Monday, June 30, 2014

Wimbledon--what they said

Amazing, isn’t it? It shows that our tennis is really strong, we have great players. I’m happy for my country and I hope we just keep developing more stars like that.
Lucie Safarova, after defeating Tereza Smitkova

Before the match, umpire Mariana Alves had to ask the blonde, pony-tailed 21-year-olds wearing matching outfits and headbands how she would be able to tell them apart. For the record, the only notable difference was the model of their Wilson tennis racket.
Dan Imhoff, referring to the Kichenok twins

Here I think it's like make me more comfortable, because my parents came and we are in the house. So it's like at home for me. My mom is cooking and we are eating Russian food. It's really comfortable.
Ekaterina Makarova

She’s in top form.
Ana Ivanovic, referring to Sabine Lisicki
 
Barbora is very good with the tactics and she has great touch and great volleys, slice, everything like that.
Petra Kvitova

...Ask anyone. I can be a princess. I can be moody in the morning. My fitness trainer carries my tennis bag around. But that’s so I don’t get tired. I can demand a few things once in a while--but I do it with love.
Genie Bouchard

Rain interferes again at Wimbledon

The rain came down, the Centre Court roof went up, and Aga Radwanska--again looking lost when she should be at her most cunning--won a total of three games off of Ekaterina Makarova. For all our talk about Sloane Stephens and Tsvetana Pironkova and their ability to bring their best tennis to majors, it's really Makarova who reigns in this unusual category. If you follow women's tennis seriously, you knew the Russian was going to take it to Radwanska.

It was more of a mercy killing than anything else, I think. Radwanska just hasn't been herself since--well, you know--since she lost in the semifinals to Sabine Lisicki last year. Makarova's 6-3, 6-0 victory (interrupted by rain when Radwanska was down 0-5 in the second set) ended what was yet another unpleasant step in the 4th seed's 2014 progress.

Speaking of Lisicki, she defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Yaroslava Shvedova didn't have to resume her tiebreak against Madison Keys; Keys was still in too much pain to go on. All of the players from the USA (on the men's side, too) are out now.

As expected, Lucie Safarova ended her young countrywoman's run, defeating Tereza Smitkova 6-0, 6-2. It was, however, a really good run. 2011 champion Petra Kvitova defeated Peng Shuai in straight sets, and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, riding on a wave of Czech confidence, defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 7-5.

Serena-slayer Alize Cornet is out, too. Cornet failed to take advantage of a less-than-sharp Genie Bouchard, and lost to her in straight sets (7-6, 7-5). Bouchard was all over the place, and Cornet had a lot of opportunities, but she was unable to take them. Also, the Canadian seems to have that special instinct that propels her to victory even on a bad day.

Genie Army--you are spineless! Haven't you learned anything from Genie?

The Kerber vs. Sharapova match and the Halep vs. Diyas match were postponed because of the rain. Also to come in the third round--Lisicki vs. Shvedova.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova, who saved nine match points yeseterday against Cara Black and Sania Mirza, were a set up on Flavia Pennetta and Sam Stosur, and at 4-all in the second, when play had to be suspended. Also, the Kichenok sisters were leading Errani and Vinci by a set (7-5), but were down 2-4 in the second when play had to be stopped.

Ode to Wimbledon

Oh Wimbledon, you are so dreary,
with your Draconian, ever-changing rules,
your dim-wit schedule-making fools,
and your line officials dressed like freaks.

The staff must be a little bleary
from all that shoe and shirt inspection,
and spot-on serious detection
of women's bums for two whole weeks.

One has to be on guard and leery
of reading British press reports
on how to best see up the skorts.
The contempt for girls and women reeks.

Wimbledon, you make me weary

you make outrageous, pompous claims;
you don't even know the champions' names.
In actual fact, you're clueless geeks.

Oh, Wimbledon, you are so dreary.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Those middle Sunday blues

I don't like the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, nor do I understand it, given how much it rains in London in June and July. Anyway, here's a day when I have no appointments and I don't have to go to work, but there's no tennis. I've been walking around my house cleaning obscure things, so you know my rhythm has been thrown off.

Some of us just don't now how to manage the middle Sunday.



The rest of us might want to look at some relevant Wimbledon lists.

Or read an excellent piece on the formation of the Murray/Mauresmo team, and what it means in a world filled with sexism and misogyny.

Perhaps we can watch Chris Evert play Evonne Goolagong in 1976.





Or fondly recall Tatiana Golovin's "touch of color" on the Wimbledon lawns.

Some of us might want to re-live a glorious moment from 2006.



And some of us might just decide to chill out until play resumes tomorrow.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I was on to something

About the teddy bears. But I sure didn't see this coming.

Wimbledon--what they said

I think she was nervous, as well. She's a human like everybody.
Alize Cornet

I'm in a daze; I can't believe she lost.
Chris Evert, referring to Serena Williams

Nobody is smiling broader than Maria Sharapova.
Darren Cahill

I think it's nearly impossible for a teenager to win a Grand Slam because you don't get to play the top players at an early age, so you don't know what to expect. But if you're good enough, you'll make it in the end.
Ana Konjuh
 
As soon as women took the court, the entire Royal Box emptied out for tea--except for one woman in front row. Shout out, lady.
Ben Rothenberg

I just cannot believe it. A few years ago, I couldn't play on grass, I was so bad.
Alize Cornet

At the beginning of the match I was a little bit confused, but, yeah, you know, I was just trying to play my game and just keep going.
Angelique Kerber

I really want to put up a good game, and sometimes I did some stupid mistakes or didn't use my chances, and that's why I was a little bit frustrated.
Belinda Bencic

I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me.
Serena Williams

French fried

Alize Cornet liked beating Serena Williams so much in Dubai, she decided to do it again today at Wimbledon. The colorful Frenchwoman, who has dramatically put her career back into shape after experiencing a long slump, defeated the top seed 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Where Cornet goes, there go animation and drama, and today's third round match was rich in those elements.

The match began with an exchange of breaks, and then came the rain. Four and a half hours later, the players returned to the court, and Williams made quick work of the set, as Cornet struggled to keep the ball inside the lines and get it over the net. Cornet said later that after the rain break, she was having trouble just moving her legs.

She got them moving, however. The Frenchwoman stepped onto the court a different player when the second set commenced. She cleaned up the errors significantly, lurked inside the baseline, and started messing with Williams by drawing her to the net and then passing her.

I first saw Cornet play several years ago in Charleston, and was immediately taken with her. She has what Mary Carillo calls "French flair," and sometimes her little leaps and her matter-of-fact put-aways make me think of photos and footage I've seen of Suzanne Lenglen. When she gets in a zone, Cornet alternates soft-powerful, soft-powerful with a very pleasing rhythm.

She got into Williams' head. The top seed--dare I say it?--began to have trouble with her serve, of all things, and her backhand just wouldn't behave itself. She was visibly frustrated, while Cornet was serving well, hitting some wicked drop shots, and winning five game in a row. Just like that.

Of course, this plot would turn, and Williams would pull herself together enough to win three games, but Cornet managed to win the second set. The final set was more competitive throughout, but Williams still hung way back and let herself get pulled forward by the Frenchwoman. It was as though Williams was trying to play a different match than the one she was actually in. Because the one she was in required her to step forward and take some kind of control. But it was Cornet who remained aggressive, hitting a number of successful drop shots and getting the ball past the top seed over and over.

