December 19, 2014
Nadal wins to stay on course in Roland Garros
Concerns that Rafa Nadal's reign as king of Roland Garros might be in jeopardy due to an aching back proved wide of the mark as the world number one led a mini Spanish charge into the French Open quarter-finals.
On the day that Spanish King Juan Carlos abdicated his throne, there was no danger of his compatriot doing the same in Paris as the eight-times champion produced a 6-1 6-2 6-1 demolition job on Serbian Dusan Lajovic.
Next up will be a man who beat Nadal the last time they faced each other across a net - fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
Ferrer stalled Kevin Anderson's bid to become the first South African man in 47 years to reach the last eight of the claycourt major with a 6-3 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1 win.
The top half of the men's draw could have become an all-Spanish affair if Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and elastic-limbed Gael Monfils had not played spoilsport.
Seventh seed Murray and Fernando Verdasco walked out under sunny skies looking like clones - both kitted out in near identical canary yellow shirts and black shorts.
Both players turned the air blue during a heated third set but it was Murray who buzzed around Court Suzanne Lenglen, stinging Verdasco with vicious winners for a 6-4 7-5 7-6(3) triumph.
While the linecall dispute was over in a flash after Murray gamely conceded the point, Verdasco blamed umpire Pascal Maria for fanning the flames.
"Pascal is very peculiar. Several times I had a bad experience with Pascal Maria. He's not the kind of umpire I get along with. I can tell you that," Verdasco said.
"He is an umpire that many players remember vividly and not because of his qualities."
Frenchman Monfils kept the home fires burning with a 6-0 6-2 7-5 win over yet another Spaniard, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
But no one feels more at home at Roland Garros than Nadal.
The top seed, who said he had to slow down his serve in his previous match after being troubled by back pain, left Lajovic with a sore head and aching joints as he went on a rampage to go 5-0 up in the first set before rattling off 17 straight points at the start of the second.
The winners flying off Nadal's racket appeared to leave everyone in such a trance that the umpire even fluffed his lines at one stage - telling the players 'to replay the point' in English before sheepishly repeating the instruction in French - drawing a rare smile from Lajovic.
With enigmatic American pop singer Prince watching from the stands, it did not take 83rd-ranked Lajovic too long to discover why beating Nadal at Roland Garros is one of the hardest riddles to crack.
On the eve of his 28th birthday, a screaming forehand winner allowed Nadal to take his formidable French Open win-loss record to 63-1 and just three wins away from again sinking his teeth into the Musketeers' Cup.