Saturday, May 31, 2008

Outwit, Outplay, Outlast

There's something about five set tennis that is just so much... better. Maybe that's why I find men's tennis so much more compelling than the women's tennis - though I suppose this holds true for me all year round and not just during the Slams. I heard Federer say once that he prefers five set tennis because the better player nearly always wins - make a couple of mistakes in a three set match and suddenly you can be a set and a break down. Over five, the struggle is more prolonged, titanic.
I always find it interesting to look at matches that would have been different if they'd been three sets. The Federer/Tipsarevic match at the Australian Open that had me weeding my garden in fury, for example. If that had been a three set match, Tipsarevic would have won, two sets to one. There was a match I remember matching years ago between Hewitt and Moya that would have been the same story. (Actually, I can't even tell you what tournament that match was in. I think I might have been twelve. But I remember it ridiculously clearly.) And several of the matches today would have been totally different stories if they'd been played over three sets.
Let's start with Wawrinka/Gonzalez. This was an awesome match, and Wawrinka totally owned Gonzalez in the first two sets. We're not talking mild ownage here. Wawrinka laid the two-hoof beatdown on Gonzalez. And come the third? Gonzalez wakes up, we see some more shotmaking, and boom! five sets! And who wins? Gonzalez. But if this had been your standard three set match, Wawrinka would have won in straight sets.
There wasn't too much separating these guys. I would venture to say that Wawrinka is the more talented player, though Gonzalez is maybe better on the clay. That were pretty evenly matched. But over the gladiatorial five set match, Gonzalez came out the winner. This is not the Gonzalez we saw at the Australian Open in 2007, who destroyed Tommy Haas and pummelled Rafael Nadal. Gonzalez is not out of form, but he is not in that blistering form he was then either. This was one of those long, grinding matches that are all about endurance and willpower. If nothing else, Gonzalez proved that he's got fight - though I was sad he had to prove it at the expense of Stan the Man.
Let's look at another two-sets-down comeback. Wasn't it a great effort for Ivan Ljubicic to take down Nikolay Davydenko? If I were to generalise between this match and the Wawrinka/Gonzalez match, I'd say that the Gonzalez match was more about shotmaking, whereas this one was really about the grind. Ivan and Kolya are two long-time veterans of the tour. They have very different styles - Ivan is a big guy, with that huge serve of his, and Kolya is little and quick, with that bizarre two handed volley that makes him look like he's charging at the other player with an axe. They're pretty close over their careers, not a lot splitting them - Kolya has been more successful overall, I would say, but Ivan leads their head to head 4-3 now... and who can forget how he basically won the Davis Cup singlehandedly for Croatia a few years back?
* I got a bit distracted from the actual match there. Back to it. I don't think there is anything so gutsy as coming back from two sets to love down. Ljubicic has been sliding down the rankings of late - he's at about #30 now, I think, when he used to be #3 - and there's been talk that he's coming up to retirement and that he'll maybe focus on coaching and captaining Davis Cup and stuff like that. But, in my humble opinion, a man that can come back from two sets to love down to Nikolay Davydenko, who is #4 in the world with good reason, is nowhere near retirement. I would love to see Ivan make a run to the quarters or the semis.
Moving on to another titanic five set struggle, what a great match between David Ferrer and Lleyton Hewitt! That's another match that would have had a different result had it been best of three - Hewitt would have won in three. I thought Ferrer was going to destroy Hewitt, given that he demolished Fabrice Santoro and that Hewitt hasn't played on clay at all this year until Roland Garros. But it was a great match. I'm not a Lleyton fan... which you might have realised, if you've read this blog... but I admire the attitude he takes. He never gives up, never surrenders. Novak Djokovic, he of the continual retirements, could learn a lot from the way Hewitt approaches tennis. Sometimes I think Hewitt takes it too far, as he deliberately tries to make an enemy of the person at the other side of the net, but I admire the way that he never tanks, that 'it ain't over till it's over' attitude.
One thing about this match that puzzled me: the commentators on Radio Roland Garros were talking like Ferrer is a claycourter. Ferrer grew up on clay, sure, and he's had some great results on it, particularly this year, reaching the final of Barcelona and winning Valencia, but I don't know if that necessarily makes him a claycourter. Looking at his career, I'd contest that Ferrer has better results on hard courts than on clay. I think there's a tendency for people - even well educated tennis folks like the Radio Roland Garros team, who certainly know much more about tennis than me! - to put people under the claycourt label just because they're Spanish or Argentinian or whatever. David Nalbandian is another example of this. I've heard him referred to as a claycourter a few times this weeks, and although he has had good results on clay (he reached the semis here a few years ago) I don't think there's any doubt that the place Nalbandian really excels is on indoor synthetic courts.
