Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Serena set for battle in Paris quarters

Serena Williams returns serve against Roberta Vinci at the French Open

Serena Williams is expecting a tough battle against Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarter-finals of the French Open – and history indicates she will be right.

The world number one has steamrollered her way through the draw at Roland Garros so far, and even though Roberta Vinci gave a decent account of herself yesterday, she still only won four games.

Williams' 6-1 6-3 victory made it 10 games lost in four matches so far, extending her winning streak to 28 matches.

Williams and Kuznetsova, a 6-4 4-6 6-3 winner over eighth seed Angelique Kerber yesterday, have met eight times before, with the American winning six times.

But nearly all of their matches have been close, and the only previous time they have met at Roland Garros, in the quarter-finals in 2009, Kuznetsova won before going on to lift the trophy.

Williams said: "It will be a good match. The last time we played here she won, so that will probably get her pumped up and she's on a comeback.

"She has nothing to lose but everything to gain. She also wants to do well, and she's won this tournament before.

"So it's not going to be an easy match for me. I have had some pretty tough matches this clay-court season, and I think for sure that will be another one. But it will be a good job for me to see how I go there."

Kuznetsova at her best has the power and variety to trouble Williams, especially on clay, and, unlike a lot of the American's opponents, will not be intimidated.

The Russian missed the end of last season with a knee problem but reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January and has climbed back to 39th in the rankings.

She knows she has her work cut out, saying of Williams: "She's the best in the world. But I believe that I have the game, and I have good days. Let's cross fingers I will have a good day for that one."

Kuznetsova shied away from comparisons with 2009 just yet, saying: "It's too far ahead still, but it's always great memories to play here, and it's a pleasure."

Meanwhile, Roger Federer believes his five-set struggle against Gilles Simon will prove a help not a hindrance to the rest of his French Open campaign.

The second seed looked in no danger at all when he raced through the first set of his fourth-round match, but Simon responded and led by two sets to one only for Federer to come through 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-2 6-3.

Federer, who recorded his 900th tour-level win, has now reached at least the quarter-finals at 36 consecutive grand slams, a record dating back to Wimbledon in 2004, and only five times before in that run had he been behind going into the fourth set.

The 31-year-old meets sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next, and he said: "I think it's good, honestly. Now I clearly know where I stand and how well I'm playing. It gives me a lot of info.

"I'm still fairly fresh. It wasn't one of those four-and-a-half-hour battles. It was intense, but I think I did really well and never felt tired.

"For that reason, I'm looking forward to the match against Jo-Willy."

Tommy Robredo booked his place in the French Open quarter-finals and a place in history after a remarkable win over Nicolas Almagro.

For the third successive match, he fought back from two sets down, matching a feat achieved only once before in Grand Slam tennis, by Frenchman Henri Cochet at Wimbledon back in 1927.

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