Tennis: Roger Federer coasts but task will get harder, Rafa Nadal joins him in French Open last eight

Roger Federer plays a forehand return during the men's singles fourth round match at The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2019.
Roger Federer plays a forehand return during the men's singles fourth round match at The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - Roger Federer's dream return to the French Open continued as the Swiss waltzed into quarter-finals by giving Argentine Leonardo Mayer a 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 masterclass on Sunday (June 2).

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, back at Roland Garros after a three-year hiatus, cruised through the opening rounds seemingly unchallenged and his last-16 encounter was no exception.

Later, defending champion Rafael Nadal won his 90th match at Roland Garros, as he stormed into the quarter-finals for the 13th time.

Nadal, bidding for a 12th title at the tournament, swept past Argentina's Juan Ignacio Londero 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. In what will be his 38th Grand Slam quarter-final appearance, the 32-year-old Spaniard will face either Japan's Kei Nishikori or Benoit Paire of France for a semi-final place.

"I am very happy. Juan is a very good player so I congratulate him and his team," said Nadal. "It's an incredible feeling to be in another quarter-final at this tournament which has been the most special of my career."

Nadal has only been defeated twice in his French Open career and the 78th-ranked Londero never looked like becoming the third man to achieve the feat.

Nadal has a 10-2 record over Nishikori while he has yet to lose to Paire in four matches.

Things are likely to get trickier for Federer from now on, as the third seed will next face either a resurgent compatriot Stan Wawrinka, the champion in 2015, or Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat him at the Australian Open.

On Sunday, however, it appeared as if Federer was enjoying a leisurely stroll in the Parisian sun.

After just over an hour, he was already two sets up. The 37-year-old played effortlessly, smacking winners around the court with self-confidence.

Mayer offered some semblance of resistance in the third set until the sixth game, when Federer broke decisively, ending his opponent's ordeal on the first match point.

"Big serving, windy, it was tough conditions. We didn't have many baseline rallies that were sort of neutral," said Federer. "Either one was always pressing and the other guy was defending."

It was Mayer who did most of the defending against Federer, who won his only French Open title 10 years ago.

Federer showed off his repertoire - the single-handed backhand, some chip-and-charge tennis, sliced backhands - to dispatch the Argentinian on Court Philippe Chatrier.

With the Big Three - Federer, Nadal and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic - showing few signs of giving up their stranglehold of men's tennis, the Swiss is aware that when they do eventually retire, it will leave a gaping hole in the sport.

"It's hard to reinvent the wheel. But of course maybe Rafa, Novak, and me, we have something special, whatever that is. It's maybe a combination of many things," said Federer.

"But sure, I think a lot of my fans or Novak's fans or Rafa's fans, when either one of us retires, we'll feel a bit of a void. But I think it will just take a few years after that to fall in love with another player.

"Because if you love tennis, you don't love the game because of one player. I think it's because of the sport and what it does to you and how you feel about it."