The other huge five set struggle that went on yesterday was the Monfils/Melzer match. To tell the truth, I was very annoyed that this match went to five sets, as it meant that the Federer match - which was, as always, the one I was hanging out for - started after two am in Australia, and I fell asleep during it. Like the previous matches I've discussed, Melzer would have won this match had it been best of three, but Monfils came out on top. Monfils is one of those perpetually underwhelming players, in my mind. He has so much talent and promise - anyone remember when he won three of the four junior Slams a few years back? - but he's just injured ALL THE TIME. Given his tendency to do the splits Kim Clijsters style all the time, it's not really surprising.
I don't have a lot to say about this match, as I was half asleep through most of it, but it'll be interesting to see what Monfils can do. He's never been really deep into the second week of a Slam - could it be this time for Gael? Heaven knows the French need something - though they've actually done pretty well on the men's side, considering Gasquet and Tsonga and Grosjean are all out. Benneteau, Monfils, Chardy, Llodra and Mathieu are all through to the round of sixteen, and that's not half bad at all. The Spanish have four, and then there's a mishmash of other European countries represented, with Gonzalez and Ginepri the only representatives from outside the continent. Doesn't that say a lot about the profile of claycourt tennis outside of Europe? (Though I am being very unfair to South America there.)
So, I love five set tennis. Big love. I enjoyed every minute of those big matches, especially the Hewitt/Ferrer encounter. But my favourite match of the day was the Federer match by far... even though I was asleep through a lot of it. Federer played sweetly, and even though Ancic is a tough opponent, there was never any doubt that my man Roger was going to win. The thing that has been letting him down since his bout of glandular fever has been his serve, and he served beautifully today - 63% first serves in, winning 80% of the time when they went in. He won ninety points to Ancic's fifty-six. I think that counts as a destruction. And there isn't anything I like better than a straight sets Roger match when he goes all destructo. The semi final of the Australian Open in 2007 when he demolished Andy Roddick might be my favourite match of all time.
...I have stopped gushing about Federer now.
I promised yesterday that I'd deliver quarter final picks, and I do not lie. Yesterday, I picked Nadal/Almagro and Djokovic/Gulbis for the bottom half of the draw. I'm going to follow that up with Federer/Gonzalez and Ferrer/Monfils. Federer will crush Benneteau if he keeps playing the way he's playing (though Benneteau did beat Soderling, who is no slouch by any means... still, Roger will win easily, methinks.) I'm not quite sure how Robby Ginepri got to the round of sixteen, but I think his time is up - I don't think he'll make it past Gonzo. Stepanek is a dangerous player, but I think Ferrer is better over five. And much as I would like to see Ljubicic win - and he is seeded, while Gael is not - my gut is going Monfils on this one.
For the women (previously unmentioned today - what a shock) I picked Ivanovic/Schnyder and Jankovic/Pennetta from the bottom half of the draw. Pretty uncontroversial there - but I am going to be much more controversial for the top half. I'm saying Safina/Dementieva and Azarenka/Kvitova. Dinara Safina, as discussed yesterday, is in form, and Sharapova has been unconvincing so far. Dementieva/Zvonareva will be interesting, but I think Elena will win... maybe in a tight match, though. Svetlana Kuznetsova has been playing awesomely, but so has Victoria Azarenka... and I just have a feeling on that one. I don't much about Kvitova and Kanepi, but I'm saying Kvitova purely on the basis that she took out Szavay, who I think is going to do big stuff in the future.
How many can Jodi get right? I guess we'll soon see!
One last thing in this absurdly long ramble - I'm going to keep a bit of an eye on the juniors draws as well. Previous winners of the the Junior Roland Garros include Gael Monfils, Stan Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet and Marin Cilic, so it'll be interesting to see what the kids are doing in a few years. I've especially got my eye on top boys seed Bernard Tomic, who won the junior Australian Open this year despite the fact he's only fifteen - if he hasn't peaked too early, Tomic could be the next big thing Down Under!
Roland Garros Results - Day #7
Men's Draw
Roger Federer def. Mario Ancic, 6-3 6-4 6-2
Gael Monfils def. Jurgen Melzer, 4-6 7-5 4-6 6-0 6-2
Julien Benneteau def. Robin Soderling, 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-0 6-1
David Ferrer def. Lleyton Hewitt, 6-2 3-6 3-6 6-3 6-4
Robby Ginepri def. Florent Serra, 6-4 6-4 6-4
Ivan Ljubicic def. Nikolay Davydenko, 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4
Fernando Gonzalez def. Stanislas Wawrinka, 5-7 2-6 6-4 6-4 6-4
Radek Stepanek def. Tommy Robredo, 6-3 6-2 6-1
Women's Draw
Maria Sharapova def. Karin Knapp, 7-6 (7-4) 6-0
Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Nadia Petrova, 6-2 6-1
Elena Dementieva def. Olga Govortsova, 6-0 6-4
Victoria Azarenka def. Francesca Schiavone, 6-1 6-1
Dinara Safina def. Jie Zheng, 6-2 7-5
Petra Kvitova def. Agnes Szavay, 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-2
Jelena Jankovic def. Dominika Cibulkova, 7-5 6-3
Vera Zvonareva def. Aleksandra Wozniak, 6-2 6-2
Kaia Kanepi def. Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 7-5