In the first game of the set, Cornet had four break points but could not convert any of them. The question then became "Has her opponent gotten into her head?" Many a player has left the court with "if only I had gotten that early break in the third (or second) set" probably looming in her head after a defeat by Williams.

Apparently, it didn't bother Cornet that much. She converted her fourth break point in the fifth game, which put her up 3-2. This is when Cornet became downright cheeky. She held at love in the next game, finishing it with an ace. Then she broke Williams again to go up 5-2.

Time for another plot turn, of course. It was no surprise that when the Frenchwoman served for the match, she was easily broken. Williams then held, and of course, it's this kind of turn that--even on her bad days--gives Williams just enough psychological edge to wipe out the hopes of her opponent. She has done it so many times, why not once more, at the event she has won five times?

Because Cornet wouldn't let her. When Cornet served for the match the second time, she was all business, reaching 40-0, and then--just because she could--ending the match with one more drop shot, adding a little insult to some significant injury. Talk about French flair.

This was Williams' earliest loss at Wimbledon since 2005, when she lost to Jill Craybas, also in the third round. Williams lost to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of this year's Australian Open, and she lost to Garbine Muguruza in the second round of the French Open, at which she was the defending champion.

Cornet has another tough task awaiting her: She plays Genie Bouchard in the next round. Bouchard, as expected, defeated Andrea Petkovic today, and did it in straight sets. Maria Sharapova (perhaps the most relieved woman in London right now?) beat Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0, and Simona Halep beat Belinda Bencic in straight sets.

Former Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva lost in three sets to Zarina Dyas. Angelique Kerber needed three sets to beat Kirsten Flipkens, and her "reward" is to play Sharapova in the round of 16. Kerber has a 1-4 record against the Russian; however, they have never played one another on grass.

Thanks to the rain delay (and the ever-mystifying Wimbledon scheduling), two matches had to be suspended because of darkness. Sabine Lisicki too the first set off of Ana Ivanovic, and they were at 1-all in the second set when the umpire stopped play. I have no idea why this match wasn't moved to Centre Court.

More dramatic was the suspension of play in the Madison Key vs.Yaroslava Shvedova match. Shvedova won the first set in a tiebreak after Keys saw four set points disappear. In the second set, Keys asked for a trainer at 5-all because of a leg injury. In obvious pain, she tried to get a 7-5 win in the second, but instead, another tiebreak ensued. Keys then asked to have play suspended because of darkness, and the umpire agreed, to the displeasure of Shvedova.

There is no play tomorrow, so both of the suspended matches will have to resume on Monday.

Rain delay miscellany

Wimbledon: Where it rains all the time but there is no play on the middle Sunday. All rational thinking brought to you by the All England Club.

Pat Cash had to withdraw from the legends competition because his shoes had some color on them. These are the only shoes that Cash can wear that will prevent injury to his feet, but apparently that meant nothing to Wimbledon officials. The former Australian star said that some of the WTA players were told to remove their bras because of color. Naturally, at her press conference, the very first thing Simona Halep was asked about was the "bra issue." Since the WTA would never dream of speaking up about the constant harassment--overt and otherwise--of the Romanian player, I'm ready to Simona to just stand up and punch out the next "reporter" who wants to talk with her about breasts and underwear.

Caroline Wozniacki called the checks of WTA players' underwear "pretty creepy." No kidding. Where, oh where, is Tatiana Golovin when you need her?

I can barely tolerate Wimbledon, as readers of this blog know. The "rules" and "traditions" are generally either totally player- and fan-unfriendly (and make no sense), or they are used to thinly disguise bigotry and delusional values. In some cases, they are not even followed correctly by the officials.

We're still in the first week, and the baseline grass has already disappeared on the courts.

Eugenie Bouchard and Andrea Petkovic have never before played each other on grass. Petko has won all three of their matches, two of which were on hard courts, and one (2014 Charleston semifinals) of which was on clay. Whether they play today depends up on the weather.

Update on Sloane Stephens: As of Thursday night, Sloane Stephens' agent had confirmed that Stephens was still working with Paul Annacone. Annacone neither confirmed nor denied the rumor that the two had split. Saying that Stephens is "still working" with Annacone sounds to me like the agent was just grabbing at a technicality, perhaps that the new coaching arrangement doesn't begin until after Wimbledon.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wimbledon--what they said

This is the best match I have played on grass since I won the title.
Petra Kvitova

As so often happens for the underdogs in such matches, falling behind seemed to lift the weight from Smitkova’s shoulders.
Michael Beattie

She played well at every single moment. I gave it my all. Sometimes it’s not enough. It’s a shame there had to be a loser and more of a shame that it had to be me. This was a great match for me. But the battle is always more enjoyable when you win.
Venus Williams

...I think I did great today with mental. It wasn't easy actually.
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova
 
Then the momentary distraction from above she was looking for. A trio of pigeons decided to land on the Slovak’s side of the court and were in no hurry to shift. She had to chase them away swirling her racket three times before a giggling Safarova could serve.
Dan Imhoff
 
If I want to break her, I have to win every point I can play.
Petra Kvitova

I need to play some matches before the big one. Is not only about technique. I think sometimes I don't know how to play the point, especially in the important moment. I think today I make a lot of mistake.
Li Na

This year has been great for me. People have been trying to retire me since I was 25.
Venus Williams

Who is Tereza Smitkova?

I doubt if many tennis fans had heard of Tereza Smitkova before this week. The 19-year-old from the Czech Republic made her tour main draw debut last year, and is currently ranked number 175 in the world (170 was her highest ranking).

Smitkova has won four ITF singles titles and five ITF doubles titles. She is coached by Jaroslav Machovsk√Ĺ and likes hard courts and grass courts.

Smitkova now has a 22-12 win-loss record for the year. In Wimbledon qualifying, she defeated Sofia Shapatava, Gabriella Taylor and Madison Brengle. Once she got into the main draw, she took out Hsieh Su-Wei (world number 126), Top Shelf Open champion Coco Vandeweghe (number 51) and Bojana Jovanovski (number 45).

Smitkova, who underwent quite a battle against her own emotions in her third round match, will meet her first seeded player in the round of 16 when she faces 23rd seed Lucie Safarova. Smitkova is currently riding a wave of Czech dominance at Wimbledon; four players from the Czech Republic have made it to the round of 16.

Czeched in!

If today's Wimbledon activities keep up, the Czechs will be soon able to party like it's 2011. That was the year that players from the Czech Republic won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon. Today, two of those players were simply stunning, and they were joined in victory by two of their countrywomen, who weren't too shabby, either.

2011 champion Petra Kvitova defeated five-time champion Venus Williams in a third round match that would have made an awfully nice final. In fact, two women will have to play extremely well in the final to top this match. One of the the television commentators speculated that the people in the stands probably hated the idea of one of the players losing, but of course, one of them had to. That's the sad part about a really great match.

Kvitova, the 6th seed, defeated Williams 5-7, 7-6, 7-5. The match lasted two and a half hours, and was everything anyone could have expected it to be, with both women living up to their Wimbledon champion credentials. Kvitova broke Williams only once, but it was right when it counted, at 5-6 in the third set. There was a total of three--three!--break points available in the entire match. The serving was outstanding by both, and both wound up with good winner-to-unforced error ratios--Kvitova's was 48/34, and Williams' was 25/19.

Earlier in the day, Czech player Barbora Zahlavova Strycova out-nerved, out-played and out-smarted 2nd seed Li Na. Anyone who knows anything about Zahlavova Strycova's game knows that she can do this, but that nerves are likely to get in her way. Not today. She came to the match with a perfect tiebreak record (eight of eight) for the season, and then added two more tiebreak wins (5 and 5) against Li.

