas Mahut in a record-breaking contest at Wimbledon in 2010, although this encore performance was a 'mere' five hours and 41 minutes - the fourth longest in grand slam history.

Elsewhere, Richard Gasquet came back from a set down to defeat Grigor Dimtrov in four - while Janko Tipsarevic progressed against Jeffrey Chardy over the same period.

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