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By Scott Riley, Tennis Editor - Archive - Email
Roland Garros heading toward finish line
Three-time major champion Maria Sharapova is seeking her first-ever French Open title.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 French Open is in its second week with all of its top men's stars still intact, while only very few of its female standouts are still taking to the courts at Stade Roland Garros.

The usual suspects -- Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray -- are all still alive, while the women's draw was emptied out with the losses of world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, third-seeded Aga Radwanska, pre- tournament favorite and former top-ranked great Serena Williams, defending champion Li Na, recent former No. 1 star Caroline Wozniacki, and 2010 champ and 2011 runner-up Francesca Schiavone.

That's a lot of losses.

Djokovic had been rolling along until Italian Andreas Seppi took the first two sets off him in their fourth-round affair on Sunday. Djokovic, however, did manage to come back to best the game Seppi and land in the quarterfinals.

The Serbian Djokovic has never reached the French Open final and needs this event to complete a career Grand Slam. He currently holds three of the four major titles.

The "Djoker" appears to be on a semifinal collision course with Federer, who upset the sweet-swinging Serb in the French semis a year ago, which halted Djokovic's monster 45-match overall winning streak at the time.

Maria Sharapova, like Djokovic, needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam of her own. Also like Djokovic, she has never appeared in a final at Roland Garros.

The second-seeded Sharapova is the highest seed still standing in the depleted women's draw and would appear to be on her way in Paris, but left-handed Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, 2010 French runner-up Sam Stosur and steady German southpaw Angelique Kerber could have something to say when the final weekend rolls around.

The reigning two-time champion Nadal looks like he's on his way to an Open Era-record seventh French Open title after losing only 19 games over his first four matches of the fortnight. After finishing as the runner-up to Djokovic at the last three major events, the 10-time Grand Slam titlist is determined to hang onto his French title with what would be a third straight victory in the "City of Light."

The former No. 1 Federer, seeking a 17th Grand Slam title and his first one since the 2010 Aussie Open, has not been playing his best tennis in Paris, but he's into the quarters and could well be on his way to a sixth French Open final. The super Swiss won the title in Paris in 2009 to complete his career Slam and has lost to Nadal in no less than four finals at RG.

Murray's still alive and kicking, but he's not going to reach his first-ever French Open final. If the sulky Brit can reach the semis, he would probably run into the buzz saw that is Nadal ... and that one has straight-sets written all over it.

Some other possible "contenders" still standing in the men's draw are gritty Spaniard David Ferrer and former U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro.

Back over on the women's side, the Aussie Open champion Azarenka succumbed to diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round, while Serena was a stunning opening-round loser at the hands of veteran Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano last week. Li was erased by Kazakhstani doubles specialist Yaroslava Shvedova in the fourth round this week, while Schiavone, seeking a third straight trip into the French final, was shipped out by upstart American Varvara Lepchenko this past weekend.

Note: Serena had been a perfect 46-0 in her previous Grand Slam openers before last week's loss.

And don't sleep on Estonian strongwoman Kaia Kanepi, who has slugged her way into her first-ever French Open quarterfinal and can beat anyone if her massive ground strokes are landing in.

Honorable mention for the men goes out to popular Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spanish clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro, who also found their way into the QFs. And some other surprise women's quarterfinalists this week are the aforementioned Cibulkova, rising Italian dirtballer Sara Errani and the bespectacled Shvedova.

Another Note: Towering American John Isner played in the second-longest-ever French Open match last week when he lost to France's Paul-Henri Mathieu in 5 hours, 41 minutes, including an epic 18-16 fifth set.

Of course, Isner and another Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, played in the longest- ever tennis match in the opening round at Wimbledon two years ago, as that one lasted more than 11 hours over three days at the venerable All England Club.

My pre-tournament pick for the men was "Rafa," so we're still lookin' OK there, while my women's pick of Serena would suggest better luck next time, with the next time being The Championships, Wimbledon in a few weeks.


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