Nadal downs Almagro; Sharapova faces Kvitova in semis
PARIS — Andy Murray's hopes of ending Britain's 76-year wait for a Grand Slam men's champion stalled again yesterday when he was defeated 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-2 by Spain's David Ferrer in the French Open quarterfinals.
Sixth-seeded Ferrer reached his first Roland Garros semifinal where he will tackle compatriot and six-time champion Rafael Nadal tomorrow for a place in Sunday's final. "It will be a tough match against Rafa, he's the best in history on this surface, but I hope to have a good match," said Ferrer.
Murray, bidding to reach a second successive French Open semifinal, comfortably matched his opponent in the gruelling, big-hitting rallies, but was undone by 59 unforced errors.
Despite trailing 5-4 in their career meetings, Ferrer had a 3-0 advantage on clay and the 30-year-old was quickly into his stride yesterday, breaking for a 3-1 lead and carving out a set point in the eighth game which Murray saved.
The Scot broke to 4-5 but in the 10th game, Ferrer converted a set point thanks to a netted Murray forehand drive.
It had been a tight opener, but Murray's 19 unforced errors proved fatal to his hopes and it was the third time in five matches in Paris this year that he had lost the first set.
The bruising hitting continued in the second set, under heavy, rain-filled skies as breaks were shared in the first and second and then seventh and eighth games.
Murray then played an impressive tie-breaker to level the match.
The world number four was 1-0 ahead in the third when rain sent the players ducking for cover for 30 minutes.
On the resumption, Ferrer broke 2-1, had break points in the fifth game before Murray levelled at 3-3. But the terrier-like Ferrer kept snapping and pressing, clinching another break for a 4-3 lead and wrapping up the third set on his third set point in the ninth game when Murray unleashed a wild forehand.
Breaks were shared again for 1-1 in the fourth set before Ferrer nipped ahead for 3-1, backed up by a hold for 4-1.
Murray had two points to break back in the seventh game, but the Spaniard hung grimly on for a 5-2 lead as the British player continued to remonstrate with himself. Ferrer carved out two match points, one of which was saved but the tie was his when Murray pushed a backhand wide.
Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-3 yesterday to reach the semifinals without dropping a single set.
It was the 50th win for Nadal at the spiritual home of claycourt tennis since he first competed here as an 18-year-old in 2005. His only defeat came in the fourth round in 2009 when he lost to Robin Soderling of Sweden in a fourth round match. This year Nadal is bidding to become the first player to win seven French Open titles, moving him out of a tie with Swedish legend Bjorn Borg. A win on Sunday would also be his 11th Grand Slam title, level with Borg and Rod Laver.
In the end Almagro went the way of so many others over the course of the last seven years, but he gave a solid account of himself especially in a hotly-disputed first set. "I was lucky in the last set. He had a few opportunities on my serve to have a break, then with my second or third chance I managed to close the match," Nadal said.
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova reached her third French Open semifinal where she will take on Petra Kvitova, the powerful Czech who crushed her in last year's Wimbledon final.
Russian second seed Sharapova, who was also a semifinalist in 2007 and 2011, eased past Estonia's Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 6-3 while fourth-seeded Kvitova ended Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova's dream run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win.
"I am happy to be back in the semi-finals. I love coming back here to challenge myself to go further in the tournament," said Sharapova. "I won two tournaments coming into Paris in Stuttgart and Rome and they gave me a lot of confidence. But every event is different. I am just happy to improve."
Kvitova reached her first French Open semifinal with a battling victory over world No 142 Shvedova who had knocked out defending champion Li Na in the fourth round.
"Every point that we played was really tough," Kvitova said. "I knew that I had to change my game. It wasn't easy and I'm really happy that my serve helped me and I played my aggressive game again."
Men's singles (quarterfinals): David Ferrer (ESP x6) bt Andy Murray (GBR x4) 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-2; Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Nicolas Almagro (ESP x12) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-3.
Women's singles (quarterfinals): Petra Kvitova (CZE x4) bt Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4; Maria Sharapova (RUS x2) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST x23) 6-2, 6-3.
Women's doubles (semifinals): Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (ITA/ITA x4) bt Nuria Llagostera Vives/Maria Jose Martinez (ESP/ESP x12) 6-4, 6-2. Mixed doubles (semifinals): Sania Mirza/Mahesh Bhupathi (IND/IND x7) bt Galina Voskoboeva/Daniele Bracciali (KAZ/ITA) 6-4, 6-2; Klaudia Jans-Ignaciak/Santiago Gonzalez (POL/MEX) bt Elena Vesnina/Leander Paes (RUS/IND x5) 7-6 (7/2), 6-3.