Serbia's Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic cruised into the quarter-finals on Sunday, while France's contingent at Roland Garros fell to just two players at the end of the first week of play.
REUTERS - Serbia hogged the French Open limelight on Sunday when first Ana Ivanovic raced and then Jelena Jankovic hobbled into the quarter-finals before Novak Djokovic hammered another nail in the coffin of home hopes.
As the Serb trio continued to scythe through the field, a merciless Rafael Nadal extended his unbeaten streak at Roland Garros to a jaw-dropping 25 matches.
Second seed Ivanovic played with the urgency of a woman late for a lunch appointment as she ruthlessly dismantled Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-0 6-0 in 54 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.
While Ivanovic's win was painfully easy, Jankovic's was just downright painful.
Jankovic needed a 10-minute medical time-out after game three of the second set against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska before she crawled past the finishing line with a 6-3 7-6 victory over the 14th seed.
"The whole arm is a mess," said Jankovic, who resembled a wrestler pinned to the floor as the tournament trainer massaged her neck and shoulder back to life.
"I started to feel the pain in the beginning of the second set and since then it's been pain, pain, pain," said the 23-year-old, who will next face Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.
The Paris crowd had barely got through the scrum at the turnstiles as Ivanovic, who by each passing minute looks like
improving on her runner-up finish of last year, showed no mercy against the lamentable Cetkovska.
The unseeded Czech, who had not dropped a set in the tournament, looked like a decent threat going on a high-quality opening rally, but once Ivanovic got her eye in she folded quicker than a broken deckchair.
"It was much tougher than it probably looked, or the results indicates," said a generous Ivanovic, who has lost a paltry 15 games at Roland Garros so far this year.
"I had to work really hard, and I played almost without mistake today." She now plays Swiss 10th seed Patty Schnyder.
Fernando Verdasco became the latest casualty on Nadal's apparently unstoppable route to a fourth consecutive crown.
Even the match umpire was starting to sound bored rigid with announcing "Jeu Nadal", as the 22nd-seeded Verdasco, the fourth left-hander the champion has faced this year, went down 6-1 6-0 6-2 in under two hours.
Nadal now faces Nicolas Almagro in the last eight in a match scheduled for the champion's 22nd birthday on Tuesday.
"If I win, it's going to be a beautiful birthday present," the Mallorcan said.
"I don't mind finishing early or at lunchtime, or like today in the evening. At the end of the day, if the result is positive, it's going to be a beautiful day. And if it's not, well, too bad."
Third seed Djokovic was in no mood to let Paul-Henri Mathieu put him off his mission of a first Roland Garros title.
He swept past the French 18th seed 6-4 6-3 6-4 and now faces his childhood training partner Ernests Gulbis of Latvia for a place in the semis.
"He was destroying me in practice. I couldn't win a match," the Australian Open champion joked with reporters on hearing his next opponent would be Gulbis, like the Serb a product of the Niki Pilic academy in Munich.
"He's a favourite. I will play with no responsibility, nothing to lose. We know each other on and off the court. Crazy experiences off the court as well. He's a great guy."
Gulbis is the only Latvian ever to grace the grand slam stage and the 19-year-old did the Baltic state proud by silencing the partisan crowd on Court Suzanne Lenglen with a 6-4 7-6 6-3 win over Frenchman Michael Llodra.
The triumph carried him to his first grand slam quarter-final and the mild-mannered world number 80 may now be less inclined to the wild antics that marked his time with Djokovic.
"I'm happy. I mean, after the match, I don't want to jump around and do crazy stuff. I'm just relieved that at last it's over," said Gulbis.
With Llodra and Mathieu gone, French hopes turned to wildcard Jeremy Chardy.
The world number 145, conqueror of David Nalbandian in round two, gave as good as he got in a tight tussle with Spanish 19th seed Almagro but went down 7-6 7-6 7-5.
Almagro's dubious reward is place number 26 in Nadal's run.
France, which had five players in the fourth round for the first time since 1971, must now hope Julien Benneteau or Gael Monfils can spring a surprise against Roger Federer and Ivan Ljubicic respectively on Monday.
Date created : 2008-06-01