Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova returns the ball during the second round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Italy's Camilla Giorgi at the Roland Garros stadium

Nadal advances to third round in quest for ninth French Open title

Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal improved his French Open record to 61-1 after beating big-hitting Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday. The Spaniard’s only defeat at Roland Garros was in the fourth round against Robin Soderling five years ago. He was never in danger of losing this time, but was occasionally on the back foot as Thiem went for his shots throughout the match and broke the top-seeded Nadal’s serve twice.

PARIS — Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal improved his French Open record to 61-1 after beating big-hitting Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday.

The Spaniard’s only defeat at Roland Garros was in the fourth round against Robin Soderling five years ago. He was never in danger of losing this time, but was occasionally on the back foot as Thiem went for his shots throughout the match and broke the top-seeded Nadal’s serve twice.

“It was a dangerous match, dangerous opponent today,” Nadal said. “I am happy with the way I resisted. When I had to play long points I did well. When I had to attack and move him, I think I did well.”

Although Nadal broke Thiem’s serve seven times overall, Thiem’s powerful groundstrokes caused Nadal problems and he applauded the 20-year-old Thiem as he left centre court.

“He will have his chances to become a top star and fight for these tournaments,” Nadal said. “I really fought back against his attacks.”

With Nadal serving at 5-1 in the first set, Thiem saved a set point with a backhand volley at the net, then forced a break point with a forehand winner into the right corner and won the game with a replica stroke on the next point.

Nadal sealed the second set with a forehand winner down the line, but Thiem broke him again and then held for a 3-1 lead in the third.

That prompted Nadal to step up a gear and secure two consecutive breaks.

“I continued to deploy an attacking style and him move around the court,” Nadal said. “I put pressure on him.”

Nadal, who sealed victory on his second match point, next faces either Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, who beat Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Fifth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain, last year’s runner-up to Nadal; Briton’s Andy Murray, seeded seventh, and No. 12 Richard Gasquet of France also advanced to the third round in straight sets.

Ferrer beat Italy’s Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-3, 6-2; the two-time Grand Slam champion Murray followed up with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win against Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, and Gasquet won 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 against Carlos Berlocq of Argentina.

Ferrer next faces No. 32 Andreas Seppi of Italy, while Murray faces No. 28 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

“It was a good serving performance today, especially when I was down in games,” Murray said. “I returned very well (on) the second serve. I attacked it very well. My timing was there on forehand and backhand.”

Also, No. 14 Fabio Fognini of Italy beat Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (2); 19th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa beat Axel Michon 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 and American Donald Young won 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-3 against No. 26 Feliciano Lopez.

In the women’s draw, fourth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania beat Britain’s Heather Watson 6-2, 6-4; No. 5 Petra Kvitova won 6-4, 6-4 against Marina Erakovic, No. 6 Sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic won 7-5, 6-0 against Japan’s Kurumi Nara, and No. 10 Sara Errani of Italy — a runner-up in 2012 — won 6-2, 6-4 against Germany’s Dinah Pfizenmaier.

Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, who beat second-seeded Li Na — the former champion — in the first round, followed up with a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 win against American Alison Riske.

No. 15 Sloane Stephens of the United States; No. 23 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, and former French Open champions Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia and Ana Ivanovic of Serbia also advanced. Kuznetsova faces Kvitova in the third round and Ivanovic plays Safarova.

Also through to the third round are: No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova; No. 28 Andrea Petkovic, Kiki Bertens, Julia Glushko and Pauline Parmentier.

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