The end of the match featured some drama. Li hit a ball that was called out and Zahlavova celebrated her victory and went to the net to shake Li's hand. But Li challenged the call, and she was correct. But no worries--Li then double-faulted, giving the Czech player a legitimate reason to celebrate the upset. Commentator Lindsay Davenport said she had never seen this before--that a player had what she thought was a successful match point and it turned out that she didn't. Funny, I've seen it happen several times, but then I actually watch women's tennis.

Zahlavova Strycova's drop shots were beautiful, and she didn't really have to change her strategy because Li just kept letting herself get set up over and over.

That's half of the Czech story. Qualifier Tereza Smitkova, continuing her out-of-nowhere run, beat Bojana Jovanovski 4-6, 7-6, 10-8. The match lasted two hours and 46 minutes; the final set alone lasted an hour and 39 minutes. Smitkova has now played six matches, and might be kind of tired, you think? Smitkova hit 16 aces in this match, by the way.

It gets better--her next opponent will be countrywoman Lucie Safarova, the 23rd seed, who today upset 10th seed Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets.

All the news isn't about the Czech Republic, though Czech players certainly grabbed today's headlines in a big way. Not surprisingly, Ekaterina Makarova put an end to Caroline Garcia's run, Aga Radwanska put a quick end to Michelle Larcher De Brito's run, Peng Shuai defeated Lauren Davis, and Caroline Wozniacki defeated Ana Konjuh.

Lesia Tsurenko lost to Simona Halep, but she took a set off of the 3rd seed. And Belinda Bencic defeated Vicky Duval 6-4, 7-5. Does the Swiss teen have a "bad" surface? She won the junior Wimbledon title last year, and also the junior French Open title.

In doubles, 13th seeds Lucie Hradecka and Michaella Krajicek were knocked out by Flavia Pennetta and Sam Stosur (each of them has held the number 1 ranking in doubles). The 15th seeds, Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, were beaten by Shuko Aoyama and Renata Voracova. And 12th seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yaroslava Shvedova defeated Zarina Dyas and Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 6-0, 6-0.

The Murray/Mauresmo nonsense continues. Today, Patrick McEnroe noted that Andy Murray has a tendency to "show angst" toward his coach while he's playing a match, but "surely he wouldn't do that to Emily." Why not? Because she's so fragile? Oh, and McEnroe, you might want to at least learn what her name is before you start with the sexist blather.

John Isner noted the other day that--although he thinks a woman can coach just as well as a man can--he probably wouldn't have a female coach because of the housing situation during a tournament. Right, John--that's why no WTA players have male coaches.

The Genie Army is missing! There is some speculation that Wimbledon is too "formal" and "stuffy" to tolerate the likes of these fans. The Genie Army could dress in blazers and sing "God Save the Queen" while they toss hundreds of teddy bears at Bouchard. But they're nowhere in sight. Some army.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sweeping the court

Mary Carillo will host the Women's Sports Foundation's 35th annual Salute to Women in Sports at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan on October 15. The Women's Sports Foundation's annual awards will be presented at the event.

The rumor is that Sloane Stephens and Paul Annacone have parted ways. It's a pretty easy rumor to believe, and as soon as I know more about it (I'm assuming it will be confirmed soon), I'll post more.

ESPN has signed a four-year deal with World Team Tennis to stream 20 live matches on ESPN3 (that's the WatchESPN app) and to broadcast the final on ESPN2.

Victoria Azarenka says that interacting with fans helped her to successfully cope with her long injury break.

You can get to know Tara Moore.

Wimbedon--what they said

I want to get further and beat these top players. I can't hope for a good draw. I've just got to make it happen. I'm positive about my game. I feel like it's a lot stronger than it has been. I'm getting a lot more consistent results.
Heather Watson

I think she has a great future. She played well. She hits the balls very fast, and deep (down) the lines. She's a very tough opponent, so you need to beat her. I actually expected a match like that.
Angelique Kerber, referring to Watson

I think Genie prefers grass more to clay. I prefer clay to grass. I know it's going to be really, really tough and a lot will depend on the serve, how well I move after the serve, because she returns so aggressively.
Andrea Petkovic
 
I’m trying to figure out when this is going to end. I’m really losing focus up here.
Serena Williams, at her post-match press conference

Williams and Sharapova advance easily to Wimbledon third round

There were  no surprises today at Wimbledon. Some players had to work a bit harder than others, but overall, things turned out "as expected." Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova lost just five games between them in their respective second round matches, putting them even closer on course to a likely quarterfinal meeting. 2013 finalist Sabine Lisicki faced another big server in Karolina Pliskova, but the German prevailed in straight sets. And Eugine Bouchard had to fight in her first set against Silvia Soler-Espinosa, but then won the second set handily.

Angelique Kerber proved to be too much for Heather Watson to handle, but Watson did take a set off of Kerber, which was impressive. Britain's number one player has had some really good wins lately. Every time a major rolls around, though, she gets the draw from hell.

Madison Keys beat 31st seed Klara Koukaova, but it didn't really seem like an upset. More of an upset was Zarina Diyas's victory over 15th seed Carla Suarez Navarro. Diyas is a very aggressive player who should feel right at home on grass.

Alison Riske advanced to the third round with a win over Camila Giorgi, and Vera Zvonareva continued her comeback with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Donna Vekic.

In doubles, the French team of Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia beat the Chan sisters.

Tomorrow, Petra Kvitova will play Venus Williams, and Michelle Larcher De Brito will have a go at Aga Radwanska. Also of interest: Belinda Bencic vs. Vicky Duval.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wimbledon--what they said

I'm going to be hard on myself just because I want to be better.
Victoria Azarena

She still possesses all the attributes that made her one of the greatest players of her generation; the quick hands, sharp reflexes, speedy court movement, and complete game.
Matt Trollope, describing Martina Hingis

It's nice to just be done in two.
Petra Kvitova

...it was quite clear in the opening games that the tall and powerful Venus was having a torrid time getting used to the neat and methodical Nara nipping about the baseline in front of her.
Alix Ramsay

Another one bites the grass

Victoria Azarenka, rather fresh in her comeback from a long injury layoff, lost in the second round at Wimbledon today. And while, given another month or so to get her rhythm back, Azarenka would certainly have been more in tune on the grass, there's no taking away from the fact that her opponent played a really great match. Bojana Jananovski held her nerve--something she hasn't always done--and defeated Azarenka 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Azarenka, the 8th seed, wasn't alone. 12th seed Flavia Pennetta sputtered out, beaten 6-4, 7-6 by Lauren Davis.

Li Na, Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Caroline Wozniacki all advanced. So did Michelle Larcher De Brito. And--seemingly out of nowhere--Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic has moved on to the third round. Smitkova beat Coco Vandeweghe today; in the first round, she beat Hsieh Su-Wei.

All four Czech players won today. In addition to Kvitova and Smitkova (who is ranked number 175 in the world), Lucie Safarova defeated Polona Hercog, and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova upset 32nd seed Elena Vesnina.

There was a major upset today in the first round of doubles. Andrea Petkovic and Magdalena Rybarikova defeated 3rd seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik. 4th seeds Cara Black and Sania Mirza defeated Martina Hingis and Vera Zvonareva, and 6th seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua defeated Genie Bouchard and Heather Watson.

