PARIS (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal dismantled Dusan Lajovic 6-1 6-2 6-1 at the French Open on Monday to cruise into the last eight and a showdown with fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, the man he beat in last year’s final.
Eight-times champion and world No.1 Nadal improved his Roland Garros win-loss record to a remarkable 63-1 to advance having not dropped a set in Paris this year.
World No. 83 Lajovic of Serbia, who had not previously lost a set on his French Open debut, quickly went 5-0 down and never recovered, also losing the first four games of the second set to love.
“I think I played a great first set. In my opinion, he didn’t play bad in the first set. He played a good set, too,” said the defending champion.
“I played with no mistakes and having the control with the backhand, with the forehand from the baseline.”
“It will be a very difficult match against David (Ferrer),” added Nadal, who ended the masterclass on his first match point with a thumping forehand down the line.
Ferrer is one of three players who have beaten Nadal on his favoured clay this season, prevailing in straight sets in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters in April.
It was Ferrer’s second victory on the slow surface against Nadal, 10 years after the first one in Stuttgart in their first encounter.
Ferrer is well aware that beating Nadal in Paris is the toughest of tasks.
“In Monte‑Carlo it was (best of) three sets. Now here it is going to be a grand slam, (best of) five sets. It is going to be different,” he said.
Last year’s final was one-sided, Nadal winning 6-3 6-2 6-3, but Ferrer broke the deadlock last month with a 7-6(1) 6-4 victory in Monte Carlo.
“He’s coming to the match with confidence. It will be a tough one,” said Nadal.
“I know how to play against him and to have a chance to win I need to play very well. If not, it will be impossible.”
With pop star Prince watching from the stands, Nadal played his part of King of the Clay almost to perfection, a few unusual unforced errors the exception in an otherwise extremely solid game.
Lajovic, the man who lost an Australian Open qualifier two years ago after blowing a 6-2 5-0 40-0 lead, surrendered all hope after just a few games.
Nadal, who turns 28 on Tuesday, powered to a 5-0 lead, allowing his opponent only five points before slowing down a bit, only for the Spaniard to step up another gear at the beginning of the second set.
A series of winners - most of them forehands - combined with Lajovic’s catalogue of unforced errors, left the Serbian staring at a possible bagel.
He avoided the humiliation and even broke late in the third set, but Nadal, who did not seem troubled by his back pains, had already turned his mind towards Wednesday’s quarter-final against Ferrer.
He will be hoping his back does not bother him, having felt pain in previous matches here.
“In Australia (at the Australian Open) I felt some pain, and here in Paris I try to co‑exist with this pain,” said Nadal.
“But sometimes it changes. I‘m not lying. It’s totally unpredictable.”
Editing by Ed Osmond/Alan Baldwin