Nadal through to round 4

Rafael Nadal managed get past a tough test from the 29th-seeded Paul-Henri Mathieu to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Rafael Nadal was terrified. Not because he was in the throes of a possible upset Saturday, a nearly 5-hour match against an unheralded Frenchman playing brilliantly and backed by 15,000 rowdy countrymen in the stands. Nope, much scarier than that: The defending French Open champion thought he was choking on a piece of banana, right there on center court. In the middle of a game. When he was serving for the third set. So Nadal put the ball in his pocket, walked over to sit in his changeover chair, and told the chair umpire he needed help. It was the oddest of pauses, the sort of thing you might expect to see in a public park, not at a Grand Slam tournament. In any event, Nadal managed to clear his throat and get past a tough test from the 29th-seeded Paul-Henri Mathieu, outlasting him 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round and improve to 10-0 at Roland Garros. ''I was getting pretty nervous and a little frightened. It wasn't that I couldn't breathe, but I felt something strange,'' said Nadal, who turned 20 on Saturday. ''So I said, 'Wow, I'm going to stop. I'm going to stop so that nothing happens, and we don't have a tragedy here.' And if it looked bad, I didn't care.'' The interruption only added to the theatrical nature of the match, which included an epic first set that lasted 1 hour, 33 minutes, a game in which Mathieu saved nine break points, and rally after rally of more than 20 strokes, with both players making remarkable retrievals. (AP)