Please note, the Radwanska Threat Level is again being posted. Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of Black Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wimbledon--what they said

Dimitrov is Maria Sharapova's latest love, and it breaks my heart.
Ken Thomas

...Tatishvili’s father and coach, Dimitry, took copious notes. Presumably the first point read: "Do not play Serena again."
Alix Ramsay

I really enjoyed playing here today and on that court. I do like that court a lot.
Heather Watson

I definitely am not pleased about my match, but it's just a learning experience, really.
Taylor Townsend

The first two days on grass are weird. I am just sailing through on the French Open ship, I hope.
Andrea Petkovic

Please welcome Elle Robus Miller and Maria Bartoli.
Announcer before ceremonial coin toss honoring Elena Baltacha

Plenty of upsets on the second day of Wimbledon

So much for the light and the joy. Jelena Jankovic made a hasty exit from Wimbledon in the first round today, defeated in straight sets by Kaia Kanepi. JJ did manage to crack up part of the crowd (and herself) over some antic or other she performed (her back was to the television camera) when Kanepi double-faulted on her first match point.

Commentator Chris Evert just couldn't stop making excuses for Sabine Lisicki's loss in last year's final. Of course, every time she did that, she dismissed the considerable accomplishment of Marion Bartoli. Evert was mystified that Lisicki plays well only at Wimbledon. I was waiting for a discussion of Tsvetana Pironkova, but then, the BWOM kind of messed up that discussion by winning Sydney this year. Oh--and she was taken out in the first round today by Varvara Lepchenko.

Lisicki, for her part, cruised into the second round.

Help! The really fun players are disappearing quickly.

No more Sveta. Wimbledon Russian-killer Michelle Larcher De Brito took care of that. There was a time, not that many years ago, when Larch De Brito was considered The One. She turned out not to be The One (though there's still time), but she caused a stir at Wimbledon last year when she beat Maria Sharapova in the second round. And though beating Kuznetsova isn't quite the same thing, it's still worthy of noting.

What's worthy of noting is what Caroline Garcia went through to defeat Sara Errani. She had to serve for the match twice, she saved a match point, and she and won it 2-6, 7-6, 7-5. Karolina Pliskova was down 2-5 in the third set, but beat Karin Knapp 6-7, 6-4 10-8. The match lasted more than two hours and 40 minutes. Pliskova's sister, Kristyna--a former junior Wimbledon champion--didn't make it, losing 6-8 in the third to Yaroslava Shvedova, who saved two match points.

Both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova advanced easily, though Williams had to work very hard to win the opening game against Anna Tatishvili. Daniela Hantuchova had multiple opportunities to get out alive against Genie Bouchard, and missed every one of them. Bouchard defeated her 7-5, 7-5.

Aga Radwanska (but not her sister), Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep all advanced, as did Vicky Duval, Heather Watson and Madison Keys. Seeds who were upset today were Jankovic (7), Errani (14), Roberta Vinci (21), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (26), Kuznetsova (28), and Sorana Cirstea (29). Both Donna Vekic and Belinda Bencic advanced to the second round.

A little off-topic--all that "Mrs. Li" stuff is getting on my nerves. I realize that the Brits (and unfortunately, most USA citizens) don't use the "Ms." honorific, but if you're going to use the "traditional" system (which is the only one in Great Britain, and which forces a woman to reveal her marital status), then do it correctly: The Chinese star is not "Mrs. Li;" she is "Mrs. Jiang." So much for Wimbledon propriety.

Don't forget that you can listen to Radio Wimbledon, and you can also listen to Radio Tennis. Ken Thomas is broadcasting from The Rose & Crown Pub every day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wimbledon--what they said

This time last year I was lucky enough to get a wild card into qualifying for Wimbledon. But the week before that, I was researching how to become an au pair, and I was going to go live in another country somewhere...because I couldn't afford to play tennis.
Naomi Broady

I'm not looking for anyone to believe in me or anything like that. You have to believe in yourself these days. I have nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to lose.
Venus Williams

Zero. I tried to find something on the Internet, but I cannot. Two or three days ago I was practice with another player, and her coach say, I think she has good forehand. I start to play her backhand today, and she didn't miss one shot. So I think I need to talk to the guy later, yeah.
Li Na, on what she knew about Paula Kania

I'm sad my streak is broken. But obviously there's nothing I can do. It feels like the end of the world now, but fortunately it's not.
Sloane Stephens

I don't think that it's pressure like 2012. But, I mean, I put pressure by myself to me.
Petra Kvitova

Venus Williams advances to Wimbledon second round

The 17th and 18th seeds went out in the first round at Wimbledon today, but is anyone really surprised? Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens were taken out by Yanina Wickmayer and Maria Kirilenko, respectively. 27th seed Garbine Muguruza also made an exit--also not surprisingly--a victim of Topshelf Open champion Coco Vandeweghe. Muguruza is all about clay, and Vandeweghe is kind of about grass.

I liked it that Tennis Channel said that Venus Williams was seeking her sixth Wimbledon championship; she is. Williams defeated a surprisingly grass-worthy Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor in straight sets.

Paula Kania gave Li Na all kinds of problems, but Li prevailed, 7-5, 6-2. I had never seen Kania before, and I enjoyed watching her.

Victoria Azarenka and her shorts (hey, Nike, it's about time) made a successful return. Azarenka defeated an inspired Mirjan Lucic-Baroni 6-3m 7-5. Petra Kvitova advanced to the second round with an easy win (6-3, 6-0) over Andrea Hlavackova). Naomi Broady won her match, and even delivered a bagel to Timea Babos. Lucie Safarova beat Julia Goerges 7-6, 7-6. And Jana Cepelova fell in the first round--yet again. She can be cut some slack this time, though, because she played 12th seed Flavia Pennetta.

On Current and Future

Todd at WTA Backspin has given us any number of original adjectives ("Jankovician") and nicknames ("Punch Drunk/Punch Sober"), the newest of which is Current Sloane/Future Sloane. The hope is, of course, that Current Sloane (Stephens) will eventually play herself into being Future Sloane. I wrote, a few days ago, that if pre-injury Maria Kirilenko showed up for her first round match against Stephens, it could get interesting, meaning--good luck, Sloane.

Uh huh. The "real" Kirilenko showed up, and frankly, on one of Stephens' good days, I think she would lose to Kirilenko on grass, but this wasn't one of her good days. Actually, she hasn't had many "good" days lately. Kirilenko defeated her in straight sets.

Will there ever be a Future Sloane? Who knows? But here, I speak not only about Stephens, but--if your name is Bencic, Svitolina, Townsend, Vekic, Schmiedlova, or some other phenom moniker--listen up, because I have two words for you: Michelle Wie.

The burden of being a teen phenom, especially in an individual sport, is a big, awkward load to carry. And especially if you're female. People build you up, and then--with glee--they tear you down. The more talent you are declared to have, the more vicious is the public pack when it rips you to pieces.

At age 14, Wie was said to have maybe more talent than any girl who had ever picked up a golf club. At age 15, she was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open at the 55th hole. At age 16, she came very close to winning three LPGA majors. And then it all went to hell. I mean, really to hell. Wie was cast as the most over-hyped, over-confident, over-everything athlete in the world.

Michelle Wie had an extraordinarily tough path to follow. She was a phenom who "went bad," she wasn't "white," she was female. But she had one really important thing (aside from her obvious talent) in her favor: She had parents who believed totally in her. And she did all the right things. She worked out hard at the gym and became even fitter. She went to Stanford and got a degree. She respected her own artistic ability and put a lot of energy into drawing and painting. She expressed herself fully as a person.