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Importance of Being Ernests

Eduardo Schwank might have fallen today, but how about Jeremy Chardy? And Ernests Gulbis? I might not have been going for Chardy per se - Tursunov, his opponent, being a personal favourite of mine - but what a victory for him! This is only his sixth ATP level tournament, and to reach the round of sixteen at a Slam - what an achievement!
But Gulbis was the one that really impressed me. This kid is going to be something else, if he can keep it together. He reminds me a bit of Richard Gasquet, actually - though hopefully he can tough it out mentally better than Richou has been of late. His win over Lapentti was maybe not as big an upset as his win over Blake yesterday, but it's not like Lapentti is a pushover. He's been around forever, and he knows how to play on clay. Gulbis is what, nineteen? Give him two years, and this boy is top ten, if you ask me.
I've written a lot about the up-and-coming youngsters this week - Schwank, Chardy, Bellucci and now Gulbis. Although all of them have the potential for excellence, the one I'd really keep an eye on to make it big would have to be Gulbis. Schwank and Bellucci have excellent claycourt games but really have yet to prove themselves on other surfaces. Gulbis has been popping up here and there on hard courts as well - he was the only one I'd actually heard of before the claycourt season. He played Safin in the first round of the Australian Open, and I remember people being surprised that Safin won. I had no idea why, as, like, who was this Latvian kid? But I get it now.
I think Gulbis's game will translate very well to grass and so it's going to be interesting how he handles the next swing of the tour. He plays Llodra in the round of sixteen here and I like him to win, which would put him in a quarter final against the winner of the Djokovic/Mathieu match. Oh, wouldn't I like to see Ernests take out the Djoker...
Djokovic also won today (surprise surprise) over Wayne Odesnik. I think Odesnik was a bit shell-shocked to find himself in the third round, and one can hardly blame him. He did not disgrace himself, however... though I would have loved it if he could have taken Djokovic out. Anyone sense a theme?
The man who I do think will take Djokovic out, Rafa Nadal, won superbly today. I'm fond of Nadal, but I think this might be the first year I'm actually barracking for him to reach the final. It would be a travesty to see Djokovic there. And besides, Rafa is #2 and Djokovic is #3. Djokovic needs to aim to overtake the #2 player before the #1 player... and Rafa needs to teach Djokovic some respect and unload a whole world of hurt on him. In my opinion. Which is, as always, very biased.
Almagro beat Murray, as I predicted, so I think we're looking at a Nadal/Almagro quarter there to match up with Djokovic/Gulbis. I'll give you my predictions for the top half tomorrow, when the round of sixteen there has been determined.
Some cracking upsets on the women's side today with Serena and Venus both getting knocked out (oh, how sad I am. See me cry copious tears.) Dellacqua also lost, which was sad, but what a great run nonetheless. And Sharapova came perilously close to getting knocked out... and I am beginning to revise my views of her chances. If all goes as expected, she'll face Safina in the round of sixteen and if she plays like that against Dinara, she'll be off court before she knows what's happened.
Actually, wouldn't that be great? I would love Dinara to do well. That would put her with a quarter final against Dementieva (probably) and a semi against Kuznetsova (almost definitely), and I think she'd stand a good chance of winning those matches. I'd love to see Dinara make a run for a title... the Safin family need more Slams in their trophy cupboard.
Cornet went out today, but she put up a good fight against Radwanska - she could have won the match if she'd just been a little tighter on the big points. Like Gulbis, she's going to grow up awesome. Radwanska, to her credit, played very well, though she's probably going to come up against Jankovic in the next round, and I don't like her chances. My quarter final predictions for that half of the women's draw are Jankovic/Pennetta and Schnyder/Ivanovic. Predictions for the other half tomorrow. In that half, Safina and Szavay are the ones to keep an eye on, I think. They're the dark horses that could knock out the Sharapovas and Kuznetsovas and come out surprise finalists. And both of them - Safina especially - are capable of taking out one of the Serbian girls in the final. With Cornet out, I am now choosing Safina to back. Go Dinara!
But if there's one thing to take out of my ramble today, dear readers (however few you may be), it is this: keep an eye on Ernests Gulbis, because he is going to be something else.
Roland Garros Results - Day #6
Men's Draw
Michael Llodra def. Simone Bolelli, 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 7-6 (7-5)
Rafael Nadal def. Jarkko Nieminen, 6-1 6-3 6-1
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Eduardo Schwank, 6-2 6-3 3-6 7-6 (11-9)
Novak Djokovic def. Wayne Odesnik, 7-5 6-4 6-2
Julien Benneteau def. Alejandro Falla, 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-0
Jeremy Chardy def. Dmitry Tursunov, 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 6-4
Fernando Verdasco def. Mikhail Youzhny, 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 7-5 6-1
Ernests Gulbis def. Nicolas Lapentti, 6-3 7-5 6-2
Nicolas Almagro def. Andy Murray, 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 7-5
Florent Serra def. Victor Hanescu, 6-4 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5)
Women's Draw
Maria Sharapova def. Bethanie Mattek, 6-2 3-6 6-2
Flavia Pennetta def. Venus Williams, 7-5 6-3
Ana Ivanovic def. Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4 6-1
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Alize Cornet, 6-4 6-4
Katarina Srebotnik def. Serena Williams, 6-4 6-4
Patty Schnyder def. Emilie Loit, 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 6-2
Vera Zvonareva def. Stephanie Cohen-Aloro, 6-2 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro def. Casey Dellacqua, 6-3 6-3
Petra Cetkovska def. Iveta Benesova, 6-3 6-3
Nadia Petrova def. Alisa Kleybanova, 6-3 6-3

