Rafael Nadal into French Open last four

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The Independent Online

Defending champion Rafael Nadal battled through to the quarter-finals of the French Open with a 7-5 6-3 6-3 victory over Ivan Ljubicic.

It was far from a vintage performance from the top seed, who will face either Robin Soderling or Gilles Simon in the last eight, particularly for a set and a half, but he was still too good for veteran Ljubicic.

The first set was dominated by errors from both men, with Nadal giving back an early break before making a decisive move in the 11th game.

Ljubicic seemed upbeat about his chances before the match as he discussed Nadal's confidence crisis but on the court it was a different matter as the Croatian struggled to find anything approaching his best form.

Ljubicic had beaten the Spaniard on two previous occasions, including at Indian Wells last year, and he battled well to hold his serve at the start of the second set.

But once Nadal had broken to go 4-3 in front, it was relatively straightforward for the world number one, who gradually began to play better.

His shots, which had been sitting up invitingly, were now landing just inside the lines and biting wickedly into the clay.

Ljubicic briefly threatened a fightback in the third set but Nadal had chances in every one of the 32-year-old's service games and he wrapped up victory in two hours and 26 minutes.

Novak Djokovic is also through to the French Open semi-finals for the first time in three years after Fabio Fognini pulled out of their last-eight clash because of a thigh injury.

The Italian picked up the problem in the fifth set of his remarkable win over Albert Montanes yesterday and announced today that he would not be fit for the match, which would have been played at Roland Garros tomorrow.

Fognini's decision means second seed Djokovic will now have to win the tournament to beat John McEnroe's record start to a year of 42 consecutive wins, which could mean having to defeat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Fognini said: "I have a little problem in my left leg, so I decided to retire. I'm not really happy because this is the best tournament of my career. But it is better like this. The doctor said if I play tomorrow, it could be dangerous."

The 24-year-old, ranked 49th in the world, is optimistic he will be fit for Wimbledon and, despite the disappointing end to his campaign, was still able to celebrate reaching the last eight of a grand slam for the first time.

He said: "I'm very happy but I'm also disappointed. I made the quarter-finals and I cannot play an unbelievable player. He's the number one now.

"I would have liked to play but that's the way sport is. I have to rest and I have to recover. I need to prepare for Wimbledon to be able to play.

"I think this is just the beginning for me. This is my best result for sure. I have to keep working like this, working on my tennis, mentally and physically, and keep moving forward."

Djokovic will now have four days off before facing either Roger Federer, Gael Monfils or David Ferrer on Friday, giving him time to do some sightseeing in Paris.

The world number two said on Twitter: "Walkover from Fognini. Bad luck for him, hope he recovers fast. Today I get to enjoy Paris in a different way."