Nadal & Sharapova through to 4th round

Rafa Nadal and Maria Sharapova continue on their road to defend their French Open titles.

Roland Garros, Picture: AFP

PARIS - Seven-times champion Rafael Nadal held off a brave yet sporadic challenge from Italian Fabio Fognini 7-6(5) 6-4 6-4 to book his place in the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday.

Third seed Nadal suffered the occasional wobble but, for the first time this year, did not drop a set as he set up a meeting with Japanese 13th seed Kei Nishikori on Monday.

The Spaniard, who struggled in his first two rounds, was bothered by Fognini's clever shots early on but once he got the measure of the 27th seed the contest was effectively over.

Nadal, who has 11 grand-slam titles to his name, sealed the win after two hours 45 minutes when Fognini sent a backhand long.

Meanwhile, defending champion women's champion Maria Sharapova was pushed for the first before overcoming tenacious Chinese player Zheng Jie 6-1 7-5.

The Russian second seed, playing for the third day in succession after needing two days to complete her second round because of rain, was forced into a scrap after initially looking a class above her 43rd-ranked opponent.

Sharapova trailed 4-1 in the second set, clawed back to 4-4, then fell 5-4 behind with Zheng serving to level the match but turned up the volume of her grunting and her play to avoid being extended further.

The 26-year-old wrapped up victory when Zheng netted a forehand service return, moving through to a last-16 clash against American Sloane Stephens.

3RD ROUND RESULTS (MEN'S SINGLES)

Philipp Kohlschreiber (Germany) beat Victor Hanescu (Romania) 6-0 7-6(0) 6-1

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beat Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) 6-2 6-2 6-3

Tommy Haas (Germany) beat John Isner (US) 7-5 7-6(4) 4-6 6-7(10) 10-8

Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland) beat Jerzy Janowicz (Poland) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-3 6-3

Rafa Nadal (Spain) beat Fabio Fognini (Italy) 7-6(5) 6-4 6-4

Richard Gasquet (France) beat Nikolay Davydenko (Russia) 6-4 6-4 6-3

Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) beat Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) 6-4 6-4 6-3

Kei Nishikori (Japan) beat Benoit Paire (France) 6-3 6-7(3) 6-4 6-1

3RD ROUND RESULTS (WOMEN'S SINGLES)

Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) beat Samantha Stosur (Australia) 3-6 6-3 6-4

Jamie Hampton (US) beat Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) 6-1 7-6(7)

Maria Kirilenko (Russia) beat Stefanie Voegele (Switzerland) 7-6(3) 7-5

Maria Sharapova (Russia) beat Zheng Jie (China) 6-1 7-5

Francesca Schiavone (Italy) beat Marion Bartoli (France) 6-2 6-1

Bethanie Mattek-Sands (US) beat Paula Ormaechea (Argentina) 4-6 6-1 6-3

Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) beat Alize Cornet (France) 4-6 6-3 6-1

Sloane Stephens (US) beat Marina Erakovic (New Zealand) 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3