Nadal routs Nieminen; Serena bows out of French Open

May 30th, 2008 - 11:22 pm ICT by admin  

Paris, May 30 (DPA) Rafael Nadal continued his triumphal French Open march on clay, dispatching a Finnish challenge from Jarkko Nieminen 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 Friday to reach the fourth round. As he stepped onto a court at Roland Garros for a fourth straight day due to weather interruptions this week, the second seed had every intention of moving closer to a fourth consecutive title at the major.

He achieved the goal against the gritty Nieminen to post a fifth victory in their series - three at Grand Slams - to advance in his title defence without dropping a set.

Nieminen began with promise, forcing the Spaniard to save three break points in the third game. But on the day, the number 26 converted on the only one of his eight chances, that in the second game of the second set.

Nadal’s victory was his 24th straight at Roland Garros, where he has never lost. He next plays either Mikhail Youzhny or compatriot Fernando Verdasco.

Latvian Ernests Gulbis promise followed up his knockout of seventh seed James Blake by defeating Nicolas Lapentti 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.

One round behind, Julien Benneteau remained the last surviving Frenchman with an heroic five-set win over Alejandro Falla 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-0.

The women’s event will crown a new champion as troubled Serena Williams, the last former winner, was dumped out easily 6-4, 6-4 at the hands of Slovenian Katarina Srebotnik.

Despite repeated recent assurances that she’s in the peak of form, the heavy favourite was made to look less than average by an opponent ranked 24th and saddled with losses in their three previous meetings.

Williams dumped overheads into the net from close range, shanked returns wide with regularity and generally turned in a poor performance at the event which she won in 2002.

But following her usual template, the loser said the winner just played out of her head on the day.

“She was just making some shots I don’t think she’s ever made before, or she probably would be in the top two,” Williams said as she left her media conference trying not to break into tears.

“Obviously when she’s serving well she’s very tough, but once I got in the rally I had no problem playing her,” said Srebotnik, a top doubles player who tested herself against Williams just last month in US clay.

“With my nerves and everything, I did really well today.”

Second seed Ana Ivanovic held her nerve against a rising Dane, defeating former junior standout Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-1.

Top seed Maria Sharapova completed a match halted the night before by darkness when she led a set and 2-3, wrapping up a laboured defeat of American Bethanie Mattek 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

“Today I wake up and you feel like you’re playing a different match in a another tournament, in a way,” Sharapova said on a sunny day which contrasted greatly to her late-evening start more than 18 hours earlier.

“It’s been kind of strange, but the good thing is I still have a match ahead of me.”

Fifth seed Williams struck 25 errors against Srebotnik, who could barely suppress a giggle as the former number one slammed an overhead straight into the net form a metre away in the chaotic third set.

“I missed a lot of easy shots and a lot of key points that I felt like could have turned the match around,” said Williams. “I wasn’t able to capitalise on a lot of that.

“I wasn’t nervous, she was getting a lot of balls back, and I might have let that get into my head.”

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