Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My French Open top 10

Sculpture at Centre George Pompidou

My top 10 French Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10: Back in the mix: Sania Mirza, with partner Mahesh Bhupati, on the French Open mixed doubles title. This is the pair's second major title; they won the Australian Open in 2009.

9. Gone so soon: Agnieszka Radwanska, who recently rose to the ranking of number 3 in the world, continued her tendency to under-perform at the biggest events. Radwanska, after beating Venus Williams in the second round, was bundled out of the tournament, 6-1, 6-2, by 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The former champion, who played extremely well, would, herself, go out to Sara Errani in the next round.

8. You want a jeroboam with that pizza?: Even that probably wouldn't help erase Sam Stosur's "Italian problem." In 2010, after knocking out Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic, the Austrlian star was out-classed by Francesca Schiavone in the final. This year, Stosur reached the quarterfinals and again appeared in excellent form, but there was no getting past Sara Errani.

7. The agony of victory: In recent times, few have fought harder to lose a match than Kaia Kanepi did in the third round of this year's French Open. Kanepi choked away 5-1 leads in both the second and third sets of her match against Caroline Wozniacki. As she gave away match point after match point, Kanepi appeared to be closer and closer to giving away the entire match, but in the end--after three hours--she emerged the victor of a memorable 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 contest.

6. Don't slip on the grass: Defending champion Li Na and 4th seed Petra Kvitova need to make a fresh start (yet again) at Wimbledon. Li was beaten (and got a third set bagel as a souvenir) in the round of 16 by qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova. Kvitova played eventual champion Maria Sharapova in the semifinals, and--Sharapova's excellent play aside--the 2011 Wimbledon champion made it pretty easy for the Russian to overtake her. Kvitova is just not the same player she was last season, a fact that some of us hope is remedied very soon.

5. You expect me to win in this outfit?: She had no music, she had no hoodie, she had no shorts, and she almost had no time to unpack her suitcase and put her things away. Victoria Azarenka, looking not herself from the first moment she walked through the tunnel at Roland Garros, went down a set and break points for 0-5 in her first round, against Alberta Brianti. Somehow, the top seed got herself out of trouble, and won the match 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. She would fall to Dominika Cibulkova in the round of 16, but at least she spared herself from a massive crash-out.

4. A plus tard!:  Last year, frenchwoman Virginie Razzano played at Roland Garros just a week after the death of her fiance, and--not surprisingly--she went out in the first round. This year, Razzano made it to the second round--in style: She took out Serena Williams, who many thought would win the tournament. Williams arrived at Roland Garros on the wind of a 17-match clay streak, having won both Charleston and Madrid. But she unraveled in the opening round, and Razzano--who has always been longer on talent than luck--took advantage. The Frenchwoman beat her 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, and there was quite a bit of drama involved, as Razzano cramped pretty badly, and chair umpire Eva Asderaki displayed a preoccupation with the hindrance rule. This occasion marked the first time that Williams has ever made a first-round exit in a major.

3. A match made in clay heaven: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci swept the clay season, winning in Acapulco, Barcelona, Madrid, and Rome. The Italian team then put a big exclamation point on that statement by winning the French Open. 

2. Brava Sara!: Sara Errani has been called "feisty" and "tough" by writers and commentators, but I prefer to just call her "Italian." Errani is part of the great Italian Fed Cup team, led by the stalwart Flavia Pennetta, that has beaten all manner of other teams, including one called Russia. No one could have predicted that Errani would make it all the way to the final, especially considering what she had to do to get there. Errani, who surprised the tennis world with her quarterfinal run at the Australian Open, took out two French Open champions, a French Open finalist and 10th seed (and on-fire 2012 player) Angelique Kerber. She was stopped by Maria Sharapova in the final, but she left the tournament as the winner of the doubles title and the runner-up in singles play. 

1. Ave Maria!: It seemed impossible not to share Maria Sharapova's joy when she won the French Open title. This is the player who most thought would never win at Roland Garros, even when she was healthy. Then, after being misdiagnosed, she played with a torn rotator cuff, and went through rehab, surgery, then rehab again. When she came back to the tour, she had all kinds of problem with her serve, which had been her signature shot. She lost confidence. Then she made it to two major finals--Wimbledon and the Australian Open--but lost them. And then finally, she got to hold another big trophy, the Coup Suzanne Lenglen. Sharapova completed her career Slam, and in doing so, she taught the rest of us a thing or two about what it means to never give up.


Daniel said...

How about a bottom 10? I know what #1 is....French Open apps! Horrible!

Diane said...

Yeah, and don't forget commentators :)