Hingis, Nadal keep title hopes on track

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

PARIS -- If it all seems so long ago, that's because it was. Five years since Martina Hingis was last in the French Open quarterfinals, seven years since she was a sobbing, petulant mess while losing in the final of the only major she hasn't won.

Back on tour after a three-year injury hiatus, Hingis suddenly is a title contender again, playing all the right angles and flashing that familiar wry smile Monday as she wrapped up a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory over No. 31 Shahar Peer in the fourth round.

"It's a new year," Hingis said, "new Roland Garros."

Now comes a true test for the new Hingis: A quarterfinal Tuesday against No. 2 Kim Clijsters, the reigning U.S. Open champion and twice a runner-up at the French Open.

Hingis' match against Peer was halted Sunday after two sets because of fading light, so their best-of-one-set turn Monday was a tad anticlimactic -- as was men's fourth-round action, for the most part.

Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, lugged an 0-3 career record against two-time major winner Lleyton Hewitt into their encounter, but those previous meetings were all on hard courts, and all before Nadal emerged as a star.

Nadal's 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory was his 57th consecutive win on clay and moved him closer to a possible showdown in the final against Roger Federer, who's trying to become the first man since 1969 to win four Slams in a row.

Nadal's quarterfinal foe will be Novak Djokovic, who eliminated fellow 19-year-old Gael Monfils of France 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Julien Benneteau reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal when Alberto Martin quit in the first set because his back locked up. Benneteau will face No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic, a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 winner over Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo .

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