PARIS: Rafael Nadal shrugged off another bout of back pain to charge into the last 16 of the French Open on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) with an imposing 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 win over Leonardo Mayer of Argentina.
Seeking to become the first man to win five straight titles in Paris and the first to win nine times at the same Grand Slam, Nadal has lost just 19 games in getting to the last 16.
At the same stage last year en route to his eighth French Open title, Nadal had dropped two sets and lost 48 games.
Mayer, ranked 65th in the world, had little to offer as Nadal led from the start and was able to play well within his limits and still race away with the match.
The only blip came in the eighth game of the second set when Mayer broke for the first time in the match to level at 4-4.
But minutes later Nadal snuffed out any nascent threat to go two sets clear and the outcome was a formality after that.
The Spaniard’s record at Roland Garros since 2005 is now 62 wins for one loss, that coming against Robin Soderling of Sweden in a 2009 fourth round match.
“It was a positive first week – under control and winning in straight sets is better and I’m happy for that,” he said.
Only cloud on the horizon for Nadal was ongoing problems with his troublesome back that caused him to take some of the pace off his serve.
“I felt a little bit my back, that’s why I slowed down a little bit the serve,” he said.
“I had the problem in Australia. It’s real, but during my career I have had a few problems.”
Next up for the Spaniard, who will turn 28 on Tuesday, is little-known Serb Dusan Lajovic, who saw off American hope Jack Sock 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.