In 2009, Wie finally won a title. She won another one in 2010. Then she came this close to winning the Kraft Nabisco (The Dinah), a major, earlier this year. That had to sting, but it also meant that Wie was on the right track. Always known (and made fun of) for unusual putting techniques, Wie adopted the "table-top" style of putting last year, which makes perfect sense if you are aware of what a visual person she is. And yesterday, she won the U.S. Open.

Wie was the clear leader going into the fourth round, but her lead slipped a bit, and at the 70th hole she committed a double bogey. It looked bad. But she was not daunted by that; she went on to win her first major. The runner-up was world number 1 Stacy Lewis, which had to make the victory even sweeter. And even in celebrating the greatest win of her 24-year-old life, Wie has been criticized and made fun of for the way she did it: She drank from the trophy and twerked.

If Michelle Wie had pulled off all of her clothes and run down the highway drinking, twerking and singing "Single Ladies," it would have been okay with me. I teared up as soon as she won. It was a big deal. It was a reminder of how athletes inspire us. And it was a reminder that "phenom" craziness can be overcome.

Future Michelle has arrived. What a delight. Sometimes, the path is long and winding. Pay attention, phenoms--if your career doesn't go Evert- or Hingis-style, remember: Michelle Wie has a lesson for you, and it isn't in table-top putting.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wimbledon champion predictions

Jon Wertheim--Serena Williams
Darren Cahill--Serena Williams
Chris Evert--Serena Williams
Greg Garber--Serena Williams
Melissa Isaacson--Serena Williams
Brad Gilbert--Maria Sharapova
Richard Pagliaro--Serena Williams
Steve Tignor--Serena Williams
Kamakshi Tandon--Serena Williams
Cliff Drysdale--Serena Williams
Matt Wilansky--Serena Williams
Pam Shriver--Serena Williams
Todd Spiker--Agnieszka Radwanska
Ed McGrogan--Serena Williams
Pete Bodo--Maria Sharapova
Patrick McEnroe--Serena Williams
Mary Joe Fernandez--Serena Williams

Sweeping the court

Sam Stosur has parted ways with coach Miles Maclagan. The Australian star says she is in no hurry to find a new coach.

Simona Halep says that her shoulder is fine and that she's ready for Wimbledon.

Laura Robson has withdrawn from the U.S. Open

Eastbourne champion Madison Keys has been signed on as a Sports Illustrated Kids special correspondent. Keys will do a series of monthly videos called "Madisons Passport" (couldn't they have come up with something better than that?). You can see the first video here.

The pre-Wimbledon players' party was held Thursday at Kensington Roof Gardens. Here are some photos ('Pova made her Wimbledon white dress arrival in a souped-up Porsche).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Keys wins first WTA title

I went to Eastbourne and all I got was this stupid disk.

That's the t-shirt Angelique Kerber is wearing--in my mind. I mean, what do you have to do to win Eastbourne? Beat grass-threat Ekaterina Makarova, beat Caroline Wozniacki during one of her best weeks, play beautifully in the final. Oh--and beat Madison Keys. The last one was where Kerber stumbled, but only slightly. It was a great final with some exciting rallies, and it seemed fated to go to a third set tiebreak. I assumed it would. But right toward the end, one of them blinked, and it wasn't Madison Keys. It surely might have been; she was playing in her first WTA final, and at a premier event, too.

The 19-year-old Keys had quite a week, taking out both Jelena Jankovic and defending champion Elena Vesnina. Kerber showed big-time toughness in saving three match points on her own serve, but Keys scored a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory on her fourth match point. She hit 60 winners. Oh, and 17 aces. This is the moment that Madison-watchers have been waiting for; this is the young woman Chris Evert told us about many years ago, when Keys was still a child. Evert said (I'm paraphrasing--it's been a long time) at the time for fans to just be patient--she had someone who was going to be a big deal on the tour.

USA tennis fans had a very big day today because, over in 's-Hertogenbosch, Coco Vandeweghe won her first WTA title. I didn't see this coming. Vandeweghe has a huge serve, but--contrary to popular opinion--not everyone with a huge serve makes it (I give you Lucie Hradecka). Vandeweghe had to qualify to get into the main draw, so she had three "warmup" rounds, and in two of those, she took out Kiki Mladenovic and Mona Barthel.

Once she reached the main draw, Vandeweghe defeated grass court player Marina Erakovic, Vania King, clay upstart Garbine Muguruza, Klara Koukalova, and--in the final--Zheng Jie.

But these were not the only winners. The Chan sisters won Eastbourne, defeating Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 5-7, 10-7. Both teams were unseeded. Chan and Chan took out top seeds Errani and Vinci along the way.

In 's-Hertogenbosch, 4th seeds Marina Erakovic and Arantxa Parra Santonja won the title when they defeated 3rd seeds Michaella Krajicek and Kiki Mladenovic 0-6, 7-6, 10-8 in the final. Talk about a comeback.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Where's Luck when you need it?

Avon probably needs to cook up a pre-release sample of its new Maria Sharapova fragrance, Luck.
The Russian could use some, because she sure hasn't gotten any from the Wimbledon draw. Sharapova is in the same quarter as--who else?!--Serena Williams. Should they both survive until the quarterfinals, there'll be yet another Major Obstacle to Sharapova's winning a second Wimbledon title.

I say "should they both survive" because anything can happen. Genie Bouchard is lurking in that quarter (and could possibly get a challenge from Daniela Hantuchova, who, when she's "on," can still do some damage). It's a tough quarter. Petra Cetkovska likes grass, and she's there, and so are Kirsten Flipkens and Tamira Paszek--who have to play each other in the first round. Paszek qualified for the main draw--yet again--and will have her work cut out for her with the Belgian. And to make things a lot more complicated, Angelique Kerber is in that quarter, too. Some quarter.

The second quarter is anchored by Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic, and includes upset specialist Sorana Cirstea, teen stars Belinda Bencic and Donna Vekic, former finalist Vera Zvonareva, Ana Ivanovic, Zheng Jie, and 2013 finalist Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki, by the way, is no longer being coached by Martina Hingis. This quarter is also packed with promising young players from the USA--Vicky Duval, Taylor Townsend and Madison Keys. Townsend and Keys, in fact, may have to play each other in the second round, and that could be intense.

In the next quarter, we have 2012 finalist Aga Radwanska. Victoria Azarenka is in that quarter, too, but it isn't realistic to expect too much of her at this point, and especially on grass. But that doesn't mean that life will be easy for Radwanska. The Bulgarian Woman of Mystery is there, and we know how Pironkova loves Wimbledon.

Also a factor is Ekaterina Makarova, but she doesn't have an easy draw. The Russian gets Kimiko Date-Krumm right off, and if she survives that, she's likely to have to face Elina Svitolina. A win against Svitolina puts her head-to-head against the BWOM in the third round. There's a good chance that Pironkova and Radwanska will meet. Radwanska beat Pironkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 last year in the round of 16.

Finally, there's the "I dare you to predict this" quarter, which features both 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Li Na. A wild ride, that. Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams makes an appearance in this quarter, as do Maria Kirilenko, Sloane Stephens, Flavia Pennetta, Caroline Wozniacki, and a few other players who especially like grass courts. Kirilenko and Stephens face each other in the first round, and should the pre-injury Kirilenko show up, it could be interesting.

