Battling wins for Sharapova and Azarenka

Battling wins for Sharapova and Azarenka

Japanese Nishikori creates history

Battling wins for Sharapova and Azarenka

Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka both bludgeoned their way through to the last 16 of the French Open on Saturday as the sun finally returned to Roland Garros and the noise levels went up.

Defending champion Sharapova was given a scare by China’s Zheng Jie, recovering from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to win 6-1, 7-5, while third seed Azarenka was pushed even harder before winning a three-setter against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Azarenka’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory put her on collision course with former champion Francesca Schiavone who ended the hopes of another home favourite with a 6-2, 6-1 beating of Marion Bartoli.

With women’s favourite Serena Williams enjoying a day off after motoring through to the last 16 on Friday, two American women took their chance to grab some of her limelight.

Sloane Stephens, 20, emulated her run to last year’s fourth round with a three-set victory over New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic while unseeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands also survived a three-setter against Argentine Paula Ormaechea.

Despite the pleasant conditions, the day began in stormy fashion on Suzanne Lenglen court where 13th seed Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man for 75 years to reach the fourth round at the claycourt slam.

His four-set victory over Benoit Paire, one of seven Frenchmen to reach the third round, saw his opponent given a penalty point for receiving coaching, prompting loud boos and jeers from the crowd packed on to court.

Paire had been on set point at the time and after arguing with the umpire and a tournament rules official he calmed down enough to take the set before losing 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1.

Nishikori kept his composure despite his opponent’s histrionics and bad temper, weathering the fickle Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd to prevail on his first match point.
Fumiteru Nakano was the last Japanese man to reach the last 16 at Roland Garros, in 1938.

Nishikori, whose best Grand Slam result is a 2012 Australian Open quarterfinal, will next face either seven-times champion Rafael Nadal of Spain or Italian 27th seed Fabio Fognini.

While Sharapova always looked capable of turning around her second-set deficit against Zheng, Azarenka looked in more trouble as she was knocked off her stride by Cornet.

Belarussian Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, eventually found her range to keep her challenge for a first French Open title on course.

“She’s a machine, a juggernaut,” Cornet told reporters. “She plays the same from the first to the last point.”

Schiavone produced an attention-grabbing display of claycourt tennis.

With all eyes on Sharapova and World No 1 Williams, Italian Schiavone, the 2010 Roland Garros winner, had gone unnoticed until she ended Bartoli’s run in ruthless fashion on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Bartoli fought until the end but there was little she could do against Schiavone’s sliced backhands, spinning forehands and cunning lobs that got the better of the Frenchwoman after 78 minutes.

Next up for the unseeded Schiavone, who is also the 2011 French Open runner-up, is Azarenka.

Paes-Melzer exit

India’s campaign came to an end in the men’s doubles event when Leander Paes and his Austrian partner Jurgen Melzer crashed out in the second round. Seeded ninth, Paes and Melzer fought hard before going down 7-5, 4-6, 6-7 (6-8) against unseeded Uruguayan-Argentine duo of Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos in little less than two-and-a-half hours.

Cuevas and Zebalos will face sixth seeded Pakistani-Dutch combination of Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer in the pre-quarterfinals.

Qureshi and Roger beat Slovakian pair of Aljaz Bedene and Grega Zemlja 7-5, 6-1 in their second round encounter.

Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna were shown the door in the opening round by Polish pair of Tomasz Bednarek and Jerzy Janowicz 5-7, 4-6.

Third round results (prefix denotes seeding): Men’s singles: 7-Richard Gasquet (Fra) bt Nikolay Davydenko (Rus) 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; 29-Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) bt 8-Janko Tipsarevic (Srb) 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; 13-Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt 24-Benoit Paire (Fra) 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1; 11-Nicolas Almagro (Esp) bt 20-Andreas Seppi (Ita) 7-6 (7-1), 6-0, 6-4.            

Women’s singles:  12-Maria Kirilenko (Rus) bt Stefanie Voegele (Sui) 7-6 (7-3), 7-5; 2-Maria Sharapova (Rus) bt Zheng Jie (Chn) 6-1, 7-5; Francesca Schiavone (Ita) bt 13-Marion Bartoli (Fra) 6-2, 6-1; Bethanie Mattek-Sands (US) bt Paula Ormaechea (Arg) 4-6, 6-1, 6-3; 3-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt 31-Alize Cornet (Fra) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; 17-Sloane Stephens (US) bt Marina Erakovic (NZ) 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3;  4-Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) bt Dinah Pfizenmaier (Ger) 6-3, 6-4; Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) bt Bojana Jovanovski (Srb) 6-4, 7-6 (7-2); 15-Roberta Vinci (Ita) bt Petra Cetkovska (Cze) 6-1, 2-6, 6-2; 20-Carla Suarez Navarro (Esp) bt Monica Puig (Pue) 6-4, 7-5.