PARIS, France - They scored high in every quality needed to succeed on clay - consistency, tenacity, speed - and now Angelique Kerber and Sara Errani are through to the quarterfinals of the French Open for the first time.
The No.21-seeded Errani was the first to advance, coming out like a wall against No.26-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, letting almost nothing by her and winning the first eight games of the match to lead, 60 20. Kuznetsova got her range for a while, winning five of the next six games to go up 5-3 in the second set, but Errani closed fast with four games of her own to complete a 60 75 victory.
"In the second set I started to play better, playing the right shots at the right times, but from 5-3 I just didn't do the right things," Kuznetsova said. "Maybe I was rushing too much, but Sara, for her game, it's the best I've seen her play."
Meanwhile, the No.10-seeded Kerber was countering the all-out attack of Petra Martic, building a 63 42 lead and closing it out after a late surge from the unseeded Croat, 63 75 - she ended it on a backhand winner off a drop shot.
"I just tried to play point by point, and at the end it was just two or three points that decided the match," Kerber said. "I wasn't playing my best tennis, but I just tried to stay in it and tried to be aggressive whenever I could be."
"Besides some unforced errors I made, I don't see too many negative things about my result," Martic said after the match. "I proved to myself I can play against the best players in the world, and today, even though I didn't play great in the beginning, it was a competitive match with a lot of good points."
Both Errani and Kerber were far steadier than their respective fourth round opponents, as evidenced by their winners-to-unforced errors differentials: Errani was +3 while Kuznetsova was -12, Kerber was +7 while Martic was -10.
"I didn't play a good game, far away from it," Kuznetsova said. "I didn't expect a lot from this tournament, and I made fourth round, so that's all right for the moment. I just have to go back and work on my game - and it's already starting, like the drawing is already getting better, but there's still a lot of work to do."
"I think I lost this match in the first set. I started too nervous," Martic said. "Too many things were in my head, a lot of emotions. What if I play bad? What if I play well? It's all part of the experience. I think next time will be different."
Kerber beat Errani handily in the pair's only previous meeting, but maybe more daunting for the Italian is she is 0-28 lifetime against Top 10 players.
Martic described the feeling of playing Kerber: "She's very tough. She gets a lot of balls back and doesn't give you free points. The faster you play, the faster she plays. It's like playing a wall, basically. You have to work hard every point."