• French Open, Day Seven

Under-par Nadal sees off Fognini in straight sets

ESPN staff
June 1, 2013
Rafael Nadal did not reach his vintage best but is stil on course for an eighth French Open title © Getty Images

Rafael Nadal is still on course for his eighth French Open title after overcoming a spirited Fabio Fognini 7-6(5) 6-4 6-4 in their third round match.

It was by no means a classic showing from the world No. 4 on the Court Philippe Chatrier, but Nadal ultimately proved too strong for his error-prone opponent.

After a hard-hitting start to the match, a forceful Nadal forehand down the line had Fognini looking to the skies in disbelief as it somehow clung to the white.

However, it was world No. 29 Fognini who found the first breakthrough. The Italian set up three break points, squandering two of them before smashing the last out of Nadal's reach to take the lead midway through the first.

However, three unforced errors soon handed Nadal the break back. The Spaniard could not convert two set points, though, as Fognini saved both with a pair of exquisite forehands. Nadal was left staring at a third forehand as Fognini broke once more, but he could not seal the first set on his serve as the Nadal responded to force the tie-break.

A superb lob and drop-shot combination gave Nadal daylight and the Majorca man took the opening set for the first time this tournament when Fognini sent a stretched backhand too long. The error brought a near 70 minute first set to a close, prompting cries of "Vamos" from Nadal.

The Chatrier crowd roared their approval after a stunning point early in the second, Nadal somehow reaching a drop-shot before Fognini eventually put his backhand into the net; the Italian played up to the antics, throwing his racket into the sky before meeting it with a volley more associated with football.

Nadal moved into a commanding lead before serving for the set, although the seven-time Roland Garros champion had to fend off three break points from the spirited Fognini before closing out for a two-love lead.

Despite not being at his mercurial best, Nadal had improved as the sun shone out in Paris. The 26-year-old proved too strong for Fognini in the third, establishing his intention to see the Italian off in three with the early break.

A second break put Nadal in firm control, before a brief curtain call resistance from Fognini ensured the defending champion suffered a late scare. However, the damage had long been done and Nadal comfortably booked his place in the last 16 after Fognini's return landed long of the baseline.

Nadal will now face Kei Nishikori, who held his composure superbly to claim a four-set win over Benoit Paire. In a hot-tempered match on Suzanne Lenglen, Paire smashed a racket, was docked a point for coaching and had the referee on court to berate the decision of umpire Enric Molina. All the while, Nishikori remained calm and he claimed a 6-3 6-7(3) 6-4 6-1 win.

Seventh seed Richard Gasquet continued his impressive tournament to date, overcoming 2007 semi-finalist Nikolay Davydenko with a 6-4 6-4 6-3 win on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

The Frenchman will now play Stanislas Wawrinka in the last 16 as the Swiss No. 2 saw off the challenge from Jerzy Janowicz, defeating the Pole 6-3 6-7(2) 6-3 6-3.

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