Djokovic reaches $100,001,974
Roger Federer second at just over $98 million
Djokovic advances to quarterfinals
Serena Williams, Andy Murray also progress as rain relents
Someone who just became the first tennis player to pass the $100 million mark in prize money should be happy. No doubt Novak Djokovic was.
But Djokovic’s goal heading into the French Open was to win the only grand slam to elude him and he knows his task remains difficult, thanks in large part to Mother Nature.
The world No. 1 defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6 6-4 6-1 7-5 to move into the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and he should have brought a sleeping bag, since – if organizers don’t tweak the pre-planned tournament schedule – he’ll be back Thursday and Friday.
That is, of course, if he keeps winning and the rain stays away. Or enough of it. Sprinkles surfaced Wednesday, intensifying for a spell in the evening.
More stoppages and organizers might be forced to push the men’s final to Monday, which would especially suit Djokovic and others in the top half of the draw who were a round behind those in the bottom half entering Wednesday. It could happen, what with the forecast bleak for the coming days.
In that bottom half, defending champion Stan Wawrinka and second-seed Andy Murray set up a semifinal showdown.
Djokovic and the hard-nosed Spaniard began their fourth-round outing Tuesday, with the former appearing agitated and unfocused. Maybe he was thinking about the complicated road ahead. He did, however, lead 4-1 in the third when play was stopped.
As it turned out, he spent about 70 minutes on court in still chilly Paris to finish off the 16th-ranked Bautista Agut. He was interviewed on court in, fittingly, a yellow rain coat by Fabrice Santoro, subsequently borrowing the former French player’s yellow hat.
“Conditions were definitely on the edge throughout the entire day yesterday,” Djokovic told reporters. “Bautista and I played I think more than two sets in the mist. It was maybe five to 10 minutes of the entire stay of over 1.5 hours we had yesterday on court without rain.
“It was a great mental test for all of us yesterday the entire day,” he added. “I’m in a way glad to have a match like this because it’s a challenge that you need to overcome mentally mostly.”
Bautista Agut said organizers pushed the duo to hit two hours Tuesday – if there is two hours of play, fans do not receive any refunds. French Open tournament director Guy Forget refuted the allegation; Djokovic didn’t explicitly back up Bautista Agut’s claim although he demanded common sense.
“It’s one way funny and unacceptable as well at the same time to have a chair umpire come in elegant shoes and try to slide and check whether or not the lines are slippery,” said Djokovic. “It’s going to be slippery anyway in those shoes.
“I think it’s important at least what they can do is wear tennis shoes and check the conditions.
“All these small details can actually help a lot in the judgment of the actual court.”
Djokovic reached a 28th consecutive quarterfinal at majors – a run longer than Jimmy Connors managed but eight behind Roger Federer’s 36. Djokovic, though, trumped the Swiss in getting to $100m.
His total is about $100,001,974, a testament to his sustained excellence yet also the spiraling financial rewards offered to players. Ten years ago, singles champions at the French Open pocketed $1.13 million. This year, the amount soared to $2.2m.
Federer, at $98,011,727, might have topped the $100m level himself this fortnight had he not pulled out courtesy of the aftereffects of a back injury. He long passed the threshold, mind you, when taking into consideration overall earnings. The 17-time grand slam winner’s net worth sits at, according to one website, $320m.
Djokovic looks set to add to his tally Thursday because he plays Tomas Berdych – a 6-3 7-5 6-3 winner over 2013 finalist David Ferrer – and he sports a 23-2 record against the Czech.
Murray sent packing the last Frenchman in singles, Richard Gasquet, 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 6-2. Once considered the future of French tennis, Gasquet hasn’t lived up to his billing and he played a first French Open quarterfinal on his 13th visit, aged close to 30.
Murray blew a 5-2 lead in the first two sets and Gasquet, to the crowd’s delight, even led 3-1 in the tiebreak. But at 3-2, he failed to put away a short backhand and thus began the turnaround.
Whereas the first two sets lasted two hours, 19 minutes, the last two clocked in at 67 minutes as a possible classic fizzled. Not that Murray, much more aggressive in the third and fourth, minded.
Gasquet lamented the conditions.
“Today the court was so slow,” said Gasquet. “I have never seen such a slow court. The balls were so big. It’s not good for me.
“No free points for me in 3.5 hours. That’s when it’s complicated.”
The 31-year-old Wawrinka, meanwhile, eased past a Spanish left-hander to become the oldest men’s semifinalist at the French Open since Connors in 1985. Not nine-time champion Rafael Nadal – an injury withdrawal last week – but Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 6-2 6-1 7-6 (9-7).
Dominic Thiem, the heavy hitting Austrian who has won the most matches on clay in 2016, booked a quarterfinal with David Goffin by completing a win over Marcel Granollers, 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-4. It’s a first grand slam quarterfinal for Thiem and the 13th-ranked Belgian, who downed Ernests Gulbis 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-3.
Serena wins, Venus loses
In the women’s draw, fourth-ranked Garbine Muguruza progressed to the semifinals, ending the sojourn of 108th-ranked Shelby Rogers 7-5 6-3. The key moment came when Rogers couldn’t serve out the first after holding set point. Her opponent will be 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur, who toppled Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 7-6 (8-6) to cap Wednesday’s singles action.
Pironkova, a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2010, might spend her night thinking about the chances she squandered: The Bulgarian led 5-1 and 6-4 in the second-set tiebreak, led by a break in the first and went 3-for-13 on break points.
Serena Williams padded her prize money total to $76,795,210 – the American tops the women in that respect – after crushing Elina Svitolina 6-1 6-1 in the fourth round but older sister Venus’ bid to make a first quarterfinal at the French Open in 10 years ended following a loss to last year’s semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky 6-2 6-4.
Bacsinszky next challenges Kiki Bertens, who upset Madison Keys 7-6 (7-4) 6-3.
Bertens increased her winning streak to 11 matches – including qualifying victories. Like Bertens, Yulia Putintseva landed in a first grand slam quarterfinal by upsetting Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5 7-5 but she confronts Williams, three matches shy of achieving a record-tying 22nd grand slam, in the last eight.
Bertens, surely, benefited from having the previous two days off after playing the week before the French Open and featuring in doubles at Roland Garros.
There won’t be many days off for Djokovic.
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