PARIS -- Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal produced yet another rock solid performance to defeat Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 and reach the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday.
The world No. 1, who is undefeated at Roland Garros since his only loss in 2009, extended his record to 62-1 on the Paris clay having not dropped a set at this year's event.
The Spaniard made only five unforced errors in the first two sets -- 10 in total -- even though he was broken in the second as world No. 65 Mayer showed his clay-court skills.
Nadal ended the contest with a service winner to set up a meeting with unheralded Serbian Dujan Lajovic, who beat American Jack Sock 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 and also has yet to drop a set.
Nadal, however, revealed he was suffering from back pain, although he refused to elaborate when quizzed on the matter.
“Well, I'd rather not talk about my back. I've reached week number two. I'll do my best. I'll play as best as I can,” he told a news conference.
“I'll put up a good fight to try and win. You know, my back is not that important. It's not that important, because I wouldn't really like to give you too many details.
”I am the way I am, and I'm happy to have reached this level. I won a three-set match, which is important.“
His uncle and coach Toni Nadal said: ”It was a solid match against a good clay-court player.
“In the second set, after he broke he lost his focus a bit. But he managed to come back and play some good tennis.”
Against Mayer, who this year reached the final at the Vina del Mar clay-court tournament, Nadal was quick out of the blocks, breaking in the third and fifth games to bag the opening set in half an hour on a sun-drenched Philippe Chatrier court.
He broke to love in the third game of the second set as Mayer seemed to be heading for a humiliating defeat.
Yet the Argentine broke back for 4-4 as Nadal's cross-court passing shot clipped the net cord and went just wide.
Nadal broke decisively in the 11th game with a lob that landed onto the baseline before bagging the set with a stunning forehand passing shot.
The third set was a mere formality and Nadal wrapped it up with a forehand winner.
American Donald Young lost a five-set battle with Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4.
Should Nadal beat Lajovic, he could face compatriot David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, the man he beat to claim last year's title and one of three men to have beaten him on clay this season.
The fifth-seeded Ferrer continued his stroll through the draw with a 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-3 win against Italian Andreas Seppi.
Ferrer blazed through the opening set but let his guard down in the second after an early break and was forced into a tiebreak he won 7-2.
The third set was a mere formality and the fifth seed finished it off on his first match point with one of his trademark forehand winners down the line.
Earlier, Simona Halep had too many tricks up her sleeve for Spaniard Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor as the fourth seed glided into the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-0 win.
The wily Romanian, the highest seed left in the draw after Serena Williams, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska were knocked out early, found perfect angles and defended superbly to counter Torro-Flor's powerful forehand in Paris.
“It's not a surprise because I'm more confident now in myself, and I feel the ball really good here at the French Open,” said Halep, who has won more titles in the last 12 months than any other woman except Williams.
Halep, who has dropped only 11 games in three straight-set wins, will next meet American 15th seed Sloane Stephens for a place in the quarterfinals.
Stephens was in less devastating form than in her first two matches but she was still too strong for Ekaterina Makarova in a 6-3, 6-4 win over the Russian left-hander.
The American has shown her consistency on the big stage by reaching the fourth round at six successive grand slam events, the only active woman to do so, but her ability to blow hot and cold on the WTA Tour has prevented her from climbing further up the rankings.
Roland Garros has not been a happy hunting ground for Ana Ivanovic since she won the title in 2008 and the popular Serbian failed to break that jinx on Saturday as she lost 6-3 6-3 to Czech Lucie Safarova.
The 23rd-seeded Safarova, who entered the match with a 4-2 record against the 11th seed having won their last four encounters, was never really bothered by Ivanovic's uncontrolled power.
A dejected Ivanovic said: “It's definitely tough. She's a lefty, it's not something we face every day and the ball comes a little bit differently.
”In the beginning I felt like I had a lot of chances I didn't use. Had I used them, the match maybe would have had a different tone to it.“
Safarova will face another champion in 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova after the Russian 27th seed beat Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova 6-7 (3), 6-1, 9-7 in 3 hours, 13 minutes on court Philippe Chatrier.
Kvitova took two medical timeouts and came back from the first with a heavily strapped right thigh, but it did not seem to hamper her as she peppered the court with winners.
But her 65 unforced errors eventually cost her as she bowed out on the third match point.
Italian 10th seed Sara Errani, runner-up in 2012, won 20 points in succession during her 6-0 6-1 demolition of Israel's Julia Glushko. She set up a meeting with Serbian sixth seed Jelena Jankovic who demolished Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-1 6-2.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun