PARIS - As is his wont, Rafael Nadal declined to assess whether the 2012 French Open is his best French Open yet.
Perhaps the question was too narrow.
Truth is, Nadal is putting together one of the most dominant runs ever at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament — or any major tournament, for that matter — so far, losing a total of 19 games through four matches, including Monday's 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 victory over 13th-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina.
That's the fewest to this point at Roland Garros since 1982, when Guillermo Vilas dropped only 16. Like Nadal, John McEnroe also made it through four rounds while only losing 19 games at the 1984 U.S. Open.
French Open (May 27-June 10)
Rain or shine, clay or mud, Sunday or Monday, Rafael Nadal rules Roland Garros. The man they call "Rafa" won his record seventh French Open title on Monday, returning a day after getting rained out to put the finishing touches on a 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic, and deny Djokovic in his own quest for history — the "Novak Slam." Full story
"I feel really comfortable, really at ease," said Nadal, who is tied with Bjorn Borg with a record six French Open championships. "When the tournament is over, I'll tell you if this was my best Roland Garros or not. For the time being, I'm still playing. So far, so good. But we'll see. Things could change."
He trailed 2-1 at the start against Monaco, one of Nadal's best friends on tour, before reeling off the last 17 games in a row.
"I feel very, very sorry for him," the No. 2-seeded Nadal said after improving to 49-1 in the French Open over his career.
The only loss came in the fourth round in 2009 against Sweden's Robin Soderling.
Against Monaco, Nadal faced two break points and saved them both.
He broke Monaco eight times.
He made only 13 unforced errors, raising his total for the tournament to 64 — or 13 fewer than No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic made in his fourth-round match alone.
"When you reach quarterfinals with my results, that's always something positive, that's true. ... I have won quite easily. My results are good," Nadal said. "But I'm not going to go through immediately (to) the semifinals."
Well, yes, that's true. And consider this: When Vilas breezed through the early rounds 30 years ago, he wound up losing in the French Open final to Mats Wilander.
Nadal is scheduled to play an all-Spanish quarterfinal Wednesday against 12th-seeded Nicolas Almagro, who advanced by beating No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the fourth round.
Nadal owns a 7-0 career mark against Almagro, including victories in the 2008 and 2010 French Open quarterfinals.
The other men's quarterfinal on their half of the draw Wednesday is No. 4 Andy Murray against No. 6 David Ferrer. Tuesday's quarterfinals are Djokovic vs. No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and No. 3 Roger Federer vs. No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro.
It's the first time at any Grand Slam tournament since the 1984 French Open that the top six seeded men all reached the quarterfinals. Still, there's little doubt who the favorite is.
Nadal, Almagro said, is "the man on clay, and we are trying to (get) close to him. We are working hard to do our best."
Tsonga returned to Court Phillipe-Chatrier to finish his fourth-round match against No. 18 Stanislas Wawrinka that had been suspended because of darkness the night before.
Leading 4-2 in the fifth set, Tsonga quickly dropped a service break, but rebounded to win the last two games. Final score: 6-4, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 and next up is Djokovic.
"It's going to be a very difficult match," Tsonga said. "But obviously I'll fight like a lion and we'll see the result. I'll do everything I can to make it a difficult match for him."
Sixth-seeded Ferrer wiped out No. 20 Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. Ferrer has dropped only 25 games en route to the quarterfinals.
"It's true that in the past four matches, I felt really comfortable. I felt really at ease," Ferrer said. "I think I have to continue this way."
Like Tsonga, del Potro returned to finish his match Monday. The No. 9 seed won the fourth set to close a victory over No. 7 Tomas Berdych, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Murray overcame a slow start and a stiff back to defeat Richard Gasquet 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
Murray complained his back was hurting him in the early rounds last week. He was clutching his back during the first set Monday in the cold and wind at Roland Garros.
But as the match went on against 17th-seeded Gasquet, the fourth-seeded Murray showed no signs of injury. He'll play No. 6 David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.
The match ended oddly, with fans, pulling for the Frenchman, Gasquet. They delayed the start of the last game by doing an extended wave, then cheering when Murray served into the net and mockingly saying "shhhh" when the umpire tried to quiet them.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will renew their rivalry in the Italian Open final Sunday.
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