By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Such is Rafa Nadal's dominance over his rivals on clay that he is now feeling sorry for them.
On Monday, the second seeded Spaniard demolished experienced Argentine Juan Monaco 6-2 6-0 6-0, winning 17 games in a row to advance into the quarter-finals and stay on course for a record-breaking seventh Roland Garros title.
"I shouldn't have this type of score against one of the best players in the world," Nadal, who has lost only one match on the Paris clay since his French Open debut in 2005, told reporters.
"I saw him suffer a little bit on court at the end. He is one of my best friends on tour. I feel very sorry for him."
Monaco, the 13th seed with two claycourt titles to his name in 2012, came out with all guns blazing but after leading 2-1, the Argentine hit the Rafa wall.
Nadal's stinging top-spinning forehands sent his opponent chasing shadows in a one hour 46 minute claycourt masterclass.
With a certain sense of understatement, the awe-inspiring left-hander summed up his condition: "Yeah, I feel good, no?"
The early exchanges seemed to point to a real battle, however, as Monaco continued his recent good form.
"Before (breaking in the fifth game) I didn't play fantastic, but it's true that he started the match playing aggressive, having good shots," said Nadal.
"In my opinion, he was unlucky in the first set. That's my feeling. 6‑2 was too much.
"I am very happy with the way I played afterwards. I feel very, very sorry for him. I think he's playing probably the best tennis of his career, but probably not today."
Nadal, who has dropped only 19 games in four matches, next faces compatriot Nicolas Almagro, the 12th seed, for a place in the semi-finals.
Almagro, who like Nadal has not dropped a set in his first four matches, has a 0-7 win-loss record against the claycourt machine, having only taken two sets from the master.
But tomorrow is another day, even for Rafa.
"It's a very tough tournament, you see. So there is no moment when you could say, Oh, this player is playing well, and therefore this is going to continue," he said.
"When you reach the quarter-finals with my results, that is always something positive, that is true. These are the quarter-finals, and, okay, I have won quite easily. But I am not going to go through immediately to the semi-finals.
"The most difficult thing is yet to come."
Hard to picture how this could get easier, indeed.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman)