Nadal sets up Djokovic clash in super semis

Tennis French Open: Sharapova to face Azarenka in last four

Nadal sets up Djokovic clash in super semis

It was the same old story as seven-times champion Rafa Nadal turned claycourt machine once again with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 demolition of Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka in the French Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.

After huffing and puffing through the opening week of the claycourt Grand Slam, the Spanish third seed was at his awe-inspiring best to set up a meeting with world number one Novak Djokovic in a rematch of last year's final.

Djokovic, who subdued German 12th seed Tommy Haas in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 (5), 7-5, beat Nadal in their last clash when the Serbian ended his rival's eight-year reign at the Monte Carlo Masters in the final in April. Nadal, however, made it clear that Friday's clash would be nothing more than a semifinal match, even if the winner will be the hot favourite to lift the Musketeers Cup on Sunday.

"This is semi-finals, not finals. The one who wins this match to come will go through to the final, full stop. The others are Tsonga and Ferrer, full stop. End of story," he said.

Nadal, who has lost only one match at Roland Garros and has won five titles on clay this season on his return from a lengthy injury layoff, marched through the opening set, conceding no break points against a tiring Wawrinka. The Swiss, who survived a five-set thriller in the previous round, ran out of steam and ideas, bowing out on the first match point after less than two hours.

Djokovic kept calm, cool and collected to subdue the challenge of 35-year-old Haas to enter the semis. If the world number one still had nightmares about his mauling by Haas just over two months ago in Miami, he hid those fears well to set up a semi-final blockbuster with Nadal.

"Playing Rafa at Roland Garros is the biggest challenge on clay. I am ready to play five sets," Djokovic said.

Sharapova through

Maria Sharapova blocked out a 28-minute horror show to beat Jelena Jankovic and Victoria Azarenka eased past Maria Kirilenko to set up a heavyweight French Open semifinal on Wednesday.

Defending champion Sharapova lost her usual steely focus as she failed to win a game in a torrid opening set but the number two seed recovered to grind out a 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Belarussian Azarenka’s 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 win over Kirilenko was straightforward by comparison although the third seed took a long time to break the Russian’s defences on her way to a first semi-final at Roland Garros.

Sharapova had been ice-cool on her way to the quarterfinals without dropping a set but as temperatures soared in the French capital for the first time, the 26-year-old looked flustered as her powerful baseline strokes flew long or looped into the net.

Sharapova is renowned as one of the sport’s fiercest competitors and quickly put the previous six games out of her head against the 18th seed to begin the inevitable fightback.

As she moved 5-1 ahead in the second set it was Jankovic's turn to lose her cool -- with the Serbian ranting after almost every lost point to brother and coach Marko in the stands.

Azarenka needed 76 minutes to win the first set against the statuesque number 12 seed Kirilenko who needed treatment on her lower back.

Once she got her nose in front Azarenka never allowed the grand slam quarter-final debutant a route back as she repeated her victory in the Olympic bronze medal match last year.

 “I think we know each other really well, so it was kind of difficult to surprise each other,” said Azarenka, who won the Australian Open doubles with Kirilenko.

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