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Victoria Azarenka was knocked out of the French Open in the fourth round yesterday and could now lose her world number one ranking, while Novak Djokovic narrowly avoided following her to the exit.
Belarussian Azarenka was beaten 6-2, 7-6 by Slovakian 15th seed Dominika Cibulkova and must wait to see if Russian Maria Sharapova will claim the top spot. Sharapova, who meets unseeded Czech Klara Zakopa-lova in the last 16 today and has yet to drop a set here, must get to the Roland Garros final for the first time to become No1.
Cibulkova, who reached the French semi-finals three years ago and had lost seven times to Azarenka in eight previous meetings, collapsed on to her back, a big grin on her face, after winning the tiebreak 7-4 with a backhand cross court on her second match point.
The Slovakian will play either US Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia or American teenager Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals.
Asked by a reporter how she would recover from the defeat, a stone-faced Azarenka said sarcastically: “I’m going to kill myself!” She was also asked what had gone wrong yesterday. “Pretty much everything,” she replied. “I wasn’t satisfied, but I guess it happens in tennis.”
Djokovic, the men’s world No1, had to come back from two sets down to beat Italian Andreas Seppi and continue his quest to hold all four Grand-Slam titles at once. The Serbian hit 77 unforced errors – 26 more than defending champion Rafa Nadal had racked up in three matches – before turning things around and managing to beat Seppi 4-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
Djokovic will now play either fifth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or No18 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
Roger Federer surrendered one set against newcomer David Goffin of Belgium before beating the lucky loser 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals. Federer, seeking a record 17th Grand Slam title, will now play either Argentine Juan Martin del Potro (No9) or No7 Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic.
Italy’s Sara Errani saw off her second French Open champion in two rounds when she beat Russian Svetlana Kuznet-sova 6-0, 7-5 to reach the quarters.
The Russian’s demise left Li Na as the only French Open champion still in the women’s draw after earlier round defeats for Francesca Schiavone and Serena Williams. China’s Li, who won last year, meets Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova in the fourth round today.
Yesterday’s matches were played under cloudy skies and Kuznetsova, who won in 2009, said the gloomy weather had affected her. “I felt cold during the whole match. For me to move was really complicated, I couldn’t make my feet move.”
Errani will now play another first-time quarter-finalist here in 10th seed Angelique Kerber, who beat Croatian Petra Martic 6-3, 7-5.
The Italian said she would change her tactics to play left-hander Kerber, but pressed on what she would do, told reporters with a smile: “I am not telling you for now, I am keeping it to myself.”