PARIS Novak Djokovic will leave the looking ahead to others. If he's to be believed, the No. 3-ranked Djokovic has more immediate concerns than a possible French Open semifinal match against No. 2 Rafael Nadal or final against No. 1 Roger Federer.
First things first at Roland Garros for Djokovic: a quarterfinal against Ernests Gulbis, set up by three-set victories for both men Sunday. Never heard of Gulbis? Djokovic has. Knows the 19-year-old kid from Latvia quite well, in fact.
They go way back, having shared adventures on and off the court a few years ago at coach Niki Pilic's tennis academy in Munich, Germany.
"He was destroying me in practices. I couldn't win a match. Practice? No chance," Djokovic said, then added with a wink and a smile: "So all the pressure's on him, OK? He's the favorite."
Sure, Novak. Actually, because their careers have followed completely divergent paths, Djokovic knows full well he must be considered the overwhelming pick in what will be his first professional meeting with Gulbis.
Djokovic who beat No. 18 Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 Sunday reached the U.S. Open final in September, then knocked off Federer en route to winning the Australian Open in January. He's reached the semifinals at four consecutive major championships, cementing his status as part of the trio of men head-and-shoulders above the rest.
"I'm ... a Grand Slam champion. Get a lot of respect and appreciation from the players," said Djokovic, who is 3-7 against Nadal, including exits from the past two French Opens. "It's a different approach. I have more confidence and I believe much more in myself."
And Gulbis? He came to Roland Garros with a 7-10 record this season and never had been past the fourth round at a Slam until beating Michael Llodra 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-3 on Sunday.
"I played better and better," said the 80th-ranked Gulbis, who eliminated No. 7 James Blake of the United States in the second round.
Gulbis used all of his 6-foot-3 frame to uncork 11 aces and 18 passing-shot winners against Llodra.
"Very powerful serve," Llodra said. "You can't see exactly where he's going to serve."
Like Djokovic, Nadal is rather familiar with his next opponent, No. 19 Nicolas Almagro, and had nothing but nice things to say about him.
"One of the toughest opponents on clay," Nadal said. "Probably going to be my toughest match this week."
The three-time defending champion reached the quarterfinals by hammering out the most lopsided of his 25 consecutive French Open victories, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 over No. 22 Fernando Verdasco. Oddly enough, Nadal's opponents so far this year all were left-handed, the first time a man has faced four consecutive southpaws at a Grand Slam tournament in the 40-year Open Era.
As with the men, all four women's matches Sunday were settled in straight sets. No. 2 Ana Ivanovic had the easiest time, putting together a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Petra Cetkovska, and was joined in the quarterfinals by No. 3 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Patty Schnyder and qualifier Carla Suarez Navarro.The players responsible for the two biggest surprises of the tournament lost. Schnyder beat No. 27 Katarina Srebotnik, who eliminated Serena Williams, and Suarez Navarro beat No. 26 Flavia Pennetta, who eliminated Venus Williams.
At a glance
PARIS (AP) A look at the French Open on Sunday:
Men's Results: No. 2 Rafael Nadal def. No. 22 Fernando Verdasco, No. 3 Novak Djokovic def. No. 18 Paul-Henri Mathieu, No. 19 Nicolas Almagro def. Jeremy Chardy, Ernests Gulbis def. Michael Llodra.
Women's Results: No. 2 Ana Ivanovic def. Petra Cetkovska, No. 3 Jelena Jankovic def. No. 14 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 10 Patty Schnyder def. No. 27 Katarina Srebotnik, Carla Suarez Navarro def. No. 26 Flavia Pennetta.
Today's TV (MDT): Tennis Channel, 4 a.m.-10 a.m.; ESPN2, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.