Spain's Rafael Nadal unleashes a backhand return during his victory over Italy's Fabio Fognini in the third round of the French Open at Roland Garros yesterday. PHOTO: AFP
Defending champion Rafael Nadal and top-seeded Novak Djokovic both won comfortably in straight sets in their third-round matches of the French Open yesterday.
Nadal endured another slow start, but moved through the gears to defeat Italian Fabio Fognini 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4 and qualify for the last 16.
Following him on the Philippe Chatrier centre court, Djokovic comfortably defused the challenge of rising Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov to win 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 although he needed treatment to a right arm injury near the end of the match.
All the excitement of the day however came on the lesser courts with, in particular, a pulsating third round match on Court 1 where Tommy Haas needed 13 match points before seeing off the challenge of the marathon man of tennis, John Isner.
The veteran German squandered 12 match points in the fourth set before finally converting on what turned out to be a lucky 13th occasion for a 7-5, 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-7 (10/12), 10-8 win.
Earlier there had been a near punch up out on Court 7 where Serbian Janko Tipsarevic unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade at two noisy fans who kept up a running commentary during his match with Russian Mikhail Youzhny. The offending spectators were eventually sent packing, but Tipsarevic still lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
In other matches, seventh seed Richard Gasquet defeated Nikolay Davydenko of Russia 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to join countrymen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon in the fourth round. He will next take on Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka who defeated Poland's Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-3.
Kei Nishikori, meanwhile, became the first Japanese man to reach the last 16 at Roland Garros in 75 years when he defeated Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-1. He will face Nadal, who is bidding to become the first man to win the same Grand Slam for the eighth time.
In the final third-round match, Phillipp Kohlschreiber of Germany eased past Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-0, 7-6 (7/0), 6-1 to set up a fourth round clash with Djokovic.
Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova hits a searing forehand during her French Open 3rd-round win over China's Jie Zheng at Roland Garros yesterday. PHOTO: AFP
In the women's draw defending champion Maria Sharapova and third-seeded Victoria Azarenka reached the last-16. World number two Sharapova clinched a 6-1, 7-5 win over China's Zheng Jie in a third-round clash which witnessed 11 breaks of serve. The second-seeded Russian will take on America's Sloane Stephens.
Azarenka overcame 10 double faults and 31 errors on her way to defeating France's Alize Cornet, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. She goes on to face Italy's 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone, who ended French hopes in the women's singles by putting out 13th seed Marion Bartoli, 6-2, 6-1.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands made the last 16 with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over Argentine qualifier Paula Ormaechea.
With top seed Serena Williams already through, the United States could have four players in the last-16 if Jamie Hampton, the world number 54, can get past Czech seventh seed Petra Kvitova.