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Waiting In The Wings

Have you heard of Jeremy Chardy? Because I haven't. And you know why? He's ranked #145 in the world. Even people like me who follow tennis closely don't normally follow it that closely.
And yet today Jeremy Chardy, of whom no one has heard, took out David Nalbandian. Heard of him? I have. #6 seed. Argentine #1. Rival of Federer throughout their junior days - a rivalry that continues today, to an extent. Winner of the Tennis Masters Cup in 2005 and two consecutive Masters Series events at the end of last year.
Surprised? I was.
If there's one thing I've learned from this year's Roland Garros - and, indeed, the claycourt season - is that I should be paying attention to the Challenger circuit (and probably the Futures circuit as well.) I've already written a bit about Eduardo Schwank (who is Argentina's best hope in the draw now!) Thomaz Bellucci was pretty impressive against Nadal in the first round, even though he got beaten. Ernests Gulbis, the young Latvian kid, beat James Blake today. And now Chardy... there is some interesting stuff going on in those lower rankings. I wouldn't say that Roland Garros has been a fiesta of upsets or anything - though Schwank, Gulbis and Chardy certainly pulled them! - but there have been a few guys that I think are going to be good in a year or two. REALLY good.
A disappointing result for Nalbandian, though I can't bring myself to be too sad. I'm hardly his biggest fan. I think a lot of his wins and defeats are in his head. He has this Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. It's like there are two Nalbandians - GoodDave and LameDave. I only caught a bit of the Chardy match, but it looked like LameDave showed up big time in the third set. I wouldn't call Nalbandian inconsistent exactly - LameDave wins sometimes, though he's got nothing on GoodDave, who beats Federer twice in three weeks - but the continual presence of LameDave has to be a worry for him.
What is going to be really interesting is to see who makes it through that quarter. Everyone was talking about the potential Nadal/Nalbandian quarterfinal, because even though Roland Garros is Rafa's playground, he's never beaten Nalbandian (GoodDave or LameDave.) But it is not going to come to pass. Our options now are Murray, Chardy, Tursunov or Almagro. Now, I suppose I can't count Chardy out... but I'm going to. I think we're looking at a Tursunov/Almagro fourth round - Murray's good, but I don't think he's going to be able to touch Almagro on clay. Sentimentally, I'd like Tursunov to come out on top, as he is my second favourite after Federer and all, but I think Almagro might be our quarterfinalist there. Rafa will take him out - there's pretty much no doubt in my mind, unless something dire happens - but I think Almagro will push him a bit. He's a real claycourt player - I think he's won Valencia twice? Correct me if I'm wrong.
Speaking of Nadal, he put a beating on Nicolas Devilder today... who never even came close to pulling a Chardy. He did well in the first set, but after that, Nadal destroyed him. Federer did a similar thing, though he actually lost a rain-interrupted first set against Albert Montanes in a breaker... but when it was time for the second set, the Fed amped it up and went all destructo.
I know there'll probably be some 'mon dieu! Federer has lost his touch!' media attention because of the whole first set loss and all, but, like Sharapova yesterday, I don't think it'll hurt him too much. Considering it's been a rainy Roland Garros, it's probably a good thing for him to get in some extra practice on the super-soft wet clay. And playing ten games odd in the rain can't have been much fun! After the first set - which was tight - Federer played very well. I'm happy with his progress! He plays Ancic in the next round, which is being billed (justifiably) as 'potentially tricky' but I think he's going to do just fine... especially if he can keep his first serve percentage up there!
On the women's side (only a little bit on them today. I talked much too much about them yesterday!) Casey Dellacqua won again, in what must have been a much easier match against Nathalie Dechy. She comes up against Carla Suarez Navarro in the next round, and it'd be great to see her make a run to the round of sixteen again, to prove the Australian Open wasn't a fluke! I don't think Australia has a prayer of winning the French this year in anything, but if someone's going to go deep, it's going to be her. I was surprised to see Hewitt take out Fish, but David Ferrer is going to cane him in the next round. In my humble opinion, anyway... and judging by the beatdown Ferru laid on Santoro yesterday, my opinion might be grounded in fact...
I was glad to see Alize Cornet win as well - I have my eye on her as a bit of a star of the future, and I REALLY like the way she plays. Same with Dinara Safina, though it was a shame her big brother Marat went out to Davydenko. I think the upset of the day was probably Anna Chakvetadze - the #6 seed, much like Nalbandian - going down to Kaia Kanepi. Mauresmo went down too... I don't think Amelie's really ever going to have much impact in Paris, to tell the truth, which is sad for her. Kirilenko also got knocked out... but so did Andreev, so they can console each other and stuff, I guess!
And, finally, congratulations to my man Stan Wawrinka, who won his match in straights. With Richou out of the draw, I think we might be looking at an all Swiss quarter... when I would obviously have to abandon cheering for Stan because of extreme Federer adoration. But I would love to see him get that far! And speaking of Swiss players, Timea Bacsinszky is going to be one worth keeping an eye on. She went out to Patty Schnyder (from Switzerland, surprise surpise) yesterday, but I think she's going to be great. She and Cornet, my other up-and-comer on the women's side, are playing doubles together and I'd love to see them go deep. They won their first round match against Navratilova (Gabriela, not Martina!) and Paszek... so here's hoping my pick of the teens comes up trumps! Although they might be facing the Bondarenko sisters in the next round... but if Chardy can take out Nalbandian, who knows what might happen in the women's doubles?
Roland Garros Results - Day #5
Men's Draw
Roger Federer def. Albert Montanes, 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 6-0 6-4
Rafael Nadal def. Nicolas Devilder, 6-4 6-0 6-1
David Ferrer def. Fabrice Santoro, 6-0 6-1 6-0
Gael Monfils def. Luis Horna, 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 7-5
Nikolay Davydenko def. Marat Safin, 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-2
Ernests Gulbis def. James Blake, 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 7-5 6-3
Lleyton Hewitt def. Mardy Fish, 6-4 6-3 6-2
Jeremy Chardy def. David Nalbandian, 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-2
Tommy Robredo def. Marc Gicquel, 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-4 6-4
Mikhail Youzhny def. Maximo Gonzalez, 6-3 6-2 6-2
Fernando Gonzalez def. Pablo Andujar, 7-5 6-0 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-3)
Radek Stepanek def. Jiri Vanek, 6-1 6-0 6-7 (7-9) 6-3
Jarkko Nieminen def. Martin Vassallo Arguello, 7-5 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-2)
Robby Ginepri def. Igor Andreev, 4-6 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-2
Dmitry Tursunov def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 6-0
Nicolas Lapentti def. Bobby Reynolds, 7-5 6-4 5-7 7-5
Mario Ancic def. David Marrero, 4-6 6-0 6-3 6-2
Jurgen Melzer def. Marcos Daniel, 4-6 6-3 2-6 6-3 6-4
Ivan Ljubicic def. Diego Jungueira, 6-3 6-4 6-2
Robin Soderling def. Paul Capdeville, 6-3 6-2 6-4
Stanislas Wawrinka def. Marin Cilic, 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) 6-1
Fernando Verdasco def. Juan Ignacio Chela, 7-5 4-6 6-3 7-5
Women's Draw
Venus Williams def. Selima Sfar, 6-2 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro def. Amelie Mauresmo, 6-3 6-4
Alize Cornet def. Gisela Dulko, 6-0 4-6 6-4
Jelena Jankovic def. Marina Erakovic, 6-2 7-6 (7-5)
Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Vania King, 6-4 6-2
Casey Dellacqua def. Nathalie Dechy, 6-4 6-2
Elena Dementieva def. Marta Domachowska, 6-1 6-4
Karin Knapp def. Olivia Sanchez, 6-2 7-6 (7-4)
Flavia Pennetta def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 3-6 6-1 6-1
Aleksandra Wozniak def. Akgul Amanmuradova, 1-6 6-1 6-3
Victoria Azarenka def. Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea, 6-0 6-0
Iveta Benesova def. Shuai Peng, 6-4 6-3
Dominika Cibulkova def. Milagros Seguera, 6-3 6-0
Olga Govortsova def. Ai Sugiyama, 6-0 7-5
Petra Kvitiva def. Samantha Stosur, 6-2 6-1
Agnes Szavay def. Sabine Lisicki, 7-6 (7-3) 6-3
Kaia Kanepi def. Anna Chakvetadze, 6-4 7-6 (7-2)
Francesca Schiavone def. Sanda Mamic, 6-3 6-0
Jie Zheng def. Maria Kirilenko, 4-6 6-3 6-2
Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Tsvetana Pironkova, 4-6 6-3 6-1
Petra Cetkovska def. Galina Voskoboeva, 7-5 6-3
Dinara Safina def. Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-0 6-1
Katarina Srebotnik def. Ekaterina Makarova, 6-0 7-5

