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No birthday blues for Rafa

Rafael Nadal earned his second straight sets victory in succession as his challenge for an eighth French Open title gathered pace with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Japan’s Kei Nishikori to secure a quarterfinal spot on Monday. Troubled in his first two rounds where he had to come from a set back, Nadal celebrated his 27th birthday in style with a brutal demolition of 13th seed Nishikori.

‘To celebrate my birthday here on centre court in Paris is a very special moment for me,’ Nadal said courtside before a huge birthday cake was wheeled on to court. ‘Today I played a bit better than in the previous days.’ Third seed Nadal will face the winner of Stanislas Wawrinka against Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals. Top seed Novak Djokovic reached the French Open quarterfinals on Monday with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over German 16th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Djokovic will face Germany’s Tommy Haas for a place in the semifinals.
‘It’s very difficult to play against Philipp as he is a specialist on clay. After the first set, I played well so I am happy,’ said the world number one. ‘It was windy, but the conditions were the same for both of us. I just had to adjust.’ On facing Haas, the third oldest man to make the last eight, the Serb said: ‘I have a lot of respect for Tommy. He is playing well.’ Djokovic, the runner-up to seven-time champion Rafael Nadal last year, needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam.

Tommy Haas, 35, the 12th seed, who made history in the third round when he needed a record 13 match points to beat John Isner, eased past Youzhny, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in just 84 minutes.
Third seed Victoria Azarenka reached the French Open quarterfinals for the third time on Monday with a 6-3, 6-0 win over 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone, the world number 50, matched the 23-year-old Azarenka shot for shot and scream for scream in a first set which featured six breaks of serve.

But the pair’s nine-year age difference told in the second set, which Azarenka swept through in just 26 minutes, having reeled off nine straight games.  ‘I think it was the most composed and the most consistent match so far,’ said Azarenka. Russia’s Maria Kirilenko reached her first French Open quarterfinal by ending the surprising run of 67th-ranked American Bethanie Mattek-Sands with a 7-5, 6-4 victory on Monday. Maria Sharapova leads against USA’S Slaone Stephens 6-4, 1-1 on Monday

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