PARIS, France - The quarterfinals of the French Open were set on Monday, with four more WTA stars battling their way into the last eight of the clay court Grand Slam. And those players included Sara Errani, who put on an absolute clay court masterclass to grind her way past Jelena Jankovic.
Though their rankings said otherwise, Errani went into their fourth round clash with a distinct advantage over Jankovic, having won their last two meetings in straight sets - and she was just a few points away from winning their only other meeting. The Italian had also won 14 of her last 16 matches here.
The first set was a one-hour, 21-minute epic. Errani built a 4-1 lead with her trademark barrage of deep, topspin groundstrokes into the backhand corner, with no hesitation whatsoever to come in and end the points at the net. Jankovic began finding her range from there on her big down-the-line groundies, winning five of the next six games to go up 6-5, even bringing up a set point in that game.
But the No.10-seeded Errani fought that off, snuck the set out in a tie-break and jumped out to a 3-0, double break lead in the second set, eventually closing out the No.6-seeded Jankovic, 7-6(5), 6-2.
"As the match got longer and longer, I got more and more tired," Jankovic commented. "All those drop shots, I did not do well. When I was close to the net, she always got me. She was very solid. She's not going to give you anything, that's for sure - you have to beat her. She plays so well on clay."
Awaiting Errani in the quarterfinals is No.28 seed Andrea Petkovic, who bounced back from a first set blowout to end the run of Dutch qualifier Kiki Bertens, 1-6, 6-2, 7-5. Petkovic is now through to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since reaching her first three during her breakthrough 2011 season.
Errani and Petkovic are tied in their head-to-head series, 1-1. Both of their meetings took place on the clay courts of Madrid - Petkovic won in 2010, while Errani won there just a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the highest seed left in the tournament - No.4 seed Simona Halep - kept on trucking in the third quarter, outdoing No.15 seed Sloane Stephens, 6-4, 6-3. There were some tricky moments - Halep faced a break point serving at 4-all in the first set, which would have given Stephens an opportunity to serve for a one set lead - but Romanian stayed cool and calm and never looked back.
Next up for Halep is No.27 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat No.23 seed Lucie Safarova in the last match of the day, 6-3, 6-4. Kuznetsova's No.27 seeding is a little misleading, though - she is a two-time Grand Slam champion, including here in 2009, and was once ranked as high as No.2 in the world.
Halep and Kuznetsova are tied in their head-to-head series, 2-2, but in their only meeting in the last year it was actually Kuznetsova who came out on top, winning in Stuttgart this year - read more here.