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ladies' Day

It's very rare that I say this, so listen carefully and note down the day, my friends: the women's tennis was more interesting than the men's today.
You may have noticed that I follow the ATP much more closely than the WTA. Sure, I know what's going on in the WTA and who the number #1 is at any given week... which didn't used to be difficult, as it was Justine Henin, but with her gone, it might be a bit more difficult to keep track of! On the whole, though, I find the men's game much more compelling, though I couldn't put my finger on it and tell you why.
Not with today's play, though. How about that Sharapova match? Did anyone else have flashbacks to her match against Camille Pin in the Australian Open in 2007? I certainly did. I'm not a Sharapova fan (actually, perhaps it would be more correct to say that I'm not a fan of her dad - overbearing tennis parents rub me up the wrong way!) I was cheering for Rodina, and it was very disappointing that she didn't manage to get up in the end. But it was a good match, a good contest.
I don't think it'll do Sharapova any lasting harm. She was in the final that year when she beat Camille Pin 9-7 in the third at the Australian - although she did get pounded by Serena. If anything, it'll be a wakeup call. I think she took Rodina a bit too lightly, played a bit too arrogantly, and nearly paid the price. And can you imagine how wide open that top half of the draw would have been if she'd lost? That one would have been interesting.
I think Sharapova unquestionably deserves to be #1 at the moment - now that JuJu's gone. Even though I don't like her as a person, I think she stands a good chance of winning the tournament. If she was knocked out, I don't know who I'd tip. Jankovic, maybe? She has a good clay game... when she can manage to stay uninjured.
And huge congratulations to Casey Dellacqua. What a great win over Marion Bartoli! Granted, Bartoli is injured, and Dellacqua did have that rain delay to help her out, but let's face it: Bartoli is the ninth seed and is playing on home territory - on one of the major arenas, no less. For Dellacqua to come out and start another giant-killing spree outside Australia and on a surface that doesn't suit her is a real achievement. I'm not normally particularly partisan when it comes to tennis - anyone who knows me knows my feelings on Lleyton Hewitt! - but when it comes to Casey, I think I might become all nationalistic. I'm a fan.
And finally, that Nadal/Bellucci match eventuated! It was hardly a surprise that Nadal won in straights - he is Rafa, after all, and this is Roland Garros! - but I like what I see from Bellucci. He's only young, and he's won four Challengers on clay this year. Now Guga is out of the picture, Brazilian tennis really doesn't have anyone... and I wouldn't be surprised to see Bellucci doing things in the next few years! And speaking of Challengers, Eduardo Schwank took out Marcel Granollers in the second round. He is definitely a player worth keeping an eye on.
And, funnily enough, the match that followed Nadal/Bellucci on Chatrier, Monfils/Clement, had exactly the same scoreline. Go figure.
I was very excited that my name got mentioned on Radio Roland Garros last night. It makes me feel like part of the greater tennis world! Roland Garros is the only Slam I really follow on radio - occasionally I'll tune into Radio Wimbledon, but Wimbledon is televised in Australia, so the only time I use it is when TV is showing a boring match (ie. Hewitt) when a more interesting one (ie. Federer) is going on. But, although radio has its limitations, I always enjoy Radio Roland Garros... especially the bits of tennis gossip that get thrown around occasionally. Who knew Igor Andreev and Maria Kirilenko were a longstanding item? Or that Nadal and Soderling don't like each other? (Though after that match at Wimbledon that went for, what, five days? I'm not surprised. Though I didn't know the grudge had lasted.) Or Nadal and Berdych? (Berdych got beaten last night. So much for his crushing of Smeets.)
If only they published a gossip magazine for tennis... I might be one of the only readers. Although what with the Ashley Harkleroad Playboy shoot, and Nuria Llagostera Vives in some Spanish magazine... maybe the tennis profile is going to get amped up. Though I don't know if I want it to get amped up that way.
Roland Garros Results - Day #4
Men's Draw
Rafael Nadal def. Thomaz Bellucci, 7-5 6-3 6-1
Gael Monfils def. Arnaud Clement, 7-5 6-3 6-1
Radek Stepanek def. Gilles Simon, 6-2 6-4 6-1
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Oscar Hernandez, 2-6 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-2
Marat Safin def. Jean-Rene Lisnard, 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 6-3 6-2
Lleyton Hewitt def. Nicolas Mahut, 6-4 6-2 6-4
Novak Djokovic def. Miguel Angel Lopez Jaen, 6-1 6-1 6-3
Marc Gicquel def. Viktor Troicki, 6-4 6-3 4-6 7-5
Michael Llodra def. Tomas Berdych, 6-3 4-6 5-7 6-3 6-4
Julien Benneteau def. Vince Spadea, 6-4 6-4 3-6 3-6 6-3
Fabrice Santoro def. Evgeny Korolev, 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 6-4
Andy Murray def. Jose Acasuso, 6-4 6-0 6-4
Diego Jungueira def. Adrian Mannarino, 6-1 6-2 6-2
Jarkko Nieminen def. Marc Lopez, 2-6 6-3 6-4 6-3
Martin Vassallo Arguello def. Feliciano Lopez, 7-6 (6-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3
Eduardo Schwank def. Marcel Granollers, 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-4 6-4
Marcos Daniel def. Juan Carlos Ferrero, 7-6 (7-5) 2-2 ret.
Wayne Odesnik def. Hyung-taik Lee, 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2
David Ferrer def. Steve Darcis, 6-3 6-4 6-3
Bobby Reynolds def. Thierry Ascione, 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 6-3 6-3
David Marrero def. Victor Crivoi, 6-3 6-3 5-7 6-4
Luis Horna def. Scoville Jenkins, 6-4 5-7 6-3 6-0
Robby Ginepri def. Donald Young, 6-2 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2
Dmitry Tursunov def. Daniel Brands, 6-2 6-4 7-5
Jurgen Melzer def. Peter Luczak, 6-3 6-2 6-4
Juan Ignacio Chela def. John Isner, 2-6 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-4
Simone Bolelli def. Juan Martin Del Potro, 3-6 7-6 (7-0) 7-5 6-2
Victor Hanescu def. Dudi Sela, 4-6 6-2 4-6 6-4 6-3
Marin Cilic def. Robin Haase, 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 7-6 (7-4)
Jiri Vanek def. Jesse Huta Galung, 6-3 7-5 6-2
Nicolas Almagro def. Sebastian Decoud, 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-1
Alejandro Falla def. Ivo Karlovic, 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 6-4
Albert Montanes def. Kristof Vliegen, 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-3)
Igor Andreev def. Potito Starace, 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 6-4
Mardy Fish def. Agustin Calleri, 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-2 6-4
Ivan Ljubicic def. Eric Prodon, 7-5 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4)
Mikhail Youzhny def. Benjamin Becker, 6-1 6-3 7-6 (7-4)
Women's Draw
Maria Sharapova def. Evgeniya Rodina, 6-1 3-6 8-6
Casey Dellacqua def. Marion Bartoli, 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-2
Ana Ivanovic def. Lucie Safarova, 6-1 6-2
Elena Dementieva def. Vera Dushevina, 6-7 (6-8) 6-0 6-2
Nadia Petrova def. Aravane Rezai, 7-6 (7-4) 6-3
Stephanie Cohen-Aloro def. Ioana Raluca Olaru, 7-6 (7-4) 6-3
Olga Govortsova def. Yuliana Fedak, 7-5 2-6 6-3
Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-3 6-2
Marina Erakovic def. Tathiana Garbin, 6-7 (9-11) 6-3 6-3
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Jelena Pandzic, 6-2 6-0
Maria Kirilenko def. Maria Elena Camerin, 6-1 6-0
Vania King def. Violette Huck, 4-6 6-2 6-1
Shuai Peng def. Anastasia Rodionova, 6-0 2-6 6-3
Anna Chakvetadze def. Nuria Llagostera Vives, 6-3 5-7 6-1
Flavia Pennetta def. Tatiana Perebiynis, 6-3 6-2
Caroline Wozniacki def. Anastasiya Yakimova, 6-0 6-4
Vera Zvonareva def. Stephanie Foretz, 6-2 6-1
Emilie Loit def. Klara Zakapalova, 6-4 6-3
Patty Schnyder def. Timea Bacsinszky, 6-4 4-6 6-1
Jie Zheng def. Mara Santangelo, 4-6 6-3 6-0
Akgul Amanmuradova def. Yanina Wickmayer, 6-2 7-5
Sanda Mamic def. Michaella Krajicek, 6-4 6-3
Marta Domachowska def. Rossana De Los Rios, 3-6 6-3 6-1
Victoria Azarenka def. Edina Gallovits, 6-1 6-3
Aleksandra Wozniak def. Sybille Bammer, 6-0 6-2
Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea def. Anne Kremer, 6-0 3-0 ret.
Bethanie Mattek def. Madison Brengle, 6-3 2-6 6-4
Alisa Kleybanova def. Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-3 6-0
Petra Kvitova def. Akiko Morigami, 6-4 6-3
Kaia Kanepi def. Meng Yuan, 6-2 6-2
Katarina Srebotnik def. Virginia Ruano Pascual, 6-4 6-2
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Karolina Sprem, 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 8-6
Tsvetana Pironkova def. Yung-Jan Chan, 5-7 6-2 6-0
Francesca Schiavone def. Jill Craybas, 6-3 6-2
Samantha Stosur def. Shahar Peer, 6-2 3-6 6-1

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stan the Man

So, on the whole, not so much tennis happened yesterday. While the rain was great yesterday, today it bit the big one as it delayed the start to an hour unsensible for Aussies. How dare it rain in France when I don’t want it to?


