PARIS, June 1 (Reuters) - Seven-times champion Rafael Nadal held off a brave but sporadic challenge from Italian Fabio Fognini 7-6(5) 6-4 6-4 to book his place in the fourth round of the French Open on Saturday.
Third seed Nadal suffered the occasional wobble but, for the first time this year, did not drop a set as he set up a meeting with Japanese 13th seed Kei Nishikori on his 27th birthday on Monday.
The Spaniard, who struggled in his first two rounds, was bothered by Fognini's clever shots early on but once he got the measure of the 27th seed the contest was effectively over.
Nadal, who has 11 grand-slam titles to his name, sealed the win after two hours 45 minutes when Fognini sent a backhand long.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon