French Open 2014: Ernests Gulbis follows up victory over Roger Federer by crushing Tomas Berdych
The Ernests Gulbis bandwagon shows no signs of slowing down. The 25-year-old Latvian built on his victory over Roger Federer here at the French Open by crushing Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to claim a place in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.
Gulbis, one of the game's great characters, destroyed Berdych with a stunning combination of thumping ground strokes and enormous serves. The world No 17 smacked 31 winners and made only 17 unforced errors, a remarkably low total given the way he attacked from start to finish.
Berdych, who looked a forlorn figure despite his bright flowery shirt, was never in contention. Gulbis, who admits that he did not make the most of his talent in his early years as a professional, took command from the start, winning the first four games. The only time he faltered in the first set was when he went break point down when serving at 5-3, but he then hit two unreturned serves to create a set point, which he converted when Berdych netted a forehand.
Gulbis kept up the pressure in the second set, racing into a 4-1 lead and taking it in some style with a second-serve ace. Berdych was broken in the opening game of the third set. The Czech saved a match point with an ace at 3-5, but was only delaying the inevitable as Gulbis sealed victory after an hour and 59 minutes when his opponent missed a backhand.
In the semi-finals Gulbis will meet Novak Djokovic, who was almost as impressive in his 7-5, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Milos Raonic. Djokovic is through to his 22nd Grand Slam semi-final and has reached the last four at 14 of the last 15 Grand Slam tournaments.
The first set was tight, but Djokovic broke in the 12th game when he hammered a backhand to Raonic's feet and the Canadian was unable to keep his volley in court. Djokovic won the second set tie-break 7-5. His only hiccup in the third set was when he was broken as he served for the match at 5-2. The world No 2 made amends two games later, completing victory after two hours and 22 minutes when Raonic put a forehand wide.
Maria Sharapova, the favourite for the women's title, survived an early onslaught by Spain's Garbine Muguruza before booking her place in the semi-finals. The 27-year-old Russian won 1-6, 7-5, 6-1, but only after losing the first four games and conceding the first set in just 27 minutes. Muguruza, who played with her left thigh heavily strapped, also led 3-1 in the second set, but Sharapova recovered to win her 18th three-set match in succession on clay.
In the semi-finals Sharapova will meet Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, who has often been compared to the Russian. Bouchard, who also reached the semi-finals at this year's Australian Open, beat Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6, 2-6, 7-5. The Spaniard led 5-2 in the first set and dominated the second, but Bouchard held firm in the decider, securing the win after two successive backhand errors by her opponent.
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