Nadal Plays Djokovic in Semis as Sharapova Struggles

Tennis Player Rafael Nadal
Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal serves to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka during a French Open quarter final match at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on June 5, 2013. Photographer: Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

Defending champion Rafael Nadal will play top seed Novak Djokovic for a spot in the French Open final after both won in straight sets today.

Nadal beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 on the main Court Philippe Chatrier and has yet to drop a set to the Swiss in 10 matches.

“I played the best match of the tournament so far,” Nadal said in a courtside interview after winning his 57th match at Roland Garros.

Seven-time champion Nadal produced 31 winners and 17 errors, compared with 23 winners and 40 mistakes for Wawrinka. The Spanish left-hander said he was “very happy” with the warmer weather, which makes his heavy top-spin shots bounce up higher on the clay. It was 24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit) in Paris today after a cold first week with frequent rain delays.

In the other men’s quarterfinal on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Serbia’s Djokovic stopped the run of Tommy Haas, winning 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.

“He’s dangerous, with a lot of good qualities and lots of experience,” Djokovic told the crowd after beating the 35-year-old from Germany, the oldest quarterfinalist at Roland Garros since 1971.

Although Nadal, the third seed, leads Djokovic 19-15 in career meetings, he lost their last encounter on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters in April.

‘Incredible Record’

“That win has given me some confidence,” Djokovic said. “But here at Roland Garros, he has such an incredible record. It will be tough for me.”

Wawrinka had been the only Swiss man in the quarterfinals after 17-time major champion Roger Federer was ousted yesterday by France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets. Tsonga plays David Ferrer, the No. 4 seed from Spain, in the other semifinal in two days. Ferrer has beaten Tsonga twice in three matches.

Earlier today, defending women’s champion Maria Sharapova fought back from being routed in the first set by Jelena Jankovic to win 0-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Sharapova had never before won a match on the women’s WTA Tour or in a major championship after losing the first set 6-0.

“I had to erase that chapter and move forward,” the Russian said afterward. “I still felt like I was in the match.”

Early Struggle

The second-seeded Sharapova will play Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals tomorrow. The third seed from Belarus defeated No. 12 Maria Kirilenko of Russia 7-6 (7-3), 6-2. Women’s No. 1 Serena Williams of the U.S. and last year’s finalist Sara Errani of Italy moved into the last four yesterday.

Sharapova struggled to keep the ball inside the lines in the first half-hour against the former world No. 1 from Serbia, dropping six games in a row as she made 20 unforced errors. The 18th-seeded Jankovic, who was loudly cheered on by a small group of spectators waving the Serbian flag next to the presidential box, made only four mistakes.

Sharapova then recovered and raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set as she finally found her rhythm and halved her error count. Jankovic, a three-time semifinalist in Paris, fought back to 5-4 before Sharapova held serve to close out the set.

At 3-3 in the decider, Sharapova set up two break points with a running forehand and broke as Jankovic misfired a backhand. She won the match when the Serb sent a forehand wide.

‘Better Player’

“In the end, she was the better player,” Jankovic, who has been playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles in Paris, told reporters. “I’m a bit tired. But overall, I had an amazing tournament.”

Sharapova and Jankovic have played each other since they were both juniors at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida. Sharapova has lost only once to Jankovic in nine previous matches and today was their first match on red clay.

Sharapova won her first title on the Roland Garros clay courts last year, completing the career Grand Slam of all four majors. The 26-year-old achieved global fame when she won the Wimbledon title at age 17 in 2004. She’s since become the world’s best-paid female athlete.

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