Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal celebrated his 27th birthday in ruthless style yesterday by trouncing outclassed Japanese 13th seed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the French Open quarter-finals.
It was third-seeded Nadal's 56 win in 57 career matches at Roland Garros as he moved closer to becoming the first man in history to win the same Grand Slam title eight times.
Next up for the defending champion is either French seventh seed Richard Gasquet or Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss ninth seed. Nadal arrived in Paris having collected six titles in eight finals since his return from a seven-month injury lay-off.
But he was sluggish in the first week of a cold and damp Paris, losing the opening set of his first two matches for the first time in his Grand Slam career.
Since the weather has improved, so has the Spaniard, seeing off Fabio Fognini in straight sets on Saturday and then comfortably defeating Nishikori, the first Japanese man in the fourth round since Fumiteru Nakano in 1938.
“It’s a very special moment,” said Nadal, as the crowd welcomed him to Court Philippe Chatrier by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and repeating it on the match’s conclusion.
“Kei is a great player and he is getting better every season. But today I think I played my best match of the tournament.” Nadal was presented with a giant birthday cake at the end of the match and he will be looking for more celebrations on Wednesday in the quarter-finals as he holds a 10-0 career lead over Gasquet and 9-0 over Wawrinka.