Thursday, May 31, 2007

Day 5: When Sunny Gets Blue

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.

Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts after winning a point to Milagros Sequera, of Venezuela, during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament, at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, Thursday, May 31, 2007. Williams won 6-0, 7-6. (AP Photo)

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....

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Spanish player Juan Carlos Ferrero runs into a referee during a match against US player Amer Delic during their French Tennis Open first round match at Roland Garros, 29 May 2007 in Paris. (AFP/Getty Images)

Day 4: I've Got a Crush On You

by Craig Hickman

Today, France had something to cheer. Despite the fact that their Anointed One, the absolutely obvious Richie Red Shoes Gasquet himself, bowed out early once again (check his Roland Garros record; it rivals that of any American male in its, well... lack), the fans were treated to some great victories, a few unexpected.

Amelie Mauresmo, Nathalie Dechy, and Marion Bartoli advanced to no one's surprise on the women's side. But it was the men who raised eyebrows.



Gael Monfils continued to impress by dispatching an in-form Juan Ignacio Chela in a tight four-set match the day after grinding out a grueling five-setter. Seems his new partnership with Tarik Benhabiles, the first (and only) coach that got the top American male as a teenager to the third round in Paris, is working just fine. Coming into Paris after a surprise run to the finals in Portschach where he beat the top American male and Lleyton Hewitt, but ran out of steam against red-hot Juan Monaco, who won easily today, Gael lit up the crowd with his big serve, big forehand and big heart. (Sound familiar? Those were the days.... sigh)

But in the upset special of the day, doubles specialist and serve-and-volleyer Michael Llodra humbled claycourt specialist and rising(?) star, No. 32 seed Nicolas Almagro, in a dramatic fifth set. The Frenchman didn't let the Spaniard breathe. He smothered the net 78 times and came away the winner on 48 visits. If not for the Spaniard's huge kicking serve which kept him in sets with 23 aces (Llodra had 19 of his own), Almagro might not have taken a two set to one lead in the first place. As it was, he squeaked out the third set tiebreak 9-7 after being down 3-5, with Llodra serving.



Venus Williams, in a match against Ashley Harkleroad that turned dramatic late in the second set, Jill Craybas, and a resurgent(?) Meghann Shaughnessy gave American tennis fans something to be proud of in the wake of seeing the last man set sail for London early.

In other matches, both No. 1 seeds were almost forced to play more than the minimun required. Roger Federer raced against the rain, the failing light, and an inspired Frenchman in Thierry Ascione who broke Raja serving for the match and then roared back from 6-3 in the tiebreak, rifling winner after winner right off the bounce and into the corners. A Hail Mary that earned him a set point on his own serve. But he missed his first serve, lost the point, and minutes later, the match.



Justine Henin was cruising with a 5-0 lead over Tamira Paszek, a nervous 16-year-old with a baby face and a woman's bosom. (In tennisforumdom, her last name has been pluralized and applied to her robust breasts, thanks largely to a photo of an outfit she wore that featured a cutout circle right around her deep cleavage... but I digress....you'll have to look that picture up on your own time.) The upstart's backhand is much bigger than her, well... (stay on the subject, will ya) and after she shook out her nerves (don't go there), she used it to yank Justine all over the court. In a run of her own 5 games, she made the two-time defending champ look rather ordinary. But then Carlos signaled for Justine to play more to Tamira's forehand (you'd think the No. 1 player in the world coulda figured that one out on her own, but I guess not), and the youngster making her Paris debut lost her way while Justine only lost one more game. But watch out for Tamira. With Guga Kuerten's former coach in her corner, she might be a champion in the making.

Maria Sharapova fought off an inspired rally late in the second set from veteran Frenchwoman Emilie Loit (despite the headlines, Maria didn't exactly cruise) to advance. And Roger-beater Guillermo Canas is moving quietly through the draw, earning lots of young fans along the way.



Postscript: With all the focus on Paris as Graveyard for American men (I won't post the links. There are far too many of them and besides which, it's no longer "news" worth reporting about), anyone notice the upsets of the specialists by the non?

Sure, Llodra grew up on clay, but his win still proves that you must play your own game to have any success. Even in split-pea-soup conditions. (James Blake beat Almagro last year with aggressive tennis on the muddy stuff.) Radek Stepanek beat Fernando Gonzalez by attacking the net. Dmitry Tursunov, injured left wrist and all, defeated Alessio Di Mauro. Sam Querrey almost took out a homeboy, folk chants, and second-hand smoke in his debut.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday Tirade: Roland Garros Edition

Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
by Craig Hickman

Yes. It. Can. Especially if you're a tennis player who hails from the United States. Especially if you're male.

There really isn't a whole lot else to say. No need to post all the losing snapshots. No need to even name names. About the only sentence necessary is the oft heard and/or read, "Americans suck on clay. They can't win on it."

And that, my friends, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. An omen so deeply rooted in the mind, it doesn't matter what happens on the court. Even if winning. "I'm not supposed to beat this guy" echoes like hypnosis, and... well....

A handful of American men won their first sets today. People were surprised. Shocked even. At least one of them (the only match I watched from beginning to end, save a few interruptions for other matches and the stuff of life) managed to put himself up 4-2 in the second set before taking a mental walkabout and never returning.

He thought he played well. Said so after the match. Didn't seem too upset about the way he lost. Even declared that up 4-3 and serving in the second set, he didn't miss a ball. He didn't. But he did so little with the balls he made, his Russian opponent could impose his game against little resistance.

It's easy to play well against little resistance.

If the American men are going to board planes with "I'm going to Europe in the spring and I can't win" on their minds, they may as well remain stateside. Spare themselves the humiliation. The state of being so... well... hung up.

After all, their minds appear to have taken enough beatings.

Day 2: If You Could See Me Now...



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Monday, May 28, 2007

Idle Chit Chat: Roland Garros Edition

Rainy Days and Mondays
by Savannah


It was known for some time that the weather for this week at Roland Garros was going to be, shall we say, iffy? Naw. They knew it was going to suck and that completing early rounds was going to be a problem. There was some tennis yesterday, of course. Those who rely on television and/or live feeds via the Internet know that Serena played Pironkova in a match that spanned, oh, eight hours with a five-and-a-half hour rain delay thrown in for shits and giggles. Marat Safin got his hitting practice in with an easy straight-set win over his "opponent." Justine Henin defeated a scrappy Elena Vesnina.

But Janko Tipsarevic also won his match over fellow Serb, Dusan Vemic, and Ivo Minar lost to Potito Starace. That news may come as a surprise to some since when you log onto the Roland Garros Official site you see the scores for Serena, Justine and Marat. Yes, we know they’re stars but on a day when tennisheads were suffering withdrawal symptoms it would have been nice to actually see what Potito Starace not only looks like but how he plays. The Serbians are threatening to become a power in tennis due to up and coming stars such as Jelena Jankovic and it would’ve been nice to have seen the men’s match as well. From the score, it seems to have been entertaining.

