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Nadal cruises while Federer loses

TOP-RANKED Rafael Nadal stretched his winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters to 24 matches yesterday by beating Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 6-3, 6-0 in the third round in Monaco.

Meanwhile, Roger Federer's first tournament on clay this season ended a day earlier with a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round, a defeat made slightly less painful by the fact that it was to a close friend.

Federer looked totally out of sorts against his Olympic doubles partner, and the 13-time Grand Slam champion failed to reach the quarterfinals at Monte Carlo for the first time since 2005.

"Like I told him, the loss doesn't hurt as much just because I know it's against a good guy," said Federer, who has lost the last three Monte Carlo finals to Nadal.

Federer looked sloppy throughout against Wawrinka and faced 14 break points during Thursday's rain-interrupted match.

"I was making a few too many errors. That kind of gave him the advantage," Federer said. "I guess it was Stan's game. He did a good job today. He kept the ball in play."

Wawrinka set up his first match point with a deep shot into the corner that the second-seeded Federer failed to return. He clinched victory with a backhand pass down the line.

Nadal and Lapentti exchanged breaks of serve in a tough opening to the match, suspended due to rain on Thursday with Lapentti leading 1-0 in the first set. But Nadal never looked back after breaking Lapentti again and holding to lead 4-2.

Each time the four-time defending champion Nadal has won the Monte Carlo title he has gone on to capture the French Open. The Spaniard has won 18 straight matches on clay since losing to Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second round of the Rome Masters in May 2008.

Nadal sealed victory at the first attempt when Lapentti hit a weak forehand into the net, and he next plays Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, who beat Simone Bolelli of Italy 7-5, 7-6 (2).

Also, fourth-seeded Andy Murray overcame a poor start to beat Fabio Fognini of Italy 7-6 (11), 6-4 to reach a quarterfinal on clay for the first time in his career.

Murray had never advanced past the third round on clay, and his prospects looked bleak when he trailed 5-0 in the first set, which also started on Thursday.

But the 21-year-old Scot rallied as Fognini lost his composure and smashed his racket several times.

The match was split over two days after rain halted Thursday's play at the start of the second set with Murray leading 1-0 and Fognini serving at 40-40.

Murray wobbled and trailed 3-1 in the second - with Fognini missing a chance to take a 4-1 lead - but Murray rallied again and went on to win on his second match point when Fognini hit a routine smash into the net for yet another unforced error.


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