|Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia during the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris May 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)
Rafael Nadal and Li Na had decent workouts before sealing spots in the French Open quarter-finals on Monday but winning machine Novak Djokovic did not need to hit a ball to fast-forward into the last four.
As the first rain spots of the tournament began to drip on fans zig-zagging their way among the Roland Garros boutiques and snack stalls, champion Nadal was criss-crossing center court in his usual all-action style to beat Ivan Ljubicic 7-5 6-3 6-3.
The Spaniard is still not quiet at his fluent best after struggling in the early rounds but he is peaking ominously.
So is Australian Open runner-up Li who outlasted Czech ninth seed Petra Kvitova 2-6 6-1 6-3 on another humid day with thunderstorms forecast later. She is the first Chinese player to reach quarter-finals of the claycourt slam.
After a lightning-quick third-round victory over Sorana Cirstea, sixth seed Li was given a much tougher test but again impressed the tennis connoisseurs on Court Philippe Chatrier with her dogged determination and weight of shot.
She battled back from an early break in the third set to prevail and prompted the suited gentlemen in the galleries to tip their panama hats in appreciation.
"It was tough, like 3-0 down in the final set. Even myself, I didn't believe I could come back, because she has a huge big serve," Li, whose husband and ex-coach could not stand the pressure, told reporters.
"So I don't know what happened. Maybe just my husband left and I could win six games in a row," she joked.
Djokovic was already looking unstoppable in his bid for a first title at Roland Garros and now he will get an extra's day rest compared to the others in the men's draw.
His quarter-final opponent Fabio Fognini pulled out of Tuesday's slated match after failing to recover from a thigh injury sustained in Sunday's five-setter with Albert Montanes.
"My doctors said if I play tomorrow maybe it can be dangerous," flamboyant Italian Fognini said.
Serbia's red-hot second seed Djokovic is on a 41-match winning streak since the start of the year, just one behind John McEnroe's 1984 record.
His progression through the last eight will not count as part of the streak, officials confirmed, so the world number two will have to lift the trophy if he is to break the American's mark in Roland Garros. Roger Federer could loom in the semis.
Another player with injury problems is fourth seed Andy Murray, who is due to play Serbia's Viktor Troicki in the fourth round later having appeared to have shrugged off an ankle injury suffered in his easy win over Michael Berrer on Saturday.
The Briton had a leisurely practice with no visible problems but faces a wait to get on Court Suzanne Lenglen with Juan Ignacio Chela, his possible last eight opponent, taking almost four hours to beat Alejandro Falla in five sets.
David Ferrer and Gael Monfils are finishing their match which was suspended due to bad light on Sunday and women's fourth seed and emerging contender Victoria Azarenka faces Ekaterina Makarova before Murray's match is scheduled.
The women's draw has been blown wide open by the top three seeds all crashing out.
After twice men's runner-up Robin Soderling battles home hope Gilles Simon to see who meets Nadal, women's seventh seed Maria Sharapova takes on Agnieszka Radwanska in her fourth round tie on center court with the Russian's title odds shortening.