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2010 French Open Coverage

Day Twelve Thoughts

 

--- see all matches played today here ---

--- get ready for tomorrow's matches here ---

 

DRAWS

 

It was Ladies' Day at Roland Garros today, as the singles bracket narrowed down to its final two. But even more impressively, we saw Esther Vergeer return to Grand Slam competition and yet another finals appearance after staying away from Melbourne in January. The top seed in women's wheelchair singles and a dynamo of the sport who has won every singles AND doubles competition in which she's participated at the Grand Slam level since 2003, Vergeer made the rarely-arrived decision to withdraw from the Australian Open and pass up her opportunity to win five straight singles and doubles titles there.

Back in the competitive spirit, she was matched up against Daniela Di Toro in the semifinals -- who was a doubles finalist at the Australian Open earlier this year and is the ONLY person to have dealt Vergeer a singles loss in the past DECADE of competition, back in Sydney in 2003. The magic wasn't there today for Di Toro, as the Australian was clearly outclassed -- Vergeer rolled into the finals with a near-effortless 6-0 6-1 victory. Her two wins have taken a combined two hours, one minute... she has allowed just four games won to this point, 64 total points for her two opponents. Vergeer, at 28, is still at the height of her powers on the court.

The undisputed greatest female wheelchair tennis star in the sport's nascent history will face countrywoman Sharon Walraven in an all-Dutch final after the latter defeated Bordeaux native and French fan favorite Florence Gravellier 6-4 7-5 in the other semifinal clash. Walraven played the match of her life... and she'll have to do even better if she hopes to beat her Goliath of an opponent in the final. It looks like she's destined to win her 15th Grand Slam title despite the fact that the French Open only started its wheelchair competitions four years ago, the U.S. Open five, and Wimbledon has yet to institute wheelchair singles competitions on its pristine lawns.


The women of the main draw, like those in the wheelchair division, wasted no time determining their finalists today. With the championship match looming on Saturday for the women's singles bracket, it was a quick turnaround for the latter pairing of the two semifinals being held simultaneously at Court Philippe Chatrier. Both Samantha Stosur and Jelena Jankovic had done battle yesterday, eliminating Serena Williams and Yaroslava Shvedova respectively in their quarterfinal matchups. And they were pushed out onto court today for their semifinal duel far quicker than either would have liked.

The opening match pitted #5 Elena Dementieva and #17 Francesca Schiavone. Dementieva, the defending Olympic gold medalist yet a woman who came into this match 0-for-45 in Grand Slam tournaments in the 12th year of her career, was hoping to get back to contest the finals and improve on her second-place showing from 2004. Schiavone, whose previous high in tennis to this point came as a member of Italy's 2006 Fed Cup championship team, had already made history as the first Italian woman to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam. It showed in their tennis. Dementieva, the favorite, was tense and clearly uncomfortable with her game. Schiavone, in contrast, was light on her feet, utilizing every facet of what is one of the most diverse styles in women's tennis.

The Italian was attacking Dementieva's serve, getting break points on each of her first three service games but unable to close anything out. It would be the Russian, in fact, who earned the first break of the match to go ahead 4-3 in the set. But, unable to consolidate her efforts, Dementieva handed the break right back to Schiavone, and the two women played out to the tiebreak from there. Once they got to the thirteenth game of the set, Schiavone pulled ahead quickly to 6-2 to gain four set points. Dementieva neutralized the first, but punched a two-handed backhand wide on the line to hand the first set to her opponent on the second.

It would be the last point the two women would play. As the two women went to the sidelines on the changeover between sets, Dementieva passed her chair and walked straight up to Schiavone. Having suffered problems with her leg before the tournament, apparently it was causing her trouble again. She didn't call out the trainer, and her game in the first set had appeared stiff yet unencumbered by the injury. Unbeknownst to us, though, she was in more discomfort than we realized. Schiavone, stunned on the sideline, advanced to her first Grand Slam final on her 42nd attempt.

 

Ultimately it would take Stosur less time to claim her spot in the final than it took Schiavone... and that was despite the fact that the Italian played just one set to the Aussie's full match against Jankovic. The slugfest in the opening match of the day lasted 69 minutes thorugh its tiebreak first set; Stosur would need just one hour on the dot to book the first trip to a Grand Slam finals by an Australian woman in three decades. (The last? Wendy Turnbull, who went to the finals of the 1980 Australian Open back when it was played in November...)

The #4 seed had absolutely no chance in this contest. After holding serve on her first game, Jankovic was broken on her next two games to give Stosur the commanding 6-1 first set victory in just 24 minutes. Composing herself, Jankovic buckled down and held serve to begin the second set before stealing a game from the Aussie to go up 2-0. Stosur would pounce right back, breaking each of the next three Jankovic service games to race ahead to a 5-2 lead. Serving for the match and the spot in the finals opposite Schiavone, Stosur got out to a 40-15 lead and set up two match points. Belting a cross-court forehand winner that painted the line, thirty years of drought in Australian women's tennis were finally washed over with the uisgebaugh of Stosur's on-form performance. She's made the appearance... now all that remains to be seen is if she can achieve what Evonne Goolagong-Cawley achieved earlier in that enchanted 1980 when she won Wimbledon -- a Grand Slam title for Australia.

 

The men would get their opportunities... #2 Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor qualified for the men's doubles final after they routed the #4 team of Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman 6-0 6-3 in the semifinals of that draw. They are more famous for their exploits at Wimbledon each of the past two years, but they were in the finals here two years ago, and the year before that Nestor won the 2007 edition of men's doubles at Roland Garros with former partner Mark Knowles. They will take on #3 team Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes after they also emerged victorious in straight sets from their semifinal. Against Julian Knowle and Andy Ram, the ten-seed, Dlouhy and Paes got five breaks out of six break point opportunities and demolished their opponents 6-4 6-2. The defending champions here at Roland Garros, Dlouhy and Paes will be looking to show the French Open seeding committee that they were snubbed when both the Bryan brothers and Zimonjic/Nestor were put above them in the bracket.

It will have to wait until the weekend though. Tomorrow is a day for the final four to play out their draw on the men's side. We will see some champions crowned, though, as Vergeer (and her men's counterpart Shingo Kuneida) hope to emerge as champions out of the top seeds in their respective wheelchair brackets. It should be one hell of a showdown from both sexes as we get our hors d'oeuvre before the gluttony of championship wekeend in Paris...

 

 

Be sure to come back every day to follow the French Open here in the Non-Traditional Sports World... and to keep up with all of Bigalke's writing, follow him on Twitter or Facebook!   

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