Rafael Nadal moved one step closer to retaining his French Open title on Thursday, as he comfortably defeated Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the third round.
The match lasted just 87 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier, as the world number one broke his opponent’s serve seven times on the way to reaching the last 32.
There brief moments in the match where the eight-time and defending champion seemed to lose his air of dominance on the match, as his serve was broken when serving for the first set at 5-1 and again early in the third set.
The 27-year-old was forced to step it up a gear and claim two consecutive breaks before he could wrap up the match, and he is now five wins away from winning a ninth title.
The world number one was impressed with his performance, and he is looking in strong form, having not lost a set in the tournament so far.
“I played well," said Nadal. "I played the way that I would like to play… and I'm happy the way I returned today… I was a bit nervous at the beginning of the match.”
Thiem, world number 57, is the youngest player ranked in the top 100 at the age of 20, and Nadal praised his opponent, saying he has the potential to be a top player.
‘‘He will have his chances to become a top star and fight for these tournaments. I really fought back against his attacks.’’
Nadal’s win-loss record at Roland Garros now stands at 61-1, with his only defeat at the tournament coming against Robin Soderling in 2009, and he is aiming to become the first man to win the clay court tournament for a fifth consecutive year.
The first of his eight tournament victories came in 2005, and he has since gone on to be affectionately known by fans as the “King of Clay”.
Of his 63 singles titles, 44 have been won on the red surface, and he is regarded by many as the greatest clay court player of all time.
He will face Argentine Leonardo Mayer for a place in the fourth round on Saturday, who set up the clash by beating Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili in four sets.
The previous two matches between the pair have ended in victory for Nadal, with their last meeting on clay being in Acapulco in 2013.
It was a successful day all round for the main contenders for the title, as David Ferrer, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych all made it through their second round matches in straight sets.
The comfortable wins for the top seeds contrasted with some of the shocks that were seen in the first round, when third seed and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka was knocked out by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and ninth seed Kei Nishikori was beaten by Martin Klizan.
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