BY: CHRIS LEHOURITES
For the first time in his career, Rafael Nadal will make a fifth straight appearance in the French Open quarterfinals. Nadal won a record 32nd straight match at Roland Garros on Monday, beating Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 to improve on his own record by one.
Nadal is an eight-time French Open champion with a 63-1 record on the red clay in Paris. His only loss came in the fourth round in 2009, when he was a four-time defending champion for the first time.
Another upset never seemed possible this time, despite complaints of pain in his back that slowed his serves in the previous round.
Playing on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal’s favorite court in the world, the top-seeded Spaniard controlled the match from the start. He then won 17 straight points to open the second set, taking a 4-0 lead before finally sending a backhand wide to make it 15-15 in the fifth game.
Later in that set, Lajovic held three break points at 0-40, but Nadal saved them all and held. It wasn’t until late in the third, with the match far out of reach, that Lajovic did manage a break – the only game he won in the final set.
“I was able to control the points from the baseline, so that’s always important for me,” Nadal said. “I’m in (the) quarterfinals.”
Nadal has won 13 major titles, and is the only man to win eight at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments. With another championship at Roland Garros this year, he will become the first man to win five straight French Open titles. And he’s looking rather unbeatable. The Spaniard, who turns 28 on Tuesday, has lost only 23 games through four rounds, only four more than he lost in reaching the quarterfinals in 2012.
Nadal will next face fifth-seeded David Ferrer, the man he beat in last year’s final. Ferrer defeated 19th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
Seemingly undiminished by his marathon two-day five-setter in the previous round, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray beat left hander Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-5 7-6(3) to reach the quarter-finals. Both players completed their delayed third round matches on Sunday and while neither appeared to hit top gear on Monday, Murray showed enough speed and touch, particularly in the closing games of the second set, to send the 24th seed home.
Verdasco’s foul-mouthed blast at the umpire over a contested line call, that in the end Murray conceded, had fired up the Spaniard to break in the third set and peg back the Briton but the seventh seed regrouped to prevail.
Home favourite Gael Monfils also reached the quarterfinals for the fourth time when he ended the run of unseeded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez with a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 win. The 23rd seed, who also made it to the last eight in 2008, 2009 and 2011, blazed through the first two sets and held off the World No. 41 in the third, ending the contest on a sun-drenched court Philippe Chatrier with an ace.Monfils will face Murray for a place in the last four.
Petkovic downs Bertens
Earlier, Andrea Petkovic overcame an inconsistent serve and unseeded Kiki Bertens to reach the quarterfinals with a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory.
The 28th-seeded German was broken three times in the first set, once in the second and three more times in the third. But she was able to earn seven breaks of her own — all in the final two sets — to advance to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the second time in her career. Bertens, a Dutchwoman ranked No.148, had been bidding to become the lowest ranked woman to reach the French Open quarterfinals since the field at the clay-court major was expanded to 128 players in 1983.
After splitting the first two sets, the players exchanged breaks quickly and often in the third. Each of the first five games went to the returning player, with Petkovic finally holding to lead 4-2.
Both players were broken once more, but Petkovic was able to hold in the last game with a forehand winner on match point.
Romania’s Simona Halep, the highest seed left in the women’s singles draw, outwitted American 15th seed Sloane Stephens to reach the quarter-finals at the French Open with a 6-4 6-3 victory on Monday. Stephens made too many unforced errors as Halep, the fourth seed, won through to set up a clash with either 27th seeded former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia or Czech 23rd seed Lucie Safarova.
Halep’s game was also far from perfect but the 22-year-old took all her chances, converting the six break points she had.
Clay tablet: Putting pen on hold, Petkovic inks entry into quarterfinals
PARIS: Andrea Petkovic’s decision to hold off trading in her tennis racket for a career in journalism paid off on Monday as she reached a grand slam quarter-final for the first time in three years with a 1-6 6-2 7-5 win over Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens. Hobbled by back, ankle and knee injuries that forced her out of the tour for several months over the past two years, the 27-year-old German considered quitting tennis in 2013 to try her luck as a magazine journalist and applied for internships.
But the player who enjoys writing blogs during her spare time could not switch off the lure of returning to the courts and her perseverance to regain full fitness paid off on Monday. “One year ago… I was very close to quitting… just I didn’t like playing anymore. I hated it,” Petkovic said. “When I came back from my injuries, my footwork was off, my strokes were bad. My serve was bad. I hated it. That’s why I wanted to stop. ”
(But) my life and destiny still wants me to play tennis … and right now the only thing that I care about is tennis. “I do have a lot of interests besides tennis, but nothing really gets my passion so far. I’m I think at the place where I need to be right now. And now I’m here and it’s a nice reward.”
Having missed the claycourt major for the past two years, 28th seed Petkovic spent Sunday “stalking” Bertens on YouTube for the whole day and that ploy enabled her to survive the fierce onslaught of the Dutch’s groundstrokes. (Reuters)
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