Rafael Nadal is famous for being ultra-competitive in everything he does. That seems to include fourth-round blowout wins at the French Open. Yesterday Novak Djokovic, Rafa’s biggest rival in Paris, beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his fourth-rounder in 89 minutes, dropping six games in the process. Today Nadal did his best to match him against 83rd-ranked Dusan Lajovic. It took Rafa four minutes longer, but he only lost four games in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 never-in-doubt win.
Lajovic, 23, was overmatched from the start. He was forced to hit his one-handed backhand off his back foot, and he couldn’t push forward or gain traction in rallies even when he was serving. He was broken eight times, and won a stunningly low 32 percent of points on his serve; he was just four of 29 on second balls. In the second set, Nadal didn’t lose a point until the fifth game, and for the match he won 83 points to 33. It’s rare to see a differential that wide even in the most lopsided affairs.
Most important for Nadal was that he didn’t appear to suffer from the back pain that had bothered him last week. Rafa’s serve returned to its normal pace today, and he moved well. Lajovic could find room for just nine winners, against 43 unforced errors.
Things will be different in Nadal’s next match, as he surely knows. He’ll face David Ferrer in the quarterfinals on what's forecast to be a rainy Wednesday. Rafa is 21-6 against his countryman, but Ferrer has won two of their last three matches.