Rafael Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday in style with a straight-sets win over Richard Gasquet on Thursday to reach the French Open third round.

Nadal, the 13-time champion in Paris and chasing a record-setting 21st Grand Slam title, won 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 to register his 17th career victory in 17 meetings with France’s 53rd-ranked Gasquet.

Nadal’s record against Gasquet is the joint-most one-sided head-to-head contest in Open era history.

The last time Gasquet won a set against Nadal was way back in 2008 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Toronto with the Spaniard winning 31 sets in a row against the Frenchman.

Most Dominant Tour-Level Head-to-Head Records (Open Era):

Player Opponent Head2Head
 Bjorn Borg Vitas Gerulaitis 17-0
 Novak Djokovic Gael Monfils 17-0
 Roger Federer David Ferrer 17-0
 Roger Federer Mikhail Youzhny 17-0
 Ivan Lendl Tim Mayotte 17-0
 Rafael Nadal Richard Gasquet 17-0

“Well, of course it’s better to win 16 in a row than lose 16 in a row, no?” said Nadal.

“When you go to the match and you have been winning all the last 16 times, of course the confidence is a little bit higher than when you have a tougher head-to-head.

“But I respect Richard and I know how good he is.”

In a match played in an empty Court Philippe Chatrier due to a 9pm Covid-19 curfew, Gasquet won just nine points in the first set.

He managed a brief show of defiance from 2-5 to 5-5 in the second set but eventually, his resistance was broken when Nadal carved out a break for 4-2 in the third set.

Next up for the world number three is Britain’s Cameron Norrie who he has beaten twice already this season, at the Australian Open and on clay in Barcelona.

Gasquet’s defeat means that there are no French players left in the tournament before the third round for the first time.

“It’s the end of an era. I’m almost 35. (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga is 36, (Gilles) Simon is 37, and Gael is (almost) 35,” said Gasquet, a former world number seven.

“So it’s normal. We are still here. It’s a great generation. I hope it will be the same for the French future.”

(With AFP inputs)