Nadal's game and sun too hot for Gasquet

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The Independent Online

A decent week in Europe for Spaniards named Rafael continued yesterday. Rafael Nadal, the 18-year-old fourth seed from Majorca, advanced to the fourth round of his first French Open at the expense of Richard Gasquet, the young local hero.

A decent week in Europe for Spaniards named Rafael continued yesterday. Rafael Nadal, the 18-year-old fourth seed from Majorca, advanced to the fourth round of his first French Open at the expense of Richard Gasquet, the young local hero.

In contrast to Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, Nadal did not have to inspire a dramatic comeback. He defeated Gasquet 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 after an hour and 49 minutes. Nadal, the older by 15 days, showed greater physical and mental strength. Gasquet might be the second player to have beaten the world No 1, Roger Federer, this year but Nadal, winning his 20th match in a row, underlined why he is the holder of two ATP Masters Series titles on clay.

The Centre Court's 23,000 seats were filled in anticipation of the unofficial world "intermediate" title fight, but Nadal's power and Gasquet's nervous lapses on vital points rendered the event something of an anticlimax for the locals.

Disappointing though the contest was, this could be merely first of many contests between Nadal and Gasquet in major arenas, particularly on clay. Moreover, Gasquet, who trains at Roland Garros, has ample time for his abundant talent to be fine-tuned.

"At the end," Nadal said, "I asked him if he had any physical problems, because he looked tired. He said, 'I'm OK. You played very well. Good luck for the tournament'."

Gasquet seemed drained after two sets and called a doctor to the court before the start of the third. "The heat was really a problem," he said. He fought back from 0-2 to 2-2 in the third set, only for Nadal to run through the last four games for the loss of only one point.

The Spaniard said he felt good after breaking serve early in the second set: "That was important for my tranquilidad [tranquility]."

Nadal is due tomorrow to play another Frenchman, the experienced Sébastien Grosjean, the 23rd seed. Grosjean had a wearying time yesterday before overcoming the Czech 16th seed, Radek Stepanek, 6-1, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after four hours.

Federer will play Nadal's fellow Majorcan Carlos Moya, the 1998 champion. Moya may be at a disadvantage, having had to nurse a sore shoulder through a gruelling contest against Fernando Vincente, which he edged, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 0-6, 6-4 after three hours and 51 minutes.

Federer gradually wore down the aggressive Chilean 25th seed Fernando Gonzalez 7-6, 7-5, 6-2. Federer saved two set points in the first-set tie-break, winning the shoot-out on his fourth set point, 11-9. He went on to break for 6-5 in the second set and 4-1 in the third.

Lindsay Davenport, defending her women's No 1 ranking after taking a break, will duel with Kim Clijsters, a former world No 1 trying to make up for lost time, for a place in the quarter-finals. Clijsters has won their previous six matches, but this will be their first meeting on clay.

Davenport spent two hours and 29 minutes on Suzanne Lenglen Court yesterday fending off Virginie Razzano, of France, in the third round. The Californian prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Clijsters, who looks in fine fettle apart from strapping on a strained right knee, defeated Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-2.

Runner up to her Belgian compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne here in 2001, Clijsters has made a remarkable recovery from wrist injuries last year and says she is confident that the knee she damaged in Berlin earlier this month will not halt her progress.

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