Nadal downs Monfils after sticky start

NEW YORK Wed Sep 9, 2009 3:13am EDT

1 of 2. Gael Monfils of France gets up off the court after losing a point to Rafael Nadal of Spain in the third set of their evening match at the U.S. Open tennis championship in New York September 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Shaun Best

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal's tennis proved too hot for a gallant Gael Monfils and simply irresistible to one star-struck male fan as the rejuvenated Spaniard marched into the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open on Tuesday.

The third seed was initially given a tough time by the elastic-limbed Frenchman but found his best form to complete an impressive 6-7 6-3 6-1 6-3 victory.

Nothing seemed to ruffle Nadal, not even a peck on the cheek from an excitable spectator who breached courtside security to rush on as the Spaniard stripped to the waist after shaking hands with his opponent.

"For me it wasn't the problem. The guy was really nice," a jovial Nadal told reporters after reaching the last eight of his least successful slam for the third time.

"He was a great fan. He said, I love you, and he kiss me."

Monfils, who posted his only victory against Nadal at the start of the year, played near-perfect tennis for much of the first set, attacking Nadal at every opportunity.

It seemed highly unlikely that he could maintain the intensity of his play, however, and Nadal had the French 13th seed gasping for air after some brutal exchanges early in the second set as the momentum shifted.

Showing no sign of the abdominal injury that needed on-court treatment in his previous match, Nadal looked full of energy as he got into the groove to move 5-3 ahead in the second set.

He squandered a 40-0 lead when serving for the set as Monfils raised his game but made no mistake on the fourth set point and from that moment the outcome was never in doubt.

Nadal dominated the third set and despite a brief blip in the fourth when he was pegged back to 3-3 he looked to be approaching the levels he reached in winning this year's Australian Open.

"For sure it's an important match for the confidence," said Nadal, who missed two months of the season with knee problems. "I'm in the quarter-finals, so that's very good news and very good result for me."

"The knees are perfect. That's very important for me. Gives me lot of confidence."

Nadal will face Chile's Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the quarter-finals.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Julian Linden)

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