| Svetlana Kuznetsova, in action against Petra Kvitova, on Saturday. (Getty Images) |
Paris: Rafa Nadal put down an attempted coup at the French Open as the eight-time champion saw off Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the fourth round in commanding fashion on Saturday.
Mayer went for his shots in a tense second set and broke the world No. 1 back for 4-4, only for the Spaniard to show why he is still the man to beat in Paris.
“For me, it’s a very emotional thing when I am on (court Philippe) Chatrier, a lot of memories come to my mind,” said Nadal, who made only 10 unforced errors with just two coming in a masterful opening set.
One moment that may live long in the memory occurred in the second set when the defending champion recovered after being wrong-footed by Mayer to pull off a perfect backhand lob to break decisively for a 6-5 lead.
He followed up with a game to love, sealing the set with a jaw-dropping forehand passing shot before steaming through the third and ending the contest with a service winner.
Nadal next faces Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who beat American Jack Sock 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 and also has yet to drop a set.
Should he prevail, he could face compatriot David Ferrer in the quarter final, the man he beat to claim last year’s title and one of three men to have beaten him on the red dust this season.
The fifth-seeded Ferrer continued his stroll through the draw with a 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-3 win against Italian Andreas Seppi.
Ferrer blazed through the opening set but let his guard down in the second after an early break and was forced into a tiebreak he won 7-2.
The third set was a mere formality and the fifth seed finished it off on his first match point with one of his trademark forehand winners down the line.
Earlier, Simona Halep had too many tricks up her sleeve for Spaniard Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor as the fourth seed glided into the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-0 win.
The wily Romanian, the highest seed left in the draw after Serena Williams, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska were knocked out early, found perfect angles and defended superbly to counter Torro-Flor’s powerful forehand in Paris.
Roland Garros has not been a happy hunting ground for Ana Ivanovic since she won the title in 2008 and the popular Serbian failed to break that jinx on Saturday as she lost 3-6, 3-6 to Czech Lucie Safarova.
The 23rd seeded Safarova, who entered the match with a 4-2 record against the 11th seed having won their last four encounters, was never really bothered by Ivanovic’s uncontrolled power.
Safarova will face another champion in 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova after the Russian 27th seed beat Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova 6-7 (3), 6-1, 9-7 in three hours 13 minutes.
Kvitova took two medical timeouts and came back from the first with a heavily strapped right thigh, but it did not seem to hamper her as she peppered the court with winners.
But her 65 unforced errors eventually cost her as she bowed out on the third match point.
It was a mixed day for Sania Mirza. Partnering Horia Tecau, the Indian crashed out of the mixed doubles event despite making a stupendous start. However, she managed to reach the pre-quarter finals of the women’s doubles.
Sania first took the court for women’s doubles tie and along with partner Cara Black dispatched the unseeded combine of Gabriela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska 6-1, 6-2 in the second round.
The fifth seeded Indo-Zimbabwean pair needed just 59 minutes to move to the pre-quarter finals.
Sania then paired with her Romanian partner Tecau but suffered a shock 6-1, 4-6, 7-10 defeat at the hands of Timea Babos from Hungry and American Eric Butorac.
India’s challenge though is still alive in the event as Rohan Bopanna and his second seeded Slovakian partner Katarina Srebotnik reached the quarter finals.
They had to work hard to beat Cara Black and Robert Farah 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 in their second round contest.
Bopanna and Katarina will lock horns with eighth seeded team of Julia Goerges from Germany and seasoned Nenad Zimonjic from Serbia.
In the women’s doubles match, Sania and Cara faced only one breakpoint in the lop-sided contest and broke their rivals four times. The fifth seeds won 57 points to 37 of their rivals.
They are now up against Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic and Russian Alisa Kleybanova, who got a walkover from Sharon Fichman and A Pavlyuchenkova.
Meanwhile, Nadal sounded unhappy about being told that he takes too long to serve.
Nadal’s pre-serve routine seems to get more extended every time he appears at the tournament and Pascal Maria, the chair umpire for his three-set defeat of Mayer, takes a hard line on how long it all takes.
A rule introduced in 2013 sets a time limit of 25 seconds for a player to serve. Nadal was called twice by Maria during a match in Monte Carlo in April and again on Saturday during his third-round match.
“After the warning I frowned a little and then I continued, I accepted,” Nadal said. “Sometimes I think that this is fair, because it's true to say that I’m slow. So these warnings are fair. But today, no.
“With this judge, there are always one or two warnings with him, and this is the way it is. I have to accept it.”
Nadal said he decided he could not afford to take his towel from a ball boy to wipe away the sweat on a sunny Philippe Chatrier court in case he got into trouble with Maria.
“When Pascal is here I don’t even take my towel, otherwise it's too long,” the Spaniard added.
“I don’t see sport this way, but there are rules. There are rules that we have to comply with. It is strange, because we have a framework of rules, but with him I always have problems, always there is more pressure than usual.” (Agencies)