Swiss knifes French hearts

Wawrinka defeats last local hope Gasquet in marathon five-set dogfight

Written by Reuters | Paris | Published: June 4, 2013 1:14:19 am

Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland overcame a two-set deficit to beat local favorite Richard Gasquet 6-7 (5),4-6,6-4,7-5,8-6 and reach the French Open quarterfinals for the first time Monday.

The seventh-seeded Frenchman looked set to win when Wawrinka’s temper frayed in the third set,causing him to rant at the umpire several times for the line judge to be changed. But with Gasquet under pressure on his second serve in the decider,the ninth-seeded Wawrinka unleashed a powerful forehand winner down the line to convert his fourth of 20 breakpoint chances and close out the match. Wawrinka,who labelled the contest a “Davis Cup match”,hit his 92nd winner to wrap up victory in four hours 16 minutes and set up a quarter-final clash with seven-times champion Rafael Nadal. Both players took medical time outs during the course of the marathon game. Gasquet beat Wawrinka in the second round of the 2006 Paris Masters in their only previous meeting.

All the complaints about lousy weather,windy courts and rotten schedules were forgotten as the sun finally shone on birthday boy Rafa Nadal’s pursuit of a record eighth French Open title. Nadal spent the first week labelling Paris “too cold”,the Philippe Chatrier Court “too windy” and the playing schedule “a joke” after three wobbly performances but he was all smiles as he moved closer to a possible semi-final blockbuster against Novak Djokovic with a 6-4 6-1 6-3 last-16 win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

After the fans serenaded Nadal by singing ‘Happy Birthday’,the 27-year-old smiled sheepishly as organisers wheeled out a giant four-tier cake decorated with rackets,golden tennis balls and an array of sparklers.

STREngthened resolve

Djokovic was in sparkling form during the final three sets of his clash with Philipp Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber earned the distinction of becoming the first player to win a set off Djokovic at the tournament but that was as good as it got for the German. Djokovic,who left Roland Garros in tears two days ago after learning about the death of his first coach Jelena Gencic,kept his emotions in check for a 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 win.

Describing Gencic as his “second mother”,Djokovic said her passing had strengthened his resolve to win the only grand slam title missing from his collection. “I feel in her honour that I need to go all the way. It gives me that inner strength to push even harder,” the top seed said.

Australian Open champion Azarenka’s clash with 2010 Roland Garros winner Francesca Schiavone had been billed as the pick of the fourth-round showdowns but it failed to draw in the crowds. The discerning Parisian fans chose to turn a deaf year to the ear-splitting sounds emitted out of Philippe Chatrier Court first thing in the morning as third seed Azarenka completed a 6-3 6-0 win to set up a last-eight date with Russian Maria Kirilenko.

It was only when a victorious Azarenka twirled around to blow kisses to the four corners of the court that fans started flooding in,in anticipation of Djokovic’s meeting with Kohlschreiber.

With Tommy Haas’ win,it marked the first time in 44 years that four men on the wrong side of 30 have made it so far at Roland Garros,the quartet have still some way to go if they are to match the feat of Australia’s Ken Rosewall,who won the last of his eight Majors aged 37.

Elsewhere Maria Sharapova showed American Sloane Stephens how far she has to go to become a grand slam contender,scoring a 6-4 6-3 victory on Monday to reach the quarter-finals.

There was nothing between the players until 3-3 in the first set when Sharapova earned her first break points,converting at the third attempt. Sharapova has won all eight sets she’s played so far this year and will face No. 18 Jelena Jankovic or 54th-ranked Jamie Hampton in the quarterfinals.

PAES,lone hope

LEANDER Paes kept the Indian challenge alive in the mixed doubles by moving to the second round along with partner Jelena Jankovic. The unseeded Indo-Serbian pair registered a 7-5 6-3 win over Galina Voskoboeva and Daniele Bracciali in one hour and 16 minutes.

Paes is now only Indian surviving in the event as Sania Mirza,Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have all exited with their respective partners after suffering first round defeats.

‘Old man’ Haas makes quarters

Tommy Haas became the oldest French Open men’s quarterfinalist since 1971 by beating Mikhail Youzhny 6-1,6-1,6-3. Haas also became the oldest man to reach the quarters at any major event since Andre Agassi at the 2005 U.S. Open. Seeded No. 12,Haas needed 13 match points to beat John Isner in a third-round marathon,but the victory over Youzhny took less than 90 minutes. By the second set Youzhny was so frustrated he demolished his racket by banging it nine times against his changeover chair. Haas became a first-time Roland Garros quarterfinalist in his 12th appearance at the tournament,a record for such a breakthrough. He’s the first German man to reach the final eight since Michael Stich and Bernd Karbacher in 1996.

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