PARIS: Rafael Nadal tightened a Spanish stranglehold on the bottom half of the French Open draw on Saturday, while Andy Murray set up a last 16 round clash with Richard Gasquet.
The defending champion coasted into the fourth round with a lop-sided 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 win over qualifier Eduardo Schwank of Argentina.
Earlier sixth-seeded David Ferrer flattened Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 in just 101 minutes, whilst 12th seed Nicolas Almagro saw off the challenge of Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. Marcel Granollers then edged a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 6-1 win over French wildcard Paul-Henri Mathieu to ensure that half of the qualifiers for the last 16 in the bottom half of the draw were from Spain.
In contrast, there were no Spaniards through in the top half of the draw. Murray looked to be over the lower back problems that beset him in the previous round as he defeated Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Nadal, who turns 26 on Sunday, had Schwank on the defensive from the start, jumping out into a 4-0 lead that set the tone for the entire match.
He conceded just eight games, taking his total in three matches to a meagre 17.
The Spaniard is set on winning the French Open for a record seventh time in eight years, having first played at Roland Garros in 2005 as an 18-year-old. With a match record of 48-1 in his favour Nadal next goes up against Juan Monaco of Argentina who defeated Milos Raonic of Canada 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-4.