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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Stosur charges into French Open semis

28-year-old Australian overpowered combative Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 6-1 to move just two victories away from her second major title.

The US Open champion was subjected to over-the-top barracking from Cibulkova's courtside entourage but stormed home in 85 minutes.

Frustrated to the nth degree by Stosur's imposing groundstrokes and serve, the world No 16 ended up remonstrating with those in her box.

Stosur had a glitch when serving at 5-2 in the first set but otherwise, she was calm and composed in a dominant performance.

She is yet to lose a set this year at Roland Garros. Incredibly, she has never lost a match at a grand slam tournament after winning the first set.
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Stosur into French Open semi-finals

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The sixth seed will play 21st seed Sara Errani of Italy - who downed Germany's Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) - for a place in Saturday's final.

"It's never easy to come out here, with it windy and playing an opponent who was going for it," said the 28-year-old from the Gold Coast.

"She runs very fast and has quick legs.

"The last few years have been good for me in Paris. It doesn't get any better than this."

Stosur is the anonymous entity among the elite of women's tennis. Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova are the glamour pusses and Stosur barely rates a mention outside her home country. When The Australian asked former world No 1 Martina Hingis to nominate her likely champion in a field decimated by shock results, Stosur initially failed to rate a mention.

"I expect Maria Sharapova to win," Hingis said.

"It's difficult, though. There have been so many surprises already and the women's game is so unpredictable right now. What have we had, five different winners of the last five grand slams?

"Maria had many difficulties in the fourth round but she got there and I think that makes her more dangerous for the rest of the tournament."

Stosur is guaranteed to climb above Serena Williams to No.5 in the world after the French Open and could rise further up the rankings with a decent run at 's-Hertogenosch, her only grasscourt lead-up event before Wimbledon, which starts on June 25.

Stosur's highest previous Wimbledon seeding was sixth in 2010, immediately after reaching her maiden grand slam final in Paris.

The Queenslander is thrilled with the way she has managed to turn her year around after a forgettable Australian summer.

Since suffering demoralising first-round defeats in Sydney and at the Australian Open, Stosur has made one final, a semi-final, three quarter-finals and gone unbeaten in four Fed Cup matches for Australia.

''Of course I didn't play very well throughout January and the Australian Open was quite a disaster,'' she said prior to her win last night.

''But then once I left, I kind of forgot about it and realised that the world didn't end … there's still nine months of tennis to play for the year and things can turn around.

''So I think if you really keep it in the big picture like that, you can turn things around.''

Stosur has been a fixture in the top 10 for all but one week of the past two years and her coach, David Taylor, who doubles as Australia's Fed Cup captain, believes she is often judged too harshly by her Melbourne Park disappointment.

''She's been very consistent. You could take the US Open off her ranking and she's still a top-10 player, which is a great thing to show that she's winning a lot of matches,'' Taylor said.

''Often people highlight her poor Australian summer. But besides that everything's been pretty good for her for quite a while.''

■ MEANWHILE, Rafael Nadal declined to assess whether his devastating run through the French Open field suggests this could be his best ever campaign at Roland Garros.

Perhaps the question was too narrow.

Truth is, Nadal is putting together one of the most dominant runs ever at the clay-court grand slam tournament - or any major tournament, for that matter - so far, losing a total of 19 games through four matches, including yesterday's 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 fourth round victory over 13th-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina.

''I feel really comfortable, really at ease,'' said Nadal, who is tied with Bjorn Borg for a record six French Open championships.

''When the tournament is over, I'll tell you if this was my best Roland Garros or not.

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