But what do I know? I’m just a tennis fan.

Oh, and about retractable roofs? Allo, Paris? We know your famed terre battue drains well and that players can play in a light drizzle far longer without risk of major injury. This is not the case with grass or concrete, we know that, and you are right Spectators crowd the Roland Garros stadium as poor weather has been delaying play at the French Open tennis tournament, in Paris, Monday, May 28, 2007 -  (AP Photo/David Vincent)to be proud of your surface, but if today is a washout I think it’s time to think about covering Chatrier and Lenglen, non?

Aussi, is something going to be done about the men's matches? No one can play best-of-five twice a day. With the weather report looking grim it might be a good idea to schedule some matches indoors, non? I know, I’m a lousy American and don’t understand everything that goes into this most Gallic of Slams but I have an opinion. And while I’m on this mini-rant have you ever thought of installing, oh I don’t know, LIGHTS? I thought this was the City of Lights. They actually play tennis after dark in some places, you know. Just a thought.

So what is a tennishead to do? There’s always gossip. I bet you didn’t know Enrique Iglesias and Anna Kournikova are now divorced. Yep. Splitsville. Didn’t know they were married? What planet have you been on? I think when a man goes public about his privates it puts pressure on his wife. Women love nothing more than a good snark. C'mon, girls, you know if you found out your girl’s man was, well, in need of specially made condoms (and not in a large way) you’d have a field day behind her back. Admit it. Poor Anna. Two marriages and she’s not thirty yet. She did marry that hockey dude, right?

Fansites are great sources of entertainment as well. Seriously. For some good laughs head over and read the Locker Room Confrontations, Roland Garros Edition. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny. Let’s just say that MV busy coaching Miss Serena and Queen Masha and their servants will keep you entertained.

Don't believe MV is coaching? Okay, so she's holding the balls here. She is on court. She does look official. Okay, so she's just holding his balls. The balls he's going to hit with silly. This can be read by children of all ages. The sun is out so you know this had to be last week.


There are also the karaoke bits players have recorded. Rafa was caught trying to sing "La Bamba." Why they’d have a Catalonian singing an old Mexican song is beyond me, but whatever. Novak Djokovic weighed in with “I Will Survive.” Svetlana Kuznetsova did her version of this classic last year. Novak’s version was cut off rather abruptly, which makes you wonder what he got up to after his shirt came off. There are rumors that Roger has one ready to debut but I wonder if that will ever see the light of day. We do see Roger during Rafa’s gig but in a non-singing role.

Rafa's Vid. Novak's. Best of 2006.

Jessie181 and aedra1119 over at TAT have provided lists of FREE Internet live feeds. Thanks, guys!

That’s it for today. Let’s hope the next time I’m writing more about tennis. Meanwhile, I’m waiting to find out what Queen Masha and Miss Serena are up to.

Memorial Day Order of Play

Play at Roland Garros held up by rain again. With a 90% chance of preciptation today, I guess I'll have to go back to bed. (Photo: johnelkington.com)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 1: A Soggy Day in Paris Town

by Craig Hickman

AP Photo

What a difference five-and-a-half hours make
That's how long crying skies delayed Serena's first-round match against Tsvetana Pironkova. After a movement-hindered, erratic start, Serena found herself down set game for the third time in 52 minutes. The hard-hitting Bulgarian teen, most known for dispatching Big Sis in the first round of Melbourne last year, frustrated Lil Sis with her backhand lasers down the line.

After the rain, Serena came back and lost just three of 15 games, reeling off nine straight after losing the last game of the first set. Her 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 turnaround was due largely to her improved footwork, her short-angled backhands, and her relaxed demeanor.

Thanks, Richard.

Oh, and those jubilant waves of the white flag over your head as your daughter executed your strategy perfectly were lovely to see.

Especially since the tight-as-a-drum lady in pink and purple who began the first set was anything but lovely. As dryrunguy said, Serena was moving like Estelle Getty. Then she woke up.

After the rain, there didn't seem to be a ball she couldn't get to. But more than that, her feet were in position to execute what she intended. Drop shots, pick-up volleys, passing shots and lobs.

Her tennis flowed like the rains, the sky crying long enough to quell her own tears and drag her feet out of the mud.

Before the rain
(Move cursor over the images for lyrics.)

I don't know why you can't keep the ball in the court either Serena. Relax. (AP Photo) Rain, rain, go away... (AP Photo)

...come again in two weeks... (AP Photo)

Picture of a tennis ball taken 27 May 2007 in Roland Garros as matches were suspended due to rainy weather on the first day of the French Tennis Open in Paris. With heavy rain expected and temperatures plummeting to 15 degrees, there are doubts over how much play would take place later today. (AFP/Getty Images)

Former world No. 1 Marat Safin returns a shot to Spanish qualifier Fernando Vicente at the French Open. Safin has become the first player to reach the French Open second round, easing past Vicente 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 as the second Grand Slam tournament of the season got off to a soggy start. (AP Photo)

The one who beat the rain. And an opponent who played nothing more than the role of hitting partner. More

After the rain, Justine Henin also advanced. Three more rounds, ladies. Thre more rounds. Just do it.

No Tennis, A Bit of Art

'Paris Street: Rainy Weather' - Click to Enlarge

Watch Roland Garros Live on the Internet

The Tennis Channel is providing free live video streams of up to four courts to complement their television coverage of Roland Garros. So if you're lucky, you can watch four tennis matches at the same time. A tennishead's dream, no? Click here to watch for free! Enjoy.

And while you're there, check out TATeur James LaRosa's blog. James (aka bea26, short for anastasia_beaverhausen of Will & Grace fame) won the Write to Roland Garros contest. The Hollywood screenwriter brings cutting wit and fabulousity to his live reports from Paris.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Roland Garros: Top 10 Women's Predictions

by Mad Professah

[1] Justine Henin (BEL). The 3-time French Open champion (2003, 2005 and 2006) is playing in her first Grand Slam tournament of 2007 after accomplishing the Federerian feat of appearing in all four Major finals in 2006 (albeit only winning one while Federer won 3). Unfortunately for Justine, she is in Serena Williams' quarter of the draw, and I doubt she will get past the newly-hungry American. If she does somehow get past the quarterfinal she will have Jelena Jankovic in the semifinal. The Belgian will not make her fifth consecutive Grand Slam final. Quarterfinalist or Semifinalist.

[2] Maria Sharapova (RUS). Sharapova has been having an annus horribilis after being demolished by Serena Williams in the Australian Open final (the first Grand Slam final the "It" girl has lost) and then being beat down again at the "fifth" major at the Sony Ericsson Open by the 8-time American Grand Slam champion. Last week Sharapova was upset by up-and-comer Frenchwoman Arevane Rezai at the Tier III Istanbul Cup. She has never made it past the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and this year will be no different. 4th Round or earlier.

