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Nadal shows Hewitt no mercy
June 04, 2007 22:57 IST
Lleyton Hewitt [Images] was flattened into the clay by Rafael Nadal [Images] on Monday as the Spaniard's headlong charge towards a hat-trick of French Open titles showed no sign of running out of steam.
The world number two spoke of his respect for Australian Hewitt in the build-up to their fourth round meeting but he showed him scant regard as he comprehensively outplayed the 14th seed during a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 victory.
The next obstacle in his sights is boyhood hero, friend and compatriot Carlos Moya [Images] after the 30-year-old former champion beat 35-year-old Swede Jonas Bjorkmann 7-6, 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals for the fourth time.
"It won't be a foregone conclusion, I'm going to enjoy playing against him on Centre Court," Moya, now the oldest player left in the draw, said of his impending clash with a player yet to drop a set here this year.
Serbian sixth seed Novak Djokovic and Russian outsider Igor Andreev also came through to complete the last eight, with victories over Fernando Verdasco and Marcos Baghdatis respectively on a humid day in the French capital.
Hewitt, who became the youngest world number one in 2001 aged 20, is one of just four active players with a winning record against Nadal and a slender defeat in Hamburg recently suggested a tight battle here.
The Australian had lost the opening sets in both his previous rounds and was slow out of the blocks again as Nadal stormed through the first two sets.
Hewitt showed typical grit when Nadal stepped up to serve for the match at 6-5 in the third set, breaking to extend the champion into a tiebreak.
He then had a great chance at 5-4 in the tiebreak, only to fire a halfcourt forehand tamely into the net. A Nadal smash then brought up matchpoint and he needed just one opportunity as Hewitt again netted a forehand.
The list of players capable of stopping Nadal is a short one. Roger Federer [Images] obviously tops it, but 20-year-old Djokovic, the youngest player to reach the fourth round, beefed up his case as he made mincemeat of Verdasco, winning 6-3 6-3 7-6.
He joins compatriots Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals, a new Serbian record, and a juicy semi-final against Nadal is looming.
Kitted out in bright yellow shirt and black shorts, Djokovic buzzed across the red clay, stinging Verdasco with winners from every conceivable angle to seize a two-set lead.
Verdasco forced scrambled into a tiebreak in the third set but the writing was on the wall when a fizzing Djokovic backhand dropped dead off the netcord to give him a 4-1 lead.
The Serbian looked to the heavens, arms aloft, but he needed no further assistance from above as he moved into his second successive Roland Garros quarter-final.
"The first three matches here I played against players ranked much lower than me and didn't play my best tennis," said Djokovic, who was two points from defeat against French wildcard Olivier Patience on Saturday.
"But I'm very happy about today. I've got a lot of confidence and motivation for my next match," added Djokovic who could reach the semi-final without facing a seed.
His next opponent is the 23-year-old Andreev, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final with a resounding 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 defeat of an out-of-sorts Baghdatis.
Bjorkman had his chances against Moya, leading 5-2 in the first set and 5-3 in the tiebreak, before losing to the 1998 champion who proved he is still a force on clay.
The French Open 2007 coverage