As a result, the Nadal/Belluci match I was looking forward to never eventuated. Alas. You’d think that with three days for a first round instead of two it might all get done, but no. I’m beginning to have flashbacks of Wimbledon where, due to rain and a walkover, Federer basically didn’t have to play for a week. Great for my nerves but not so much for the tournament, I suspect!


In lieu of the promised Nadal match, I followed Wawrinka/Kohlschreiber instead. Who knew Stan the man was good enough to break the top ten? I sure didn’t, till wham! There he was, the week after Rome. I was lucky enough to see him play when I was in Australia – I saw the first set of his first round match on Show Court 3, though I can’t for the life of me remember who he played! I knew then that Roger’s #2 was a good player, but I never would have guessed this top 10 thing. But ain’t no one can say he doesn’t deserve it!


I suppose it shows just how close the guys in the middle of the pack are. You have Federer, Nadal and (unfortunately) Djokovic at the top, then you have your Davydenko, Ferrer, Roddick and Nalbandian, and then a clump of guys who are really, really close. Wawrinka jumped fourteen places by reaching the final in Rome – from #24 to #10, no less. That’s pretty remarkable. And those guys in the middle aren’t slouches. That’s where your Berdyches and Baghdatises and Youzhnys hang out.


So, to sum up: Go Stan! You the man!


Philipp Kohlschreiber, on the other hand, is always someone I’m underwhelmed by. I think I might be under the impression that he’s a better player than he actually is. He certainly has great potential and a wonderful backhand – anyone remember him knocking out Roddick in the third round of the Australian Open this year? Kohlschreiber is a good player, and I’m always surprised that he’s unseeded. The 32nd seed at this tournament is Janko Tipsarevic and the 31st is Andreas Seppi (both of whom lost in the first round, incidentally.) If you asked me to take a gamble in a Seppi/Kohlschreiber match or a  Tipsarevic/Kohlschreiber match, I’d take Kohlschreiber in either instance. But he is the lower ranked one.


So, with my misguided impressions of Kohlschreiber, I was expecting a tight one yesterday. I expected Stan to come out on top, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it go to five. Instead, it had a very similar scoreline to the Federer/Querrey match. I was cheering for Stan, so I was glad he won, but I must say I felt a bit cheated.


Like yesterday, there was another upset of an Argentinian seed – Soderling (who played extraordinarily well in World Team Tennis in Dusseldorf last week) took out Juan Monaco. Like Stan, Monaco is another one who has snuck up the rankings with me noticing. He was seeded #13 here. I thought the days when the Argentines were all up in the top 20 was gone with the demise of Coria and Gaudio and the fall of Nalbandian from #3 to #7ish. But no… although they aren’t exactly having the greatest Roland Garros this year.


And, on a side note, I tuned into Radio Roland Garros for a bit before the start of play to find them interviewing Roger Rasheed… the genius (ahem) who believes that ‘tennis is about getting into the other guy’s kitchen.’ I’m unsure why he felt the need to elaborate ad nauseam about how he nearly punched out Florent Serra’s coach at Roland Garros ’06, but although I like tennis gossip, I could have lived quite happily without the Rasheed monologue there.


Though speaking of gossip… Monfils and Cibulkova! Who knew?


And can I just say… you know how everyone was all like, ‘oh my God, they’ve put Federer on Suzanne Lenglen instead of Philippe Chatrier! Mon dieu! Le slap in face!’ the other day? Well, it’s tournament policy that no one can play all seven matches on the same court… so you can bet Rafa will be out there for one of his matches (unless he loses against Belluci, but really, as if!) But where have they put Djokovic for tomorrow, hmmm? Court #1. Not even Lenglen. And to that I say… ahahahahaha!



Roland Garros Results – Day #3


Men’s Draw


Nikolay Davydenko def. Thomasa Johansson, 6-3 6-3 6-3

Robin Soderling def. Juan Monaco, 6-2 6-3 6-1

Stanislas Wawrinka def. Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-3 6-4 6-3

Paul Capdeville def. Mischa Zverev, 6-1 6-4 6-2

Mario Ancic def. Andreas Seppi, 6-2 7-6 (7-1) 6-2



Women’s Draw


Amelie Mauresmo def. Olga Savchuk, 7-5 4-6 6-1

Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Aiko Nakamura, 6-2 6-3

Dinara Safina def. Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-1 6-3

Agnieszka Radwanska def. Mariya Koryttseva, 6-4 6-3

Ai Sugiyama def. Alla Kudryavtseva, 6-1 2-6 6-3

Sabine Lisicki def. Elena Vesnina, 3-6 6-4 6-0

Olivia Sanchez def. Jarmila Gajdosova, 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (10-8)

Carla Suarez Navarro def. Pauline Parmentier, 6-4 5-7 6-2

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fairweather Fan?

