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Nadal flattens Verdasco

June 02, 2008 01:02 IST

Three-times champion Rafael Nadal pummelled fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco into a 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 submission to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open on Sunday.

Verdasco was the fourth successive left-hander to take on the Mallorcan second seed but he suffered the same fate as all those who went before him -- a straight-sets drubbing.

Nadal returned everything Verdasco could throw at him, usually with interest, to extend his perfect Roland Garros record to 25-0.

Aiming to become the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1981 to capture a fourth successive title here, the 21-year-old will finally get a chance to test his game against a right-hander when he takes on compatriot Nicolas Almagro next.

Latvian Gulbis storms into quarters

Latvia's Ernests Gulbis reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final after an efficient 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 dissection of Michael Llodra.

The 19-year-old, the only Latvian to have played a major, hammered 11 aces and reproduced the kind of form that accounted for seventh seed James Blake in round two to quash the swashbuckling net play of the unseeded Frenchman.

Gulbis used his big serve and driving groundstrokes to thwart Llodra's chipping and charging to run out the winner in a shade over two hours on a sun-drenched Court Suzanne Lenglen.

"I'm happy. I mean, after the match, I don't want to jump around and do crazy stuff. I'm just relieved that at last it's over," said Gulbis, who chose practice on clay over trying to qualify for Masters Series events in Hamburg and Rome this year.

Unseeded Gulbis took his chance on his only break point in the first set and sealed the opener with his fourth ace.

Llodra fought back from a break down to take the second to a tiebreak and used every tactic in the book, including two shots from between his legs to try and upend the Latvian.

But Gulbis stood firm, won the tiebreak 7-4 and charged through the third in 37 minutes.

Since Gulbis first announced himself on the world stage when he reached the fourth round of the US Open last year, Latvia, a country whose sports fans are normally preoccupied by basketball and soccer, has started to sit up and pay attention.

"People are really interested in tennis at this moment," the Riga-born player said. "After the US Open when I reached the fourth round, the courts in Latvia are fully booked always.

"If I go to practise at home, I don't get a court. It's full."


Gulbis trained as a 12-year-old with his quarter-final opponent Novak Djokovic at the Niki Pilic academy in Munich and believes his new approach on clay could be a successful one.

"One year ago, I was playing pretty stupid on clay. I was going for the shots when I didn't need to go for the shots. I was playing hardcourt tennis on clay," he said.

"But on clay it's different. This year I realised it and I change my game a little bit. I'm not trying to go for winners every time, only when it's possible, so it's paying off."

Third seed Djokovic looked back with fondness at the 'crazy times' he and Gulbis had shared during their tennis apprenticeship.

"He was destroying me in practice. I couldn't win a match," Djokovic joked with reporters. "He's a favourite. I will play with no responsibility, nothing to lose."

When put to him that he appeared the crazier of the two, Djokovic replied: "Don't be so sure about that. I think I know him better than you."

Crazy or otherwise, if the Latvian people are not yet convinced about Gulbis then the defeated Llodra did his best to persuade them.

"I think he's a beautiful player. I never underestimated him. You don't defeat Blake or (Nicolas) Lapentti just by chance. So I probably overestimated him rather than underestimated him."

Ruthless Djokovic into last eight

World number three Novak Djokovic booked his place in the quarter-finals with a convincing 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over local favourite Paul-Henri Mathieu.

The Australian Open champion held his nerve in the key moments of the match.

"I was serving very well and it's very encouraging for the continuation of the tournament," the Serbian said in a courtside interview.

"This is something I definitely want to have as a weapon," added the third-seeded Serb, who served 14 aces on Sunday.

Mathieu, seeded 18, added: "It was really hard for me to read his serve. He is booming with confidence and deserves his win."

Mathieu saved two break points in the fifth game but as he struggled with his first serve, he fell behind when he sent a forehand long on the third.

The Frenchman went 40-0 up on Djokovic's serve in the 10th but the Serb rallied to deuce with a service winner and two aces before claiming the opening set after 51 minutes when Mathieu netted an easy forehand.

Rain suspended play for 25 minutes with the score tied at 2-2 in the second set and upon resumption, Djokovic and Mathieu traded breaks.

But it was the Frenchman who found himself trailing again after dropping serve for the third time in the match in the seventh game.

In the following game Matheiu earned four break points but was left to rue his chances as he could not convert any, squandering the last one by netting another easy forehand.

Djokovic tightened his grip on the match when he broke again to snatch the set.

Mathieu kept trying in the third set, saving four break points to hold until 4-4.

But he could not break down the dogged resistance of Djokovic, who simply waited for Mathieu to net yet another easy forehand to seal the win on his first match point after two hours and 20 minutes.

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