2010 French Open Coverage
Thoughts from the First Weekend
So you know what? I missed a hell of a lot of tennis. When a camping trip is planned for week -- hell, months -- you're bound to miss some tennis. Usually that will mean any of the half-dozen or so events going on around the globe as the men and women divide and conquer all points of the compass. Sometimes, though, that means you're going to miss some Grand Slam action. Between the finish of the Giro d'Italia, the mid-round coverage of the French Open, and even Sunday's Indianapolis 500 at the Brickyard, I missed a hefty dose of sports action. So the coverage suffers. But I still had some thoughts on what did go down, after I made it home this afternoon and started to look at what had happened over the weekend...
- MEN'S SINGLES
- WOMEN'S SINGLES
- MEN'S DOUBLES
- WOMEN'S DOUBLES
- MIXED DOUBLES
- BOYS' SINGLES
- GIRLS' SINGLES
- BOYS' DOUBLES
- GIRLS' DOUBLES
It was a day fitting for an upset, and Maria Kirilenko -- who continues to come up in 2010 as a giant killer to the point where one starts to wonder when she will start to be perceived as the giant -- slayed another top-ranked foe. This time it was compatriot and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was seeded #6 this time around and had struggled at times in her two previous rounds. Kirilenko, continuing the run of form that saw her through to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, booked her passage to the fourth round at Roland Garros with a stirring 6-3 2-6 6-4 victory over the women two-dozen seeds higher than her in the draw.
It was a day for scrambling, as the tournament tried valiantly to play catch-up after losing large portions of the previous two days to rain. Second-round matches were immediately followed by third-round tilts; singles and doubles went by in a blur. I had the joy of getting beep after beep on my phone sitting at work, watching as one after another result came in. But the biggest one of them all, the one that positively floored me, was Kirilenko's continued coming of age. The 23-year-old is priming herself to make that quantum leap from contender to champion, and it feels like it is bound to happen sooner or later this season.
#12 Fernando Gonzalez would also fall on the men's side, getting steamrollered 6-3 6-4 6-3 by Ukranian also-ran Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr. Having turned pro four years ago, this is Dolgopolov's first time in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament. After knocking off the Chilean to advance to the third round, he had already achieved more than could be expected of one so unseasoned in high-pressure situations. But with a coach who is also his father and a former tennis player, Dolgopolov seems to be developing well as the heat rises...
Higher seeds were picking off lower seeds left and right. French hopes took a big blow as the home crowd watched #19 Nadia Petrova knock out #15 Aravane Rezai in a marathon three-set match that finished 6-7(2) 6-4 10-8. Lasting well over two and a half hours, their match was a test of will that was ultimately won by Petrova. In the process another one of the domestic hopefuls crashed out of the tournament, leaving Parisian fans to wonder what they need to do to see one of their own win this damn thing again.
But Rezai was not the only big name to tumble out. Teimuraz Gabashvili needed straight sets and less than two hours to thoroughly dismantle and embarass #6 Andy Roddick. The American, who struggled through his first two rounds, finally couldn't fake his way through this round. The Russian clinically outserved the hard-hitting American and converted his break opportunities along the way. Roddick could do neither, and tumbled out yet again in Paris because of it. The 6-4 6-4 6-2 scoreline was as neat an indication of the gulf between Roddick on clay and Roddick on other surfaces as could possibly be granted.
#13 Marian Bartoli, another French hopeful, lost her third-round match to #18 Shahar Peer of Israel. #9 David Ferrer crashed out against #22 Jurgen Melzer. It was even worse for #16 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who lost to unseeded Robby Ginepri to drop out of the draw. #23 Daniela Hantuchova outlasted #16 Yanina Wickmayer; #24 Thomaz Bellucci got the better of #14 Ivan Ljubicic; and #28 Alisa Kleybanova took the loss from unseeded Yaroslava Shvedova. Add in the losses by doubles teams like top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan in the second round of the men's draw and by top-seeded Liezel Huber and Mahesh Bhupathi in mixed doubles and it all stacks up to one hell of a disturbance in the collective draws...
