Top seed Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd after beating Argentine Leonardo Mayer in the third round of the French Open on Saturday. - EPA
PARIS (AFP): Rafael Nadal produced another imposing display of claycourt tennis at Roland Garros on Saturday to crush Argentinian Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 and reach the last 16 of the French Open.
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.
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.
Asked if he would asking for advice on how to tackle Nadal from fellow Serb Novak Djokovic, Lajovic wryly replied: "Yeah, I will try to ask everybody some tips against Rafa.
"You need to have a lot of tips and confidence to beat him, but I hope to enjoy the match if he wins and to give my best."
The man Nadal defeated in last year's final, fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, also reached the last 16 by defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-2, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.
The fifth seed had little difficulty in despatching a player he had taken on six times previously and not dropped a single set.
He will now go on to take on 19th seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa who moved through when opponent Ivo Karlovic of Croatia retired with a back injury after losing the first set 6-3.
With 35-year-old Karlovic measuring 2.11m (6ft 11in) and Anderson 2.03m (6ft 8in) their towering showdown out on Court 2 had been billed as the tallest match in Grand Slam history, but it lasted only 43 minutes.
Anderson also reached the last 16 last year in Paris, the first South African to do so since Wayne Ferreira in 1996.
At 32, Ferrer was one of 10 men aged 30 or over to reach the third round, the most at any Grand Slam event since 1978 Wimbledon when there were 12.
The highest number of players aged 30 or over through to the round of 16 at Roland Garros was eight in 1969.