Roger Federer suffered his earliest defeat at the French Open for a decade on Sunday when he lost to Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the fourth round, while Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both cruised in their round-four clashes to avoid joining the Swiss ace among the big-name casualties at this year’s event.
Fourth seed Federer, who won the title in 2009, seemed to have the match in his grasp against the unpredictable Gulbis, but faded badly to lose 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
World No. 2 Djokovic destroyed local favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach the quarters in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 win to set up a meeting with eighth seed Milos Raonic of Canada, who advanced after a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 drubbing of Spain’s Marcel Granollers.
Nadal yesterday dismantled unseeded Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 to set up a quarter-final clash with fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in a repeat of last year’s final.
Eight-time champion and world No.1 Nadal improved his Roland Garros win-loss record to a remarkable 63-1 to advance having not dropped a set in Paris this year.
World No. 83 Lajovic, who had not lost a set on his Paris debut before yesterday, went 5-0 down and never recovered, losing the first four games of the second set to love. Nadal ended the masterclass on his first match point with a forehand down the line.
Earlier, the fifth-seeded Ferrer reached his 10th straight Grand Slam last eight with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7) 6-1 victory against 2.03m-tall South African Kevin Anderson, who towers nearly 30cm above him.
In the women’s action, Andrea Petkovic reached her fourth career Grand Slam quarter-final yesterday when she outlasted Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 .
The German, 26, will now meet Jelena Jankovic, the Serbian sixth seed or Italian Sara Errani, ranked 10th, for a place in the semi-finals.
A day earlier, last year’s runner-up Maria Sharapova survived a shaky start to beat Australian Sam Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-0, winning the last nine games to set up a quarter-final against Venezuelan-born Spanish sensation Garbine Muguruza, who rounded off a bad day for the host nation with a 6-4, 6-2 win against France’s Pauline Parmentier.
Another fast-rising talent, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard thrashed German eighth seed Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2 to claim a quarter-finals spot, crunching 30 winners in 52 dazzling minutes to stretch her winning run on clay to nine matches.
She will face 14th seed Carla Suarez Navarro after the Spaniard used her one-handed backhand to end the run of up-and-coming Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic with a 6-3, 6-3 win.
While Djokovic made it to his 20th straight Grand Slam quarter-final, it was the first time since 2004 that 32-year-old father of four Federer failed to reach the last eight in Paris. He has now fallen before that stage in three of his past four Grand Slam tournaments.
“Mentally, I have already switched to the grass, to be quite honest,” Federer said. “For me, it’s like: ‘OK, clay-court season was fun, but we are moving on.’ Clay doesn’t need me anymore, I got flushed out here.”
The former world No. 1, who had a second set of twins recently, looked forlorn as Gulbis turned around the match and the days when he was a near certainty to reach the semis appear to be over.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner was beaten in the second round at Wimbledon last year and ousted at the last 16 at the US Open, though he did enjoy a semis run in Australia.
Federer never looked comfortable against the Latvian, who said earlier this week he was hoping to catch the “last-chance train” after underachieving since reaching the quarters at Roland Garros in 2008.
“It is the biggest win of my career. I had to win, I know how all of you love Roger, but that’s sport,” world No. 17 Gulbis said on the court as a stunned crow looked on.
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