By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Spain are experiencing their worst French Open campaign for almost 20 years despite having Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer through to the fourth round.
The duo, who met in the 2013 final, are the only two male Spaniards in the last 16, a rarity for the claycourt specialists who last suffered an annus horribilis in Paris in 1996 when Francisco Clavet was their only representative at the same stage.
While nine-times champion Nadal advanced with an uneventful three-set win over Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, seventh seed Ferrer needed five sets to beat Italian Simone Bolelli.
A generation shift could explain Spain's mediocre year, according to veteran Ferrer.
"Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro...have been injured and the Spaniards had to play against strong opponents," the 33-year-old Ferrer told a news conference after his 6-3 1-6 5-7 6-0 6-1 triumph.
"From time to time you have five or six Spanish players. But of course we are getting older and there's a new generation coming in."
Five of the top seven Spaniards in the APT rankings are 30-plus while the best hope on the women's side at Roland Garros is Garbine Muguruza.
The 21-year-old is the last Spanish female left in the draw and will play Italian Flavia Pennetta on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)