Novak Djokovic proved too hot to handle for Canadian outsider Milos Raonic as the Serb qualified for the French Open semifinals for the sixth time with a clinical 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory on Tuesday.
The World No.2, chasing the only Grand Slam title to elude him, next meets 18th-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis. A couple of double faults in the 11th game put Raonic under pressure and Djokovic took full advantage, grabbing the opening set after first unsettling his opponent with a dipping backhand.
The Serb, who now has a 3-0 record against Raonic, then took the second-set tiebreak when his rival missed a backhand. The Canadian trailed 4-0 in the third set before retrieving one of the two breaks of serve.
Djokovic, however, ended the contest on his first match point when Raonic, the first Canadian male to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam in the professional era, sent a forehand wide.
The World No.2, who has only reached the final here once before when he lost to eight-times champion Rafael Nadal in 2012, dropped his serve just once, in the final set when victory was virtually assured.
Gulbis followed up his surprise win over Roger Federer in the last 16 by knocking out sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych in straight sets on Tuesday.
Gulbis, 18th seed on the Paris clay, reached a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.
Czech Berdych, in his now familiar blue and white flowered shirt, seemed short of shots and ideas to squash the newly focused Gulbis who, at 25, has declared this season his “last train” for success after admitting wasting his talent since his breakthrough season back in 2007.
Gulbis peppered his play with almost casual-looking winners at times, as well as spirited exchanges with the umpire over contested calls.
Maria fights back
In women’s action, Maria Sharapova had just too much experience for the talented, yet still green, Garbine Muguruza. The Russian ice queen was 6-1 5-4 down against the up-and-coming Spaniard in their quarterfinal on centre court but used all her experience to come through 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The 2012 champion is not one to panic in Paris.
In 2011, she fell 6-3 4-1 behind against French hope Caroline Garcia before prevailing in three sets, inflicting a bagel on her opponent in the decider.
Tuesday was no different as Sharapova, who lost in the final last year, gradually regained the upper hand against Muguruza, who had knocked out defending champion Serena Williams in the second round.
“You’re trying to set smaller goals for yourself, especially in tougher situations where you feel like not much is working for you, your opponent is playing confident tennis, doing so many things well, not making mistakes,” Sharapova explained.
“When you just don’t feel like anything continued…