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Del Potro powers on with menacing display on clay

Nadal to take on Marterer for a place in the quarters

By Reuters - Jun 03,2018 - Last updated at Jun 04,2018

Argentina’s Juan-Martin Del Potro in action during his third round match against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the French Open in Paris on Saturday (Reuters photo by Christian Hartmann)

PARIS — Juan Martin del Potro fired a menacing warning to those already writing Rafael Nadal’s name on the French Open trophy with a bludgeoning 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 third-round defeat of Spanish claycourter Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Saturday.

The seemingly unstoppable Nadal might be the red-hot favourite to claim an 11th title at Roland Garros next weekend, but Argentine powerhouse Del Potro could prove a significant obstacle in the semifinals.

The way the fifth seed overwhelmed Ramos-Vinolas on Court Philippe Chatrier with his serve and forehand working like clockwork will not have gone unnoticed in the Nadal camp.

“I think I was a bit lucky in the first set because Albert made me run a lot, but I had control of the match in the end and played well in the right moments,” Del Potro said.

“I’m playing better every day. Claycourt is not my favourite but I’m enjoying playing here.”

Del Potro was given a fight in the first set but after squandering a 5-3 lead he broke Ramos-Vinolas in the 12th game to move ahead.

There was still plenty of resistance in the second set but Del Potro piled on the pressure as Ramos-Vinolas served at 4-5 and pulled two sets clear.

The third was a formality as del Potro moved into the last 16 on the Paris clay for the first time since 2012.

He will face American John Isner on Monday and says he feels strong enough to keep going having suffered an injury scare in the build-up to the French Open.

“I think I’m strong enough to keep doing well. [It] Has been three difficult matches to me, but I played well and I know I could play even better in my next round,” he said.

“All the guys who are still alive in this tournament has big chance to go far, so now the tournament becomes more interesting to watch and to play.”

Nadal, who turned 32 on Sunday, continued his bid for an 11th French Open title and 17th major by brushing aside Gasquet to claim a 16th consecutive win over his childhood friend.

The World No. 1’s record at Roland Garros now stands at 82 wins and just two losses.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion eased to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory on Chatrier to reach his 40th last-16 at a Slam.

He also took his run of consecutive completed sets at the French Open to 34, just seven shy of the record held by Bjorn Borg between 1979 and 1981.

Nadal, who lost only two points in the first five games, will next play Germany’s World No. 70 Maximilian Marterer.

Nadal played down thoughts that he is unbeatable on clay — Austrian Dominic Thiem is the only player to win against him on the surface this year in Madrid.

“What I know is I go to the court, and I know that I can win, I can lose. I don’t come here saying, ‘You can’t win against me’.”

Meanwhile, third seed Marin Cilic reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the 20th time with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Steve Johnson of the United States.

Former US Open champion Cilic will face Italian 18th seed Fabio Fognini for a place in the quarter-finals.

Argentine tennis player Diego Schwartzman beat Croatia’s Borna Coric 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the championship’s round of 16 for the first time in his career. 

His next opponent is to be South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, world No. 7, who beat Germany’s Mischa Zverev 6-1, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

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