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Wednesday, Feb 26th

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World no.1 Novak Djokovic and 9-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal have begun the journey towards their proposed showdown in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros by picking up routine wins in their respective first round matches.

Djokovic faced arguably the tougher challenge taking on 33 year old Finn Jarkko Nieminen, now very much towards the twilight of his career. The first and third sets were routine for Nole, but he came perilously close to dropping the second with the veteran two points away from winning the set on a couple of occasions, but failing to take his chances.

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Swiss legend Roger Federer had the perfect tune-up ahead of another assault at the US Open title by beating Spaniard David Ferrer in an evenly contested match in the Final of the Cincinnati Masters yesterday.

Federer, who almost withdrew from the event after his run to the final of the Toronto Masters last week, will be thanking his lucky stars that he chose to play this week as he looked in good condition to mount a challenge for a record 18th Grand Slam title next week in New York.

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On the final day of Group A contests, one semifinal spot and the final pecking order were still up for grabs as Wawrinka took on Ferrer & Berdych clashed against Rafael Nadal. The debutante Swiss needed to beat Ferrer to give himself any hope of qualifying and in an excellent display fought back after dropping the first set to down the Spaniard 6/7(3), 6/4, 6/1 in a duel that extended over 2 hours. Having played his part, it was now out of his hands as he was left to endure the agonising wait for the result of the Berdych, Nadal encounter. Berdych had to beat Nadal to qualify and had the added carrot of topping the group dangling in front of him if he could knock Nadal over in straight sets. Sadly for Berdych and his fans, that wasn’t to be the case as despite threatening to upset the World No.1 faltered at the final hurdle as he fell short as Rafa ended the group unbeaten 6/4, 1/6, 6/3.

In the doubles, India’s sole contestant at the event Leander Paes partnering Radek Stepanek were knocked out of the tournament following a loss to Granollers & Lopez 6/4, 5/7, 8/10. The Indo-Czech duo finished with 1-2 record and their fate was sealed when Peya & Suarez defeated Marrero & Verdasco 6/3, 7/5.

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It was a day of remarkable contrasts at the US Open, with pre-tournament favourite and the hottest man on tour, Rafael Nadal, blitzing his way into the US Open semi-finals with a complete annihilation of compatriot Tommy Robredo, dishing out a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 hammering to the man who stunningly beat Roger Federer in straight sets in the previous round.

Nadal continued his unbeaten stretch on hard courts this year, taking his record to an excellent 20-0, and he will be hoping to make that 22-0 before the week is out. The opening set of his match lasted just 22 minutes, leaving one to wonder if this was really the same Robredo who beat Federer in the previous round or a mere imposter. Other fans were wondering, if Nadal did this to Robredo, imagine what he might have done to the 32 year old Swiss legend!

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nadal_champFalling to his back at the end of it all, Rafael Nadal confirmed yet again his status as the King of Clay claiming a record 8th championship at Roland Garros – the first man in history to do so at the slams. The 3rd seed was the prohibitive favourite coming in to the final and defeated compatriot David Ferrer in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. It was scoreline that in some ways belied the fight that Ferrer put up but Nadal was too often the stronger player and the gutsy Ferrer often faltered at the big moments in his first appearance at a slam final. This was Nadal’s 4th straight championships here in Paris, his second such streak having triumphed here between 2005 and 2008 before being famously upset in 2009 by Robin Soderling. That remains his only loss on the red clay here as he became the “winningest” player with 59 wins moving ahead of the great Roger Federer.

Nadal was understandably pleased with his triumph and thanked his family, team and his fans for their support. He recalled the difficult layoff period but was thrilled to return to Roland Garros and achieve this 8th championship which was unimaginable to him. He gave credit to Ferrer too, for making his first slam final. Ferrer repaid the compliment calling Nadal the 'best'. He was happy to have made his first final and stated that he would all he could to come back next year.

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Both 4th seed David Ferrer and 6th seed Jo Wilfried Tsonga were chasing records and lifelong dreams in today’s semi-final match. Tsonga was attempting to become the first French player in 30 years to win the title while David Ferrer was trying to reach his first Grand Slam final in his 13 year long career.

Nerves got the better off Tsonga while the Spaniard was able to keep his in check to perform on the big stage and that allowed him to see off the Frenchman in straight sets 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-2 to set up an all Spanish final against defending champion Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

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With players like Tommy Haas and Tommy Robredo amongst others playing marathon 5 setters to progress deep into the men’s draw at this year’s French Open, the story at the 2013 Roland Garros has been about the’ 30+ generation’ and the grueling nature of the Parisian red clay.

Three out of four players in today’s quarterfinal were into their fourth decade and it looked like tennis fans were in for another engaging and long lasting day of tennis.

However, that was not the case as both 4th seed David Ferrer and 6th seed and last remaining Frenchman in the men’s draw Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came through in straight sets to move into the last 4. Ferrer defeated Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 while Tsonga joined him a little later talking out the 2nd seed, Roger Federer, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

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