French Open: Haas, Wawrinka stand in way of Djokovic-Nadal semi
PARIS — Evergreen Tommy Haas and Roland Garros quarter-final first-timer Stanislas Wawrinka will on Wednesday attempt to rewrite a French Open script which has already cast them as fall guys.
Haas, who at 35 is the third oldest man ever to get to the last-eight in Paris, takes on world number one Novak Djokovic.
Wawrinka, so often in the shadow of compatriot Roger Federer, will try to inflict upon seven-time champion Rafael Nadal only a second defeat in 58 matches in the French capital.
All the signs point to disappointment for the two outsiders and that Djokovic and Nadal will meet in a blockbuster of a semi-final on Friday.
But Haas, the oldest quarter-finalist in Paris since 1971, insists a roller-coaster career, which once saw him rise to two in the world before a succession of injuries, halted his progress, can have its finest moment this week.
“It’s been a great ride. I feel like I’m riding a wave that I hope to continue as long as I can,” said Haas, the first German to make this stage in 17 years.
The 12th seed, whose ranking was so low a year ago that he had to qualify for the French Open, is not only making waves because of his age.
In his marathon third-round win over John Isner, he needed a record 13 match points to secure victory.
“It would have been easy sometimes to throw in the white towel and say, ‘I’m done, I have achieved a lot of things, I don’t really have to worry so much financially and I can live a good life’,” added the Florida-based German.
“But at the same time maybe there was something in me still that said, ‘You know what? I can maybe still do something’. I’m really happy I made that choice.”
Haas was cheated out of at least two years of his career with hip and shoulder trouble between 2010 and 2011, which followed missing the entire 2003 campaign as he twice underwent shoulder surgery.
Djokovic, who needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, has a 4-3 winning record over Haas, including their only meeting on clay in Paris seven years ago.
Djokovic believes it’s his destiny to reach the final for a second successive year and is determined to do so to honor the memory of Jelena Gencic, his first coach, who passed away at the weekend.
“She was like my second mother,” said the top seed.
“I feel even more responsible now to go all the way in this tournament. I want to do it for her because she was a very special person in my life.”
While Djokovic is playing in his 16th successive Grand Slam quarter-final, ninth-seeded Wawrinka will be in his first in Paris and just third overall.
The 28-year-old did it hard way, coming from two sets to love down to defeat Richard Gasquet in the last-16.
Now it just gets tougher.
Against Nadal, he has played nine matches and lost every one, including four on clay.
The most recent humbling was in straight sets in the Madrid final in May.
“What inspires me is to look at Rafael’s statistics at Roland Garros. It’s difficult to play against him,” admitted Wawrinka.
“What are my other sources of inspiration? Well, my level of game, my confidence, I want to be out there in the courts to win.”
Nadal’s form in Paris has got hotter as the weather has improved after a sluggish start which saw him drop the opening sets of his first two matches.
The Spaniard, bidding to become the first man to win the same Grand Slam title eight times, arrived in Paris with six titles from eight finals after returning from a seven-month knee injury lay-off.
Nadal, who turned 27 on Monday, said he is now being bothered by an elbow problem.
“Little by little I’m gaining greater power in my serve. My elbow has improved throughout the week. I feel much better,” he said
“I can put much more power therefore in my game. If you want to go far in tournament, you want to have a strong serve.”