Tennis: Nadal canters while Kokkinakis breaks through

PARIS (AFP) - Defending champion Rafael Nadal stayed on course for a 10th French Open title with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 breeze past Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro on Thursday.

But teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis gave a glimpse of the potential future of the sport when he saved three match points to beat fellow Australian Bernard Tomic 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 8-6 to make the third round of a major for the first time.

Sixth seed Nadal will face either Austria's Juergen Melzer or Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia for a place in the last 16.

"I am very happy. I played a great match and was very solid," said nine-time champion Nadal, who has now defeated Almagro 13 times out of 14.

Nadal edged ahead with what proved to be the crucuial break for a 2-1 lead in the first set.

The 28-year-old was ahead again in the first game of the second while Almagro had to wait until the third game for his first break opportunity which was quickly snuffed out.

Former top-tenner Almagro, a three-time quarter-finalist in Paris, has seen his ranking slip to 154 after missing the second half of the 2014 season to undergo foot surgery.

On Thursday, he gradually wilted and despite breaking back for 3-5, Nadal retrieved it immediately for a two-set advantage.

From then, it was over as a contest as Nadal, with breaks in the second and fourth games, raced to his 68th career win at the tournament.

Out on Court Seven, 19-year-old Kokkinakis, making his Roland Garros debut on a wild card, came back from 2-5 down in the decider and saved three match points to defeat 27th seed Tomic.

Kokkinakis fired 19 aces and 71 winners to line up a likely third round clash with world number one Novak Djokovic.

Top seed Djokovic tackles Luxembourg's 55th-ranked Gilles Muller later on Thursday looking to rack up his 24th successive win of the year.

Djokovic defeated 32-year-old Muller in their only previous meeting at the Australian Open in January as the Serb went on to claim a fifth title in Melbourne.

Djokovic is seeking a first French Open which would make him just the eighth man to complete the career Grand Slam.

Britain's third seed Andy Murray, twice a semi-finalist in Paris, faces Portugal's Joao Sousa defending a 5-0 career record.

However, all of those meetings came on hard courts.

US Open champion Marin Cilic reached the third round for the fourth successive year.

The ninth-seeded Croatian fired 38 winners in a 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 6-1 win over Italian qualifier Andrea Arnaboldi.

Cilic will face Argentinian 23rd seed Leonardo Mayer, who beat Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (1-7), 6-1 for a place in the last 16.

This year's second round featured a record 19 men over the age of 30.

But 33-year-old German Benjamin Becker won't be going any further after he was forced to withdraw from Friday's scheduled third-round clash with Japan's fifth seed Kei Nishikori because of a right shoulder injury.

Nishikori will face either Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic or Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia for a place in the quarter-finals.

"Very sorry to hear about Benjamin being injured. I hope he recovers fast," tweeted Nishikori, who also made the fourth round in 2013.

Becker needed two gruelling five-setters to get to the third round, seeing off Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium and Spanish 32nd seed Fernando Verdasco.

On Wednesday, Britain's Kyle Edmund also withdrew from his second-round clash against Australian 29th seed Nick Kyrgios.

Qualifier Edmund was suffering a stomach injury picked up in his five-set first-round win over France's Stephane Robert.

Kyrgios goes on to face either Murray or Sousa in the third round.

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