Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova (L) shakes the hand of her vanquisher, Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova, at the net after becoming the fourth of the women's top five seeds to exit the French Open at Roland Garros yesterday. PHOTO: AFP
Rafael Nadal produced another imposing display of claycourt tennis at Roland Garros on Saturday to crush Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 and reach the last 16 of the French Open.
Seeking to become the first man to win five straight titles in Paris and the first to win nine times at the same Grand Slam, Nadal has lost just 19 games in getting to the last 16.
At the same stage last year en route to his eighth French Open title, Nadal had dropped two sets and lost 48 games.
Next up for the Spaniard, who will turn 28 on Tuesday, is little-known Serb Dusan Lajovic, who saw off American hope Jack Sock 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
The man Nadal defeated in last year's final, fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, also reached the last 16 by defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-2, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3.
In the women's draw, Svetlana Kuznetsova led a seniors surge into the last 16 on the day with a marathon win over Petra Kvitova as Roland Garros lost the fourth of its top five seeds.
Kuznetsova, 28, won a three-hour 13 minute thriller to defeat fifth-seeded Kvitova 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 9-7 in the the longest match of the women's tournament.
The 2009 champion capitalised on Kvitova's 65 unforced errors and 10 double faults to set-up a fourth round clash with another Czech, 27-year-old Lucie Safarova.
Former Wimbledon champion Kvitova, a semifinalist in 2012, had enjoyed a 3-0 career edge over the Russian going into Saturday's clash, but her efforts were undermined by twice needing medical timeouts to treat a back and leg injury.
She saved two match points in the 12th game of the decider but the inconsistencies which continue to plague her big-hitting game saw her twice fail to serve out the tie in the 10th and 14th games of the third set.
Kuznetsova, playing in her 12th consecutive Roland Garros, will next face Kvitova's Fed Cup teammate Safarova who put out Serb 11th seed Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, 6-3, 6-3.
Fourth-seeded Simona Halep, the highest-ranked woman left, made the last 16 for the first time as the Romanian continued to escape the Roland Garros carnage. The 22-year-old brushed aside Spain's Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-3, 6-0 and next tackles 15th seeded American Sloane Stephens. Halep, 22, has lost just 11 games in three rounds in Paris.