Tremendous headcase and defending French Open champion Li Na exited Roland Garros on Monday in her own inimitable fashion — losing 6-0 to a qualifier.
Na, who has struggled since becoming the first Asian to win a Grand Slam title in 2011, admitting the pressure at times has been too much. On Monday she lost to qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.
“This is tennis,” Li said in a news conference, saying she won’t play again until Wimbledon. “I was sad when I lost. Right now, I want to totally relax the mind and body. I need some time to recover. I’m not a machine.”
More of a mental machine was the No. 142-ranked Shvedova, who needed to navigate the qualifying draw just to gain admittance to the field. A Russian by birth, and life, until four years ago when she was bought-up by the millionaire-backed Kazakhstan tennis federation, which has purchased the nationalities of a number of top players over the years as it tries to get a nationally-competing program off the ground.
Labeled a doubles specialist after collecting a couple Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, the comely 24-year-old Shvedova has overcome knee surgery last year and her coach abandoning her.
“I had a very long recovery and when I came back my knee was bothering me for half a year,” she told reporters. “Then my coach left and I had some tough periods mentally as well and I was very down and lonely.”
Shvedova will next faces Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals, after the Czech on Monday easily dismissed unseeded American Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-1.
“Since September I have got a new coach (Argentine Emiliano Redondi) and he has helped me a lot,” said Shvedova, who since her surgery has had to slum the Futures circuit to raise her ranking. “This year we set a goal to get my ranking back up and I have been working hard.”
Another head-turner, No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova, played some downright ugly tennis in defeating unseeded Czech Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2.
Zakopalova double faulted to end the match, dropping serve to mark 21 service breaks over the 3-plus hours. Sharapova herself double faulted 12 times, and failed to serve for the match an amazing three times.
“It was,” said Sharapova, who committed 41 unforced errors, “a good test for me…I’m useless with game plans. That’s probably the one thing [coach Thomas Hogstedt] just gets so frustrated with me about. I go out there and I do my own thing, and then he’s like, after the match, ‘Really? What’s the point? I mean, what’s the point of having me?’ But I apologized when I hired him, in advance, so he’s OK.”
No. 23 seed Kaia Kanepi was also baking bagels en route to the quarterfinals Monday, outlasting former world No. 1 junior Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
On Court Tuesday at Roland Garros in quarterfinal action are (6) Sam Stosur vs. the Azarenka-killer (15) Dominika Cibulkova, and (10) Angelique Kerber vs. (21) Sara Errani.
In men’s action, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal showed how difficult it will be to keep him from history this year at Roland Garros, in fourth round play torturing No. 13-seeded Argentine Juan Monaco 6-2, 6-0, 6-0.
“In my opinion, he was unlucky, unlucky in the first set,” said a remorseful Nadal. “That’s my feeling, no? 6-2 was too much. Later, sure, very happy the way I played. I feel very, very sorry for him. I think he’s playing probably the best tennis of his career, but probably not today after, especially the last set, no, when he start to miss, you know. I saw him a little bit, you know, suffering a little bit on court at the end. He’s one of my best friends on tour. I feel very sorry for him.”
Not feeling sorry for their opponents were No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro, who finished-off wins from matches that carried over from Sunday. Tsonga finished the fifth set off against No. 18 seed Stan Wawrinka 6-4, and del Potro wrapped-up No. 7 Tomas Berdych 7-5 in the fourth.
“To a certain extent, it was a bit of a nightmare until the moment I hit my first ball, because before that, I had a thousand questions in my head,” said Tsonga, who dropped serve to resume the fifth set, but then won the next two games to close it out. “I really wanted to win that match, and it was very difficult.”
Next up Tsonga will face Djokovic on Tuesday. The Frenchman gives the world No. 1 problems, as Tsonga and Djokovic are tied 5-5 in their career head-to-heads. Tsonga beat the Serb four straight times after Djokovic won his first Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open, where Djokovic beat Tsonga in the final.
“It’s going to be a very difficult match,” Tsonga said. “But obviously I’ll fight like a lion and we’ll see the result. I’ll do everything I can to make it a difficult match for him.”
In other fourth-round matches No. 4 Andy Murray recovered from a 6-1 loss in the first set to defeat No. 17 Richard Gasquet in four; No. 6 David Ferrer rolled over No. 20 seed and Spanish countryman Marcel Granollers dropping only five games; and No. 12 Nicolas Almagro straight-setted No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic.
“I think I played great tennis today,” said Almagro, who will next meet Nadal. “The day was a little bit cloudy, but now it’s really sunny for me (smiling). Now that win is one of the best moments of my career, and I want to enjoy and I’m very happy with my tennis.”
Del Potro, missing the knee bandage he wore earlier in the tournament, on Tuesday will now face former champ Roger Federer.
“I (need to) play an unbelievable match, try to take my opportunities, serve 100 percent, trying to play winners with my forehand, with my backhand, and put him to raise his game,” del Potro said. “I don’t like to run too much, so I will try to be more aggressive than his game and looking at unbelievable shots.”
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