| GEO Sports|
Nadal into last eight, Djokovic gets semi-final pass
| Updated at: 1650 PST, Tuesday, May 31, 2011|
PARIS: Five-time champion Rafael Nadal reached the French Open last eight on Monday as title rival Novak Djokovic enjoyed a major psychological boost when he was handed a free pass into the semi-finals.
Top seed Nadal enjoyed a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 win over Croatian veteran Ivan Ljubicic and will next face Roland Garros bogeyman Robin Soderling, the only man to have beaten the great Spaniard in Paris in 43 matches.
Fifth seed Soderling, who has reached the last two finals, losing to Roger Federer in 2009 and Nadal in 2010, beat French 18th seed Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
Nadal, bidding for a sixth French Open title to take him level with Bjorn Borg, has looked a shadow of his usual self in Paris, shaken by the form of Djokovic, who could take his title and number one spot before the week is out.
His mood would not have been improved by knowing that the Serbian second seed was excused quarter-final duty when scheduled opponent Fabio Fognini of Italy withdrew with a torn left thigh muscle.
Fognini, who had been due to play his first career Grand Slam quarter-final, suffered a tournament-ending injury in his marathon five-set fourth-round win over Albert Montanes on Sunday.
Fognini is the first Italian man to reach the last eight in Paris since Renzo Furlan in 1995.
Soderling, who needed a fifth match point to defeat Simon for the sixth time in eight meetings, said he feels inspired every time he comes back to Paris.
French ninth seed Gael Monfils, a 2008 semi-finalist, set-up a last-eight clash with third seed Federer after defeating Spain's David Ferrer, the seventh seed, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 8-6.
Monfils had led by two sets to one when the tie was suspended on Sunday night and despite squandering three match points in the ninth and 11th games of the decider on Monday, the 24-year-old eventually held his nerve.
Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela shattered Alejandro Falla's dreams of becoming the first Colombian man to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final with a 4-6, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 win.
He will face either British fourth seed Andy Murray, who is carrying an ankle injury, or Serbia's 15th sees Victor Troicki for a place in the semi-finals.
Murray recovered from two sets to love down to pull level with the Serbian Davis Cup winner when darkness halted their tie. Troicki won the first two sets 6-4, 6-4 before Murray took the next two 6-3, 6-2.
The match will be played to a finish on Tuesday.