by Craig Hickman
Another day in Paris, another spring shower.
The day started well. The sun hung high in the sky-blue sky, but by afternoon, the clouds blew in, broke water, and delayed play for the fifth straight day. Pushed three second-round matches into Friday.
Gaston Gaudio performed like the weather. He started brilliantly against Lleyton Hewitt, hitting his tour-best one-handed backhand into the corners and took a two set to love lead. Played like the man who snuck through the draw and snatched victory right up from under the pre-coronated king on this very court in 2004. But then the foot-faults betrayed this imposter on that throne. Backhand winners disappeared like sunlight. Double faults splattered like rain from his racquet. Dropping his opening service games in the final three sets and never recovering, El Gato was sent home to ponder whether or not he'll continue to prowl dusty baselines around the world.
Say hello to Guillermo Coria when you get there. Let him touch that trophy one more time. Dance, together, round your illusory thrones.
No upsets today. Though Meghann Shaughnessy seemed poised to inspire new songs by ousting world No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova when the American raced to a 5-0 lead. But when sunny gets blue, her eyes get gray and cloudy.... Meghann lost 5 straight games and the match in straight sets. Simply amazing how she refused to hold serve again till the pressure of actually winning a damn set disappeared from her right arm. And did I mention she had two set points on the Russian's serve at 5-0? Well, she did.
Could you imagine if more players, American and otherwise, on both tours had even just a touch of Serena's Will? Downright indignant in her victory over Venezuela's Milagros Sequera today.
All in all, most of those expected to cruise did. Speaking of will, Rafael Nadal set another record, this one for the most consecutive matches won at a Slam the first time played (16-0). I expect that streak to increase.
The most dramatic match of the day wasn't televised in the States. A pity to have missed Argentina's Gisela Dulko waste five match points and lose a three-hour marathon to Russian teen Alla Kudryavtseva (say that five times fast) making her Roland Garros debut. Throngs of losers in suicide pools swarmed cyberspace lounges and threw back shots of tequila. No chasers allowed.
Gisela, get thee to a shrink. When you get there, say hello to El Mago and El Gato.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Jelena Jankovic vs. Venus Williams will be the All About Eve on the women's side. It'll be supported nicely by Justine Henin vs. Mara Santangelo, Marion Bartoli vs. Elena Dementieva, and Michaella Krajicek vs. Serena Williams, who plays two days in a row because of crying skies.
On the men's side, Gael Monfils vs. David Nalbandian should answer a few pressing questions. Can the resurgent homeboy breakthrough against the fading Argentine bulldog? Can Michael Llodra perform another miracle against the human backboard called Nikolay Davydenko? For whom will the home crowd cheer when Paul-Henri Mathieu battles Gilles Simon? Potito Starace will ask Roger Federer if he's really out of his slump and Juan Carlos Ferrero's fans will discover if Mikhail Youzhny has enough dirtball to stop a former king's current march toward reinstallation.
If only the rain will let the music play. Let the music play. Let the music play....
Thursday, May 31, 2007
by Craig Hickman