Top seed Novak Djokovic staged a comeback for the first time to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber on his way to the quarter- final of this year’s French Open.
Djokovic, who is seeking for his first French Open title to complete Grand Slam set, won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier.
In his post-match conference, the Serb spoke on the devastation the death of his childhood coach, Jelena Jencic, who died at the age of 77 in Serbia on Sunday, had caused him for the past two days.
“It hasn’t been easy, but this is life,” said Djokovic.
“You know, life gives you things, takes away close people in your life, and Jelena was my first coach, like my second mother.
“We were very close throughout my whole life, and she taught me a lot of things that are part of me, part of my character today, and I have the nicest memories of her.”
Djokovic will be up against 12th seed Tommy Haas in their last- eight clash after the German’s 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 demolition of Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny.
Djokovic’s first hour in the contest was as unconvincing as it got. Kohlschreiber, trying to repeat his 2009 win over Djokovich at Roland Garros, broke first with a fine return game at 2-2 but couldn’t break again until it was too late, despite the opportunities.
At one stage, Djokovic was swiping his racquet in disgust and saw a late charge to try rescue the opening set foiled by Kohlschreiber’s unplayable net cord.
The turning point came during the second set as the German failed to convert any of his six chances to break, while Djokovic took his only opportunity in game four.
Djokovic later took his only opportunity of the third set and broke twice more in the fourth.
By the time Kohlschreiber finally broke for only the second time in 13 opportunities- he was already 5-2 down, and Djokovic sealed a scrappy win at the second time of asking.
“Conditions were very difficult to handle both for me and him, but he adjusted better,” said Djokovic of Kohlschreiber’s challenge.
“In the start he was more aggressive. I was still trying to find the rhythm on the court, and the first set was gone.
“Obviously I needed to stop it up, and I’ve done that. You know, all four sets were quite close,” Djokovic added.
While the possibility of a semi-final clash between Djokovic and Rafael Nadal looms, the Spaniard celebrated his 27th birthday with his best performance of the tournament so far as he beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
“I played much better than the first three matches, no doubt about that,” Nadal said.
“If you told me two days ago, ‘You will play like this today,’ I will say, ‘Give me the paper and I will sign,’ because I’m happy the way I improved my game today.”
In the other match of the day, Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 8-6.
In the women’s singles, world number two Maria Sharapova eased into the quarter-final with a comfortable 6-4, 6-3 triumph over American 17th seed Sloane Stephens.
Victoria Azarenka will meet Maria Kirilenko after the Belarusian defeated Italy’s Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-0.
Kirilenko defeated American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 6-4.
Serb Jelena Jankovic dispatched Jamie Hampton of USA 6-0, 6-2 to set up a meeting with Sharapova in the quarter-final.