Venus Williams, back at the #2 spot in the world, offered little resistance to Nadia Petrova as the upsets continued on into Sunday. The elder Williams, still searching for that elusive Grand Slam victory in Paris, will have to dream again for another twelve months before getting her next chance after a 6-4 6-3 result left her no more singles opportunities to display her risque wardrobe on the clay. Petrova, meanwhile, continues her run through 2010 much like Kirilenko -- quietly, ruthlessly, a sniper who is easy to discount and quick to punish such laxity on the part of opponents.
Justine Henin continued her run of good form at Roland Garros by advancing to the fourth round in her return after two years of retirement. Seeded #22, Henin had been gone from the red clay of Roland Garros for each of the past two editions of this tournament, but won each of her last three times showing up at the venue in May. Taking out #12 Maria Sharapova, who has herself been suffering a drop in form the past year or so that has seen her game nosedive and her results pipeline slow to a trickle, the Belgian served notice to the rest of the women that she is back to being a force to be reckoned with.
Kirilenko's storied run ended in the fourth round against Francesca Schiavone; Andy Murray saw his tough road blocked by Tomas Berdych; and Mikhail Youzhny continued his run of good form this spring on clay to take out another French star, this tiem Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga, suffering a hip injury, was forced to withdraw after losing the first set 6-2. Unable to get any motion or power into his game, this could be a serious blow for the Frenchman -- not just on home soil, as this could see him miss Wimbledon as well.
In the juniors tournaments, we saw another big upset on Sunday as Australian Open girls' winner Karolina Pliskova crashed out in her first-round match 6-3 6-1 against against Morgane Pons of France. At the same time that #2 Karolina was getting blown away on Court 5, her sister -- #8-seeded Kristyna Pliskova -- was enduring her own straight-sets loss to Danka Kovinic. On the boys' side, top-seeded Daniel Berta was also unceremoniously dropped from the draw in his opening match when American challenger Junior A. Ore recovered from dropping the first set to prevail 2-6 6-1 6-4. Things are just as unpredictable at the youngsters' table as they are in the elite field...
It was a day
dominated by junior action on the outside courts and a lot of doubles
of all stripes. We saw the quarterfinalists settled on both the men's
and women's sides, though, as fourth-round action was completed in the
elite singles brackets. In an all-Spanish fourth-round duel, Nicolas
Almagro got the better of countryman Fernando Verdasco in four sets to
punch his ticket to the quarterfinals 6-1 4-6 6-1 6-4. There he will
take on another compatriot, Rafael Nadal, who survived the fourth round
this year after his tumble to Robin Soderling last year. This time
Soderling gets his chance to slay another giant and get revenge for his
loss in last year's final when he tackles the test of defending champ
Roger Federer in the quarters.
Novak Djokovic ended the storybook run of American journeyman Robby Ginepri to book his passage through. In the quarters he will take on Jurgen Melzer, who survived four sets with Gabashvili that demonstrated the weaknesses in his game. If Djokovic saw any of the match, he should have an easy time dismantling the Austrian in the quarters. Berdych and Youzhny, two other guys on a hot streak as of late, round out the elite eight on the men's side.
Samantha Stosur ended the Cinderella comeback of Justine Henin, booking the Australian a place opposite Serena Williams in the quarterfinals in the process. After defeating Daniele Hantuchova, #4 Jelena Jankovic -- on good form after looking off her game much of last year -- will take on the only unseeded player remaining in either of the elite singles draws, Yaroslava Shvedova, who ended Jarmila Groth's run with a 6-4 6-3 defeat. Shvedova is playing some incredible tennis right now... through four matches, she has dropped just the solitary set to Kleybanova. With 23 service breaks so far in four matches, she also averages nearly a half-dozen breaks of her opponent's serve per outing. Jankovic will need her A-game to stay in the contest.
Of course, not all things could be roses for Stosur and fellow quarterfinalist Nadia Petrova. The two, seeded #4 in women's doubles, found themselves knocked out of that bracket after their third-round encounter with Bondarenko sisters Alona and Kateryna. The sisters won the first set only to see Stosur and Petrova back out after falling 1-0 in the second. While neither Bondarenko remains in the singles draw, the two sisters can still get it done on the doubles court...
And that's that. We should have a hell of a second week to this fortnight of Grand Slam tennis... the stars have aligned so that I might be a little rested to power to the finish!
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