Nadal survives scare to reach fourth round
PARIS, June 3 (Reuters) Defending champion Rafael Nadal was given a big scare on his 20th birthday before defeating local favourite Paul-Henri Mathieu 5-7 6-4 6-4 6-4 to advance into the fourth round of the French Open today.
Nadal had to dig deep to extend his winning streak on clay to 56 after being pushed to the limits by the 24-year-old Mathieu in front of a ecstatic centre court crowd.
Mathieu, seeded 29, saved five break points in the 11th game before claiming the first set on Nadal's serve after a 93-minute battle.
Mathieu saved eight other break points in the second set's third game, only for the Spaniard to claim his serve next and level the match.
Nadal, who will meet Australian 14th seed Lleyton Hewitt for a quarter-final place,broke again in the third set only for Mathieu to pull one back when the Spaniard double-faulted.
The second seed broke decisively but two points into the 10th game he called for his trainer for an apparent throat problem before returning to the court and wrapping up the set.
The Spaniard broke for 3-2 in the fourth set when Mathieu netted an easy forehand. The Frenchman broke straight back but cracked under pressure in the ninth game, making four unforced errors to leave Nadal serving for the match.
The world number two ended the four-hour 53-minute thriller on his first match point, getting a few boos from a disappointed crowd.
Reuters PDS VP0118