Can Kuerten keep winning?

Updated: May 30, 2004, 8:20 PM ET
By Howie Schwab | Special to ESPN.com

Four berths into the men's quarterfinals are on the line at Roland Garros on Monday. With Gustavo Kuerten's upset of top-seed Roger Federer along with a number of other surprises, the top half of the bracket has just two players seeded among the top 19 (No. 8 David Nalbandian and No. 12 Lleyton Hewitt) still standing.

There should be lots of emotion in these matches, with Kuerten, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt rarin' to go.

Ga-ga for Guga
For the sixth straight year, Kuerten is in the round of 16 or better at Roland Garros. Given his performance against Federer, the three-time champion (1997, 2000, 2001) has to be one of the favorites left in the tournament.

The 28th-seed had no double faults and just 25 unforced errors against Federer. Kuerten has found himself fully in his form, failing to drop a set in each of his last two matches. That's impressive considering he went five tough sets in his first round match against Spain's Nicolas Almagro.

He plays 22-year old Feliciano Lopez of Spain, who is attempting to make his first Grand Slam quarterfinals appearance. Lopez, seeded 23rd, made the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2002 and '03.

Will Kuerten suffer a letdown after such a strong showing against Federer? Probably not, although Lopez is no pushover, especially if he can put the Brazilian on the run and test his oft-injured right hip.

Who is the more surprising?

  • Is there any more emotional player riding this year's roller coaster French Open than Marat Safin? Think about what Safin, seeded 20, has gone through lately, with a two-day, five-set marathon against Felix Mantilla, which the Russian won 11-9 in the fifth. Safin was so caught up in the thrill of the moment, he gave a moon shot to the audience!

    Then came the controversial stoppage of play against Italian qualifier Potito Starace in the third round. Safin's blisters looked painful, but he found a way to win despite the crowd's booing.

    Safin has fared well at Roland Garros as this is the fifth time he's made it to the round of 16 or better in six tries. He made it to the semifinals in 2002.

    His opponent, Nalbandian of Argentina, is in the round of 16 in Paris for the first time. Nalbandian has been tested in this tournament -- six of his 11 sets have gone to 7-5 or 7-6. Safin has won all four previous matches against Nalbandian, including a four-set victory in the 2002 French Open.

  • Unseeded Gaston Gaudio of Argentina plays unknown Igor Andreev of Russia. This is the most surprising pairing in this bracket: Gaudio is 44th in the world, Andreev 77th.

    Andreev, who turns 21 in July, is enjoying only his second appearance in a major tournament after a first-round exit at this year's Australian Open. He stunned defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second round. Don't look for Andreev to be overpowering with his serve -- he has just seven aces over his first three matches.

    Gaudio is trying to make it to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time. He has beaten three pretty big names so far -- Guillermo Canas in five sets, 14th-seed Jiri Novak in five and Thomas Enqvist in four. Andreev might be the easiest opponent Gaudio has faced so far, but this won't be a cakewalk as Andreev has some momentum.

    Back from his walkabout?
    Is Aussie Lleyton Hewitt the forgotten man in tennis? It wasn't that long ago when he was No. 1 in the world. The 12th seed here, Hewitt showed in his five-set victory against Martin Verkerk that he is on. And when Hewitt's on, watch out. Hewitt had 16 unforced errors in five sets, compared to Verkerk's 61.

    Expect Hewitt's fourth-round match against Xavier Malisse to go a while since all three of Hewitt's matches have gone at least four sets. Malisse, a 23-year-old Belgian, is trying to make his second career Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance (he made the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2002).

    Hewitt is 2-1 lifetime against Malisse, though the Belgian prevailed in their last meeting at Cincinnati in 2003.

    Howie Schwab is a coordinating producer for ESPN.

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