I have to confess that I was selfishly glad that rain stopped play yesterday, as it was about 1am in the morning here in Australia, and although I was determined to follow the Nadal/Belluci match, the likelihood of me falling asleep would have been quite high. Now it will be on at a much more sane time for we Aussies.
It will come to no surprise for anyone who read this blog over the Australian summer that I intend to devote a large part of this post to the Federer match, as he is my hero and all and I really, really want him to win. The matches aren't televised here, but I followed his match on Radio Roland Garros (to which I am terribly addicted) and was pretty pleased, overall. I can see how people might say it was a scratchy start - he certainly wasn't in GodMode - but really, he didn't need to be. Kudos to Querrey, who isn't really a claycourter, for staying with him for a good part of the match, but there really wasn't much doubt that the Fed was going to come out on top.
The official Roland Garros website's roundup of the match refers to Federer as 'in-form' and it's nice that he's finally getting some recognition. His first half of the season has certainly been lacklustre by his standards, but hey! what with the mononucleosis and all, who can blame him. I've seen some of his clay matches this season - that semi in Monte Carlo against Djokovic comes to mind - and I think I can honestly say that this is the best I have ever seen him play on clay. Sure, he didn't win Hamburg by beating Nadal like he did last year, but I really don't think that's the huge psychological blow people are saying it is. Actually, I think Federer might have been hiding his real game - he played very differently in that final to the way he played all week. And even then, if he had managed to hold out in that first set, then he would have won the match in straights. Rafa is the greatest dirtballer in the world, sure - maybe even ever - but Roger's pushing him, I think. And for that, I am glad.
Speaking of Rafa, I am torn between wanting a throwdown semi between him and Djokovic and wanting Djokovic to get knocked out embarassingly early. It is no secret that Djokovic is potentially my least-liked tennis player - I never thought I'd see the day that someone who overtake Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Murray in that standing, but it has arrived. He had a scratchy start against Gremelmayr yesterday, and, even though he won Rome and reached the semis here last year, has hardly established himself as a force to be reckoned with on clay.
No one can doubt the prowess of Djokovic as a player - he deserved his Australian Open win - but his personality leaves a lot to be desired. It is understandable that he wants to be #1 - who wouldn't? - but the lack of respect he shows for Federer is criminal. (Did anyone else get a surge of glee when Federer told Djokovic's abrasive family to 'be quiet, okay?' in that semi at Monte Carlo.) This is one reason, actually, that I'd like to see a semi between Nadal and Djokovic. Djokovic is always going on about he's going to be #1 and be better than Federer, and he totally forgets about Nadal. There is no one in the history of tennis that has been a more dominant #2 than Rafa. It was great to see Rafa lay the beatdown on him in Hamburg. It is time that Rafa taught Djokovic some respect.
The upset of the day yesterday was obviously Willy Canas's loss to Wayne Odesnik. I can't say much about the match as I didn't see it, but I'm not sure what happened there. Willy must've just had an off day, I guess... especially in the breakers! Odesnik is hardly one of the dangerous young guns - whereas Schwank, who took out Moya yesterday, obviously is. And speaking of upsets, I thought Venus Williams was a goner for sure in her match against Obziler. She dug herself out of it, but it was tight. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Venus has ever won the French... and I don't think she ever will. (The Roland Garros website would have you believe that Jankovic had a scare too, but that is melodramatising a bit, I think. That 12-10 final set against Paszek in Australia? That was a scare. Not a straight sets victory.) However, the US is doing better than last year, in the men's at least... anyone else remember that 0 from 9 last year?
And speaking of nations doing poorly, how 'bout them French? I mean, the ones that are still there are doing okay - Florent Serra and Michael Llodra, for example - but Tsonga out? And Grosjean? And now Gasquet? It ain't so good. I hope the break will be good for Richou at least, of whom I am quite fond... he has semifinal points to defend at Wimbledon, so I hope he gets his head back in the game by then. And if there is going to be a Marcos at this year's Roland Garros, it's not going to be Jo-W this time... or, indeed, Marcos, who got knocked out by Simone Bolelli today. (Although considering it was his first claycourt match of the season, I'm hardly surprised.)
And can I just say how much I love Radio Roland Garros? Infinitely preferable to the commentators we had in the Australian tennis summer (Jim Courier excepted - he's a champion.) No one has mentioned kitchens yet, and for that I am very glad! It was interesting to hear them talk about David Nalbandian, actually... they agreed that he is the most unpleasant man to interview on the ATP circuit. I always enjoy hearing the gossipy little details like that... often it reinforces my own assumptions! The commentator in Monte Carlo commentating the Federer/Djokovic match said that there was little love lost between them, to which my response was 'ha! I knew it!' I would love to know more about this... about who is friends with whom and who sits alone in the player restaurant because no one likes them. Sometimes tennis gossip is more interesting than tennis itself!
And finally, poor Robert Smeets. It wasn't a happy day for the Aussies yesterday - Guccione went out as well - but he got pounded by Berdych. That can't have been a happy moment.
Roland Garros Results - Day 2
Men's Draw
Roger Federer def. Sam Querrey, 6-4 6-4 6-3
Florent Serra def. Santiago Giraldo, 6-4 6-3 6-2
Tommy Robredo def. Guillermo Coria, 5-7 6-4 6-1 6-4
Michael Llodra def. Olivier Patience, 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 7-5
Simone Bolleli def. Marcos Baghdatis, 6-2 6-4 6-2
Nicholas Devilder def. Chris Guccione, 6-4 6-1 6-4
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez def. Sergio Roitman, 6-2 6-4 7-6 (7-5)
Tomas Berdych def. Robert Smeets, 6-1 6-0 6-0
Oscar Hernandez def. Ivo Minar, 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 7-5
Wayne Odesnik def. Guillermo Canas, 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (10-8)
Hyung-taik Lee def. Jonas Bjorkman, 6-4 6-4 6-3
Marcel Granollers def. Michael Berrer, 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-3
Pablo Andujar def. Filippo Volandri, 6-7 (6-8) 6-2 6-3 6-3
Fernando Gonzalez def. Pablo Cuevas, 6-3 6-3 6-1
Fernando Verdasco def. Santiago Ventura, 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-1
Women's Draw
Venus Williams def. Tzipora Obziler, 6-3 4-6 6-2
Jelena Jankovic def. Monica Niculescu, 7-6 (7-3) 6-2
Jelena Pandzic def. Severine Bremond, 4-6 6-3 6-2
Patty Schnyder def. Ekaterina Bychkova, 6-3 6-4
Emilie Loit def. Yan Zi, 1-6 6-4 8-6
Gisela Dulko def. Sara Errani, 6-4 4-6 7-5
Agnes Szavay def. Ayumi Morita, 6-1 4-6 6-4
Karin Knapp def. Martina Muller, 6-0 6-4
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Maria-Emilia Salerni, 6-1 6-1
Timea Bacsinszky def. Tamira Paszek, 1-6 6-3 6-3
Petra Cetkovska def. Alona Bondarenko, 6-3 6-0

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Kuerten Falls for Guga, or; the Tennis Pun So Bad It Cannot Be Denied

