French Open: Tempers rise as Rafael Nadal goes calmly onwards
Sharapova, Tipsarevic and Paire all court trouble as tournament hots up
The sun shone at last here at the French Open yesterday, which may have explained why players and spectators alike started to get hot under the collar. Janko Tipsarevic swore at fans on his way to a straight-sets defeat, Maria Sharapova railed at the tournament for failing to provide Hawk-Eye replays, and the crowd on Court Suzanne Lenglen gave vent to their disapproval after Benoit Paire, one of seven Frenchmen in the third round, was deducted a point for receiving on-court coaching.
At least Rafael Nadal was happy to see weather more like his native Majorca than Manchester. The defending champion, having dropped the first set in both his opening matches, was some way below his best but still beat Fabio Fognini in straight sets to reach the fourth round. He now meets Kei Nishikori, who is the first Japanese man to make the last 16 here for 75 years.
Nishikori had been the innocent bystander as the day's tone was set in one of the opening matches. Paire was one point away from winning the second set to level the match when he was penalised for receiving coaching advice from his entourage. After a lengthy argument with officials, during which the crowd booed and jeered loudly, Paire went on to take the set. After winning the battle, however, the 24-year-old Frenchman lost the war, smashing his racket en route to a 6-3 6-7 6-4 6-1 defeat.
Tipsarevic lost his temper out on Court Seven during a 6-4 6-4 6-3 defeat by Mikhail Youzhny. The world No 12 swore at two spectators he said had provoked him and were "constantly taunting and laughing". The individuals were removed from the court, but Tipsarevic may find himself in trouble for his response.
"There is no excuse for my behaviour," the Serb admitted. "I think the only problem was that I used the F word – and that was not pretty. But on the other hand I just snapped."
Sharapova was more restrained in her exchanges with umpire Emmanuel Joseph but was clearly upset over his decision on a line call during her 6-1 7-5 victory over Zheng Jie. The Russian was convinced that Joseph was looking at the wrong ball mark – and was proved right by television replays.
The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament which does not use video replay technology, on the basis that officials can inspect ball marks on the clay. As Sharapova pointed out, however, you have to find the right mark first.
"All the other Grand Slams have Hawk-Eye," the world No 2 said afterwards. "Why don't we have a system like this? Is it a money concern? I don't think so. This is just absolute proof that it's a big point and it can happen in any situation. So I hope he's able to acknowledge that was not the right thing to say." Nadal needed two hours and 45 minutes to beat Fognini 7-6 6-4 6-4. The Spaniard, chasing his eighth Roland Garros title, still struggled for consistency but stuck to his task against a tricky opponent. Fognini has talent in abundance and hits the ball with exquisite timing and great disguise. Sometimes he approached a shot with all the nonchalance of a man about to light a cigarette only to smack a stunning winner.
For all his ability, however, the world No 29 lets himself down with his failure to play every point with the whole-hearted application which Nadal always shows. Fognini can swagger around the court looking like a teenager attempting to impress a group of watching girls.
Nadal twice trailed by a break in the first set, in which Fognini failed to serve out at 6-5. The Italian won three games in a row from 5-1 down in the third before Nadal served out to complete victory.
"If I want to have any chance, I really need to play better," Nadal admitted afterwards. "But it's always the same story. When you win without playing your best, you have the chance to play better. If you don't fight when you have tough days or negative days, then you don't have all the chances for the future."
Novak Djokovic had been expected to face a major challenge from Grigor Dimitrov, who beat him in Madrid last month, but the world No 1 swept the Bulgarian aside in an hour and 44 minutes, winning 6-2 6-2 6-3. It was a performance of which Djokovic's first coach, Jelena Gencic, who died yesterday at the age of 76, would have been proud. Djokovic's entourage did not tell him the news until after the match, and the grief-stricken Serb cancelled his press conference.
Tommy Haas, in contrast, needed more than four and a half hours to beat John Isner 7-5 7-6 4-6 6-7 10-8. Isner – who knows a thing or two about marathons after his 70-68 Wimbledon record in 2010 – saved 12 match points in the fourth set and had one of his own at 5-4 in the fifth. At 35 Haas is the oldest man left in the competition. Isner was the last American in the men's singles but four American women – Serena Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton – are through to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2004. Hampton beat Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, 6-1 7-6.
Britain's only interest lies in the unlikely hands of Dominic Inglot after Jonny Marray and Heather Watson, as well as Colin Fleming and his Belgian partner Kirsten Flipkens, lost in the mixed doubles. Inglot, a 6ft 5in Londoner, is through to the last 16 with his men's doubles partner, the Filipino Treat Huey.
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