/ Tennis

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer drop sets in third-round victories

Updated: Friday, 30 May 2014 22:09 | Comments

Novak Djokovic is the favourite for the French Open despite Rafael Nadal's remarkable record in Paris Ernests Gulbis has surged up the rankings since the start of the season
Novak Djokovic is the favourite for the French Open despite Rafael Nadal's remarkable record in Paris Ernests Gulbis has surged up the rankings since the start of the season

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer overcame stiff opposition from Marin Cilic and Dmitry Tursunov to progress to the fourth round of the French Open in Paris on Friday.

Second-seed Novak Djokovic was given a work-out before earning his ninth straight victory over Marin Cilic to move into the fourth round of the French Open on Friday.

Djokovic was not at his best as he battled to a 6-3 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 victory to preserve his unbeaten record against Cilic.

The Croatian started strongly, moving into a 3-1 lead before Djokovic won out to take the opening set.

Even then, Djokovic was guilty of unforced errors and allowed Cilic to break back in the fourth set after taking a 4-2 lead.

The match took more than three hours to complete, but Djokovic eventually emerged with a win which will see him face home hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is coming into form at just the right time and defeated Jerzy Janowicz 6-4 6-4 6-3.

They have faced each other 16 times before, with Djokovic winning 11, including three of their four grand-slam matches.

Their first meeting was in the 2008 Australian Open final - Tsonga's only grand slam final - while the Frenchman also missed four match points in losing to Djokovic at the French Open two years ago.

Federer needed more than three hours to grind out a 7-5 6-7 (7/9) 6-2 6-4 victory against Russian 31st seed Dmitry Tursunov.

The 17-time grand slam champion revealed after facing Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the second round that he had not felt relaxed but put that down to an unknown opponent.

That was not the case with Tursunov, who Federer had beaten in all four of their previous meetings, although they did have a tight tussle in Indian Wells in March.

The Russian is a talented ball-striker and matched Federer throughout the first set until the Swiss took his chance in the final game.

It looked like the second set would go exactly the same way when Tursunov slipped to 0-40 at 5-6 but this time he saved all three set points.

Federer had another in the tie-break but it was Tursunov who took his second opportunity with a searing forehand winner down the line.

Federer made the perfect start to the third set with a break in the opening game, and it became clear all was not well with Tursunov when he headed off court for lengthy treatment from the trainer after the third game.

But, although he wrapped up the third set relatively quickly, Federer continued to make heavy weather of the victory, finally taking just the fourth of 21 break points in the seventh game of the decider.

It gave Federer yet another piece of tennis history, the 32-year-old becoming the first man to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros for a 12th time.

Next he faces what is sure to be a highly-anticipated clash against crowd pleaser Ernests Gulbis, who saw off the Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek 6-3 6-2 7-5.

The Latvian ended a six-year wait to reach the fourth round of a grand slam, having lost in either the first or second round in 20 of his last 21 slams since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open as a 19-year-old in 2008.

The 25-year-old, who is part of one of the wealthiest families in Latvia, has been better known for his straight talking than his tennis over the past few years.

At Roland Garros last year, where he lost in the second round, Gulbis made headlines by labelling the top four, and Federer in particular, boring.

Controversy follows Gulbis around, almost all of his own making, and there was more of the same on Friday as he addressed the subject of his younger sisters playing tennis.

He said: "Hopefully they will not pursue professional tennis careers. Hopefully. Because for a woman, it's tough.

"I wouldn't like my sisters to become professional tennis players. It's a tough choice of life. A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids."

Gulbis is at least making headlines for his tennis as well these days.

He has won two titles this season, most recently last weekend in Nice, and is at a career-high ranking of 17.

Gulbis is the first to admit he only has himself to blame for not making the most of his talent earlier in his career.

He said: "I'm jumping on the last train. I'm 25, so this was my last opportunity to be really successful, I think, and I think I have a good seven, eight more years to play at the top level."

At the start of last year Gulbis was ranked outside the top 130 and his rise since has been swift.

Gulbis felt he needed to go through the tough times, though, saying: "I don't regret it at all, because I think in a way I'm in a better position.

"Maybe not as a tennis player but as a person. Because I have been through ups and downs.

"Most of the guys who are on top now, they haven't been down a lot. They haven't gone back from playing quarter-finals of a grand slam to asking for a wild card in a Challenger and not getting it, playing qualifying in a Challenger.

"And the attitude, how it changes a lot, from everybody. And I saw it. So now nothing can really blur my mind and my vision. I'm not going to be now suddenly friends with everybody."

Federer and Gulbis have played three times before, all in 2010 and all of them close, with the Swiss winning twice.

Eighth seed Milos Raonic survived a five-set tussle with France's Gilles Simon while sixth seed Tomas Berdych dropped a set against in-form Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut and next meets John Isner.

The 10th seed won a three-hour battle with Tommy Robredo in four sets to become the first American man to make the fourth round of a grand slam since Andy Roddick at the 2012 US Open.

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