Paris, May 31 (DPA) Rafael Nadal assumed his accustomed place in the later stages of the French Open Monday, his fourth-round defeat a year ago just a fading memory.
But his fellow quadruple tournament winner Justine Henin was unable to re-live her own glorious past on the clay of Roland Garros, with Australian seventh seed Samantha Stosur completing an upset of the Belgian 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Nadal, by contrast, polished his game further in anticipation of a fight to seize back the crown he lost in 2009 through a defeat by Swede Robin Soderling. The Spanish second seed got past Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci comfortably 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.
‘I’m happy, I’ve been playing better and better with each match,’ said Nadal, who has won every match in straight sets. ‘I’ve got a lot of confidence in my game.’
The second seed from Mallorca will line up in an all-Iberian quarter-final after Nicolas Almagro put out seventh seed Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Nadal will be playing in his 14th quarter from his last 16 majors.
Third seed Novak Djokovic advanced 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 over American Robby Ginepri and will next face Austrian Jurgen Melzer, who beat Teimuraz Gabashvili 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 a round after the Russian hammered Andy Roddick.
Melzer, who knows Roddick well, said he got some match advice from his absent friend, already in London to prepare for the grass season.
Melzer, ranked 22nd, is the first Austrian to reach the Paris quarters since Thomas Muster 12 years ago, claiming victory in just under three hours.
The Austrian has never gone this far at a major and is the oldest man remaining in the draw at age 29. He admitted to receiving some tactical advice on SMS before the contest from Roddick.
‘It’s gonna be a tough match for both of us,’ said Djokovic, ‘I wouldn’t give myself too much chances to win, It’s the Grand Slam quarter-finals, the matches are getting tougher.
‘Physically you have to be very fresh and you have to expect the longer rallies. He’s very aggressive, he can play defensive and offensive at the same time. So that’s what makes him very dangerous.
‘I’ll try to keep up the good rhythm that I had in last two matches, and the better man will win.’
Henin’s loss temporarily derails her career comeback scenario after quitting tennis in May, 2008, but returning at the start of this season as her motivation returned.
Stosur will play her quarter-final against top seed Serena Williams, who beat Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 6-2.
‘You can never underestimate anyone, Sam is actually a wonderful clay court player,’ said Williams. ‘She proved that last year,
‘She’s someone you can’t overlook, she has a good chance to go all the way.’
Henin won the French Open 2003 and three straight years 2005-2007 before not playing the past two editions after she quit.
But Monday the Belgian fell apart under the pressure at the event where she is considered as good as French by the fickle Roland Garros crowd.
‘I can’t believe it, I’m so happy to be through,’ said Stosur, who had earlier in May lost the Stuttgart final to Henin.
‘After the first set, I told myself to keep going. I knew what I dad to do, I just had to do it.
‘After the double-fault on match point, I just shook it off, had a laugh and didn’t worry about it. I knew I had some more good serves. I just played the point out.’