PARIS (AFP) – 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 top seed and 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, 46, 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.
In the end 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.
“I have started well the tournament into the second week now, that is the most important thing,” he said.
“Now I have a big confrontation against Monaco. He is having a fantastic season.’’
The 30-year-old Ferrer, who has yet to make it past the quarter-ﬁnals at Roland Garros despite being one of the best players on clay for the last few years, had Youzhny by the throat from the start, winning the ﬁrst set 6-0 and leading 2-0 in the second before the Russian got off the mark.
Thereafter Ferrer conceded just another three games as he set up a last 16 round meeting with Granollers.
“This match was easier than planned, and I was immediately into the match,’’ he said.
“When the situation was a bit difﬁcult, I managed to overcome these difﬁculties.
Almagro’s routine win over Mayer was his seventh straight victory following his title triumph in Nice last week.
His previous best at Roland Garros were quarter-ﬁnal appearances in 2008 and 2010 and on both occasions he lost to Nadal who he will face again should the two Spaniards make it through to the last eight.
On his rest day Friday, Murray had been left ﬁelding criticism from such as British legend Virginia Wade and French champion Henri Leconte that he had acted in an unsportsmanlike manner in his win over Jarkko Nieminen on Thursday.