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French Open at a glance

TODAY’S FEATURED MATCHES

(all fourth round, world rankings in parentheses)

Rafael Nadal, Spain (1), vs. Robin Soderling, Sweden (25)

At Wimbledon 2007, these two played a third-round match that stretched from June 30 to July 4, took 92 hours and 32 minutes to complete and occurred over eight installments because of rain delays and darkness. This match is expected to require less time.

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Maria Sharapova, Russia (102), vs. Li Na, China (25)

Now that Roland Garros denizens have heard 16-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito’s astounding screaming at contact with the ball, it has lent perspective to Sharapova’s trademark grunting. We now call it “melodic.”

Ana Ivanovic, Serbia (8), vs. Victoria Azarenka, Belarus (9)

Here’s a round-of-16 donnybrook with the defending champion against an onrushing talent having a big year. (Note to Americans: The one who’s the defending champion is Ivanovic.)

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Andy Murray, Britain (3), vs. Marin Cilic, Croatia (13)

It’s already Murray’s furthest advance at a French Open, and if he wins this tussle, the British media will chronicle it and then go have a beer. And if he loses it, the British media will chronicle it and then go have a beer.

Dinara Safina, Russia (1,) vs. Aravane Rezai, France (57)

Coming in, people wondered how regally Safina could perform as a new No. 1. After she won 36 of her first 40 games across three matches, it’s clear she’s Marie Antoinette.

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A FRENCH MORSEL

Next Friday, they’re going to hold some French Open men’s semifinals sans Novak Djokovic, and that’s going to feel weird. Djokovic graced five straight Grand Slam semifinals -- including two French Opens -- between 2007 and 2008. He joined Roger Federer in that rare class of individuals known as People Who Can Beat Everybody On Planet Earth In Paris Except Rafael Nadal, having lost only to Nadal (thrice) in 19 matches here since 2006. Seeded No. 4 with Nadal mercifully on the other side of the draw, Djokovic suddenly lost by 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, in the third round on Court No. 1, and he really had no apologies given the caliber of Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, who didn’t expect to go far here. Said Kohlschreiber, ranked No. 31: “Every set really on the biggest high level from my side.”

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SATURDAY IN PARIS

No. 2 Federer and 35th-ranked Paul-Henri Mathieu played some of the most picturesque tennis imaginable in Federer’s eventual 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win in the early evening. . . . Other than Venus Williams (3) and Djokovic (4), No. 4 Elena Dementieva became the highest-seeded player to exit thus far, as the 2004 finalist felt out of shape in her 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 loss to Samantha Stosur of Australia. . . . No. 5 Jelena Jankovic and No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova rolled on, having lost 10 and 11 games, respectively, across three matches. . . . Yet another French delight here set up a stirring round-of-16 matchup, when No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga tore through Christophe Rochus, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, to line up opposite No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina. . . . Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark figured to make trouble here, but she lost, 7-6 (3), 7-5, to Sorana Cirstea of Romania. . . . Lo and behold, the rounds of 16 will include a Canadian, Aleksandra Wozniak, the 21-year-old from Montreal who speaks six languages and ranks No. 24, and who will play Serena Williams after nudging Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

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THE ENDANGERED AMERICAN MALES

If the last cowboy out of the nine Yank men, Andy Roddick, happens to defeat Gael Monfils and reach the quarterfinals, we may have to remove the American male from the endangered list. This process of removal does happen from time to time with well-planned ecological triumphs.

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STAT OF THE DAY

8, 4 and 0: the number of service breaks suffered through three French Open matches by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick, respectively.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

Round of 16 qualifier Virginie Razzano, 26, No. 36 in the world and No. 4 among French women, on whether she envies the publicity of the top three:

“The only thing I would be jealous about is if a girl steals my man. That’s when I would be jealous. Frankly, if anybody goes close to my man, no, I couldn’t stand that. That’s when I would be jealous. That’s all. Don’t get close to my man.”

-- Chuck Culpepper


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