Wed, Jun 05, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Errani, Williams advance to semi-finals

BIRTHDAY BOY:On Monday, Rafael Nadal was presented with a birthday cake after he beat Kei Nishikori to edge closer to a semi-final showdown with rival Novak Djokovic

AP and Reuters, PARIS

Spain’s Rafael Nadal poses with his birthday cake after winning his French Open round-of-16 match against Kei Nishikori of Japan at Roland Garros in Paris, France, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Serena Williams of the US extended her winning streak to 29 matches when she beat Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the quarter-finals to continue her run toward a second French Open title yesterday.

The world No. 1, who won her only Roland Garros title in 2002, came back from a break down in the decider and played some beautiful tennis.

After strolling through the opening set, the 15-time Grand Slam champion Williams came up against a streak of forehand winners from Kuznetsova, the 2009 French Open winner.

The American fell 2-0 behind in the third before winning five games in a row, wrapping up the victory with a forehand volley after nearly two hours.

Williams faces fifth seed Sara Errani in the semi-finals after the Italian proved her run to last year’s French Open final was no fluke as she toppled Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6 (8/6) yesterday.

In a scrappy match where the second set alone featured eight breaks of serve, it was the diminutive Italian who finally raised her arms in celebration after her opponent whipped a backhand into the tramlines.

Errani’s prolific work ethic this year — her 81 matches is almost double that of anyone else in the top 10 — paid off as she flummoxed Radwanska with an array of ferocious forehands, delightful drop-shots and luscious lobs.

The Italian fifth seed secured her first ever win over a top five player to book her semi-final date with the world No. 1.

On Monday, all the complaints about lousy weather, windy courts and rotten schedules were forgotten as the sun finally shone on birthday boy Rafael Nadal’s pursuit of a record eighth French Open title on Monday.

Nadal spent the first week labeling Paris “too cold,” Court Philippe Chatrier “too windy” and the playing schedule “a joke” after three wobbly performances, but he was all smiles on day nine of the clay-court major as the mercury finally crept over 20oC for the first time in this year’s event.

The Spaniard, bidding to become the first player to win the same major eight times, took a step closer to a possible semi-final blockbuster against Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 round-of-16 win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

Nadal, who beat world No. 1 Djokovic in last year’s final and is 56-1 in his French Open career, said: “I played much better today than the first three matches. No doubt about that.”

Consider that something of a warning for ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who was trailing Richard Gasquet by two sets when he got into an extended and animated argument with the chair umpire, demanding that a line judge be replaced.

Wawrinka slowly and steadily turned the match around to win 6-7 (5/7), 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 8-6.

Gasquet tired as the match stretched past four hours and, asked afterward where he felt pain, replied: “In the soul, for sure. A little bit in the leg, too, but more in the soul.”

Nadal began the first round by losing the first set. Did the same in the second round. In the third, he was taken to an opening-set tiebreaker.

On Monday, Nishikori started well, winning each of the first five points that lasted at least 10 strokes, no easy feat against Nadal.

Ahead 2-1, Nishikori earned two break points with a forehand winner that had Nadal rolling his eyes. That, though, is when Nadal really got going.

A short return set up a backhand winner to erase one break point and a 195kph ace took care of the other. Nadal broke in the next game, helped by Nishikori’s three unforced errors.

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