June 05 | 06

Rafa is in to the quarter finals of the French Open with a hard fought victory over Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. The match was one of the most eagerly awaited matches of the fourth round, and it lived up to the hype with both players demonstrating some excellent clay court tennis during the match which lasted just over three hours.

It was a match where neither player managed to really dominate for more than a few games at a time, and the momentum swung frequently out on a packed Philippe Chatrier court. Rafa took the initiative in the first set breaking his Australian opponent's serve immediately. But it was to be the first of many breaks throughout the match and he was duly broken back by Hewitt. Rafa raised the bar though, and some excellent play, especially his forehand down the line, saw him break Hewitt's serve twice more in the set to claim it 6-2.

Hewitt, who has struggled through much of this year with injury, raised his level in the second set; he put in more first serves and reigned in the unforced errors to put more pressure on Rafa. Rafa did manage to break the Aussie's serve at 3-3. A terrific forehand passing shot hit with his back to the net set him up with three set points and a backhand into the net from Hewitt saw Rafa go 4-3 up. However, Rafa couldn't keep that level of tennis up and as Hewitt pressed harder Rafa surrendered the break of serve and at 5-6, found himself 0-40 down. Hewitt took his chances and very quickly levelled the match at one set all.

There were break points galore in the third set, but it was Rafa who made them count at 4-4. A superb backhand drop shot which spun away from the court on landing finally broke down the Aussie's sterling resistance and Rafa served out the set to love having raised his game right when it mattered.

Rafa took control early in the fourth set and to give all his fans something extra to cheer about. With Hewitt running out of ideas to beat Rafa, the Majorcan stole an early break at 1-1 as the Aussie started to commit more errors. Hewitt refused to stop fighting though and broke back immediately to peg Rafa back. But the Aussie then played a loose game with the effort of staying with Rafa beginning to take its toll and Rafa had a 3-2 advantage in the fourth set.

Rafa broke again at 4-2 to put the final nail in Hewitt's coffin. Hewitt finally succumbed to the pressure Nadal had been applying relentlessly throughout the set, and on Rafa's seventh break point he breached Hewitt's defences to serve for the match. The Majorcan served out the match in style and a big serve on his second match point ended Hewitt's brave challenge and gave Rafa a deserved place in the quarter finals where he will next meet the teenager from Serbia and Montenegro, Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic has been a revelation at the French Open so far and has beaten Horna, Gonzalez, Haas and Monfils to reach his first Grand Slam quarter final. He and Rafa have never played each other on the senior tour, and will contest their quarter final on Wednesday.
Vamos Rafa!

Written by: Kate Flory