PARIS: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer passed tough four-set tests to reach the French Open last-16 yesterday where they were joined by outspoken Ernests Gulbis who found himself accused of sexism.
Second seed Djokovic, the 2012 runner-up, stretched his career streak over Croatia’s 25th seed Marin Cilic to 9-0 after a topsy-turvy 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4 win.
Djokovic, the 2012 runner-up, next faces French 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who beat Poland’s 22nd seed Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for a place in the quarter-finals after seeing off Cilic who allowed 22 break points and committed 64 unforced errors.
A pulsating encounter on Suzanne Lenglen court ended when Cilic, rattled by a shout from the crowd, served up his fifth double fault.
“Marin is a tough player with plenty of strengths,” said Djokovic. “He is a great guy with lots of qualities.
“Physically I had to work very hard, because he was very aggressive, and I could expect that. I came into the match knowing that he’s going to take his chances.”
Federer, the fourth seeded 2009 champion, needed more than three hours to record his fifth win in five meetings against Russian Dmitry Tursunov who twice needed treatment on a leg injury.
His 7-5, 6-7 (7/9), 6-2, 6-4 win also gave him a fourth round spot for the 12th time beating the previous record of 11 set by Guillermo Vilas.
Federer, the 17 time major winner, next faces Gulbis who reached the last 16 for the first time since 2008.“It was tough to lose the second set but nice to win the match,” said 32-year-old Federer, who is contesting his 58th straight Grand Slam.
Gulbis, the 18th seed, won a fractious third round clash against 35-year-old Czech Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in the Court One bullring, firing 19 aces and 45 winners.
After the match, Gulbis caused a stir by claiming tennis is no place for female players.
“A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids. What kids you can think about until age of 27 if you’re playing professional tennis, you know,” said the 25-year-old.
Gulbis, whose last fourth round appearance at a major came in 2008 when he made the quarter-finals in Paris, insists he already has a game plan to tackle Federer.
“You don’t need to be scared to do certain things against him, because most of the people they go on the court and they lose already before it has started,” said the 18th seed. “I can tell you that’s not gonna be the case with me.”
American 10th seed John Isner made the last 16 for the first time with a 7-6 (15/13), 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 win over Spanish 17th seed Tommy Robredo on the back of 77 winners and 17 aces balanced out by 74 unforced errors.
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova inflicted the first “double bagel” of the French Open when she beat unseeded Argentine Paula Ormaechea 6-0, 6-0 in the third round yesterday.
The first game of the match was interrupted for about 30 minutes by rain and Sharapova, the seventh seed from Russia and last year’s losing finalist, was forced to save three break points before and after the interruption.
But from then on it was one-way traffic with Sharapova devouring the Argentine’s serve and despatching winners with ruthless aplomb. She won the match on her first match point when the Argentine hit long.
Sharapova will play Samantha Stosur of Australia, the 19th seed, in the last 16. She has a 13-2 record against Stosur.
“I started off a little bit nervous, and I think she had another two break points when we came back after the rain. It was great to win that game, obviously get the advantage, and follow through with that,” Sharapova said.
“I thought as the match went on I started playing better and better.”
Ormaechea did not win a point on her second serve in the whole match and won only 37 percent of points on her first serve.
Sharapova’s path through the draw has been cleared by the early dispatch of defending champion Serena Williams, who was in her quarter of the draw, second seed Li Na and, on Friday, the third seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
She sounded quietly confident ahead of the meeting with Stosur but added: “I believe this is one of her favourite surfaces. She has a great serve, she uses the court extremely well, moves well on it.”