Quarterfinal play on the men’s side Wednesday at the French Open was filled with intrigue — until world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal laid their respective hammers down.
Djokovic put down a challenge from No. 12 seed and near-AARP member Tommy Haas 6-3, 7-6(5), 7-5, while Nadal ran through the hot-handed No. 9 seed Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in matches inexplicably scheduled at the same time at Roland Garros.
“I’m really happy with the way I played today — it was my best match of the year,� said Nadal, who will next meet Djokovic. “Stan was probably tired after his match against Richard (Gasquet) and I feel sorry for him but I played at a very, very good level.”
Djokovic says he is ready to employ his anti-Rafa court-coverage device — a groundstroke game that is seemingly impermeable to Nadal’s high-bouncing, jumpy groundstrokes.
“I have a big fight in front of me and I’m ready for it,” Djokovic said. “I know this is the biggest challenge for me at Roland Garros, no question about it. So of course I was satisfied today to win in three sets and not stay on the court too long.”
On the women’s side the seedings also held in the quarters on Wednesday, but there was more drama as No. 2 Maria Sharapova came from a bagel down to defeat No. 18 Jelena Jankovic 0-6, 6-4, 6-3, and No. 3 Victoria Azarenka put down a challenge from No. 12 Maria Kirilenko 7-6(3), 6-2.
Sharapova committed 20 unforced errors in the first set bagel.
“If it was 6-1 or 6-2 or 6-3 I would have treated it the same way,” said Sharapova of her comeback. “I just didn’t do enough things right to win that set. It was certainly nice to change that around because I wasn’t doing much in that first set.”
Azarenka leads her career meetings with Sharapova 7-5.
“We haven’t played on clay in almost a year,” Sharapova said. “She’s playing really well this tournament. Always a tough match. We have played each other so many times there are really no secrets between each other in terms of our game styles and what we do well and not.”
Azarenka says the key will be the first ball strike.
“It’s a matter of applying your game and not allowing Maria to step up, because she loves to be aggressive and hit the first two shots and make you run after the ball,” Azarenka said. “It’s going to be definitely a battle.”
On court Thursday are the women’s semifinals with (3) Victoria Azarenka vs. (2) Maria Sharapova, and (1) Serena Williams vs. (5) Sara Errani.
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