[3]
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS). Sveta has been moving much better and even though she still looks like her clothes are two sizes too small for her sizeable frame, she is "fitter than ever." She has had some success but no titles on clay so far in 2007. She did beat her opponent in last year's Roland Garros final for the first time in nearly a dozen tries at the Qatar German Open before losing to Ivanovic in a very close final match played on the same day as her Henin victory. A few weeks later she lost to Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-1 at the Rome Tier 1 tournament. Luckily the Russian has the younger Serbian player in her half of the draw. Quarterfinalist or Finalist.

[4] Jelena Jankovic. She has a beautiful draw, with only defending champion Justine Henin or (more likely!) Serena Williams as a possible bump on the road to her first Grand Slam final. It's true Jelena plays too much tennis and racks up way too many frequent flyer miles, but I think she will break through to her first final in Paris this year. Semifinalist or Finalist.

[5] Amélie Mauresmo. After having a breakthrough in 2006 by winning two Grand Slam titles (Australia and Wimbledon), the fickle Frenchwoman flamed out of this year's Australian early and missed the entire early hard courts and American clay court season due to an appendectomy and recovery. Quarterfinalist or earlier.

[6] Martina Hingis (SUI). Due to injury she has withdrawn from the one Grand Slam tournament the Swiss former teen phenom has never won, although she has appeared in two Roland Garros finals (1997 and 1999). Withdrew.

[7] Nicole Vaidisova (CZE). The young Czech player had her breakthrough at last year's French Open, defeating Venus Williams and Amélie Mauresmo en route to her first Grand Slam semi-final. However, she withdrew from two Tier 1 clay tune-ups (Berlin and Rome) before Paris with a recurring wrist injury and is unlikely to make it very far. 4th Round.

[8] Ana Ivanovic (SRB). The pulchritudinous Serbian teen won her second Tier-1 tournament two weeks ago in Berlin at the Qatar German Open over Kuznetsova in a gutsy third set tiebreak, 3-6 6-4 7-6 (4). She has huge groundstrokes and has improved her mobility on clay. She is in a weak quarter of the French Open draw and should have little difficulty making it to a Quarterfinal against Kuznetsova. Serbia versus Russia, Round 4 will likely end the Serbian victorious streak. Quarterfinalist.

[9] Serena Williams (USA). If her serve is on and she arrives in Paris ready to play seven matches there's a very good chance Serena will be on her way to winning her 9th Grand Slam title of her career and her second of the year. However, in the way is Justine Henin in the Quarterfinal round. It is likely whoever wins that match will win the 2007 French Open title. I'm putting my money on Ree-Ree. Quarterfinalist or Champion.

[10] Anna Chakvetadze (RUS). This unheralded Russian 20-year old had her best result at a Slam at this year's Australian Open by making the Quarterfinals, where she lost a "scratchy" match to fellow Russian Maria Sharapova in straight sets. It's doubtful she'll get that far at Roland Garros. 4th Round.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I Love Paris In the Springtime…

I love Paris in the spring time, I love Paris... You know the song? Taken near the Champs de Mars. The building is a beauty too. (copyright © langaloo winston, TrekEarth)

What is it about a Grand Slam? Was it so long ago that tennisheads lived and died with Serena Williams in Hobart only to see her rise phoenix-like from what appeared to be the ashes of her career in Melbourne? Who can forget Oracene Price yelling at her daughter to “Get out of Melbourne!” or the disbelief even from Serena's fans as Maria Sharapova was reduced to being nothing more than a spectator at her own match.

And who can forget Fernando Gonzalez' miraculous run to the final losing to the man some want to call the Greatest of All Time?

But Melbourne is a distant memory and the warm up events, the Road to Roland Garros, are just about over. Jelena Jankovic gave her opponent a walkover today and is probably already in Paris. Lleyton Hewitt put up a fight but lost to Gael Monfils who is looking like Lazarus right about now. He was playing on the challenger circuit with moderate success a mere few weeks ago. Now he, as a European sportscaster put it, has added the scalps of world No. 3 Andy Roddick and the favorite of many fans, Lleyton Hewitt, to his belt as he heads for The City of Lights. Monfils plays Juan Monaco tomorrow for a championship many have already forgotten. But what they haven’t forgotten is that he suddenly looks able to fulfill the potential so many saw in him. Is Tarik Benhabiles, Gael’s new coach, on a mission? We’re watching.

We’ve had Monte-Carlo, Rome and Hamburg come and go. Monte-Carlo, hands down the most beautiful venue on the ATP tour, came down to a battle of the champions. Rome saw an Italian no one outside of tennis circles has ever even heard of take down the world No. 1. Just when it looked as if things were going to be dire indeed No. 1 and No. 2 played to their rankings on the slow dirt of Hamburg. Fatigue? Superstition? Who knows? No. 1 ran into the stands to embrace his long time girlfriend, a sight never before seen in public.

The women have not been quiet. Justine Henin managed to actually lose a clay match. Jankovic seems to be running on rechargeable batteries. Venus Williams has had a miserable clay season while Serena is being whispered about as the woman who will stand across the net from Henin. Can Jelena hold it together long enough, six matches to the final or will it indeed be Terror Fabulous hoisting the trophy?

The sisters Bondarenko, Alona and Kateryna, have made new fans. The Radwanska sisters from Poland have also got people looking their way.

You can’t talk women’s tennis without mentioning Maria. No longer the spindly girl, she now seems to have filled out. Will her serving woes right themselves in Paree? Aravane Rezai took her down today in straight sets. But a Slam is not Grand for no reason and I’m sure Maria wants to have some say in just who will be declared Queen of Clay for one year.

But all that is so much black and white film now. The eyes of the tennis world are on Paris. The men and women, the kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, the courtiers and courtisans, the wide-eyed and the ones looking ahead to the next event even as they unpack are all poised to wage war on the famed terre battue.

Let the battle begin!


Roland Garros: Men's Singles Draw



by Craig Hickman

Roger Federer SUI (1) vs. Michael Russell USA
Qualifier vs. Thierry Ascione FRA
Qualifier vs. Potito Starace ITA
Carlos Berlocq ARG vs. Julien Benneteau FRA (30)

Juan Carlos Ferrero ESP (17) vs. Amer Delic USA
Stefan Koubek AUT vs. Qualifier
Nicolas Lapentti ECU vs. Alexander Peya AUT
Jan Hernych CZE vs. Mikhail Youzhny RUS (13)

Tommy Robredo ESP (9) vs. Sergio Roitman ARG
Chris Guccione AUS vs. Qualifier
Janko Tipsarevic SRB vs. Qualifier
Qualifier vs. Marat Safin RUS (22)

Filippo Volandri ITA (29)
vs. Qualifier
Martin Vassallo Arguello ARG vs. Alejandro Falla COL
Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo ESP vs. Stanislas Wawrinka SUI
Arnaud Clement FRA vs. Ivan Ljubicic CRO (7)

