French Open champion Nadal reaches 3rd round on empty court

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Jun 3, 2021; Paris, France; Rafael Nadal (ESP) in action during his match against Richard Gasquet (FRA) on day five of the French Open at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Amid an unusual silence on an empty center court at the French Open, defending champion Rafael Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday with something very familiar: another victory against Richard Gasquet.

Nadal won 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 against Gasquet to improve to 17-0 for his career against the Frenchman since they first met in 2004. Gasquet hasn’t even won a set in the past 12 losses to Nadal and not since 2008.

There were no fans on Court Philippe Chatrier to witness Nadal’s 102nd victory at Roland Garros, with all leaving by 9 p.m. because of coronavirus rules.

The 13-time champion won the first set in 24 minutes.

“I think I played an amazing first set,” Nadal said. “I don’t feel that Richard was playing that bad to have that score, but I didn’t miss that much.”

Gasquet rallied from 5-2 in the next set to reach 5-5, but missed an easy volley at the net in the 12th game. Nadal broke him again to take the second set.

Nadal won on his second match point, joining Bjorn Borg, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl in owning 17-0 records against an opponent in the Open era. The top-ranked Djokovic and Federer — who even has two 17-0 records — earlier reached the third round.

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