Nadal, Djokovic power on, Gabashvili rocks Roddick
Paris: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both reached the last 16 at the French Open, but Andy Roddick was stunned by Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili as the seeds began to fall.
Gabashvili, ranked 114 in the world, was ably abetted by American world number 98 Robby Ginepri, who upset the form book by beating 16th seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, champion here in 2003, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4.
Ginepri’s reward is a fourth-round meeting with Djokovic, who fought off Romania’s Victor Hanescu 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
“He’s one of the best players in the world, it’s going to be another fight out there, but I’ll lace up my shoes and see what happens,” said Ginepri.
Nadal stayed in the hunt for a fifth Roland Garros crown by beating former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, who he has now beaten four times in the last five years here.
Nadal was broken in his opening service game against Hewitt but hit back to edge a well-contested first set before securing the decisive break of serve in the second set when the Australian fired a flat forehand long.
Hewitt, now ranked 33 in the world, showed flashes of his trademark tenacity but was no match for the Spanish clay king, who sewed up a straightforward 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory on his third match point.
“He’s an unbelievable player, a great champion, he’s had very good titles and is former number one,” said Nadal of his beaten opponent.
“When I was at home I always watched Lleyton on TV and he was one of my idols, so playing against him now is always a pleasure.”
Nadal was surprisingly beaten by Sweden’s Robin Soderling in last year’s fourth round, but Hewitt believes he’s lost none of his magic on the surface.
“Apart from losing to Soderling, his claycourt season last year was incredible,” he said. “In terms of clay, I haven’t seen many dips in his form over the last five years.”
Next up for Nadal is Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci, the 24th seed, who defeated Croatian 14th seed Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-4.
Djokovic had to overcome a second set wobble against 31st seed Hanescu, making six double faults and 11 unforced errors before grinding through the gears to set up a last-16 encounter with Ginepri.
“Lately I do have periods when I struggle to find rhythm on my serve,” said Djokovic. “I think it’s more mental.
“The positive thing about this match is that I overcame a difficult second set and was able to play great tennis in the last two sets.”
Austrian 22nd seed Jurgen Melzer dumped out ninth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer and will face Gabashvili for a place in the quarter-finals after the Russian’s 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 upset win over Roddick.
Gabashvili, 25, had never previously gone beyond the second round at a Grand Slam event but he created the biggest shock in the men’s draw so far by ousting an off-colour
“I feel competitive now,” said Gabashvili. “I’ve won six matches (including qualifiers) and I didn’t lose a set. I want to keep doing it. I don’t think about where I am, or about Roland Garros. I just play.”
Former world number one Roddick, the 2003 US Open champion, skipped this year’s entire claycourt season for personal reasons and has never got past the last 16 stage at Roland Garros.
“I’ve fought through a couple of matches that were a bit dicey but today I got outplayed from the first ball,” said Roddick.
“He played good tennis. Credit to him. He got the best of me and he was getting the best of me on 70 percent of the points.”
Spanish seventh seed Fernando Verdasco tackles compatriot Nicolas Almagro in the last 16 after coming through a sapping 4hr 02min five-setter with German 30th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 6-4.
Almagro, seeded 19, won 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 against Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov.
His defeat means Robby Ginepri was left flying the Stars and Stripes in the men’s draw after a five-set win over former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, one of two of the so-called Spanish armada blown off course on Saturday.
Ferrero was joined in defeat by ninth seed David Ferrer who was surprisingly beaten by Austrian Jurgen Melzer but seventh seed Fernando Verdasco did survive by beating Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in five sets despite breaking a toenail.
After Friday’s sunshine tennis when organisers crammed the schedule with top seeds, the middle weekend began with a hangover which was not helped by the sudden-death defeat of home favourite Aravane Rezai.
Starting at 7-7 in the decider against Russian former runner-up Nadia Petrova after darkness interrupted a thrilling match the previous evening, 15th seed Rezai was back off court in 15 minutes after Petrova held her nerve to prevail 10-8.
Marion Bartoli also lost her third-round match against Israel’s Shahar Peer to leave Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the only home player left in the singles draw.
Justine Henin’s hopes of winning a fifth title here, just six months after coming out of retirement, were left hanging in the balance as rain and bad light descended.
The Belgian was in a hurry to finish off fellow former world number one Maria Sharapova but after winning the opening set 6-2 she lost the second 6-3 and faces a tense Sunday.
Fourth seed Jelena Jankovic squeezed through in the nick of time, beating Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko 6-4 7-6.