Roger shouldn't fret too much with this draw. Unless, of course, some Gustavo Kuerten-esque clay-courter comes through qualifying and steals the show. (How often does Roger get the most qualifiers in his section of the draw? One could almost think this quarter was guaranteed to the man, but only a fool thinks draws are rigged, no?) After his win in Hamburg, the top seed says his confidence is back, but early round matches in Slams for him are either blowouts or unexpectedly tough. As much as I adore Potito Starace's game on clay (and his name), I can't imagine he'll trouble the Messiah unless he's firing on all cylinders out of the gate. Filippo Volandri, the not-so-surprising upset specialist in Rome, won't post in Paris, so forget about him. Really. Defending semifinalist Ivan Ljubicic will be lucky to get out of the first round and the seeded Spaniards in this quarter just don't cut it. Marat Safin needs to do everything he can to get to Roger so we can finally get a Slam rematch of Melbourne 2005 when he upended the defending champ in five brilliant sets. But even if that happens, Raja takes his quarter.
_______________________________________

Nikolay Davydenko RUS (4) vs. Stefano Galvani ITA
Alexandre Sidorenko FRA vs. Werner Eschauer AUT
Michael Llodra FRA vs. Nicolas Devilder FRA
Justin Gimelstob USA vs. Nicolas Almagro ESP (32)

Juan Ignacio Chela ARG (18) vs. Fabrice Santoro FRA
Olivier Rochus BEL vs. Gael Monfils FRA
Qualifier vs. Qalifier
Hyung-Taik Lee KOR vs. David Nalbandian ARG (15)

Richard Gasquet FRA (11) vs. Nicolas Mahut FRA
Kristof Vliegen BEL vs. Danai Udomchoke THA
Martin Verkerk NED vs. Simone Bolelli ITA
Victor Hanescu ROU vs. Guillermo Canas ARG (19)

Jurgen Melzer AUT (27) vs. Jose Acasuso ARG
Qualifier vs. Juan Monaco ARG
Edouard Rogervs.Vasselin FRA vs. Qualifier
Radek Stepanek CZE vs. Fernando Gonzalez CHI (5)

This quarter could prove most interesting. David Nalbandian was last seen playing golf in Cordoba, and Jurgen Melzer doesn't post at Slams, but any of the other seeds could win this quarter if the stars are aligned. But watch out for Gael Monfils. Recently transplanted Stateside with a new and passionate coach in Tarik Benhabiles, the three-time junior Slam champ knows how to win in Paris. I know, I know. The ITF isn't the ATP. But it's something. And he's having quite a run in Austria this week. Win or lose in the final, he'll arrive in Paris with a lot of momentum. And he'll devour the raucous crowd's love like creme fraiche. Nicolas Almagro, 2007 Valencia champion, might finally have his Slam breakthrough. Afterall, no players in this section will intimidate him with their presence. Verteran Guillermo Canas, who recently lost his doping appeal, plays well on clay, but outside of Slams, he's had his best results on hardcourts. And his claycourt season hasn't exactly been stellar. And look for Fabrice Santoro to play another 5-hour match. If it comes down to the new generation, I'll go with the homeboy (not the one with the red shoes), but it's hard to pick against Nikolay Davydenko at a Slam.


=============================================

Novak Djokovic SRB (6) vs. Qualifier
Sam Querrey USA vs. Qualifier
Jonathan Eysseric FRA vs. Olivier Patience FRA
Qualifier vs. Agustin Calleri ARG (26)

Dmitry Tursunov RUS (21) vs. Alessio Di Mauro ITA
Fernando Verdasco ESP vs.Qualifier
Robby Ginepri USA vs. Diego Hartfield ARG
Daniele Bracciali ITA vs. David Ferrer ESP (12)

Marcos Baghdatis CYP (16) vs. Sebastien Grosjean FRA
Kristian Pless DEN vs. Yen-Hsun Lu TPE
Thomas Johansson SWE vs. Jan Hajek CZE
Qualifier vs. Dominik Hrbaty SVK (24)

Florian Mayer GER (31) vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu FRA
Vincent Spadea USA vs. Gilles Simon FRA
Luis Horna PER vs. Nicolas Massu CHI
Igor Andreev RUS vs. Andy Roddick USA (3)

This quarter is wide open. The top seed won't get out of the first round, and if he does, he's getting booted in the second. Having failed to take advantage of soft draws two of the last three years, it's only right he get it tough on paper this time around. All seven players in his section can defeat him on clay. (Wouldn't it be ironic if this becomes the first time he advances past the third round? Well, I can wish...) Good luck at Wimbledon, Andy. That leaves the Djoke as the next highest seed, and since I have nothing good to say about him, I'll say nothing at all. David Ferrer could take this quarter if he brings his A-game, which includes the oft-missing mental tenacity he possesses if he's not playing someone whose aura overshadows him. Watch out for all the Frenchman in this section, along with Nicolas Massu, Florian Mayer, and unheralded Jan Hajek who won matches in Dusseldorf this week. I'll go with David Ferrer just because.
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James Blake USA (8) vs. Ivo Karlovic CRO
Peter Luczak AUS vs. Jonas Bjorkman SWE
Qualifier vs. Oscar Hernandez ESP
Qualifier vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber GER (28)

Carlos Moya ESP (23) vs. Andreas Seppi ITA
Florent Serra FRA vs. Igor Kunitsyn RUS
Robert Kendrick USA vs. Qualifier
Guillermo Garciavs.Lopez ESP vs. Tomas Berdych CZE (10)

Lleyton Hewitt AUS (14) vs. Max Mirnyi BLR
Marc Gicquel FRA vs. Gaston Gaudio ARG
Benjamin Becker GER vs. Mathieu Montcourt FRA
Feliciano Lopez ESP vs. Jarkko Nieminen FIN (20)

Robin Soderling SWE (25) vs. Albert Montanes ESP
Ernests Gulbis LAT vs. Tim Henman GBR
Qualifier vs. Teimuraz Gabashvili RUS
Juan Martin Del Potro ARG vs. Rafael Nadal ESP (2)

According to the picture above, Rafael Nadal drew his own quarter. Let's just say he shot himself in his painful foot. Paris plays relatively fast, and there are some big hitters in this quarter - Robing Soderling, Rafa's potential third round opponent; Tomas Berdych, who's had a suprisingly noteworthy claycourt swing; James Blake, who upset Nicolas Almagro, the third hottest player this time last year; and, of course, Dr. Ivo himself, who no one expects to do anything on clay and then he goes and wins his first ATP title on the stuff. (Green, yes, but many have said, including Serena, and she ought to know, that the fake stuff can be slower than the terre battue.) And then there's that Lleyton Hewitt, who pushed Rafa mightily in Hamburg, and Jarkko Nieminen, who, up a set and a break, came mighty close to ending Rafa's streak in Barcelona last year.. Still, how can anyone in their right mind pick against the two-time defending champion? As much as I go against the grain, I won't this time: no matter how tough the battle, Rafa win his quarter.