Sam Stosur is in this quarter, too, but it's hard to think she'll get very far. She starts against Yanina Wickmayer, and then could run into problems against Marina Erakovic. Wozniacki is then most likely to stand in Stosur's path, should the Australian make it past grass-loving Erakovic.

I said that the four women who could win the French Open were Simona Halep, Li Na, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams. Interestingly, two of them went out early, and the other two played in the final. The women I think are most capable of winning Wimbledon (again, in alphabetical order) are Halep, Kvitova, Radwanska, Sharapova, and Williams.

Halep is "iffy" because of her injury status. Sharapova is more than iffy against Williams in the quarterfinals. Kvitova's middle name should be Iffy. Still, these are all players who have what it takes to win the only major played on grass. (In theory, Lisicki has what it takes, but I don't see her winning.)

There are four former Wimbledon champions in the draw--Venus Williams (five times), Serena Williams (five times), Kvitova (once), and Sharapova (once).

Wild Cards

Silvia Soler-Espinosa
Samantha Murray (drew Sharapova in the first round)
Vera Zvonareva (2010 runner-up)
Tara Moore
Taylor Townsend
Kristyna Pliskova (2010 junior champion)
Jarmila Gajdosova
Naomi Broady

Qualifiers
Tamira Paszek
Tamea Bacsinszky
Lesia Tsurenko
Victoria Duval
Tereza Smitkova
Aleksandra Wozniak
Michelle Larcher De Brito (upset Sharapova in 2013 2nd round)
Anett Kontaviet
Andrea Mitu
Ana Konjuh
Alla Kudryavtseva
Paula Kania

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

There are still some things you can count on

The sun will rise in the east, summer rains will appear when you don't have an umbrella.....and Simona Halep--having gone deep in one tournament--will sustain an injury in the next one. Today the world number 3 retired during the second round of the Topshelf Open because of a shoulder injury (there may have been a wrist injury, also). The number 1 seed's retirement isn't a surprise. After going deep in one tournament, Halep is likely to retire in the next one. Whatever is going on, it needs to be addressed; evidence indicates that--so far--it has not been adequately addressed at all.

The transition from clay to grass is always difficult. 3rd seed Genie Bouchard went out in the first round to Vania King. Today, 6th seed Kirsten Flipkens, who is a good grass court player, was eliminated in the second round by Elina Svitolina.

Meanwhile, in Eastbourne, Heather Watson served out of her mind to defeat Flavia Pennetta 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. It was a masterful performance by Watson, who beat Tsvetana Pironkova in the opening round. Pironkova knows her way around a grass court, so Watson has now had two excellent wins.

Also in the second round, Ekaterina Makarova--always a threat on grass--defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who upset top seed Aga Radwanska in the first round. Defending champion Elena Vesnina was defeated 7-5, 7-6 by Madison Keys, who upset Jelena Jankovic in the first round. Victoria Azarenka (making her return to the tour), Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani were all beaten in the first round.

Caroline Wozniacki is making a statement at this tournament. She beat Sam Stosur in the first round, and Sloane Stephens in the second. Also winning her first two matches was Petra Kvitova, who will next play Watson.

Defending doubles champions Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik have advanced to the semifinals, as have Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Here comes AnaIvo!

Winning the French Open can have an almost magical effect on a player. It made Francesca Schiavone the significant sports persona she so deserved to be. It gave Maria Sharapova a Career Slam. It turned Li Na into an international superstar. It even saved Svetlana Kuznetsova from being given that offensive label, "one-Slam wonder."

But for Ana Ivanovic, winning the French Open seemed to be the beginning of the end. After she lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in 2008, she went into one of the biggest slumps in recent WTA history. So "slumpy" was the Serb that she sent a Christmas card to press and tennis personnel whose greeting was simply "Oops."

Last year, Jelena Jankovic began her steady climb back into the upper echelon of professional tennis. It was no surprise, then, that her countrywoman began the same climb. Earlier this year, Ivanovic won in Auckland and Monterrey. Today, she won her first grass title ever (and a premier one, at that), in Birmingham. Ivanovic defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Ivanovic did not drop a set throughout her week in Birmingham.

A few words about Zahlavova Strycova are warranted. The Czech player is better known for her considerable doubles skills; indeed, this was the first premier singles final in which she had ever played. Like so many other runners-up, the unseeded Zahlavova Strycova did a lot of heavy lifting during the week, only to find herself stopped in the final by a formidable opponent. It should be noted, however, that Zahlavova Strycova's accomplishments in Birmingham included the defeat of three seeded players--Lucie Safarova, Kirsten Flipkens and Casey Dellacqua.

3rd seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears won the doubles title, defeating 2nd seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 7-6, 6-1 in the final. This is the first title that Kops-Jones and Spears have won in 2014. The team now has five premier-level titles.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sweeping the Court

This week, Maria Sharapova was named the face of the new Avon fragrance "Luck," for men and women. Avon products are produced by the Avon Foundation, which offers powerful and humane support to women and girls throughout the world.

Victoria Azarenka (remember Victoria Azarenka?!) will return to the tour in Eastbourne.

Simona Halep got a warm reception when she returned to Romania after reaching the final of the French Open.

Martina Hingis has been granted a wild card into the doubles main draw at Wimbledon. Her partner will be none other than Vera Zvonareva (remember Vera Zvonareva?!)

You still have time to donate to the Rally For Bally.

When fiery Italians get together, they go to the beach.

Defending champion K.O.d in Birmingham

K.O.d as in "knocked out," but also as in Kimiko'd. Birmingham defending champion Daniela Hantuchova couldn't handle being on the receiving end of the Kimiko Date-Krumm grass game. The Japanese veteran/comeback player defeated Hantuchova 6-4, 6-0 today in the second round of the Wimbledon warmup event. Hantuchova was a point away from making the score 5-all in the first set when Date-Krumm began a pattern of complete domination.

Date-Krumm, who came from match point down to win her second round match against Monica Puig, has now advanced to the quarterfinals. This is the first time that she has reached the quarterfinals of a premier-level tournament since returning to the tour in 2008. The 43-year-old Japanese star said that her back "was so tired" when she woke up this morning, but she did some stretches and proceeded. Date-Krumm reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1996.

Also gone from Birmingham is 2nd seed Sam Stosur, who was defeated 2-6, 6-2, 6-2  today by countrywoman Casey Dellacqua. The two had not played each other in eleven years; Dellacqua now has a 3-0 record against Stosur.

Yesterday was a better day for Sam. She served four consecutive aces in her match against Christina McHale. I once saw Lindsay Davenport do that--I think it was in the 6-0, 6-0 match she played against Maria Sharapova in Indian Wells in 2005.

Top seed Ana Ivanovic cruised with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Lauren Davis, and 3rd seed Sloane Stephens defeated Alison Riske.

Some talented players were taken out early in this tournament. Gone in the early rounds were Caroline Garcia (def. by Vicky Duval), Lucie Safarova (def. by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova) and Donna Vekic, who lost to fellow phenom Belinda Bencic. Bencic was later defeated by Hantuchova.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sweeping the court

Andy Murray has hired Amelie Mauresmo to be his coach for the grass season. After Wimbledon, Murray and Mauresmo will talk about whether she will continue as a long-term coach. Mauresmo, the French Fed Cup captain, won both Wimbledon and the Australian Open. She was ranked number 1 in the world, and in 2004, she won an Olympic silver medal. Mauresmo is one of the co-directors of the Paris indoor tournament, and was on the list of possible French Davis Cup captains the last time the position was open.

