French Open: Nadal beats Hewitt

Rafael Nadal strokes are always accompanied by lots of grunting, so the French Open must be more difficult than he makes it look.

updated: June 06, 2007 14:05 IST
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Rafael Nadal strokes are always accompanied by lots of grunting, so the French Open must be more difficult than he makes it look.

Still unbeaten at Roland Garros, Nadal completed the men's quarterfinal field Monday by sweeping Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (5).

The two-time defending champion is 18-0 lifetime in the tournament, which seems to be getting easier for him: For the first time, he reached the final eight without losing a set.

A potential showdown looms Sunday between the No 2-seeded Nadal and top-ranked Roger Federer, who seeks his first French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam.

Nadal's opponent Wednesday will be fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya, the 1998 champion.

"I prefer to lose against him than against any other player, because he is a great friend," Nadal said. "He did a lot of things for me when I arrived on the men's circuit."

Moya declined to take credit for Nadal's dominance.

"I don't think he learned anything from me," Moya said. "And if he did, he did it much better than me."

The other quarterfinal Wednesday will be between No 125-ranked Igor Andreev and No 6-seeded Novak Djokovic.

Andreev, who eliminated No 3-seeded Andy Roddick in the opening round, advanced to his first major quarterfinal by rallying past No 16 Marcos Baghdatis 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic swept unseeded Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (1) to reach the final eight for the second consecutive year.

"Last year, I honestly didn't expect to be in the quarterfinals," said Djokovic, 20. "I was pretty much satisfied with my achievement. This year is much different."

The marquee pairing in the women's quarterfinals Tuesday features two-time defending champion Justine Henin against eight-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. It's a rematch of their contentious 2003 semifinal at Roland Garros.

Hewitt had beaten Nadal in four of their six previous meetings, but on clay the matchup of baseliners was a mismatch from the outset. Nadal won 16 of the first 20 points.

The No 14-seeded Hewitt led for most of the third set and held advantages of 4-2 and 5-4 in the tiebreaker. But he blew an easy forehand to make it 5-all, then netted another easy forehand on the final point.

Nadal displayed racket wizardry even between points, when he drew applause for an over-the-shoulder catch on the strings of a ball lobbed from the other end of the court.

He's bidding to become the first man to win a third consecutive French Open title since Bjorn Borg was champion in 1978-81.

Moya overcame his relative inexperience to beat Jonas Bjorkman. A Roland Garros perennial, Moya was nonetheless the younger player Monday, and he swept the 35-year-old Bjorkman 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-5.

Wearing a sleeveless shirt and his cap backward, the 30-year-old Moya hardly looked like an old-timer. But he became the oldest man to reach the final eight at the French Open since Andre Agassi in 2003.

Moya has won two of his previous five matches against Nadal.