Roland Garros: Women's Singles Draw

by Craig Hickman

Justine Hénin BEL [1] vs. Elena Vesnina RUS
Tamira Paszek AUT vs. Aiko Nakamura JP
Tamarine Tanasugarn THA vs. Casey Dellacqua AUS [WC]
Agnieszka Radwanska POL vs. Mara Santangelo ITA [28]

Sybille Bammer AUT [20] vs. Roberta Vinci ITA
Yaroslava Shvedova RUS vs. Qualifier
Pauline Parmentier FRA [WC] vs. Qualifier
Sandra Klösel GER vs. Na Li CHN [16]

Dinara Safina RUS [10] vs. Yuliana Fedak UKR
Melinda Czink HUN vs. Tzipora Obziler ISR
Qualifier vs. Jie Zheng CHN
Yvonne Meusburger AUT vs. Francesca Schiavone ITA [23]

Séverine Bremond FRA [31] vs. Michaëlla Krajicek NED
Olivia Sanchez FRA [WC] vs. Shenay Perry USA
Milagros Sequera VEN vs. Virginie Razzano FRA
Tszvetana Pironkova BUL vs. Serena Williams USA [8]

Let's cut right to the chase: Two-time defending champion Justine Henin will face Serena Williams in the quarterfinal. Serena claims her lone Paris trophy is, well...lonely, so she's made Roland Garros her No. 1 priority this spring. Too bad a groin strain hampered her preparations, but dismissing Serena is an exercise in self-delusion. All eyes will be on this quarterfinal since their last meeting in Paris was tarnished by Justine's now-infamous hand incident. I don't care how much they claim to have moved on, when they take Court Philippe Chatrier, that incident will be on both of their minds, as well as every single viewer, live and in color. It's hard to bet against Justine on clay. It's even harder to bet against Serena. If this quarterfinal happens, and save a miracle or injury, it will, Serena exacts revenge in Paris.

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Jelena Jankovic SRB [4] vs. Stéphanie Foretz FRA [WC]
Catalina Castaño COL vs. Qualifier
Aleksandra Wozniak CAN vs. Ashley Harkleroad USA
Alizé Cornet FRA [WC] vs. Venus Williams USA [26]

Marion Bartoli FRA [18] vs. Aravane Rezai FRA
Jarmila Gajdosova SVK vs. Qualifier
Mathilde Johansson FRA [WC] vs. Anna-Lena Grönefeld GER
Angelique Kerber GER vs. Elena Dementieva RUS [13]

Nadia Petrova RUS [11] vs. Qualifier
Anastasiya Yakimova BLR vs. Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro FRA [WC]
Nuria Llagostera Vives ESP vs. Anna Smashnova ISR
Akiko Morigami JPN vs. Tathiana Garbin ITA [19]

Samantha Stosur AUS [27] vs. Jamea Jackson USA
Maria Kirilenko RUS vs. Maria Elena Camerin ITA
Qualifier vs. Vania King USA
Emmanuelle Gagliardi SUI vs. Nicole Vaidisova CZE [6]

If losses inspired Big Sis the way they did Lil Sis, then the straight-set drubbing Venus took at the hands of red-hot Aravane Rezai would propel Miss Vee past all comers, even the Serbian Diva, and into the semfinals. But I don't think they do. And Rezai lurks in the same section, provided she can get past her always-dangerous (if unpredictable) compatriot Marion Bartoli in the first round. Never understimate Elena Dementieva in Paris. I'm inclined to say that this is the Serbian Diva's quarter to lose, but she's played an awful lot of tennis of late, and she will be tired. As it is, she claims gastroenteritis forced her to withdraw for her semifnal match in Strasbourg. Former semifinalist Nadia Petrova isn't injured and, despite her recent woes, she loves Paris. This feels like one of the toughest sections to call quite frankly because I don't trust any of the favorites. Eenie, meenie, minie, moe.... The Drama Queen on current form alone.

=============================================

Ana Ivanovic SRB [7] vs. Qualifier
Alberta Brianti ITA vs. Sania Mirza IND
Tatiana Poutchek BLR vs. Youlia Fedossova FRA [WC]
Qualifier vs. Julia Vakulenko UKR [32]

Anabel Medina Garrigues ESP [24] vs. Varvara Lepchenko UZB
Elena Likhovtseva RUS vs. Yung-Jan Chan TPE
Olga Poutchkova RUS vs. Eleni Daniilidou GRE
Jelena Kostanic Tosic CRO vs. Daniela Hantuchova SVK [12]

Shahar Peer ISR [15] vs. Kaia Kanepi EST
Edina Gallovits ROM vs. Vasilisa Bardina RUS
Vera Dushevina RUS vs. Camille Pin FRA
Anastassia Rodionov RUS vs. Katarina Srebotnik SLO [17]

Martina Müller GER [32] vs. Qualifier
Qualifier vs. Tian Tian Sun CHN
Anastasia Myskina RUS vs. Meghann Shaughnessy USA
Ekaterina Bychkova RUS vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS [3]

Defending finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova loves Paris. If she keeps her head on straight, there really aren't a hole lot of challengers on clay for her in this quarter. Medina Garrigues might make some noise, loud enough to derail Ana Ivanovic's hopes to match her best Roland Garros showing to date, but everyone else is a tweety bird. Two first round matches I'd love to see are Jelena Kostanic Tosic against Daniela Hantuchova (this could go 10-8 in the third) and Anastasia Myskina against Meghann Shaughnessy. Elena Likhovtseva, who was supposed to retire last year, is always tough to beat, but I expect age is catching up with her at this point. At the end of the day, this quarter is Sveta's to lose.
_______________________________________

Amélie Mauresmo FRA [5] vs. Laura Granville USA
Caroline Wozniacki DEN vs. Nathalie Dechy FRA
Flavia Pennetta ITA vs. Nicole Pratt AUS
Yulia Beygelzimer UKR vs. Lucie Safarova CZE [25]

Ai Sugiyama JPN [21] vs. Eva Birnerova CZE
Romina Oprandi ITA vs. Meilen Tu USA
Anne Kremer LUX vs. Qualifier
Alicia Molik AUS vs. Anna Chakvetadze RUS [9]

Patty Schnyder SUI [14] vs. Martina Sucha SVK
Kateryna Bondarenko UKR vs. Zuzana Ondraskova CZE
Karin Knapp ITA vs. Victoria Azarenka BLR
Iveta Benesova CZE vs. Alona Bondarenko UKR [22]

Gisela Dulko ARG [29] vs. Qualifier
Julia Schruff GER vs. Qualifier
Lourdes Dominguez Lino ESP vs. Jill Craybas USA
Emilie Loit FRA vs. Maria Sharapova RUS [2]

In short, Maria Sharapova, who can lose quite realistically in the first round, ain't taking her quarter. But who is? Patty Schnyder is injured and bug-ridden, Amélie Mauresmo doesn't have the mind to achieve in Paris, and all the other seeds in this quarter are lightweights. And that's putting it nicely. If Schnyder isn't up to it, the only thing interesting about this quarter is that the Bondarenko sisters, both of whom have notched some decent wins this spring, might actually face each other in the third round. If the eldest can get past Victoria Azarenka. Only because I like her, only because I want someone from France to make the final weekend, I'll pick Amélie to finally breakthrough on home soil.

