French Open: Rafael Nadal beats Ivan Ljubicic to reach last eight
- Roland Garros, Paris
- 22 May - 5 June
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Five-time champion Rafael Nadal kept his French Open campaign on track with a fourth-round win over Croat Ivan Ljubicic.
The Spaniard remains on course to equal Bjorn Borg's record six titles at Roland Garros after coming through 7-5 6-3 6-3 on Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the quarter-finals.
He next faces fifth seed Robin Soderling in a repeat of last year's final after the Swede beat Gilles Simon 6-2 6-3 7-6 (7-5).
Nadal will be pleased to have seen off a dangerous opponent in the big-serving Ljubicic, having taken five sets to beat the similarly powerful John Isner in round one, but the invincible air of previous years in Paris has left him for now.
Twelve unforced errors contributed to a tougher first set than seemed necessary when Nadal converted his fifth break point of game three, the Spaniard allowing Ljubicic to level in game six and get within sight of the set at 5-4, 30-30.
Nadal played well when it counted, producing a solid point behind a good serve to get out of the immediate danger, and he then broke again at 5-5 before closing out the set.
Ljubicic had suffered at the hands of a teenaged Nadal in the 2006 semi-finals and another routine defeat looked likely when the champion reeled off five straight games to go two sets up and move ahead in the third.
However, a poor game when leading 3-1 in the third ended with Nadal hooking a forehand into the tramlines to hand a break of serve straight back.
It was not the kind of clinical closing out that has characterised his dominance of the tournament since 2005 and, although Nadal duly broke for the decisive time in game six, a total of 14 break points missed suggested he is still lacking that ruthless edge.
"The result was very positive for me, straight sets," said Nadal. "It was a fantastic result in the quarter-finals.
"I think I'm still playing a little bit too anxious. The conditions were very difficult, I think. There was a lot of wind. At 3-2 in the third set I played a very, very bad game with my serve. At moments I'm still having a few mistakes in a row and that's something that cannot happen in the next round."
Nadal added: "He wasn't the easiest opponent to play if you're not playing very well. It's very difficult to get the rhythm against Ivan because he has a very good serve.
"It's difficult to say 'now I'm going to hit five, six balls the same' because the rhythm is not there. It wasn't the right opponent to play to find the right rhythm, in my opinion."
Over on Court Suzanne Lenglen, ninth seed Gael Monfils thrilled his home crowd with a 6-4 2-6 7-5 1-6 8-6 victory against Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer.
Play had been suspended with the light fading on Sunday evening and the pair returned the following day to conclude one of the matches of the tournament, with Monfils edging it after four hours and seven minutes of match time.