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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal continued his career-long dominance of Richard Gasquet, 6-3, 6-4, setting up a Cincinnati clash with Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Photo credit: Western & Southern Open

Drops of perspiration poured from Rafael Nadal’s face onto the court midway through the opening set.

The 2013 Cincinnati champion was dripping early, but ultimately it was a night of no sweat against Richard Gasquet.

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Nadal continued his career-long dominance of former childhood rival defeating Gasquet for the 15th time in as many meetings, 6-3, 6-4, powering into the Cincinnati round of 16.

Continuing his quest for a record-extending 31st Masters championship, Nadal swatted eight aces, including aces to cap the first and second sets, dropped only five points on first serve and denied the only break point he faced in the first set.

The top-seeded Spaniard is one of only five seeds to reach the last 16. Nadal will face fellow Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos-Vinolas for a quarterfinal spot.

Ramos-Vinolas withstood 19 aces from lefty Gilles Muller, the man who knocked Nadal out of Wimbledon, in a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, victory. The round of 16 match is a rematch of the Monte Carlo final, which Nadal won 6-1, 6-3.

Given Nadal had won 32 of 36 prior sets vs. Gasquet and had not dropped a set to the former world No. 7 in nine years, the Frenchman knew what he was in for from the start. Gasquet staved off a couple of break points navigating a seven-minute hold in the second game.

Pushed to deuce in his opening two service games, Nadal saved a break point holding in the third game. That was really his last true test on serve all night.

Driving the ball with ambition, Nadal forced Gasquet into netting a forehand off his back foot for double break point. The 31-year-old Frenchman pushed his second double fault into net gifting the break and a 3-1 lead to the top seed.

Dripping sweat from his canary-colored Nike top, Nadal slid successive forehands down the line extending his lead to 4-1 after 27 minutes of play.

The 10-time Roland Garros champion zapped his third ace down the middle emphatically closing the 45-minute first set. Nadal won 14 of 18 first-serve points.

Gasquet grew more aggressive as the set progressed, however he managed to win just four of 13 second-serve points as Nadal put him under near-constant pressure on the second delivery.

Short-term memory loss is a perquisite for tennis success. The challenge Gasquet faces is trying to forget about the scar tissue of a 14-match losing streak to Nadal.

The Frenchman is a superb shotmaker, but can struggle to hang in running rallies with Nadal and can get pushed well behind the baseline defending his forehand. An oppressive Nadal broke at love for a 2-1 second-set lead.

Gasquet saved a match point in the ninth game. Nadal stepped up to the line and slashed successive aces serving out an impressive 85-minute conquest at love.

The 15-time Grand Slam champion has not won a hard-court title since the 2014 Doha, but Nadal, who will regain the world No. 1 ranking on Monday, played with the exuberance of a man going places tonight.


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