Roland Garros WTA Draw

by Savannah

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Justine Hénin BEL [1] vs. Elena Vesnina RUS
Tamira Paszek AUT vs. Aiko Nakamura JP
Tamarine Tanasugarn THA vs. Casey Dellacqua AUS [WC]
Agnieszka Radwanska POL vs. Mara Santangelo ITA [28]

The wild card in this section is Agnieszka Radwanska. She’s had a pretty decent clay season and a lot of people will be watching her to see how she handles losing to Justine.

Sybille Bammer AUT [20] vs. Roberta Vinci ITA
Yaroslava Shvedova RUS vs. Qualifier
Pauline Parmentier FRA [WC] vs. Qualifier
Sandra Klösel GER vs. Na Li CHN [16]

Can Bammer pull another surprise out of her hat and meet Justine? Everyone likes the tours favorite Mom but Sybille has not handled the post AO pressure all that well. She’s had some good showings but Justine is here to take names. Unless something drastic happens I see Justine coming out of this section with no problem. Too bad Li Na got stuck here.
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Dinara Safina RUS [10] vs. Yuliana Fedak UKR
Melinda Czink HUN vs. Tzipora Obziler ISR
Qualifier vs. Jie Zheng CHN
Yvonne Meusburger AUT vs. Francesca Schiavone ITA [23]

Séverine Bremond FRA [31] vs. Michaëlla Krajicek NED
Olivia Sanchez FRA [WC] vs. Shenay Perry USA
Milagros Sequera VEN vs. Virginie Razzano FRA
Tszvetana Pironkova BUL vs. Serena Williams USA [8]

The other women must feel like sacrificial lambs in this section. Unless Serena has a major brain fart there is no one in the way of her meeting Dinara Safina. I’ve seen Razzano at her best. I've never seen Sequera play but she has a surprisingly dedicated fan base. I see her as a wild card here. Of course Dinara is capable of uninspired play but this is Roland Garros. Unless Safina remembers how she came from behind to take out Sharapova ( I mention that a lot don’t I? I keep thinking that Dinara is going to show up again.) Serena takes this section.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
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Jelena Jankovic SRB [4] vs. Stéphanie Foretz FRA [WC]
Catalina Castaño COL vs. Qualifier
Aleksandra Wozniak CAN vs. Ashley Harkleroad USA
Alizé Cornet FRA [WC] vs. Venus Williams USA [26]

Marion Bartoli FRA [18] vs. Aravane Rezai FRA
Jarmila Gajdosova SVK vs. Qualifier
Mathilde Johansson FRA [WC] vs. Anna-Lena Grönefeld GER
Angelique Kerber GER vs. Elena Dementieva RUS [13]

Unfortunately for this Venus Williams fan I see Jelena winning that quarter. Aravane Rezai is playing a final on Saturday. Marion Bartoli just played very hard in Strasbourg. With her fitness issues I don’t see her going far here even if she beats Rezai. Anna-Lena Gronefeld also has fitness issues. Even if Elena wins her quarter I think Jelena takes her out.
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Nadia Petrova RUS [11] vs. Qualifier
Anastasiya Yakimova BLR vs. Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro FRA [WC]
Nuria Llagostera Vives ESP vs. Anna Smashnova ISR
Akiko Morigami JPN vs. Tathiana Garbin ITA [19]

Samantha Stosur AUS [27] vs. Jamea Jackson USA
Maria Kirilenko RUS vs. Maria Elena Camerin ITA
Qualifier vs. Vania King USA
Emmanuelle Gagliardi SUI vs. Nicole Vaidisova CZE [6]

Petrova is in free fall and Nicole has been nursing an injury. Nadia should still be able to beat Garbin though. If Nicole is fit she will meet Nadia. For some reason I’m picking Nadia.
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Ana Ivanovic SRB [7] vs. Qualifier
Alberta Brianti ITA vs. Sania Mirza IND
Tatiana Poutchek BLR vs. Youlia Fedossova FRA [WC]
Qualifier vs. Julia Vakulenko UKR [32]

Anabel Medina Garrigues ESP [24] vs. Varvara Lepchenko UZB
Elena Likhovtseva RUS vs. Yung-Jan Chan TPE
Olga Poutchkova RUS vs. Eleni Daniilidou GRE
Jelena Kostanic Tosic CRO vs. Daniela Hantuchova SVK [12]

I’d love to see Sania Mirza rise up and take this quarter but I saw the pictures of that wrap on her right leg. I’ve never seen Vakulenko play. I have seen Ana play and think she’s going to end up part of the new Royal Court in women’s tennis.

I’m still not convinced about Daniela. I saw her win and was still asking myself how she did it. She probably will be able to assert her will over her quarter although Anabel Medina Garrigues has had a great clay season. This will be a lot of pressure for AMG. Daniela has been here before. But it will be Ana moving on.
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Shahar Peer ISR [15] vs. Kaia Kanepi EST
Edina Gallovits ROM vs. Vasilisa Bardina RUS
Vera Dushevina RUS vs. Camille Pin FRA
Anastassia Rodionov RUS vs. Katarina Srebotnik SLO [17]

Martina Müller GER [32] vs. Qualifier
Qualifier vs. Tian Tian Sun CHN
Anastasia Myskina RUS vs. Meghann Shaughnessy USA
Ekaterina Bychkova RUS vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS [3]

It’s one thing wanting to be a star. It’s quite another thing dealing with the reality of it. A lot of fans liked what they saw of Camille Pin in Melbourne. There hasn’t been much to see since. Like Haruka said the AO is the freaky Grand Slam. There’s a long list of people who have done well there and then slowly faded into the background. Shahar Pe’er should be rested and ready to go. If Sveta is healthy she should have no problem in her section. If she’s not healthy Meghann Shaughnessy could end up playing Martina Muller. And that would give this section to Shahar Pe’er.
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Amélie Mauresmo FRA [5] vs. Laura Granville USA
Caroline Wozniacki DEN vs. Nathalie Dechy FRA
Flavia Pennetta ITA vs. Nicole Pratt AUS
Yulia Beygelzimer UKR vs. Lucie Safarova CZE [25]

Ai Sugiyama JPN [21] vs. Eva Birnerova CZE
Romina Oprandi ITA vs. Meilen Tu USA
Anne Kremer LUX vs. Qualifier
Alicia Molik AUS vs. Anna Chakvetadze RUS [9]

Amelie is playing a final Saturday in Strasbourg against Aravane Rezai. She has Caroline Wozniacki and more importantly Lucie Safarova in her section. Lucie will be a very difficult opponent.

