Baseline Buzz: Cherish the top two

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PARIS -- Milos Raonic, the hard-serving, 23-year-old Canadian star, played Novak Djokovic close through three sets of their Tuesday quarterfinal but faltered near the end of each of them.

Afterward, Djokovic sounded like he had lost.

"It's never smooth against Milos or against any server of his caliber," Djokovic allowed. "When he's on, it's very difficult to do anything except be mentally strong and consistent and try to wait for the opportunities. When they are presented, you should better use them."

He went on to say that despite the straight-sets victory, "a few points here and there" decided things.

Djokovic, the No. 2 seed here at Roland Garros, has won 15 of 16 sets. The No. 1 seed, a guy named Rafa, was 12-for-12 in his first four rounds. We mention this because it wasn't like that on the women's side. Not at all.

No. 2 seed Li Na was a first-round casualty, No. 1 Serena Williams was gone in the second, and No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska departed in the third. They were escorted from the lovely grounds by three unseeded players in their very early 20s, largely unknown players to casual fans of tennis, Kristina Mladenovic, Garbine Muguruza and Ajla Tomljanovic.

Williams and Li are 32 years old, and suddenly it looks as though there's some room at the top. The Spanish King, Juan Carlos I, announced Monday he was abdicating the throne. Admittedly, the elite men are moving into the latter stages of their power years, but it is clear they have no plans to vacate their grand stage anytime soon.

ESPN.com tennis editor Matt Wilansky and senior writer Greg Garber bat the topic around in this installment of the Baseline Buzz:

Garber: Stan Wawrinka's breakthrough at the Australian Open merely underlined how dominant Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray have been in the majors. In fact, since Marat Safin ran off with the 2005 Australian Open, only Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro, who won the 2009 US Open, have managed to crack the code. That's 34 of 36 Grand Slam singles titles, lending credence to the argument that this is the finest collection of coexisting champions we've ever seen. I'm betting that number will swell to 35-for-37.

Wilansky: Not sure about you, sir, but I am still recovering from the maelstrom that unfolded during the first week. But now that my equilibrium appears to be back in check, things aren't really in the chaotic state, at least on the men's side, as they could have been. The Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 7 seeds all reached the quarterfinals. Nadal and Djokovic have behaved like the top two players in the world, and there's little indication they won't be embroiled in a fight for the title come Sunday. But the biggest question I have is whether players like Raonic, who reached a career-first major quarterfinal, can keep up the momentum and become a staple toward the latter part of future Slams. Take a cursory glance down the rankings, and though there are some serious concerns about Roger Federer and Wawrinka, who's going to replace them outside maybe Raonic? I'm not seeing any names that really stand out.

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