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Quarterfinalists blazing into new territory

5/31/2005

PARIS – Half the final four is set, as tournament favorites Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal did their parts in setting up a classic Friday showdown. The second semifinal will be determined this afternoon among four unlikely guys who have the chance of a lifetime to reach their first Grand Slam semifinal. The women have the day off from singles play.

Men
• Argentina is guaranteed of having a representative in the semis for the third straight year as Guillermo Canas and Mariano Puerta battle for one of the four spots. Both men have quietly progressed through the field, with Canas earning a walkover in the fourth round when Nicolas Kiefer withdrew with a neck injury. In the third round, Canas saved two match points in a hard-fought, five-set win over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu. Puerta, meanwhile, has dropped just one set in steamrolling to his first career slam quarterfinal. The matchup of these two classic grinders will likely hinge on Puerta's big lefty forehand and just how well Canas will be able to handle it defensively. These two haven't met on a tennis court since 2000, when Puerta won their lone ATP meeting in straight sets.

• It's no surprise to have a Russian vying for a semifinal spot at the French Open, but what might be surprising is that it's not Marat Safin. Instead, Nikolay Davydenko is carrying the Russian flag this week. Davydenko, who turns 24 Thursday, had little trouble taking care of clay wizard Guillermo Coria en route to his second straight major quarterfinal. Davydenko enters today's match with Spaniard Tommy Robredo riding a nine-match win streak that includes a title in St. Poelten. Robredo, long pegged to be the future of Spanish tennis, is back on the Spanish radar screen after a thrilling, five-set win over Safin in the round of 16. Both of these players, who never have met in an ATP level match, have reached this stage of a Slam before, and a win today would mark the biggest victory in the young career of each.

Stat du jour: None of the four quarterfinalists playing today has reached a Grand Slam semifinal before.