I’m waiting for Anna Chakevetadze to impress me. Wild card here would be Oprandi although Meilen Tu surprised a lot of people earlier this year. Not sure how she performs on clay. This section could really see some upsets with Anna Chakvetadze playing Lucie Safarova. I see a well rested Lucie taking this section although I wouldn’t be upset if Amelie holds it together and gets through.
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Patty Schnyder SUI [14] vs.Martina Sucha SVK
Kateryna Bondarenko UKR vs. Zuzana Ondraskova CZE
Karin Knapp ITA vs. Victoria Azarenka BLR
Iveta Benesova CZE vs. Alona Bondarenko UKR [22]

Gisela Dulko ARG [29] vs. Qualifier
Julia Schruff GER vs. Qualifier
Lourdes Dominguez Lino ESP vs. Jill Craybas USA
Emilie Loit FRA vs. Maria Sharapova RUS [2]




In one of my online incarnations I am known for saying that Maria Sharapova always has cupcake draws in order to guarantee her an easy road to the quarterfinals. I don’t see anything different here.

Gisela Dulko is a good player. She should beat the qualifier in the first round and whoever wins between Schruff and another qualifier. I see Lourdes Dominguez Lino beating Jill Craybas and Maria Sharapova beating Emilie Loit. If it comes down to Dulko vs Sharapova I’ll pick Sharapova, serving woes and all.

Patty Schnyder says she has a leg injury. Alona Bondarenko pulled out of her last match with an injury. If they end up playing each other I like Bondarenko to ignore Patty’s machinations and beat her for the chance to play Maria. We’ll know then if what happened against Rezai today was a result of rusty play or not. Unless Bondarenko plays with no fear, this is a Grand Slam after all and makes sure to do to Sharapova what Rezai did to her today this part of the draw is as predictable as sunrise.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Roland Garros: A Tale of Four Finalists



As we know, last year Justine Henin defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Roland Garros final and Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer. This year, both two-time defending champions suffered their first defeat on clay to their runner-ups in their final claycourt events of the season before Roland Garros.

A nice bit of parallelism, no?

When Justine was recently asked who her biggest threat at Roland Garros would be this year, she said, "Clay is Svetlana's favourite surface. She has the potential to go all the way. How a player does at a grand slam depends on so many things. We have to look at the draw, the playing conditions or if somebody is sick or injured." [Src]

Surely, a determined Serena Williams or a fresh (wishful thinking!) Jelena Jankovic could challenge Justine on her beloved Court Philppe Chatrier, but Justine, at least in this interview, appeared only to mention Sveta. Tennisheads have suggested Justine, to her credit, is playing mindgames with the mentally fragile Russian, hoping to add more pressure to the slow cooker so if the two should contest another final (or semifinal, a possibility based upon their projected seedings), Justine will easily regain the edge and take down her "biggest threat."

Few doubted Justine chose her words ever so carefully.

Rafa, on the other hand, doesn't need to be asked who's his biggest threat. With Roger's comprehensive final two sets over the Claycourt Master in Hamburg this past Sunday, writers have spit out articles like extras proclaiming Roger's slump a thing of the past and predicting once again that this will be Roger's year to win his elusive Paris title and clench the crown of Greatest of All Time once and for all. However, when a fan wondered aloud if Nadal intended to lose in order to allow Roger to build up false hope (a "set up of arrogance," one tennishead put it), a throng of Federer fans squashed such a notion as the most absurb statement since my suggestion that Roger possesses an inconsistent forehand. Afterall, champions - male ones, anyway - don't play mind games. Uh huh.

While I don't think Nadal intended to lose, it will be interesting to see how each handles the result at Roland Garros where best-of-five set matches are more grueling than best-of-three. To Roger's credit, he doesn't appear to be reading more into the victory than necessary (the same can't be said for scores of pundits). Like the other World No. 1, Roger is cautious. "Everything starts again at zero at the French Open," he said. "I have to go step by step, it's best-of-five set matches, that's a big difference, and I have to check out the draw and see who I play." [Src]

If Rafa is playing any mind games with his words, you'd have to find them in these. "I lost against the number one and one of the best in history. He has unbelievable talent and he can come back at any time.

"I came here and played some of my best tennis and I can't be sad that I lose one match to the world's best player.

"I shall go to the French Open just as confident." [Src]

What has been missing from the hype for another potential Rafa/Raja final is that Nikolay Davydenko and Lleyton Hewitt showed how to take Rafa out of his comfort zone on his beloved surface. Juan Monaco, David Ferrer, and Carlos Moya all took a set from Roger. Filippo Volandri showed that pushing through till the end of the match can pay dividends against the Great One. And then there's that Guillermo Canas. One courageous victory by the FedGod over a mentally fried opponent doesn't erase what came before it, no matter how deafening the clamor.

Yes, Roger would want to check the draw.

If Justine or Rafa pull a hat-trick of titles at Roland Garros, more power to them. But unless you're fans....

If Sveta or Raja break through in Paris for the first time, one will shed her label as a One-Slam Wonder; the other will be crowned GOAT. I'm a fan of history, if not Sveta or Raja, but these labels mean absolutely nothing to me.

And I doubt any of these occurrences will make the sport any more attractive to the casual fan.

I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing four brand new finalists at Roland Garros this year. And if any of them is French, all the better. There's nothing like watching the home crowd at a Slam root for one of their own on the final weekend.

Now that would be good for the sport.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Roddick's Response to Men's Fitness Cover

Click to Enlarge"I spent the last few weeks in Austin really focused on my training and getting back into shape…but pretty sure I’m not as fit as the Men’s Fitness cover suggests…little did I know I have 22 inch guns and a disappearing birth mark on my right arm. I saw the cover for the first time when I landed after Rome…it was pretty funny…I walked by the newsstand in the airport and did a total double take …I can barely figure out how to work the red-eye tool on my digital camera…whoever did this has mad skills…maybe Rafael Nadal wants his arms back?…if you can manage to stop laughing at the cover long enough, check out the article inside, the photo shoot on the boat was pretty cool..and I recognize the person in those photos…"

from Andyroddick.com; photo from Tennis-x; Thanks to owendonovan and GVGirl at TAT

Say It Again!

"Jankovic has just announced that she will be playing both 's-Hertogenbosch and Eastbourne during the same week. After careful consideration her camp came to the conclusion that there just wasn't enough grass tournaments between Roland Garros and Wimbledon which rules out the possibly [sic] of overplay. She will make up for this by playing an event in England and the Netherlands within the same week by flying daily to and fro each tournament. I think this is the first time that this has been done in history. She is making history."

-- Jeremyclar, ESPN tennis forum

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday Tirade: Something About Andy



by Craig Hickman

On Saturday, Savannah alerted me to an fan discussion about forehands. One fan wanted to know how Roger Federer could go from wielding the best forehand in the game to one that couldn't keep the ball in the court in a short span of three or four months. Another replied with the names Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick.

I have only two words to say about Ferrero: Chicken pox.

