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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Nadal apologises to Gasquet after thrashing 'good friend' to reach French Open fourth round

Top seed eased on in Paris on a day that saw local hopes dashed with the exits of Monfils and Pouille

Rafael Nadal, right, embraces Richard Gasquet at the net following their French Open third round match on Saturday. Ian Langsdon / EPA
Rafael Nadal, right, embraces Richard Gasquet at the net following their French Open third round match on Saturday. Ian Langsdon / EPA

Rafael Nadal apologised to this "good friend" Richard Gasquet after the defending French Open champion crushed the Frenchman to reach the last 16 on Saturday.

Nadal, bidding for a record-extending 11th Roland Garros title, was completely untroubled by the 31-year-old Gasquet, cruising to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory in exactly two hours. Nadal has never tasted defeat against Gasquet, winning all 16 of their matches.

Top seed Nadal won the first 12 points of the match and opened up a 5-0 led before Gasquet finally got into the contest, but it was too little, too late for the home crowd favourite.

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There was a sense of inevitability about the outcome when both players made their appearance on to Court Philippe Chatrier, where Nadal is the huge favourite to lift the Musketeers Cup.

"I played very well, I'm sorry for Richard, he is a good friend and a good person," said Nadal, who played a few rallies with a ball boy after the match.

The 31-year-old Spaniard has now won 30 sets in a row on the Parisian clay and his last-16 opponent, 70th ranked 22-year-old German Maximilian Marterer will have to cause a historic upset to halt Nadal's progress to the quarter-finals.

Gasquet was totally overwhelmed on Saturday, finding himself trailing 5-0 after 12 minutes, and the Parisian crowd felt it could be an express washout.

In a bid to give the home fans something to shout about, Gasquet spurred himself into action and with a few beautiful shots reduced the gap to 5-3.

But Nadal was in no mood for a marathon and he bagged the first set on serve before putting Gasquet to the sword again at the beginning of the second and third sets, making sure there was no hope of a comeback amongst the Frenchman's supporters.

There was more French despair in the delayed match between Belgian eighth seed David Goffin and France's Gael Monfils, who squandered four match points before losing a closely-fought encounter.

Goffin led by a break in the third set with the score at one set apiece overnight, only for Monfils to roar back and win the third set. And with his nose ahead at 5-4 in the fourth, the Frenchman had four opportunities to claim the victory.

However, Goffin held firm to force the decider before earning a 6-7, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win. The Belgian will take on Italy's Marco Cecchinato for a place in the quarter-finals.

A miserable day for French tennis started earlier when the nation's No 1-ranked player, Lucas Pouille, was eliminated in straight sets by Russia's Karen Khachanov, who moves on to face second seed Alexander Zverev in the last-16.

Argentina's Diego Schwatrzmann registered an impressive 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 win over in-form Croatian Borna Coric, and the 11th seed will face Kevin Anderson in the fourth round after the South African sixth seed secured a four-set victory over Germany's Mischa Zverev.