Nadal proves too nifty for Beckham

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The Independent Online

The England football captain was stuck in traffic and missed the 19-year-old Nadal's masterclass en route to the quarter-finals.

This was a pity, because after Nadal had completed his opening match against Victor Hanesco on Wednesday night he dashed to the Bernabeu to see Beckham play with brio in Real Madrid's 4-1 Champions' League victory against Rosenborg.

Although his uncle, Miguel Angel Nadal, played for Barcelona, Raffa is a Real nut and has the run of the galacticos' training ground. He paid a visit on Tuesday and performed a nifty piece of keepy-uppy in spite of concerns about tendinitis in his left knee.

Nadal again wore tape below both knees as a precaution last night, though there were moments when Robredo may have wished his opponent's legs had been tied together.

Nadal won, 6-2, 6-4, after 78 minutes, losing his serve once, at 3-2 in the second set. None the less, most of the points were keenly contested in lengthy, deep-driving rallies. Before Robredo ventured to serve-and-volley for a spell midway through the second set, they played as if duelling on slow clay, as they did in their previous match in Bastaad, Sweden earlier this year. Nadal won that encounter 6-3, 6-3.

Having held interest in the tournament together after the withdrawals through injury of Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Andre Agassi, Nadal, the top seed, now plays Radek Stepanek, of the Czech Republic, for a place in the semi-finals.

Stepanek, who eliminated Tim Henman in three sets in the second round ­ the Czech's second win against the British No 1 within a week ­ defeated Jose Acasuso, of Argentina, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, to advance to the quarter-finals.

The 6ft 10in Ivo Karlovic, meanwhile, advanced to the last four yesterday, defeating the 14th-seeded Dominik Hrbaty, of Slovakia, 7-6, 7-6.

Hrbaty will be Slovakia's No 1 against Croatia in next month's Davis Cup final in Bratislava, while Karlovic will be in Croatia's team but is not guaranteed to play.

All but one of the eight sets Karlovic has played in Madrid have been tie-breaks. He was won six out of seven. He now plays the fifth-seeded David Nalbandian, of Argentina, who defeated Thomas Johansson, of Sweden, 6-3, 7-5.

Ivan Ljubicic, Croatia's No 1, also advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Olivier Rochus, of Belgium, and will meet Argentina's Guillermo Coria or Fernando Gonzalez, of Chile. The third-seed Nikolai Davydenko, of Russia, plays David Ferrer, of Spain, who beat Mariano Puerta, of Argentina.

Roddick, who progressed in the doubles yesterday partnering his American compatriot, James Blake, is in favour of the Hawk-Eye ball tracking system, which has been approved by the International Tennis Federation for use as an official umpiring aid, as in cricket.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't use the technology," Roddick said. "Umpires get nervous just like we do. You just take out the element of human error."

* Lindsay Davenport saved two match points to beat Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Zurich Open yesterday. The victory means Davenport will reclaim the world No 1 ranking. France's Amélie Mauresmo suffered an embarrassing defeat as she lost 6-2, 6-0 to Slovenian qualifier Katarina Srebotnik.

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