But the difference between Roddick's forehand and Federer's forehand is that Federer's forehand has always been relatively inconsistent. Back in 2004, he shanked more forehands in his loss to Gustavo Kuerten at Roland Garros than I care to remember. He did the same against Rafael Nadal a year later. Roger was the "dominant world beater" by 2005, and he still couldn't hit a forehand in the court to save his life in that semifinal in Paris. Marat Safin exposed it in Melbourne earlier that year, but no one seemed to notice. Roger likes to hang out in the left court and run around his backhand, but Safin's backhand down the line made Roger run to his forehand and drew errors or shortballs for the easy putaway.

But now that Roger has recently shown that he can be had like anyone else if you just fight and press on like Lee Nails, everyone takes notice of his inconsistent weapon.

Roddick had the best forehand in the men's game for two years. It was as big as Fernando Gonzalez's and he hit it on the lines on a regular basis. His short angle inside out laser was unplayable. That single shot saved match point agaist Younes El Aynaoui in that now legendary quarterfinal in Melbourne 2003. But when Andy lost all confidence in his entire game circa 2005, he started covering the ball and that became a habit. He doesn't hit it flat anymore and that's one of the reasons why Rafa had his way with Roddick in Indian Wells this year. If Roddick hit his forehand like he used to, he's at least in that match, if not the victor (see: James Blake).

But Roddick's serve has suffered even more than his forehand. He knocked Rafa over with it the first time they played on a hardcourt at the US Open in 2004, but in their last match, he could barely get the first offering in. And when he did, it was in the middle of the box with nothing on it.

If I'm Roddick, I consult Jim Courier, a man who won two Roland Garros titles with a big serve, a big forehand, and a huge heart, something Andy also used to display on the regular (see: Paris, 2002; Melbourne, 2003; summer, 2003).

Andy's game has gotten far too complicated for his limited mind (his words; not mine). He can't outsmart opponents. But he sure as hell can hit them off the court. Problem is, he's taken so much criticism for being a ball basher, he doesn't bash the ball anymore.

He would do well to bash the ball. Grip and rip, baby. Ugly? If you say so. But it works. Rafa doesn't have a pretty game by any stretch, but it works.

And to those who say players now read Andy's serve better, I say otherwise. Players don't read Andy's serve better; he simply doesn't serve as well as he used to and that's all there is to it. His flat 140mph flat serve up the T used to hit the T. Now, it hits a foot inside the center line and only comes at 130mph. That 10mph and a foot make a huge difference for the returner. Roddick doesn't serve as many aces as he did when he was World No. 1 because he doesn't go for them as much anymore.

And his topspin forehand has become a neutral rally shot, indistinguishable from half the players in the top 50. I've no doubt he can get it back, make it a consistent weapon once more, but he has to stop with all the topspin, step up to the baseline, and become a mindless ball basher who plays from his guts again.

I'm hoping Jimmy Connors, one of the flattest strikers of the ball the game has ever produced, gets it right for Andy on the lawns. We shall see.

Photo Album: The Ladies of Instanbul







Thanks, Savannah.

Monday, May 21, 2007

YouTube Highlights: Federer vs. Nadal

Heard Around



by Savannah

Hamburg is over for the men. Rome and Fes are over for the women. Looking ahead, the two WTA Tier III events next week in Istanbul and Strasbourg have better fields than many Tier I events. The big boys of men's tennis are taking a well-deserved week off on the ATP side while everyone else, well maybe except David Nalbandian, seen above in Cordoba, is playing either the ARAG event or Poertschach.

Jelena Jankovic ’s fans are begging her to take a week off. Someone even posted a sarcastic jibe saying she would be playing both 's-Hertogenbosch and Eastbourne during the same week to make sure she gets enough grass court prep. And many fans didn’t get the joke. We love you, Jelena, but we want you around a lot longer. Relax. Your talent isn’t going anywhere. By the way, she's playing Strasbourg.



But there are other posts floating around the fan boards that are a little more serious and deserve some reflection. One thread, found HERE asks the question “Honestly Is Marat Safin Done?” A few of us tennisheads from Talk About Tennis got together recently and this subject came up all on its own. Has it really been seven years since Marat dismantled Pete Sampras at the US Open? At the time, I foresaw championship trophies piling up in Marat’s home. Most people, even fans, dismiss him as a head case ignoring the injuries he’s had. But what about his Davis Cup triumphs? A valid question since Marat seems to do well in those pressure cooker situations. Shamil Tarpishev seems to know how to motivate Mr. Safin but he has his commitments and it doesn't look like he'll become Marat's full time coach. What should be done? I have no idea. But if the question is being asked maybe it’s time for Marat to take a serious look at where he wants to be this time next year.

Ironically, there was a similar thread about Francesca Schiavone 's tennis status HERE. She is not winning the matches this year that she was winning last year. I haven’t heard about any injuries so maybe there is something going on between her ears.



The most interesting news from the women’s side other than Anastasia Myskina coming back in the French is that Jennifer Capriati is considering a comeback. An article posted in WTAWORLD from a local Palm Beach tennis magazine reports that Jennifer is working with Harold Solomon to get in shape and then see what can be done. At 31 and after having been away from the game for awhile I hope Jennifer gives any thought of return a clear eyed appraisal. She should also look at what is happening to Martina Hingis who came back at a younger age and after having remained fit during her time away. After her initial success Martina is struggling a bit. Jennifer was not very fit when she left due to injury. With Justine Henin, Serena Williams, Jankovic and others in top shape half stepping will not get her back into the women’s tennis elite.

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And, very quietly, Serena has reentered the top 10.

Roland Garros



The debate now centers on how the draws will look on both the mens and women's side at Roland Garros. The debate on the mens side centers on Guillermo Canas. He has not had a great clay season so far but will he put it together in Paris? Some would add Filippo Volandri who had a fantastic run at Rome. I would wait to see how he does away from the home crowd before making him into a giant killer. Lleyton Hewitt has shown that he does deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the other potential giant killers with his great showing at Hamburg. Will the French men get their act together and make a serious run on the terre battue? Will Richard Gasquet step up? Will Arnaud Clement, Sebastien Grosjean and others make life difficult for their opponents? And where will they be placed in the draw? What about Juan Martin del Potro? Jose Acasuso? Juan Ignacio Chela? Carlos Moya? Will Fernando Gonzalez break out of his post Melbourne blues?



As for the women Maria Sharapova will be making her comeback with a tune up in Istanbul before entering the fray at Roland Garros. Will a rejuvenated Patty Schnyder wreak havoc in Paris? Will Jelena be able to hold it together through seven matches and reach the final which many of her fans think she has a chance to win? How will the Chinese women do? What about the Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko who have been playing well of late? Will Amelie Mauresmo conquer her jitters and win it all? Or is it all moot and Justine Henin will be the one hoisting the trophy? What about Serena?

Paris, The Emerald City, is in sight now. It should be a very interesting next three weeks.