Rafa Extends Pair Of Streaks With Third-Round Romp
The World No. 1 continued his march towards an unprecedented 11th title at the clay-court Grand Slam with a dominant 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 rout of longtime rival Richard Gasquet on Saturday. He advances to the Round of 16 at a major for the 40th time, becoming just the sixth player to acheive the feat in the Open Era.
With the victory, Nadal extended a pair of staggering streaks. He has now won his past 34 completed sets at Roland Garros, breaking his own personal best of 32 in a row from 2007-09. Only Bjorn Borg, who won 41 consecutive sets in 1979-81, has recorded a longer streak in Paris.
In addition, victory for Nadal saw the Spaniard notch his 16th match win against Gasquet at the tour-level. He now owns a ruthless 16-0 stranglehold on their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. It is just the seventh match-up in the Open Era in which a player has recorded as many wins without a defeat.
"It was an emotional thing for me to play with him here in this court," Nadal said about facing Gasquet. "I don't know what the others think. All I know is about me. What I know is I go to the court, and I know that I could very well lose. I can win, I can lose. I don't come here saying, You can't win against me.
"Of course I have won a lot and it can influence my opponents. But that's their thing. It's their problem. I can't answer about that. Richard is someone I really appreciate. I'm just sorry that he had to play me again here. But that's the sport."
Most Dominant FedEx ATP Head-To-Heads (Open Era)
|Bjorn Borg||Vitas Gerulaitis||17-0|
|Roger Federer||Mikhail Youzhny
|Roger Federer||David Ferrer||17-0|
|Ivan Lendl||Tim Mayotte||17-0|
|Rafael Nadal||Richard Gasquet||16-0|
|Ivan Lendl||Scott Davis||16-0|
|Ivan Lendl||Brad Gilbert||16-0|
It was billed as one of the more highly anticipated third-round encounters on the terre battue. After all, Nadal and Gasquet have a long history that dates back to their junior days. But their pro rivalry has been one-way traffic in favour of the Spaniard, and he continued to flex his muscle on a sunny Saturday afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Nadal blasted out of the gate, claiming the first nine points and 20 of the first 22 points. Gasquet did well to snatch a break back after falling behind 0-5, rifling a backhand winner down the line. But the Frenchman had no answer for the imposing clay-court game of his opponent, constantly being put on the defensive and moved from corner to corner. There was little he could do to counter Nadal's penetrating forehand.
"I tried to play my game," said Gasquet. "It's not easy to do, to find another level. I tried my best. I tried to serve well, but I think it's tough for me, because my best stroke is the backhand. With him, I'm going to his forehand. And on the diagonal, he's just better than me. That is a big key for me. That's why it's very difficult for me to play against his game.
"It's difficult to practise with players who play like him. It took me time to get into the match. He won't give you a point when he gets ahead of you. You know it's going to be very complex. The quality of his forehand hurts. It's no surprise to anyone. But that's it. It's an incredible strength every time he strikes a forehand."
The Spaniard would convert a total of six breaks during the one-hour and 58-minute affair, striking 25 winners to Gasquet's 13. He broke Gasquet to open both the second and third sets and did not look back from there, earning his first sub-two hour win of the tournament.
Not only has Nadal won 16 consecutive matches against Gasquet, the Spaniard has not dropped a set in 10 years. That's 28 sets won in a row. It also marked their first meeting at Roland Garros since 2005, when Nadal took another third-round match-up 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Most Grand Slam Round of 16 Appearances
|Player||No. of Appearances|
The top seed, who turns 32 on Sunday, is now 22-1 on clay this year and 82-2 in his career at Roland Garros. He will look to give himself another birthday gift when he faces Maxmilian Marterer in Monday's fourth round. A 12th quarter-final appearance is at stake for the Manacor native.
Marterer is enjoying his best run at a Grand Slam tournament, streaking into the Round of 16 with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 triumph over Jurgen Zopp in one hour and 39 minutes. The World No. 70 is guaranteed to rise to a career-high in the ATP Rankings, as he pushes towards the Top 50.
"He's a player that has a good potential," Nadal said about Marterer. "He's a player that has a good serve, good forehand. He hits the ball with big topspin. He has power, so he's a dangerous opponent. He's playing well. He won very easy today. Being in that round, winning good matches. He's of course playing well.
"I need to take care about what's going on. I hope to be ready to play a good match. I think I'm improving, too, every day, playing better and better. And that's my goal and my way. I have another opportunity to practise tomorrow, to keep finding the right feelings, and then try to play the best match possible on Monday."
Marterer is playing the best tennis of his young career, registering his first Top 30 wins during this clay-court season. He upset Diego Schwartzman en route to his first ATP World Tour semi-final in Munich and toppled Denis Shapovalov earlier this week.
The German is one of two players from his country to reach the Round of 16, joining Alexander Zverev. It marks the first time multiple Germans have advanced as far since 2013 (Haas, Kohlschreiber).
Marterer's victory over Zopp also signaled the end of the road for the eight lucky losers in Paris. The Estonian will hold his head high, however, reaching the third round in his first major main draw since 2014.
DID YOU KNOW?
Marterer faces a tall order against Nadal, who is a perfect 17-0 against German opponents on clay. He has lost just two sets in total - to Daniel Brands at Roland Garros in 2013 and to Alexander Zverev two weeks ago in Rome.