So much for my weekly roundup of tennis, huh? I guess that was being a little ambitious. After the Australian tennis summer, I'm always subconsciously convinced that the world will realise just how exciting tennis is and everyone will still be into it. But it never happens. Everyone forgets.
Actually, on a sort of tangent, I realised how little people know about tennis at the Australian Open this year when I was watching Rafael Nadal practice with Carlos Moya. 'Who's that practicing with Nadal?' I heard someone ask. 'It must be his dad,' someone else replied. I cringed. What is the point, I asked myself, of coming to an event like the Open when you recognise two, maybe three of the players? I mean, if it was Jarkko Nieminen or Sam Querrey or Philipp Kohlschreiber or someone practicing and they didn't know who they were, I'd get that - none of them are that famous - but Carlos Moya? Come on. He won a Slam (albeit in 1998, but still), was ranked #1 in the world and is, as one of my friends might say, a stone cold fox.
Speaking of Carlos, he lost at Roland Garros yesterday. I like him quite a lot, and I was very sad. This brings me back to the reason I've revived the ol' backseat tennis blog - we are, once again, in Grand Slam territory. Roland Garros, the French Open - which is, in many respects, the most interesting Slam of the year - has once again begun.
And, as I was saying, unfortunately, Carlos Moya, who won this tournament ten years ago, lost in the first round to Eduardo Schwank... who is really an interesting character in and of himself. I'd never heard of him until there was that hotel fire in Paris (that he started, apparently) and his prize winnings from one of the Challengers he'd just won went up in smoke. I must admit, my first thought was that that was a bit dodgy, because who pays in cash? but I suppose Challenger tournaments might have different standards. So yeah, he's never won anything before - this is his first ever Grand Slam match, if you don't include the qualies he played - and suddenly he wins three Challengers in a row. (Cremona, Rome and Bordeaux apparently.) And now he's beating Carlos Moya, who is a great player and seeded at the tournament... maybe he's going to pull a Marcos/Jo-Wilfried. Actually, if Marcel Granollers-Pujol wins his first round match against Michael Berrer, they'll face each other, and that could be interesting - Granollers ain't no slouch on clay, as he showed at the Houston tournament. Schwank is in the Djokovic quarter of the second half of the draw, along with Canas, Blake and Baghdatis... it'll be interesting to see how far he can go.
Actually, speaking of Challenger events, the whole Schwank story led me to looking at who has been winning the Challengers this year... I'd always assumed it was, like, this lower echelon of players that no one ever hears of, but a lot of them are top hundred - sometimes even top fifty. Ivan Ljubicic won a Challenger this year. Ivan Ljubicic, who used to be #3 in the world not that long ago, and who is seeded at Roland Garros. Seeded #27 or #28 or something, sure, but seeded. Who knew Challengers drew such good players? It makes me wonder what the Futures circuit is like. Are there people there that I've heard of as well? I had this image in my head of Challengers being people ranked down to about #500, and then Futures being #500-#1000ish (not that I ever thought it through). However, the standard is obviously a lot higher. I wonder how many of those top thirty, fifty players ever play a Challenger?
The real story of the first Sunday of Roland Garros, however, was obviously the emotional retirement of Gustavo Kuerten. (There is a really nice article in this month's DEUCE magazine, which does him much more justice than I can do here.) It was hardly surprising - and really, logistically speaking, everyone knew he wasn't going to get better after his hip surgery, and he really did draw this out A LOT - but it was still very sad. I wasn't really into tennis during the Guga years, but I still remember his three Roland Garros victories... him drawing the heart on the court in 2001 (or was it 2000?) and that great takedown of Sergi Bruguera in 1997. His run to the final that year was very Baghdatis-esque, with one change - Federer took Baghdatis out, much as Djokovic took Tsonga out this year, but Guga took out Bruguera, and he did it EASY. He was one of those instant superstar players that we haven't seen for a while... not since Nadal, really, when he won Roland Garros in 2005. And even then, Rafa was still seeded #6 or something, and I think he'd just won 5 clay court titles in a row, so it wasn't like it was totally unexpected. Guga came pretty much from nowhere. Don't quote me on this, but I think he was the lowest ranked player to win a Slam since Edmondson in Australia in '76. So that's some achievement right there.
And Guga was a good fun player as well. He was deceptively harmless looking... all thin and lanky, with that mop of funny hair, but if you gave him an inch, he'd wipe you off the court. And he was always so smiley. I like a good smiley tennis player. The more I think about it, Guga really is a prototype for Marcos Baghdatis - except that Guga made it to #1 and stayed there for a while, whereas Marcos made it to the final of the AO '06 and has been drifting round the top 20 ever since, but has hardly made huge waves. Not that anyone would ever expect the Baghdatises of the world to dethrone the Federers, but Guga's success is still proportionately much greater, I think.
So, farewell, Guga. It is sad to see you go... even if it has been coming for a long time.
Roland Garros Results - Day One
Men's Draw
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Gustavo Kuerten, 6-3 6-4 6-2
Novak Djokovic def. Denis Gremelmayr, 4-6 6-3 7-5 6-2
David Nalbandian def. Carlos Berlocq, 6-2 6-4 6-1
Andy Murray def. Jonathan Eyserric, 6-2 1-6 4-6 6-0 6-2
James Blake def. Rainer Schuettler, 6-4 6-1 7-6 (7-3)
Nicolas Lapentti def. Janko Tipsarevic, 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-6 (9-7)
Juan Martin Del Potro def. Josselin Ouanna, 6-3 6-2 6-3
Eduardo Schwank def. Carlos Moya, 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-7 (1-7) 4-6 6-3
Sebastian Decoud def. Olivier Rochus, 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-7 (8-10) 6-1
Jose Acasuso def. Dominik Hrbaty, 6-4 6-2 6-4
Maximo Gonzalez def. Roko Karanusic, 6-3 7-5 4-6 3-6 6-2
Jeremy Chardy def. Frederico Gil, 6-3 6-2 7-6 (7-1)
Nicolas Almagro def. Boris Pashanski, 6-4 7-5 6-1
Ernests Gulbis def. Simon Greul, 6-4 6-0 6-4
Miguel Angel Lopez Jaen def. Frank Dancevic, 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7-2)
Women's Draw
Alize Cornet def. Julia Vakulenko, 7-5 6-4
Ana Ivanovic def. Sofia Arvidsson, 6-2 7-5
Serena Williams def. Ashley Harkleroad, 6-2 6-1
Klara Zakapalova def. Virginie Razzano, 4-6 6-3 6-2
Mathilde Johansson def. Camille Pin, 6-4 4-6 6-2
Iveta Benesova def. Nicole Vaidisova, 7-6 (7-2) 6-1
Nathalie Dechy def. Julie Ditty, 7-5 7-6 (7-3)
Caroline Wozniacki def. Yvonne Meusburger, 6-0 6-2
Dominika Cibulkova def. Angelique Kerber, 6-2 6-2
Lucie Safarova def. Sandra Kloesel, 6-1 6-1
Anastasiya Yakimova def. Hsieh Su-wei, 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-4
Selima Sfar def. Stephanie Dubois, 7-5 6-2
Galina Voskoboeva def. Youlia Fedossova, 6-0 6-7 (4-7) 6-1
Milagros Seguera def. Lilia Osterloh, 7-6 (7-5) 7-5
Ekaterina Makarova def. Catalina Castano, 7-5 6-1