PARIS, 4 JUNE: World number one Novak Djokovic reached his 16th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final while seven-time champion Rafael Nadal marked his 27th birthday by also reaching the French Open last eight.
Top seed Djokovic carved out a 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over 16th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber yesterday, with the German paying a high price for converting just two of 13 break points.
World number one Djokovic goes on to face German 35-year-old Tommy Haas, who became the third oldest man to reach the last-eight with a comfortable 6-1 6-1 6-3 win over volatile Russian Mikhail Youzhny.
Nadal, bidding to become the first man to win the same Grand Slam title eight times, trounced Japanese 13th seed Kei Nishikori 6-4 6-1 6-3.
It was third-seeded Nadal’s 56th win in 57 career matches at Roland Garros.
The defending champion next faces Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka who reached his first French Open quarter-final, beating French seventh seed Richard Gasquet, 6-7 (5/7) 4-6 6-4 7-5 8-6. Djokovic, the runner-up to Nadal last year, needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam.
The last time he failed to reach the last-eight of a major was in Paris in 2009 when he lost in the fourth round to Monday’s opponent.
Nadal arrived in Paris having collected six titles in eight finals since his return from a seven-month injury lay-off.
But he was sluggish in the first week of a cold and damp Paris, losing the opening set of his first two matches.
Since the weather has improved, so has the Spaniard, seeing off Fabio Fognini in straight sets on Saturday and then comfortably defeating Nishikori, the first Japanese man in the fourth round since Fumiteru Nakano in 1938.
Nadal was presented with a giant birthday cake and he will be looking for more celebrations on Wednesday in the quarter-finals as he holds a 9-0 career lead over Wawrinka.
Haas became the first German in 17 years to reach the quarter-finals and the oldest man to make the last eight at any Grand Slam since Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open.
Haas had also made history in the third round when he needed a record 13 match points to beat John Isner.
Only Pancho Gonzales, who was over 40 when he made the last eight in 1968, and 39-year-old Istvan Gulyas in 1971, have got this far in the tournament at Haas’s age. Former world number two Haas had lost on clay in straight sets to Youzhny in Rome last month.
But he was never troubled yesterday, winning 10 games in succession after losing the opener. Such was Youzhny’s frustration that he smashed his racquet nine times against his courtside chair, sending splinters spiralling into the air at Court Suzanne Lenglen.
The violence of his outburst made him an instant YouTube hit even as the match was still being played.
Wawrinka came through a four hour 16min struggle to beat Gasquet in his sixth career comeback from two sets down. Defending champion Maria Sharapova joined third seed Victoria Azarenka in the French Open quarter-finals as both posted routine fourth-round wins.
Sharapova was all business in seeing off American 17th seed Sloane Stephens 6-4 6-3 yesterday to set up a meeting with Serbian 18th seed Jelena Jankovic, who thrashed US hope Jamie Hampton 6-0 6-2, while double Australian Open champion Azarenka swamped 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-0.
Sharapova, who in beating Sara Errani in last year’s final became the sixth player in the Open era to complete a full collection of Grand Slams, was rarely troubled by Stephens, Australian Open semi-finalist last January, the Floridian 20-year, gifting her a final break by hitting long on match point.
Next up for Azarenka, meanwhile, is a meeting with Russian 12th seed and erstwhile doubles partner Maria Kirilenko after her win over Schiavone moved her into the last eight for the third time in Paris. The protagonists notably paired up at the 2011 Australian Open, where they finished runners-up.
Then they were rivals as Azarenka won their London Olympics bronze medal encounter last summer. Azarenka was delighted with her form, given that the French Open is the only Grand Slam where she has failed to get beyond the quarter-finals having been beaten at the last-eight stage by Dinara Safina in 2009 and by eventual champion Li Na two years later.
Kirilenko, who had treatment for a sore shoulder, saw off unseeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States 7-5 6-4 to reach the last eight at Roland Garros for the first time after recovering from losing the opening three games. Azarenka has a 3-2 winning record against Kirilenko — who won the first two matches of their series although her last triumph was back in 2007.