Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Federer, Robredo show grit on clay

PARIS — Chasing a shot, Roger Federer caught his right shoe in the red clay, twisting that foot and tumbling. Soon enough, he was in a real rut, in danger of his earliest exit from a Grand Slam in nine years.

But Federer regrouped, coming back from a two-sets-to-one deficit to beat 15th-seeded Gilles Simon 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 Sunday in the fourth round of the French Open to reach his 36th straight major quarterfinal.

"I didn't hurt myself or anything," Federer said. "But maybe I did lose that touch of confidence for a little bit."

During a rare stretch of mediocrity from the owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, Federer lost 10 of 13 games.

"I didn't give him time," Simon said. "I managed to start moving him around a bit."

But able to "tidy up my play," as he put it, Federer generated more than twice as many winners in the third and fourth sets, 29-14.

"When things turn nasty," Simon said, "he responds well."

The victory was Federer's 58th at the French Open, equaling the mark for most tournament wins held by Guillermo Vilas and Nicola Pietrangeli. It also was Federer's 900th career victory anywhere, which puts him fourth in men's tour history, behind only Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Vilas.

But Federer's turnaround was not the biggest of the day. No. 32 seed Tommy Robredo became the first man in 86 years to win three Grand Slam matches in a row after dropping the first two sets (France's Henri Cochet was the last, at Wimbledon in 1927). Robredo beat No. 11 Nicolas Almagro 6-7 (5-7), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 after trailing 4-1 in the third set, 4-2 in the fourth and 2-0 in the fifth.

"Nobody dreams of doing such things," said Robredo, who next faces No. 4 David Ferrer. "What one dreams of is to reach quarterfinals, but not such a nightmare that is a five-setter. What I accomplished was very difficult, very complicated."

In the final set, Almagro made an unforced error in the ninth game to drop serve. Robredo clinched victory when his opponent hit a backhand volley into the net.

"He was very regular," Almagro said, "I had my ups and downs. … I think Tommy produced a remarkable, admirable game."

On the women's side, No. 1 Serena Williams, the 15-time major champion, beat No. 15 Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-3 to extend her winning streak to 28 and set up a quarterfinal against Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion who is unseeded this year and defeated No. 8 Angelique Kerber 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

"It's a shame I had to face Williams here," Vinci said. "She's the strongest player, by far."

It was Williams' toughest test of the first week, but she swept the last 10 points and has lost only 10 games through four rounds. She improved to 20-0 on clay this year. Since losing in the first round a year ago at Roland Garros, she's 71-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships.

"I just want every point," she said. "Every match I'm really focused for the whole period of time."

. KEY MATCHES

Today

Men: Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (16); Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Kei Nishikori (13)

Women: Maria Sharapova (2) vs. Sloane Stephens (17); Victoria Azarenka (3) vs. Francesca Schiavone

TV: 5 a.m., ESPN2; 10 a.m., Tennis

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