Seven of top eight seeds still alive

This content was published 13 years ago. It may refer to a past edition of the Internazionali d’Italia.

After almost a week of action, we are getting down to the business end of the tournament with seven of the top eight women’s seeds and five of the men’s vying for a semi-final spot.

The marquee match-up of the day will be the remake of the most recent clay Slam final – the 2010 French Open. Two players in their maiden Grand Slam championship match provided some thrilling tennis, and in the end it was Francesca Schiavone who emerged victorious after a thrilling tie-break, pausing only to kiss the hallowed clay and take a call from President Berlusconi (presumably to congratulate her as opposed to inviting her to one of his infamous soirées…)

11 months on and wouldn’t it be wonderful if Schiavone could add to this success with a trophy on home sand? She is six sets away from an achievement that would no doubt see her given the freedom of the Vatican, let alone the city of seven hills, but on current form she may struggle against Stosur. The Milan-born no.2  seed took a while to get into her stride against 18-year-old qualifier Christa McHale in the second round, then almost out-froze Daniela Hantuchova, a player with skill in abundance but without the temperament to succeed at the top. How she copes for a third time on the biggest of stages here at the Foro Italico will determine whether she takes another step towards her destiny or whether Slammin’ Sam gets a measure of revenge.

No.1 seed Caroline Wozniacki versus two-time winner Jelena Jankovic, who has made three of the last Foro finals, should be another classic, as indeed will the battle of the (vastly-talented) shriekers, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, while no.4 Na Li should have more than enough to snuff out the challenge of Greta Arn.

So in the women’s draw, we are still on schedule to have the top four make it through to the semis. And that was almost the case in the men’s. And then Roger Federer blew a one-set and a 4-3 lead and instead we have another player with a wonderful one-handed backhand, Richard Gasquet. This is the Frenchman’s second ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final of the year after Miami, but he has not made a semi since Bercy in 2007. Standing in his way is Tomas Berdych, who beat him on the Monte Carlo clay last year for the loss of a mere two games.  The Czech has one ATP Masters 1000 title to his name (Bercy in 2005) and two clay titles (Munich in 2009 and Palermo in 2004) –maybe this will be the year he combines the two…

After disposing of Potito Starace with little fuss, Andy Murray has on paper the easiest of the quarters, facing Florian Mayer who had never gone this deep at an ATP Masters 1000 before. Five-time champion Rafael Nadal ought to have more than enough clay-court savvy to outlast Marin Cilic, even if the Majorcan’s health is causing him problems at the moment.

Which leaves us with Novak Djokovic versus Robin Soderling. This battle of the big-hitters promises to be intriguing. The Swede is seen as a hard-court specialist but of course has made the final of the French Open the past two years. His route to the quarters has been paved with Spanish clay-courters, but he managed to dispose of Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro in three-set battles and if anyone can knock the Djoker off his 33-man unbeaten start to the season perch, then the powerful Swede can.

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