By Martyn Herman
As expected Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic set up a seismic semi-final clash after comfortable wins against Stanislas Wawrinka and German veteran Tommy Haas respectively in the quarter-finlas at Roland Garros.
Seven-time champion Nadal, roaring back into top form after a poor opening week, crushed weary-looking Swiss Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 6-1 while world number one Djokovic was made to work harder by Haas before polishing off the 35-year-old 6-3 7-6(5) 7-5.
With Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spaniard David Ferrer enjoying comprehensive wins on Tuesday all four men’s quarter-finals at Roland Garros were won in straight sets for the first time since 1948.
Nadal had never lost a set against Wawrinka, who was bidding to become the first Swiss to last longer at a grand slam than Roger Federer since 2002, in their nine previous matches and was never in danger of doing so on Wednesday.
Wawrinka broke French hearts when he came back from two sets down to defeat Richard Gasquet in the previous round, but the ninth seed looked leg weary as Nadal unleashed the kind of tennis that has made him virtually unbeatable at Roland Garros since winning the first of his seven titles in Paris in 2005.
“It’s always been the case. The deeper I go the better I play usually. It’s always been the case. It’s the same this year. It’s the same old story,” Nadal, who laboured through his opening rounds here, told a news conference.
The form that has led to five claycourt titles already this year has returned just in time for an earlier-than-normal clash with Serbian Djokovic, who he beat in the final here last year.
Despite virtually owning Roland Garros where his only defeat in 58 matches came against Robin Soderling in 2009, current world number four Nadal came in seeded three and the draw has thrown up a clash which has the feel of a title-decider.
“It’s the semi-finals and doesn’t matter if it’s against Novak or against another player, because the player who wins is not going to be the champion of Roland Garros. It’s just a semi-final,” Nadal told reporters.
Djokovic played down the implications of meeting Nadal in the semis after ending Haas’ bid to become the oldest man to reach the last four at Roland Garros since 1968.
“I can’t affect it. It’s the draw. It is what it is,” he said before elaborating on what will be required to end Nadal’s bid to become the first man to win the same grand slam tournament eight times.
“We are in good form. This is it, you know. This is the biggest matchup of our Roland Garros 2013 campaign for both me and him,” he said. “I need to be very disciplined and focused in order to get emotionally, physically, and mentally ready for that match.”
Haas gave it his best shot against Djokovic, pushed him hard in the second set on a sun-bathed Suzanne Lenglen court and even broke the Serb when he served for the match but ultimately the exertions of the past week and a half caught up with him.
By Martyn Herman