Roger Federer showed little signs of worry today in a straight set 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-2 win over his best bud from Switzerland Stan Wawrinka to advance to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
“Obviously we’ve spent a lot of time as well away from, you know, just the tennis courts and the practice courts, so it makes it a bit harder,” Federer said of Wawrinka. “But at the same time, you know, basically I think about playing him every point I play, but then I’m able still to play good tennis and put in a good performance. I’m happy that I’m able to, you know, not forget who he is, but at the same time really able to play great tennis.”
The win puts Federer into his 24th straight Grand Slam quarterfinal and just nine sets from a repeat French Open title. But that nine set march begins on Tuesday against Robin Soderling in a rematch of the 2009 Roland Garros final.
Said Federer, “I’ve played with Soderling several times during Grand Slam matches. We usually meet one another at these levels in the tournaments. He’s got a better ranking this year, so I don’t meet him very quickly in the tournament. He’s going to be fitter than in the past when I played him during the third round or second round, I can’t remember. But I’m really looking forward to this match, because he hits very strongly, forehand, backhand, and serves. So it’s going to be up to me to do my best to vary the game. This is what I like. This is why I have a good record against him.”
Soderling outlclassed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to win his 10th match in his last 11 tries in Paris.
“We played so many times over so many years now, so it’s tough to remember,” said Soderling who has conveniently forgotten his 0-12 mark against the Swiss. “But I remember a few times I played against him when I came pretty close, especially one in Halle a couple years ago when I served and returned really well. I think that’s what you have to do against him, because of course he’s the best player in the world. But even against him you will always get a few chances. Then you have to take them, because he won’t give you any second opportunities. You really have to play well in the important points, which he does so well, and that’s why he’s so good.”
In the other top half quarter it will be Tomas Berdych against Mikhail Youhzny. In a rain-interrupted affair Berdych was just too strong, too powerful for Murray on the slow Suzanne Lenglen courts. Berdych won easily 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 and he’s now just three sets from his first career Grand Slam semifinals.
Meanwhile, Youhzny had the easiest day among the guys playing just one set before JW Tsonga retired with a bad back after dropping the first set 6-2.
So again, that’s Federer v. Soderling and Berdych v. Youzhny in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
As for tomorrow, it’s Rafael Nadal v. Thomaz Bellucci, Fernando Verdasco v. Nicolas Almagro, Robby Ginepri v. Novak Djokovic and Teimuraz Gabashvili v. Jurgen Melzer.
In the match few care about, I think Gabashvili, who hasn’t come close to dropping a single set in six matches at Roland Garros this year (including qualifying), gets over on Melzer. Whatever Jurgen’s smoking, drinking or sniffing runs out on Monday. Again, heavy, damp conditions favor guys who can hit through the court. Gabashvili is one of them.
Those conditions also favor Djokovic who should beat Ginepri. He should do it in straight sets but the Serb will probably have his usual lapse and win in four.
Verdasco and Almagro is a real tough one to call. Nando has been among the elite this clay season but he seemed to have hit his peak a month ago. Almagro is having his best clay season but has struggled against Fernando never having beaten the lefty. That is until… Well, okay, I’m sticking with Verdasco here. I honestly don’t trust either player but as much as I want to pick Almagro I have to go with Verdasco. He’s come to far to let down at this stage.
As for the main event, Nadal will get the win (his 200th on clay) but to steal a line from Lee Corso, it will be “closer than the experts think”. Nadal lost in this same very round last year and he will not want to incur a similar fate this time around. But Bellucci can bring the serve, bring the forehand and if he can withstand the backhand-to-backand exchanges I give him a real shot. But I think Nadal prevails in the end.
Looking at the women’s draw, very surprising loss by Venus Williams to Nadia Petrova. Stunning really. And tough loss for Maria Sharapova who had her foot on Justine Henin’s neck at 2-0 with break points in the third. Credit to Henin who toughed out another win.
Tomorrow it’s Serena v. Shahar Peer, Henin v. Sam Stosur, Jarmila Groth v. Yaroslava Shvedova and Jelena Jankovic v. Daniela Hantuchova.
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