Sat, May 03, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Nadal claims clay-court century

AFP , BARCELONA, SPAIN

Rafael Nadal’s clay-court juggernaut roared ahead on Thursday, the Spaniard winning his 100th match from 101 on the surface to reach the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open. Nadal worked for one hour, 45 minutes to beat friend and 16th seed Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-3.

The three-time Roland Garros champion has not been beaten on his favored surface since starting in the Monte Carlo first round three years ago. His only defeat during his run of form came in the Hamburg final last spring to rival Roger Federer, who swept a 6-0 fifth set. “I’m happier to be in the quarter-finals in Barcelona, I’m not thinking about the victories,” said the world No. 2, who faced a fast turnaround against Juan Chela yesterday.

“This is one of my favorite events and playing Feliciano is always tough,” said Nadal, who had his left shoulder taped after complaining of pain in recent days.

Nadal never faced a break point in a contest in which the first three games took 21 minutes to complete, including a third game with eight deuces and three break points saved by Lopez.

A player from the host nation has won the event for six of the past seven years. Nadal’s win meant four Spaniards from six moved into the last eight and Nicolas Almagro made it five when he beat Croatian Mario Ancic 7-6 (7/5), 6-2.

Nadal is treading a fine line between winning while not running out of steam prior to his run at a fourth straight trophy in Paris from May 25. The Spaniard faces title defenses in Barcelona and Rome before the French Open after winning his fourth straight in Monte Carlo last weekend over Federer.

Spanish second seed David Ferrer labored before finally overcoming persistent Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, taking two-and-a-half hours to get the job done.

Compatriot Tommy Robredo, the sixth-seeded champion from 2004, ended the run of Argentine Guillermo Canas 6-1, 7-5.

Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka sprang a surprise on erratic Argentine third seed David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-1.

Albert Montanes joined his mates in the Spanish Armada, getting past tough Russian qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and next plays Wawrinka.

“I expect to have problems with him,” Wawrinka said. “He’s playing at home.”

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