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  • French Open, Day Nine: What They Said

What they Said: Novak's personal tribute

ESPN staff
June 3, 2013
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Novak Djokovic paid personal tribute to Jelena Gencic, his first coach as a child and the woman who launched both his and Monica Seles' rise to the top of the world rankings. Gencic died after battling breast cancer on Saturday at the age of 77.

"Jelena was like my second mother and we were very close. She taught me many things," said Djokovic after beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.

"The things that she taught me are part of my character and I have the nicest memories of her and these will stay with me forever.

"I hope to follow on from where she stopped. She gave so much knowledge and I feel I have a responsibility to carry on that work. She never married, never had children. She was dedicated to tennis, the kids and coaching. She didn't care about her illness."

Victoria Azarenka produced a dominant display to topple Francesca Schiavone and she was delighted with how she worked her way into the match.

"My execution wasn't the best probably in the first of couple games, but Francesca is such a great player, it takes sometimes a little bit of time to adjust to her game because she gives always a different ball," she said.

"Sometimes you don't know what to expect. But later I felt like I could anticipate a little bit more and really go for my shots and take control.

"I think I'm learning more now and I'm adjusting much better (to clay). It's been always the most challenging for me, but I feel like I'm finally understanding what I need to do to improve. And I feel it's a process, but I'm on the right way."

Also safely through is defending champion Maria Sharapova, who was the latest player to have her say on the scheduling at Roland Garros.

She said: "Am I pleased to have finished my match a day before my next opponent? We don't choose the scheduling, it just depends how it goes. I'm just pleased to be through to the next round."

Seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal was pleased that his game is starting to come together after his straight-sets win over Kei Nishikori.

"I played much better today than the first three matches, no doubt about that," Nadal said.

"I started to have feelings with my forehand, I started to change directions well. I started to feel that I can hit the ball longer and having more confidence in every stroke. First few days when I was hitting my forehand, my feeling was I don't know if the ball is going to go inside or outside.

"Seriously, if you told me two days ago you will play like this today, I will say, 'Give me the paper and I will sign,' because I'm happy the way I improved my game today."

Sadly for the French fans, Stanislas Wawrinka rallied from two sets down to beat home favourite Richard Gasquet.

He joked: ""It was an incredible battle and thank you to this crowd - even though most of you were supporting Richard!"

And with Tommy Haas running away with their fourth-round match, Mikhail Youzhny obliterated one of his rackets in a desperate effort to deal with his frustration and regain focus. Sufficed to say it didn't work - Haas reached the last eight in Paris for the first time in his career with a 6-1 6-1 6-3 win.

''You try and do all you can to help yourself," Youzhny conceded. "I tried it this way, but it doesn't help really."

"They're good rackets," he added, ensuring the equipment doesn't take the blame. "It's bad luck for that racket."

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