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Azarenka, Haas and Youzhny grab French Open limelight

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Pritha Sarkar

PARIS (Reuters) - There are no trophies on offer for reaching the second Monday of the French Open but if there were, Victoria Azarenka would have been declared the 'best wailer', Tommy Haas the 'best golden oldie' and Mikhail Youzhny the 'best racket basher'.

Australian Open champion Azarenka's clash with 2010 Roland Garros winner Francesca Schiavone had been billed as the pick of the women's fourth round showdowns but it failed to draw in the crowds.

The discerning Parisian fans chose to turn a deaf year to the ear-splitting sounds that emitted out of Philippe Chatrier Court first thing in the morning as third seed Azarenka completed a 6-3 6-0 win over the Italian in front of a quarter full arena.

Over the years the Belarussian's sound effects have been compared to those made by jet liners or even women giving birth but with Schiavone also chipping in with her kung-fu style yelps, it was definitely not a contest for the purists.

It was only when a victorious Azarenka twirled around to blow kisses to the four corners of the court that fans started arriving - in anticipation of Novak Djokovic's meeting with Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Kohlschreiber earned the distinction of becoming the first player to win a set off Djokovic at the tournament but that was as good as it got for the German.

Djokovic, who left Roland Garros in tears two days ago after learning about the death of his first coach, kept his emotions in check for a 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4.

A short hop away on Suzanne Lenglen Court, another German, Tommy Haas, was proving that there was plenty of life left in his 35-year-old limbs as he raced past a tortured and tormented Youzhny 6-1 6-1 6-3 to become the oldest Roland Garros quarter-finalist since Istvan Gulyas in 1971.

Haas tops a list of 30-somethings to reach the last eight after he joined a trio of 31-year-old campaigners - Roger Federer and Spanish warriors Tommy Robredo and David Ferrer - with his 84-minute demolition job over Youzhny.

While it is the first time in 44 years that four men on the wrong side of 30 have made it so far at Roland Garros, the quartet have still some way to go if they are to match the feat of Australia's Ken Rosewall, who won the last of his eight grand slam singles title aged 37.

"I think we all just are smarter, about how you train, about how you eat, about how you do your recovery," said 12th seed Haas, who was ranked second in the world in 2002 before injuries ravaged his body.

"The physical and fitness areas have improved a lot in sports in general. I think that's why you see maybe more people also in the early, mid 30s doing well."

GAPING HOLE

The German, who in the past 12 months has recorded wins over Federer and world number one Djokovic, appeared to resemble a player half his age as he blew Youzhny away on a blustery court.

A year after scratching the word "SORRY!" into the Roland Garros clay during a third-round bashing by Ferrer, the Russian suffered yet another meltdown and took out his frustrations by subjecting his racket to an almighty battering.

Thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack echoed around the arena - nine times in total - during a changeover as Youzhny reduced his racket to a mangled mess by hammering it against his pristine white bench.

"It's bad luck for that racket," summed up an unrepentant Youzhny, who has form.

In 2008 he was left with a bloodied face after he repeatedly whacked his racket against his forehead and over the years has made his racket sponsors work overtime to keep up with his never ending demands for replacements.

On Monday, Haas broke his opponent seven times.

"Winning eight or nine games in a row can sometimes hurt a player because they start to struggle and start to think a lot, which I think was his case," said Haas, who survived a five setter against American John Isner in the previous round.

"I just tried to maintain my level of play and focus and I did that really well today.

"He's done some crazy stuff in the past, you know, when he hit the racket on his head. I was not hoping for that again, but... that was fun to see. I love that stuff."

Haas wrapped up the win to set up a quarter-final date with Djokovic, who is no stranger to some racket bashing himself after smashing a gaping hole into the courtside bench during his final defeat by Rafa Nadal 12 months ago.

Seven-times champion Nadal will be in action later on Monday when he hopes to celebrate his 27th birthday with a win over Japan's Kei Nishikori.

With Djokovic, Haas, Youzhny and Azarenka grabbing all the limelight, barely anyone noticed 12th seed Russian Maria Kirilenko setting up a last-eight meeting with the Belarussian following a 7-5 6-4 win over American Bethanie Mattek Sands.

(Editing by Mark Meadows)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130603/azarenka-haas-and-youzhny-grab-french-open-limelight