Jun 05, 2012, 02.22 AM | Source: Reuters
FRENCH-OPEN-TENNIS-SHARAPOVA-LINA-NADAL:Holder Li falls, Sharapova survives, Nadal romps
PARIS (Reuters) - A new name will be engraved on the Suzanne Lenglen trophy after the last remaining champion, China's Li Na, was felled in the fourth round of the French Open by a bespectacled 142nd ranked qualifier better known for her doubles skills.
Li had captured the hearts of more than a billion fans in her homeland a year ago after becoming the first player from an Asian nation to win a singles grand slam crown but joy turned to despair on Monday as she was dethroned with a 3-6 6-2 6-0 humbling by Kazhak Yaroslava Shvedova.
Shvedova, who will become the first qualifier to reach the last four in Paris if she beats Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, said she had only one strategy for the match: "Fight, fight, fight, fight."
Maria Sharapova battled with the umpire, battled with the swirling winds and battled for more than three hours with Klara Zakopalova before she finally cracked a smile after staggering into the quarter-finals with an ugly 6-4 6-7 6-2 win.
There were no such problems for a trio of Spaniards, though, as Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro showed why the nation has ruled Roland Garros for most of the last decade.
They are the only players in the men's draw not to drop a set on the way to the quarter-finals.
Holding serve became a major problem for Sharapova and Zakopalova as the teasing winds turned the Philippe Chatrier Court into a dust bowl.
In all there were an incredible 21 service breaks in the match and Sharapova, flummoxed by the unruly conditions, lost her temper at 1-1 in the second set when she felt her Czech opponent was incorrectly awarded a point.
"How can you call it out if you can't show me the mark?" a fuming Sharapova quizzed umpire Julie Minori Kjendlie as she demanded to be guided to the spot where the official thought the ball had landed.
No amount of arguing or icy stares from Sharapova would change Kjendlie's mind and 10 games later, the Russian was at it again after she called a ball out which prompted Zakopalova to stop playing.
The umpire climbed down and pointed at the pockmark left by the ball and promptly awarded the point to the Czech.
Zakopalova, ranked 44th, went on to win the set but Sharapova completed a messy victory - in more ways than one.
The statuesque Siberian spent the last 13 games of the match with a large blob of red clay caked on the back of her usually pristine grey dress, a souvenir from a fall midway through the second set which caused her to flash her pink hotpants to a whistling crowd.
As she walked off court after three hours 11 minutes - which was 17 minutes longer than her first three matches combined - Sharapova was greeted with more, less complimentary whistles.
Next up in her quest for a first French Open title and a return to No.1 in the world will be Estonia's Kaia Kanepi.
Spaniards have won eight of the last 10 men's titles in Paris and on Monday they showed no signs of relinquishing their hold as Nadal, Almagro and Ferrer mercilessly froze out their opponents at a chilly, blustery and drizzly French Open.
Almagro booked a quarter-final date with the man he calls "the Boss" after Nadal moved ominously closer to a record seventh title.
The champion offered his shell-shocked friend Juan Monaco a sympathetic pat on the back following the 6-2 6-0 6-0 annihilation but having lost just 19 games in total in four matches, he is once again looking an unstoppable force.
"I feel very, very sorry for him. I shouldn't have this type of score against one of the best players in the world," a straight-faced Nadal said after winning 17 games on the trot.
Ferrer was deafened but not stirred as he silenced grunting compatriot Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-2 6-0, while Almagro booked his place in the last eight following a 6-4 6-4 6-4 win over bearded Serb Janko Tipsarevic.
"He's the man on clay, and we are trying to be close to him. We are working hard to do our best," Almagro said about Nadal.
Ferrer, who could run into Nadal in the semi-finals, added: "Rafael has won... I don't know how many grand slams he won. He's a star. Me, I never won nothing very important."
While Nadal has triumphed here in six of the last seven years, fellow Spaniards Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero held aloft the Musketeers Cup in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
Three of the four quarter-final spots in the bottom half of the draw have been filled by Spaniards, with British fourth seed Andy Murray completing the line-up after ending the hopes of flamboyant Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Murray was blown away 6-1 in the opening set by an inspired Gasquet but hit back in style to win the next three 6-4 6-1 6-2.
Four different nations are represented in the top half of the draw as Argentine ninth seed Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga finally completed their fourth-round matches that were interrupted by bad light on Sunday.
Former U.S. Open champion Del Potro had to head off to bed on Sunday leading two-sets-to-one and woke up to complete a 7-6 1-6 6-3 7-5 win over Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych to set up a date with Swiss third seed Roger Federer.
Tsonga almost let a 4-2 final set lead he held overnight slip through his fingers before he fell on one knee, resting his head on his racket in relief, after seeing off Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4 7-6 3-6 3-6 6-4.
His next task will be to try and stop Serbian world number one Novak Djokovic from progressing further.
(Editing by Martyn Herman)