BY: CHRIS LEHOURITES
For the first time in his career, Rafael Nadal will make a fifth straight appearance in the French Open quarterfinals. Nadal won a record 32nd straight match at Roland Garros on Monday, beating Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 to improve on his own record by one.
Nadal is an eight-time French Open champion with a 63-1 record on the red clay in Paris. His only loss came in the fourth round in 2009, when he was a four-time defending champion for the first time.
Another upset never seemed possible this time, despite complaints of pain in his back that slowed his serves in the previous round.
Playing on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal’s favorite court in the world, the top-seeded Spaniard controlled the match from the start. He then won 17 straight points to open the second set, taking a 4-0 lead before finally sending a backhand wide to make it 15-15 in the fifth game.
Later in that set, Lajovic held three break points at 0-40, but Nadal saved them all and held. It wasn’t until late in the third, with the match far out of reach, that Lajovic did manage a break – the only game he won in the final set.
“I was able to control the points from the baseline, so that’s always important for me,” Nadal said. “I’m in (the) quarterfinals.”
Nadal has won 13 major titles, and is the only man to win eight at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments. With another championship at Roland Garros this year, he will become the first man to win five straight French Open titles. And he’s looking rather unbeatable. The Spaniard, who turns 28 on Tuesday, has lost only 23 games through four rounds, only four more than he lost in reaching the quarterfinals in 2012.
Nadal will next face fifth-seeded David Ferrer, the man he beat in last year’s final. Ferrer defeated 19th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
Seemingly undiminished by his marathon two-day five-setter in the previous round, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray beat left hander Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-5 7-6(3) to reach the quarter-finals. Both players completed their delayed third round matches on Sunday and while neither appeared to hit top gear on Monday, Murray showed enough speed and touch, particularly in the closing games of the second set, to send the 24th seed home.
Verdasco’s foul-mouthed blast at the umpire over a contested line call, that in the end Murray conceded, had fired up the Spaniard to break in the third set and peg back the Briton but the seventh seed regrouped to prevail.
Home favourite Gael Monfils also reached the quarterfinals for the fourth time when he continued…