And then there were eight...
We are well into the second week of the 2012 French Open—the second major of the season.
All the serious matchups begin in earnest with the quarterfinals held at Stade Roland Garros.
Getting to this point has been a fairly bumpy ride for the ladies, unlike the men, whose top four cling valiantly to their reliable life raft.
Then, too, Serena Williams, the pre-tournament favorite, went out in the first round with sister Venus following in round two.
As the red dust settles, several of the ladies left standing are first-time major quarterfinalists.
For the men, the status quo remains firmly fixed. The top four men are still battling as they head into the quarterfinals.
Following is what is bound to happen during the rest of week two.
Novak Djokovic’s fate seemed less secure after his shaky fourth-round encounter with Italian Andreas Seppi on Sunday.
After the Serbian dropped the first two sets, success seemed out of reach. Djokovic came back to win in five.
Ultimately, the Serb succeeded in getting through the quarterfinals to the semifinals, even after his dismal outing against Seppi.
The world No. 1 bypassed the top Frenchman left in the draw, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with just a single bump in the road—the loss of one set.
Tsonga, buoyed by the crowds, found his footing on the clay. The Frenchman, however, did not find it sufficiently secure underfoot to rocket him past Djokovic in the end.
Like Djokovic, the Frenchman endured five sets on Sunday with his fourth-round match against Stanislas Wawrinka not concluded until Monday.
The world No. 1 will live on to do battle in the semifinals, with his dream to hold all four majors at one time still alive for another day.
Roger Federer played fairly loose and careless in week one, including his match with the lucky loser David Goffin in the fourth round on Sunday.
Throughout the tournament, the mighty Swiss looked exceedingly vulnerable.
Federer, however, altered his game enough to master the ever-improving Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals.
Finding his serve and his timing, the world No. 3 survived another major quarterfinal to advance to the semifinals where he'll face the world No. 1 Djokovic for the second year in a row.
Federer battled past Del Potro, who defeated him twice in 2009. Since those two defeats, the Argentine has lost their last five meetings—four matches in 2012 at the Australian Open, Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells.
Federer fans continued to be concerned about his play during the first week but were pleased at this victory which advanced the Swiss into the semifinals.
Getting past Del Potro gave Federer a major surge of confidence heading into his next match.
Murray had regrouped completely after his early-round match with Jarkko Nieminen, where the Scot appeared down and out with back pain.
In the meantime, Ferrer dispatched his fourth-round opponent, fellow Spaniard Marcel Granoliers in straight sets.
In fact, Ferrer had quietly advanced through his section of the draw without much difficulty or fanfare.
Murray had a bit more of a problem coming back against Gasquet and the French crowd; but, eventually, the Scot prevailed.
Murray did not continue his winning ways, however, as he faced Ferrer—whose play throughout this year’s French Open has been exemplary.
Ultimately, Murray could not mold the clay to create his best tennis when he needed it most.
This year’s semifinalist out of the Murray quarter will be feisty Spaniard David Ferrer.
Of all of the top four men’s seeds, Rafael Nadal has shown the best form on the red clay of Stade Roland Garros.
The world No. 2 looks to be unbeatable in 2012 now that his confidence has been fully restored.
Going for his seventh French Open title, Nadal sent Juan Monaco home in the fourth round on Monday, allowing the Argentine only two games in three sets.
In the quarterfinals, the world No. 2 faced countryman Nicolas Almagro, who had played excellent tennis all the way through.
Almagro was unable to stop Nadal, however, as the Majorcan rolled over all his competitors on his way to certain victory.
Nadal emerged from his quarter of the draw to face David Ferrer in the semifinals in an all-Spanish matchup.
Rafael Nadal will win his seventh French Open Championship, passing Bjorn Borg forever.
Roger Federer faces Novak Djokovic in the first semifinal with Djokovic winning, unlike the outcome in 2011.
The Swiss, it seemed, never really got on track during this year’s French Open.
In the second semifinal, Nadal will finally extinguish David Ferrer’s flame to advance to the final match.
There, Nadal will defeat Djokovic in the final, cementing his No. 2 status.
The world No. 2 retains his French Open crown and garners his seventh championship on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros, setting a record only he can surpass.
Victoria Azarenka, the No. 1 seed, was eliminated from competition by Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round of the French Open.
Never really acclimating her game to the red clay, Azarenka will not be able to enhance her win at the Australia Open by winning this year’s French Open crown.
Nothing on the women’s side of the draw went according to seeding or ranking or previous experience. However, Samantha Stosur, the only top seed left in this quarter of the draw, won her quarterfinal match over Cibulkova.
Clay is Stosur’s best surface, and she made the finals here in 2010.
The Aussie will advance to the semifinals.
The No. 4 seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, also did not survive into week two.
She was taken out unceremoniously in the third round by former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-2.
The Russian displayed quality tennis in her win, but Kuznetsova could not sustain her momentum, falling in the next round to Italian Sara Errani 0-6, 5-7.
Errani met German Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals, vying for a spot in the semifinals. The two met previously this year at Hobart on the hard courts with Kerber coming out with the victory. Both have had some impressive wins to get to the quarters.
Kerber has the better game, but Errani is a clay-court specialist. Her tenacity on the clay has been singularly impressive during this year’s French Open, and the diminutive Italian took this one step further by defeating Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (2).
Throughout the tournament, Petra Kvitova has flown under the radar as talk about the eventual champion centered on first Serena Williams and later on Maria Sharapova,
The reigning Wimbledon champion, Kvitova has quietly and efficiently taken care of her quarter of the draw, surviving to play her quarterfinal match against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan with a singles ranking of No. 145 in the world.
Yaroslava qualified to get into the main draw and could be compared to another surprised survivor in the men’s draw—David Goffin, who gave Federer a scare in the fourth round.
After eliminating last year’s champion, Li Na, Shvedova advanced to the quarterfinals where her Cinderella season must end.
Expect Kvitova to advance to the semifinals.
During her fourth-round encounter on Monday against Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic, the No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova finally got tested.
With the wind gusting and conditions deteriorating, Sharapova had her hands full.
Eventually, Sharapova prevailed, cruising through with a 6-2 score in the third set.
Her next opponent in the quarterfinals is Kaia Kanepi from Estonia, seeded No. 23 in this year’s French Open.
Kanepi eliminated Caroline Wozniacki from contention in three sets, then took three sets again to force Arantxa Rus out of the tournament in the fourth round.
Kanepi has been tested under fire.
The Estonian will have to battle her way through another tough competitor if she expects to get by world No. 2 Sharapova in the semifinals.
The two have never met on the tennis court.
But expect Sharapova’s iron will to succeed to allow her to overcome Kanepi and advance to the semifinals.
Aussie Sam Stosur will meet Italian Sara Errani in the semifinals with Stosur advancing to her second final.
Maria Sharapova will not be able to get past Petra Kvitova in her semifinal contest on the wet slow conditions on Court Phillippe Chatrier.
The final will feature Stosur and Kvitova, with Stosur winning the title she felt was hers in 2010.
Stosur learned enough from her previous final to win the French Open title in 2012.