Defending champion Rafael Nadal’s slow start to the French Open continued as three women from the U.S. reached the fourth round, giving the country its best result in a major championship in almost a decade.
Nadal, trying to become first player to win Roland Garros eight times, beat No. 27 Fabio Fognini yesterday in an error-strewn match, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4 in Paris. The Spaniard will next play Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
“I have to play better,” Nadal, who made 40 unforced errors, said in a news conference. “If I want to have any chance, I really need to play better.”
Americans Sloane Stephens, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Hampton continued their run in Paris as they joined defending champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round. With Serena Williams already in the last 16, it’s the best showing for American women at Roland Garros since 2004.
The unseeded Hampton upset former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 7-6 (9-7).
“Three different players with very unique games, it’s cool,” said Hampton, who next plays former top-ranked Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, who upset former U.S. Open winner Sam Stosur of Australia in three sets.
Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic eased into the fourth round by beating Bulgaria’s 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
“I played well,” Serbia’s Djokovic said. “He’s beaten me in Madrid, so I was well aware of his qualities.”
Djokovic next plays German Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat Romania’s Victor Hanescu.
Today, Serena Williams takes on Italy’s Roberta Vinci while former champion Roger Federer plays France’s Gilles Simon in fourth-round matches.
Just like his first two matches, Nadal was pressured in the opening set as Fognini thumped 21 winners from the baseline. Nadal’s play improved as he started to attack more and Fognini made more errors. Serving for the match at 5-2 in the third set, Nadal was broken to love. In the next game, he took advantage of a Fognini mistake to win.
No. 12 Tommy Haas of Germany, the oldest man left in the draw at 35, beat John Isner, the last American remaining in men’s singles, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-7 (10-12), 10-8. Isner, the No. 19 seed, saved 12 match points in the fourth set, then lost a 4-1 lead in the decider.
Australian Open semifinalist Stephens beat New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, to reach the last sixteen for the second straight year in Paris. Mattek-Sands followed up her upset of former champion Li Na of China by beating Argentine qualifier Paula Ormaechea, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
‘It’s awesome,’’ Mattek-Sands said in a news conference. “I’m so happy that U.S. tennis is coming on strong. There are a lot of girls playing great.”
Stephens had struggled to win back-to-back matches after her Australian Open run in January, where she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by ousting 15-time singles champion Serena Williams.
“This is my favorite tournament, so I would really, really, really love to win this,” 17th-seeded Stephens, who plays Sharapova next, told reporters. “But that’s a long shot.”
Sharapova, who beat China’s Zheng Jie, 6-1, 7-5, is expecting a “tough one” against the 20-year-old American, whom she beat in Rome in straight sets two weeks ago.
“It was a couple of weeks ago, but this is a Grand Slam stage,” the second-seeded Sharapova said. “I’m sure she will want to change a few things around and play a better match. And you expect that at this type of tournament.”
There were 15 American women in the singles draw this year, more than any other nation and the most in a major since 2005 Wimbledon. Although women from the U.S. have won more French Open titles than any other country, none have reached the last four since Jennifer Capriati nine years ago.
Mattek-Sands, 28, will try to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal against Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, who beat Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele in straight sets.
There was controversy in two matches in the men’s draw.
The 13th-seeded Nishikori beat France’s Benoit Paire in four sets to become the first Japanese man in the fourth round since 1938. Paire was docked a point for being coached.
Janko Tipsarevic, the No. 8 seed from Serbia, clashed with two spectators in his straight-set loss to No. 29 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.
He later told reporters he’d shouted “the F word” at the men, whom he said had been heckling him whenever he tossed the ball to serve. They were eventually removed from the stands by the referee.
Tipsarevic apologized for swearing, saying “I just snapped,” but that the men had shown “no respect to the players in terms of being quiet.”
Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka overcame 10 double faults to hold off France’s Alize Cornet, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. She’ll face former champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy, who beat France’s No 13 seed Marion Bartoli, 6-2, 6-1.
France’s Richard Gasquet, the No. 7 seed, beat Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets to set up a clash with Switzerland’s No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka, who won in four sets over Jerzy Janowicz of Poland.