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Djokovic, Nadal set up semi showdown

PARIS — The ease with which Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won their French Open quarterfinals on Wednesday was similar.

Both won in straight sets. Both earned 12 break points, Nadal converting seven, Djokovic five. Nadal was broken once, Djokovic twice.

Nadal needed 1 hour, 56 minutes to beat No. 9-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. Djokovic needed 2:13 to beat No. 12 Tommy Haas 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5. Now comes their showdown in Friday's semifinals.

Djokovic, ranked and seeded No. 1 and trying to become the eighth man to win a career Grand Slam, against Nadal, ranked No. 4, seeded No. 3 and trying to become the first man to win eight trophies at one major.

It's enough to render Friday's other semifinal something of an afterthought — even if local fans have a rooting interest when No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga faces No. 4 David Ferrer. Tsonga, who along with Ferrer won quarterfinals on Tuesday, can give France its first men's champion at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah 30 years ago.

While Ferrer and Tsonga will meet for only the fourth time, Djokovic and Nadal will meet for the 35th; the 10th at a major and fifth at Roland Garros.

Djokovic is 33-4 this year. Nadal is 41-2 since returning in February after missing seven months with a left knee injury. The absence is why Nadal was seeded No. 3 and drawn to play Djokovic in the semifinals.

"Over the years, he's been so consistent and so dominant, on this surface especially," Djokovic said. "He's … lost only a few matches since he came back. You've got to respect that."

After dropping the first set in his first two matches, Nadal has won 12 in a row.

"Obviously, I really am playing better," Nadal said. "I'm happy the way that I played (Wednesday) especially; was my best match of the tournament without any doubt."

Djokovic won their most recent encounter, the final at Monte Carlo on clay in April.

"That is something that can maybe give me that mental edge when I step onto the court," Djokovic said; "knowing I can do it even though not many players in the last 10 years have won against him on this surface."

On the women's side Maria Shara­pova won her first match ever when losing the first set 6-0, ousting No. 18 Jelena Jankovic, 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the semifinals.

Sharapova committed 20 unforced errors during the first set. But playing a third set for only the fourth time in 39 matches this year, she won the final four games.

"I still felt like I was in the match," Sharapova said of the first set. "It was certainly nice to change things around because I wasn't doing much in the first six games."

Sharapova faces No. 3 Victoria Azarenka today. Azarenka needed 76 minutes to win the first set then lost only six points in four service games in the second to beat No. 12 Maria Kirilenko 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.

It's the first French semifinal berth for Azarenka, who has had much more success on faster surfaces. Asked to describe her "relationship" with clay, she said, jokingly: "I still don't have any ring on my finger. But I feel like we made a step forward. We are moving in together."

Today's other semifinal is No. 1 Serena Williams against No. 5 Sara Errani. They won their quarterfinal matches Tuesday.

. Today

Women's semifinals

Serena Williams (1) vs. Sara Errani (5); Maria Sharapova (2) vs. Victoria Azarenka (3)

TV: 6 a.m., Tennis Channel (mixed doubles final); 9 a.m., ESPN2 (Sharapova-Azarenka); 11 a.m., Ch. 8 (Williams-Errani)

Djokovic, Nadal set up semi showdown 06/05/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 10:39pm]
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