Tennis / Roland Garros / Champion Li falls to qualifier
Three Spaniards left in men's quarterfinal lineup.
A new name will be engraved on the Suzanne Lenglen trophy after the last remaining champion, China's Li Na, was felled in the fourth round of the French Open by a bespectacled 142nd ranked qualifier better known as a doubles specialist.
Li had captured the hearts of more than 1 billion fans in her homeland a year ago after becoming the first player from an Asian nation to win a singles grand slam crown. But joy turned to despair yesterday as she was dethroned with a 3-6 6-2 6-0 humbling by Kazhak Yaroslava Shvedova.
Shvedova, who now stands one match away from becoming the first qualifier to reach the last four in Paris, said she had only one strategy for the match: "Fight, fight, fight, fight."
Maria Sharapova, bidding for a first French Open title and the world No. 1 ranking, staggered into the quarterfinals after an ugly 6-4 6-7 6-2 win over Klara Zakopalova in a three-hour battle played in swirling winds.
Holding serve became a major problem as the Philippe Chatrier Court turned into a dust bowl with a total of 21 games, 17 of them in the first two sets, going against the serve. Flummoxed by the unruly playing conditions, Sharapova's anger boiled over at 1-1 in the second set when she felt her Czech opponent was incorrectly awarded a point.
"How can you call it out if you can't show me the mark?" a fuming Sharapova quizzed umpire Julie Minori Kjendlie as whistles and jeers rang around the arena.
No amount of arguing or icy stares from Sharapova would change Kjendlie's mind and 10 games later, the Russian was at it again after she called a ball out which prompted Zakopalova to stop playing. The umpire climbed down and pointed at the pockmark left by the ball and promptly awarded the point to the Czech.
Zakopalova, ranked 44th, went on to win the set but Sharapova still completed a messy victory - in more ways than one.
The statuesque Siberian spent the last 13 games of the match with a large blob of red clay caked on the back of her usually pristine grey dress, a souvenir from a fall midway through the second set which caused her to flash her pink hotpants to a whistling crowd. As she walked off court after three hours 11 minutes - which was 17 minutes longer than her first three matches combined - S harapova was greeted with more whistles. Except this time they were not as complimentary.
Not giving up the title
Nicolas Almagro booked a quarterfinal date with the man he calls "the Boss" - also known as Rafa Nadal - on a day when Spaniards showed why the nation has ruled Roland Garros for most of the last decade.
Spanish king Juan Carlos's subjects have won eight of the last 10 men's titles in Paris and yesterday they showed no signs of relinquishing their hold as Nadal, Almagro and David Ferrer mercilessly froze out their opponents at a chilly, blustery and drizzly French Open.
There are only three players left in the men's draw yet to drop a set at Roland Garros - and they are all Spaniards.
Nadal moved ominously closer to a record seventh title following a 6-2 6-0 6-0 win over overwhelmed Argentine Juan Monaco. The champion was almost apologetic as he offered Monaco a sympathetic pat on the back following the annihilation but having lost just 19 games in total in four matches, he is once again proving to be an unstoppable force.
Ferrer was deafened but not stirred as he silenced grunting compatriot Marcel Granollers with a 6-3 6-2 6-0 demolition job while Almagro booked his place in the last eight following a 6-4 6-4 6-4 win over bearded Serb Janko Tipsarevic.
"He's the man on clay, and we are trying to be close to him. We are working hard to do our best," Almagro said about Nadal.
Ferrer, who could run into Nadal in the semifinals, added: "Rafael has won ... I don't know how many grand slams he won. He's a star. Me, I never won nothing very important."
Three of the four quarterfinal spots in the bottom half of the draw have been filled by Spaniards, with British fourth seed Andy Murray completing the line-up after ending the hopes of flamboyant Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Four different nations are represented in the top half of the draw, however, as Argentine ninth seed Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga finally completed their fourth-round matches that were interrupted by bad light on Sunday. Former U.S. Open champion Del Potro had to head off to bed on Sunday leading two-sets-to-one and woke up to complete a 7-6 1-6 6-3 7-5 win over Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych to set up a date with Swiss third seed Roger Federer