Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic and 2009 champion Roger Federer overcame challenges from lower- ranked opponents as experience paid at the French Open.
Djokovic of Serbia fought back from two sets down for the third time in his career to beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 at Roland Garros.
“The more you play and the big matches and the big tournaments, the more you’re going to feel comfortable getting out from situations like today,” the world No. 1 said after yesterday’s match. “I don’t think you can really train that. You can just get it over time and with experience.”
The 25-year-old Djokovic will play Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the quarterfinals. Their match was suspended for darkness at 9:37 p.m. in Paris last night with Tsonga leading 4-2 in the fifth set.
Djokovic is trying to win his fourth straight major title to complete a non-calendar Grand Slam. Australia’s Rod Laver swept the titles in 1969 and also achieved the feat in 1962. American Don Budge in 1938 is the only other man to win four in a row in one calendar year.
At Roland Garros today, defending women’s champion Li Na of China plays Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan while defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal of Spain faces Argentina’s Juan Monaco. Women’s No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova of Russia meets Czech Klara Zakopalova.
Federer dropped the first set against David Goffin and the Swiss player was two points away from losing the second when he turned things around. The third-seeded Federer beat the 109th- ranked Goffin, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 to move to his 32nd straight Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Goffin was the first so-called lucky loser to reach the last 16 of a major since fellow Belgian Dick Norman at Wimbledon in 1995. Federer will play the winner of the match between former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and 2009 U.S. Open winner Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina. Their match was suspended at 9:15 p.m. local time with Del Potro leading two sets to one.
“I almost lost,” Federer, the holder of a record 16 major titles, said in a news conference. “It was a very tight match. So I’m very happy that I’m still here.”
He advanced to his 36th major quarterfinal overall. He’s now in second place alongside Andre Agassi for most appearances at that stage of a Grand Slam. Jimmy Connors made 41 quarterfinals.
Women’s Top Seed
Experience playing on the big stage didn’t help women’s top seed Victoria Azarenka. No. 15 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia knocked out the Belarussian 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) on Court Suzanne Lenglen on a cold and windy day at Roland Garros.
“I’m just really, really unhappy with the way I played,” Azarenka told reporters. “I’m going to look for what I did wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Azarenka smashed her racket on the clay early in the second set. She said she’ll take a break from playing on the tour until Wimbledon.
The 22-year-old, who became No. 1 in January after winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, came within two games in the opening round of becoming the first female top seed at Roland Garros to lose at that stage.
She began 2012 on a win streak of 26 matches, the longest to start the season since Martina Hingis of Switzerland in 1997.
“In the tiebreak I’m very, very proud of myself that I was still going for my shots, and I just made it because she would never give me the match,” said Cibulkova, who struck 28 winners to Azarenka’s 19.
U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia, a finalist in Paris in 2010, beat Sloane Stephens, 7-5, 6-4.
Stephens, 19, was one of two unseeded American women into the fourth round of a major for the first time since 2002 at Wimbledon. Two days ago, Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. upset 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone in three sets. No American men reached the third round in Paris this year, the worst result since 2007.
The defeat of Stephens puts Lepchenko in contention for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Only the top four women will make the team and her fourth-round spot will make Lepchenko the fourth-ranked American. She plays Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic today.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion from Russia, lost to 22nd-seeded Sara Errani, 6-0, 7-5. Italy’s Errani will next play Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the No. 10 seed, who beat Croatia’s Petra Martic, 6-3, 7-5.
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