I mentioned, not long ago, that former "Real Housewives of New York City" cast member Jill Zarin will participate in the mixed doubles part of the U.S. Open National Playoffs. Joining her will be cast member LuAnn de Lesseps, whose partner will be Elliott Pettit, a teaching pro at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. (I know, I know--money can't buy you game!)

Here are two icons of Paris for your viewing entertainment. Doesn't Maria look fabulous?

Caroline Wozniacki will return to the New Haven tournament this year. Wozniacki has a 26-2 record at the event. Also entered are Simona Halep, Genie Bouchard, Sara Errani, and Petra Kvitova.

Here's a peek at Serena Williams' Wimbledon dress.

Hsieh and Peng win French Open

Top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai won the French Open today when they defeated 2nd seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-1. That's quite a score to wind up with against the Italian pair.

Hsieh and Peng are the Wimbledon defending champions. Today's victory gives them their second major title.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kasatkina wins French Open junior title

17-year-old Darya Kasatkina of Russia did today what Simona Halep did six years ago--she won the French Open junior championship. Kasatkina, seeded 8th, upset top seed Ivana Jorovik 6-7 6-2, 6-3 in today's final. Kasatkina is the first Russian girl to win at Roland Garros since Nadia Petrova did so in 1998.

The unseeded team Romanian of Iona Ducu and Iona Loredana Rosca won the doubles title. Ducu and Rosca defeated 7th seeds Catherine Cartan Bellis and Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 5-7, 11-9.

Winning the Women's Legends competition were Kim Clijsters and Martina Navratilova, who defeated Nathalie Dechy and Sandrine Testud 5-7, 7-5, 10-7 in the final.

Road to Roland Garros--the soundtrack

If you've been keeping up with the "Road to Roland Garros" video series, then you know that DJ Adriano has put together a soundtrack for the event, using everything from Simona Halep's "balloon playing" to Sam Stosur's voice. (And then there was this exchange with Petra Kvitova: Do you play anything? "I play tennis.")

Here's the finished product:


French Open--what they said

This is the toughest grand slam final I've ever played.
Maria Sharapova

Reputation is such a formidable weapon.
Mary Carillo
 
I think it was a good, very good match today, a good final. I didn't expect three sets, three hours, but it happened, and I'm really happy that I could stay very long time on court. The atmosphere was incredible. Of course, forever I will not forget this match.
Simona Halep

There were a lot of different keys and there were a lot of ups and downs in the match. Just when I thought I was very close to winning it, I had lost four points in a row. Then the match becomes equal.  Then you find yourself in a position where you feel like you're starting over, which is quite difficult.
Maria Sharapova

It's the best day of my life; even after the match, I'm still nervous.
Darya Kasatkina

It is impossible to think there will not be other days for Halep. She will be the new world number 3 come Monday, and she has proven time and again this fortnight that she is surely the real deal. But Sharapova, the woman who once so loathed the red dirt, now loves the surface so much that she has made it the most successful of her career. And clay loves her right back.
Kate Battersby

I feel like giving a time violation to Kadir Nouni.
Mary Carillo

Sharapova adds second Coupe Suzanne Lenglen to her collection

Surviving her 20th consecutive three-set match on clay, Maria Sharapova defeated Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 today to win her second French Open title. And while the Russian champion didn't find herself right on the edge of defeat the way she did in some of her earlier matches, she did have to fight hard to the very end to overcome Halep.

This was, by any standard, an outstanding match, and one very worthy of being a major final. For those (and I count myself as one) who were hoping the 4th-seeded Romanian would find a way to prevail, it was also somewhat of a disappointment. But here's hoping that those other Halep fans are like me, in that I'm always thrilled to see Sharapova win a title, even if she beats my favored player.

Sharapova was broken right off, in the first game of the first set, but then, in her first service game, Halep was just barely missing her first serves, a problem that would continue, on and off, throughout the match. She did hold, however, as did her opponent.

In the next game, Halep saved three break points with an angled volley, a forehand down the line, and a second serve body serve, demonstrating why she's considered one of the cleverest players on the tour. In the meantime, though, Sharapova was finding the angles, too, playing "Simona style," and the Russian broke when a Halep forehand went wild. The game, though only the fourth one of the match, was instructive in that it demonstrated how much tenacity each woman has, and how much clay court skill.

Sharapova held for 3-2 in the next game, though she double-faulted at deuce, and then she broke Halep. After Sharapova held again, Halep looked a bit lost, but then--out of nowwhere--she held at love. When Sharapova served for the set, she was broken on the second break point. Had things turned around? At 4-5, Halep did the quick 1-2 with a big serve to save a break point, but then she was broken on the second break point when another forehand shot went flying outside the court.

That gave Sharapova the first set.

Sharapova held to begin the next set, then she broke Halep. At that point, however--realizing what could happen very soon--Simona Halep found new life. She broke Sharapova and then held at 15. Still, however, the Romanian struggled with her second serves.

In the next game, Sharapova hit three double faults--and held. In the next game, I remember thinking "Where have Simona's angles gone?" At that moment, she found a wicked one and held for 3-all. Sharapova then went up 40-0, but barely held, after which Halep also held.

What happened next is the stuff of YouTube, and will hopefully be on YouTube for all to see. With Sharapova facing a break point, the two women engaged in one of those rallies that demonstrates what can happen if you just knock yourself out to make one more shot. Both of them had to be exhausted at the end, but it was Halep who made the one more crucial shot and got the break.

The Romanian then went down a break point, and was broken when a "missed" return from Sharapova hit the net cord and dribbled over. The drama continued when Sharapova went down 0-40, then, eventually, saved a break point with an ace, saved another one with a huge serve, and then was broken, anyway. So had it turned around this time?

Not really. Halep was quickly broken when she served for the set. The tiebreak was when it did turn around. Down 3-5, Halep put the tiebreak back on serve, then created one of her extreme angles to make it 5-all. She won her next service point, then broke Sharapova to win the second set 7-6.

At the end of the set, Sharapova took a bathroom break. She was gone for so long that it appeared she might have gone to Belgium for the break. Finally, she appeared, wearing fresh clothes, on the court.
Halep was in no hurry to serve (Sharapova was given the official Nadal "no time limit" treatment throughout most of the match, by the way, and one can only imagine what might have come down had Eva Asderaki been sitting in the umpire's chair), and took a moment to kick the clay from her shoes and to signal to her opponent that she needed a moment.

She was broken. In her first service game of the set, Sharapova double-faulted twice. She finally got a time violation warning. And then she, too, was broken. Then each woman held, though Sharapova had to save two break points. Halep saved two break points, too, but was broken, anyway.

Sharapova then held at love, then Halep held. Halep's patience was really on display, as she deftly forced a Sharapova error with a slice backhand, and then broke when the Russian tried to go for a wide second serve ace. It was 4-all.

And then it happened: Halep was broken at love. Serving for the match, Sharapova didn't mess around this time; she held at love. after over three hours of beautiful, often grueling tennis, the 2012 champion became the champion again. The great Chris Evert presented Sharapova with her trophy, and both women gave memorable speeches.

What a match! We don't always get really good finals, but this one was extremely well-played and thrilling.

I think that Halep performed very, very well in her first big final, and I look forward to seeing her in more big finals. As for Sharapova: She had to fight like crazy from the round of 16 on, and though she had nothing to prove in the fighting department, she did show, yet again, that she's both physically and mentally fit for the battle, no matter how tough it is or how long it goes on.

