Day nine at Roland Garros might have turned into a rolling earthquake at one point in the women’s draw but it could be judged a passing tremor at the close, Maria Sharapova a battered casualty and Serena Williams a relieved, if troubled, survivor.
Still standing after the fourth round of the men’s competition were Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and – after a minor scare against the young American Jack Sock – Rafael Nadal.
While the 7-6, 6-4 defeat for Sharapova, the defending women’s champion, by Lucie Safarova – who had lost 18 times in a row against top-10 opponents – was, on the face of it, tumultuous, the Czech, seeded 13th, probably was the Russian’s worst nightmare outside the elite level.
She had taken the world No2 to three sets in their previous three matches, including three tie-breaks in the last encounter, and seemed to have her number for most of Monday’s enthralling fight.
Sharapova refused to use her obvious struggle with a cold as an excuse and said of Safarova: “My opponent was at a much higher level more consistently than I was. I did the best I could. Today it wasn’t enough because my opponent had a different gear.”
Safarova, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon last year, plays her first quarter-final here against the 21st seed Garbiñe Muguruza, who beat Flavia Pennetta in two quick sets. The Spaniard had time to watch some of Safarova’s match and said, “I have never played against her but she’s a lefty and that gives her a lot of help. She’s playing great.”
For a while Williams, the coughing, spluttering world No1 who has dropped the first set in three of her first four matches, looked as if she too was on the way out at the start of the second week, which would have been an unprecedented double-blow at the top of the draw, but she fought back to beat Sloane Stephens 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 on Court Philippe Chatrier. The world No1 swayed perilously between lethargic and anxious but served her way to the finish line. She now plays the 17th seed Sara Errani, who took only 70 minutes to beat the unseeded German Julia Görges.
There were, predictably, few worries for Federer, who returned a set apiece with Gaël Monfils after bad light interrupted their match the night before and finished the job in two hours and 10 minutes, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. The Swiss, who has dropped just that one set in four matches, said of his playing level, “I hope I’m right there.”
The nine-time champion Nadal moved smoothly through to the quarters, almost inflicting the dreaded bagel on Sock, but two time violations and some stubborn resistance by his determined opponent delayed him. It took him two hours and 52 minutes in the end to win 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.
Murray reached his 17th consecutive major quarter-final – where he will meet David Ferrer on Wednesday – and finished convincingly in front of a hostile, raucous crowd on Court Suzanne Lenglen after some tough moments in the second and third sets to beat the Frenchman Jérémy Chardy 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
And then, at the death, the former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova fell, most unexpectedly, as the Swiss 23rd seed Timea Bacsinszky bageled her and held her nerve to win 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 in an hour and 39 minutes, despite hitting seven double faults. She plays the Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck (who earlier beat the Romanian Andreea Mitu 6-1, 6-3) in a commentator’s nightmare. From start to finish, it has been a don’t-look-away day.
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