Friday 19 January 2018

Tennis: Records tumble as Federer trains sights on Djokovic

Paul Newman

Novak Djokovic moved within one victory of equalling John McEnroe's record start to a season with a thumping win over Richard Gasquet in the French Open yesterday but the Serb still had to share equal billing with one of his main rivals.

While it would be an overstatement to suggest that Roger Federer had been flying under the radar, the 29-year-old Swiss drew significantly less attention than usual during the first week of the tournament.

Yesterday, however, the former world No 1 added yet another record to his CV when he reached his 28th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final, beating the mark set by Jimmy Connors.

Federer, nevertheless, was mindful of the fact that it was on these courts 12 months ago that his run of 23 successive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals was ended by Robin Soderling.


"Twenty-eight quarter-finals in a row, that's great, but that's another opportunity for me to go one step further," he said. "I'm very proud I accomplished that. I hope I can go one step further than last year. Then, we'll see."

If Federer's latest record was stunning then so was much of his tennis during a 6-3 6-2 7-5 victory over his compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka. Two shots in particular stood out: a sliced backhand passing shot down the line and a whipped cross-court forehand winner when Federer did well even to keep the ball in play.

Wawrinka, who partnered the world No 3 to the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, had lost eight of his nine previous matches against him and rarely looked capable of improving that record. The world No 14 led 4-1 in the third set but was then broken twice before Federer served out for victory with an ace.

Federer is seeded to meet Djokovic in the semi-finals. That would be some confrontation, given the two players' recent form.

Gasquet had been in his best form for three years going into the match but was brushed aside by a phenomenal display from Djokovic, who won 6-4 6-4 6-2.

"I'm definitely playing the best tennis of my life," said the world No 2. "I played a great match."

It was Djokovic's 41st win in a row since the start of the year, putting him one behind McEnroe's record. The 24-year-old Serb has now won a total of 43 matches in succession.

Djokovic's next opponent is Italy's Fabio Fognini, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final by beating Spain's Albert Montanes 4-6 6-4 3-6 6-3 11-9 after nearly four and a half hours. Fognini, the world No 49, could barely move by the end of the match after treatment for a thigh injury.

The women's quarter-finals will feature none of the top three seeds for only the third time in the Open era after Vera Zvonareva joined a list of high-profile losers headed by Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters. The world No 3 was beaten 7-6 2-6 6-2 by fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was rewarded for her all-out aggression.

The highest ranked player left in the draw is Victoria Azarenka, the world No 4.

Pavlyuchenkova will now play defending champion Francesca Schiavone, who dropped her first set of the fortnight before beating Jelena Jankovic 6-3 2-6 6-4.

In scenes reminiscent of her triumph here 12 months ago Schiavone kissed the clay on Court Suzanne Lenglen in celebration. With each round, the Italian is looking more capable of retaining her title. (© Independent News Service)

French Open,

Live, Eurosport 9.30 / TG4 12.0

Best of today's action

Rafael Nadal v Ivan Ljubicic

Nadal has looked below his best and could be tested by Ljubicic, who has beaten seeds Querrey and Verdasco.

Andy Murray v Viktor Troicki

State of Murray's injured ankle is likely to be decisive. He has never lost to Troicki, but the world No 15 is a much improved player.

Maria Sharapova v Agnieszka Radwanska

Radwanska has yet to drop a set but may lack the power to topple Sharapova, who is seeking to complete her Grand Slam haul.

Irish Independent

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