Elena Dementieva reached her second French Open quarter-final yesterday with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 win over fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva whose game collapsed in the deciding set of their fourth round tie.
The seventh seeded Dementieva, who was runner-up in 2004 to Anastasia Myskina, will now face either top seed Maria Sharapova or 13th seed Dinara Safina in the last eight.
“I feel like I’m playing in the Russian championships here,” said Dementieva who had defeated Vera Dushevina in the first round.
Zvonareva, a quarter-finalist in 2003 and who had beaten Dementieva in the semi-finals of the Charleston claycourt tournament in April, looked on course for victory after dominating the second set.
But she then suffered the kind of final set meltdown which has dogged her throughout her career.
Her brittle on-court temperament allowed the 26-year-old Dementieva to race to a 5-0 lead in the decider before she managed to avoid a whitewash by taking the sixth and seventh games.
But her suspect service failed her in the eighth game and Dementieva fired a deep backhand on her first match point to wrap up victory.
“I think I learned a lot from my defeat in Charleston,” Dementieva said. “I knew I needed to be aggressive and not rally with her because she’s such a great claycourt player. In the third set, I started to step inside the court and make sure I hit really hard.”
One of the most marked improvements to Dementieva’s game this year has been her service which used to gently hop over the net inviting opponents to step up and thunder the ball back in her direction. Now it has strength and purpose.
“It’s still not perfect but I have worked really hard on my serve. It doesn’t make me feel sad or down anymore. I don’t feel threatened because of it,” she said.
Zvonareva admitted that her final set performance left a lot to be desired.
“I think I lost concentration,” she said. “She was much better from the beginning of the third set and I made quite a few unforced errors and I was always behind.”
In the men’s singles big-hitting Fernando Gonzalez of Chile matched his best ever Roland Garros by defeating Robby Ginepri of the US 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals.
The lone South American survivor in the tournament’s fourth round last got to the final eight in 2003 when he lost in five sets to eventual champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Ginepri’s run to the last 16 had been entirely unexpected as he had lost in the first round in his five previous appearances.
But a link up with Spanish claycourt coach Jose Higueras in August of last year worked wonders and he become the first American since Andre Agassi in 2003 to get so far into the tournament.
Using his trademark sledgehammer forehand to great effect Gonzalez broke first to lead 3-1, but Ginepri rattled off three games in a row to get back on serve.
The set went to a tie-break which saw Gonzalez jump out into a 4-0 lead and then hold on to take it 7/4.
Three successive breaks of serve from 3-2 to Gonzalez gave the Chilean the advantage in the second and he clinched comfortably on his following service game.
Ginepri looked deflated and when he dropped his serve again in the third game of the third set, the writing was firmly on the wall.
Gonzalez powered away to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time since last year’s Australian Open.
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