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Next in Paris: Federer vs. Gonzalez

Steven Wine
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Top seeded Switzerland's Roger Federer reacts as he defeats France's Julien Benneteau during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament, Monday June 2, 2008 at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
AP | AP

PARIS ” On a website listing past matches between Roger Federer and Fernando Gonzalez, the latter wears a grin in an accompanying photo, and no wonder.

The last time they met, Gonzalez finally won.

That makes the big-hitting Chilean 1-10 against Federer going into their quarterfinal match Wednesday at the French Open.



“For me it’s an interesting match, because last time we played I lost,” Federer said. “I hope I can turn it around again in my favor this time.”

The No. 24-seeded Gonzalez won’t catch Federer looking ahead, but that would be unlikely anyway with the world’s top-ranked player only three wins from his first Roland Garros title. On Monday, Federer reached the final eight for the 16th Grand Slam in a row by beating Julien Benneteau of France 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.



“I hope it’s going to go my way this time,” Federer said. “All in all, I’m very happy with the way I’m playing.”

He lost in the semifinals in 2005 and in the final in 2006 and 2007, each time to Rafael Nadal. He’s in the easier half of the draw and could face Nadal on Sunday.

“Obviously I’m the favorite in this section, so I hope I can make it through to the final,” Federer said. “But I’m not there yet, so I have to be very careful with Gonzalez. … He was born on clay, more or less.”

Gonzalez is 16-0 this year on clay, although he withdrew before the third round in Rome because of a hamstring injury. On Monday he ended Robby Ginepri’s surprising run at Roland Garros, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-1.

Ginepri was the last American in either singles draw.

Also advancing was No. 5 David Ferrer, who improved to 8-1 in five-set matches by beating No. 21 Radek Stepanek 4-6, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. Ferrer’s opponent Wednesday will be unseeded Frenchman Gael Monfils, who defeated No. 28 Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

The other men’s quarterfinals were scheduled for Tuesday, with three-time defending champion Nadal facing No. 19 Nicolas Almagro, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic playing 19-year-old Ernests Gulbis.

In the women’s quarterfinals Wednesday, No. 13-seeded Dinara Safina will try to build on her upset victory Monday over top-ranked Maria Sharapova. Safina overcame deficits of 5-2 in the second set and 5-2 in the second tiebreaker to win 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2.

Sharapova, stymied again at the only major tournament she has yet to win, lost the final four games and 10 of the last 12 points.

“It was all in her hands,” Safina said. “Then suddenly it changed.”

Safina, the younger sister of two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin, received a congratulatory text from her brother and said she hopes to join him as the winner of a major title.

“A dream of all our family,” she said. “Once we do this, we can put the racket on the wall and say we did everything we could.”

Safina will next play No. 7 Elena Dementieva, who won another all-Russian matchup against No. 11 Vera Zvonareva, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.

Gonzalez earned his breakthrough victory over Federer at the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai last November. They’ve met three times in major events, with Federer sweeping all nine sets, including in the third round at the French Open in 2005.

They happened to practice together before this year’s tournament.

“I don’t have really good record against Roger,” Gonzalez said. “But we play many good matches and I really enjoy it, because after him there’s nobody else. He’s No. 1, and you always have, like, nothing to lose.”

Gonzalez hits a big serve and a variety of backhands to go with a forehand that ranks among the game’s best. He tends to be erratic, but when he’s in top form he can beat anyone, as he proved against Federer in China.

“If I have a good day, with the way I play, I know that I can beat him,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a player who usually wins very quickly. When the match is too long, I think he doesn’t really like this.

“That’s why he’s had so many problems with Nadal. Nadal puts pressure on him at each point, and he wants the match to last.”

Whether Gonzalez’s inconsistent game is suited for five sets against the world’s top player is debatable. The Chilean’s Grand Slam resume is filled with early round losses, although he did earn a runner-up finish ” to Federer ” at the 2007 Australian Open.

“My dream is to win one Slam,” Gonzalez said. “You can change your history in this kind of tournament.”


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