Spanish armada blown off course in Paris

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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - David Ferrer and former Roland Garros champion Juan Carlos Ferrero had a bad day at the office as the Spanish contingent experienced mixed fortunes at the French Open on Saturday.

Ferrer, the ninth seed, was stunned 6-4 6-0 7-6 by Austrian Juergen Melzer and 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, seeded 16th here, bowed out with a 7-5 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-4 defeat against American Robby Ginepri.

There were 15 Spanish men in the main singles draw here on the surface they love more than any other, yet only three remain and two of them -- Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro -- play each other in the fourth round.

Both Ferrer and Ferrero entered their contests as favorites but the chilly Parisian weather clearly was not to their liking.

"The weather didn't help us, and the first two sets I played very bad. I think if I had won the first set, maybe the match would have changed a lot," a weary-looking Ferrero told reporters.

Four-times champion Rafael Nadal, however, was still too strong for Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who proved a tough nut to crack but lost 6-3 6-4 6-3.

"It was hard to play today. There was a lot of wind and some rain at times," said Nadal.

"It was a surprise that Juan Carlos lost, and also I think David played in a kamikaze way, and it was difficult for him to stop on time. David played too flat."

Verdasco, the seventh seed, went to the brink against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber but he refused to let go, prevailing 2-6 6-3 6-3 6-7 6-4 despite a foot injury.

"I broke my big toenail and it did hurt like hell, I was almost crying," said Verdasco.

Almagro, the 19th seed, eased past Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3 6-3 6-4.

(Editing by Miles Evans)