Top seeds Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan and Peng Shuai of China battled through to the French Open semi-finals in Paris yesterday after a tough 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over fifth seeds Cara Black of Zimbabwe and India’s Sania Mirza.
WTA world No. 2 doubles player Hsieh and No. 1 Peng converted five of 14 break-point chances on their way to victory in two hours on Roland Garros’ Court 1. It was their second triumph over Black and Mirza this season following the doubles final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in March.
Hsieh and Peng next face either fourth seeds Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia, or Spanish duo Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro in the semis.
Also advancing to the semis yesterday were four-time Grand Slam champions Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who cruised past seventh-seeded Australian pair Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 6-0, 6-1 in just 47 minutes on Court 1.
The second-seeded Italian duo also beat the Australians in the final of last year’s Australian Open.
On Monday, Peschke and Srebotnik converted five of seven break-point opportunities in their 6-3, 6-1 win over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi and Alexandra Panova of Russia.
Muguruza and Suarez Navarro, who were also both still in the singles quarter-finals in the same half of the draw, beat Peschke and Srebotnik in the second round in Madrid last month.
Also advancing were 16th seeds Marina Erakovic of New Zealand and Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain, who won 6-2, 6-3 against French duo Julie Coin and Pauline Parmentier.
On the men’s side, concerns that Rafael Nadal’s reign as king of Roland Garros might be at risk due to back problems proved unfounded as the world No. 1 led a Spanish charge into the quarters on Monday.
On the day that Spanish King Juan Carlos I abdicated his throne, there was no danger of his compatriot doing the same in Paris as the eight-time champion routed Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.
Next up for Nadal will be the man who beat him the last time they faced each other across a net: fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
Ferrer earlier ended Kevin Anderson’s bid to be the first South African man in 47 years to reach the last eight of the clay-court major with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 win.
The top half of the men’s draw could have been an all-Spanish affair if Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and Frenchman Gael Monfils had not been such spoilsports.
Seventh seed Murray and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco walked out under sunny skies looking like clones, both kitted out in near identical canary-yellow shirts and black shorts.
The similarities continued as both turned the air blue in a heated third set, but it was Murray who made the difference, stinging Verdasco with vicious winners for a 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (3) triumph.
Monfils kept the home fires burning with a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 win over another Spaniard, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, but no one feels more at home at Roland Garros than Nadal.
The top seed, who said he had to slow his serve in his last match due to back pain, left Lajovic reeling as he went on a rampage to go 5-0 up in the first set before rattling off 17 straight points in the second.
The winners flying off Nadal’s racket seemed to leave everyone in such a trance that the umpire fluffed his lines at one stage, telling the players “to replay the point” in English before sheepishly repeating the instruction in French to draw a rare smile from Lajovic.
With enigmatic US singer Prince watching, it did not take 83rd-ranked Lajovic too long to discover why Nadal is one of the hardest nuts to crack at Roland Garros.
On the eve of his 28th birthday, a screaming forehand winner allowed Nadal to take his formidable French Open win-loss record to 63-1 and leave him just three wins away from another Musketeers’ Cup.
The result enabled Nadal to cross a major psychological hurdle as the last time he was going for five in a row in the French capital, he was beaten in the fourth round. Another encouraging sign for Nadal was that his serve has picked up speed and there was no sign of back pain.
While three of the world’s top five men are still alive, Romanian Simona Halep was the only seed among the top six women to reach the last eight with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Sloane Stephens of the US. She next faces 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
German Andrea Petkovi reached a Grand Slam quarters for the first time in three years with a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens. She next faces 2012 runner-up Sara Errani of Italy, who continued the cull of top-10 players with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Serbian sixth seed Jelena Jankovic.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is buying the Forum for US$400 million, ending the billionaire’s legal fight with Madison Square Garden Co (MSG) and clearing the way to build a new arena for his NBA team down the street in Inglewood, California. Ballmer on Tuesday announced his cash purchase of the venerated arena. Ballmer, a former Microsoft executive, and Clippers vice chairman Dennis Wong are making the transaction through CAPSS LLC, a newly formed entity that would continue to operate the Forum as a live music venue. “This is an unprecedented time, but we believe in our collective future,” Ballmer said.
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