Friday, June 6, 2014

French Open--what they said

Simona's court coverage is almost perfect. In the beginning, it seemed like she would be more of a
defensive player, but she has become much more aggressive now that she has gained confidence in herself
Virginia Ruzici

Generating tremendous torque, sometimes leaving both feet to hit, Halep gives as good as she gets from the baseline. Her serve is tricky and she plays angles deftly. And yet the lightness on her feet enables her to be among very elite movers and defenders in the game.
Jon Wertheim

Can we really be talking about a breakthrough? Motivation-wise, is it even a little bit on your mind? Like, "I would like to kind of close the door and show that the veterans are still the ones ruling this tour?"
I'm not here to prove that or try to show that.  I just want to take care of my business.
Maria Sharapova

I think Simona has been very nervous throughout the tournament. Nevertheless, she has been able to manage her emotions and win all her matches in straight sets. I think that in the final she’ll be more relaxed because she has nothing to lose against such an impressive champion like Sharapova, who has already won the French Open. I think Simona will be much more relaxed than in her previous matches.
Virginia Ruzici

But as we've learned from Sharapova over the years, when her back is against the wall, that's when she starts kicking. And hard.
Erik Gudris
ut as we've learned from Sharapova over the years, when her back is against the wall, that's when she starts kicking. And hard. - See more at: http://www.tennisnow.com/News/French-Open-Women-s-Final-Preview-Halep-Versus-S.aspx#sthash.V4IEiqiD.dpuf

Kamiji sweeps wheelchair events at Roland Garros

Yui Kamiji, the top-seeded singles player in the women's wheelchair competition, won the French Open today when she defeated Aniek Van Koot 7-6, 6-4. Kamiji and partner Jordanne Whiley also won the doubles title. Seeded 2nd, Kamiji and Whiley defeated top seeds Jiske Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot 7-6, 3-6, 10-8.

The two top seeds in doubles both advanced to the final today. Number 1 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai ended the run of Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro, defeating them 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. 2nd seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci defeated Lucie Hradecka and Michaella Krajicek 6-1, 6-2. Errani and Vinci won the Australian Open in January.

In junior play, top seed Ivana Jurovic of of Serbia defeated 10th seed Francoise Abanda 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals. In the other semifinal match, 8th seed Darya Kasatkina of Russia defeated Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. In junior doubles, the team of Ducu and Rosca upset 4th seeds Bains and Black, and the 7th-seeded team of Bellis and Vondrousova defeated the team of Stefani and Zarazua ("Renata Zarazua" is a wonderful name).

Women's final not such a surprise, despite many predictions

If ever there were two women who looked and acted like they were going for the title at Roland Garros, those women would be Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep. As Todd, at WTA Backspin, pointed out a few weeks ago, the Madrid final very well may have been the "preview" for the French Open final, and so it was. Sharapova has made clay her "home" surface, and the Romanian-born Halep, who--like Sharapova--is good on every surface, has always felt at home on clay.

I wrote that I thought that Halep, Li, Sharapova, and Williams were the only players I could see truly competing for the trophy. Two were the victims of early upsets, and the other two will compete tomorrow for La Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

Naturally, Serena Williams' victory in Rome made her look even more like the French Open champion than she was already touted to be, and a Serena Williams final wouldn't have been anything shocking. But for all her success in Rome, Williams has been somewhat "out of sorts" lately. Not only that--some the rising stars on the tour have metaphorically laced up their Believe shoes, and are playing fearlessly. Garbine Muguruza couldn't sustain her upset show to get past both Williams and Sharapova, but she got past one of them. Eugenie Bouchard made it all the way to the semifinals and came close to advancing even farther.

Sharapova, who has already won the event once, can fight like nobody's business. Her tight three sets against Sam Stosur, Muguruza and Bouchard were shows in themselves.

And then there's Simona Halep. She makes it look so easy, with her elegant sliding, her always-on-the move stretchy body, and her ability to make it appear that she has a laser beam built into her racket, finding angles to the quarter-inch. Halep is a joy to watch, and she knows how to conserve her energy. She lost to Sharapova in Madrid, after winning the first set 6-1. She has yet to drop a set in Paris, which is a good thing. On the other hand, she's never been to a major final before, and that can be daunting.

One way or the other, I'm expecting a good match. These two are fighters.

Here are the fighters' paths to the French Open final:

MARIA SHARAPOVA
round 1: def. Ksenia Pervak
round 2: def. Tsvetana Pironkova
round 3: def. Paula Ormaechea
round of 16: def. Sam Stosur (19)
quarterfinals: def. Garbine Muguruza
semifinals: def. Genie Bouchard (18)

SIMONA HALEP
round 1: def. Alisa Kleybanova
round 2: def. Heather Watson
round 3: def. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor
round of 16: def. Sloane Stephens (15)
quarterfinals: def. Svetlana Kuznetsova (27)
semifinals: def. Andrea Petkovic (28)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Sharapova effect

My cats watch tennis on television. Actually, they watch just about everything I watch. This morning, it was a pretty noisy affair. Maria Sharapova is, of course, rather vocal in her matches, what with the "Come on!"s and the screaming. According to Ben Rothenberg, the Russian was so intense in her semifinal that--at one point--she was actually softly grunting whenever Genie Bouchard hit the ball.

One of my cats really likes to scream; the other one likes to chat profusely. During the Sharapova match, however, they both began to scream and yell at a high level. Finally, I just looked at them and said "Shara-pOva!" and they went crazy. It went on for quite a while.

The tabby already has a habit of screaming back at Victoria Azarenka, but she hasn't had a chance to indulge in this activity for a while, so I guess she had to let loose with 'Pova. And--as if you didn't already know this--the household got quiet when Simona Halep and Andrea Petkovic stepped onto the court.

Groenefeld and Rojer win French Open mixed doubles title

Anna-Lena Groenefeld had to play her doubles partner, Julia Goerges, today in the final of the French Open mixed doubles competition. Groenefeld and her partner, Jean-Julien Rojer defeated Goerges and Nenad Zimonjic 4-6, 6-2, 10-7.

Groenefeld and Rojer had never played together before and did not even have a chance to practice together. Goerges and Zimonjic were seeded 8th; Groenefeld and Rojer were unseeded.

Groenefeld, playing with Mark Knowles, won the Wimbledon mixed doubles championship in 2009.

French Open--what they said

I would love to win those matches in two sets, but I always feel like I put in the work to be ready to play whatever it takes. If it takes three hours to win the match in three sets, I will be ready for that.
Maria Sharapova
 
I think she always has a strong presence on the court.   But that's how it is when you play a great champion. You definitely feel their presence. I want to do that as well on the court. I think it elevates the match.
Eugenie Bouchard

I will fight for this one. I played a really good match in Madrid first set. I started really well. I was very fast on court, and I opened the angles very well. But she came back very, very well and she hit strong, stronger than me at that moment. Now, I have to be aggressive again, to play fast, like my style, and to stay there with the nerves. It will be a tough moment for me. I know. I'm sure that will be. But I have to be happy and just to enjoy. I cannot say how I will feel Saturday. I cannot now. I don't know how is it to play a final of a Grand Slam.
Simona Halep

...once she starts opening up the court, she plays super smart and she really uses the whole court.
Andrea Petkovic

 How did you end up playing together?  How did that happen?
Well, actually, I was asking around. No one wanted to play with me, and then he said yes. I was like, "Yeah."
Anna-Lena Groenefeld

Sharapova and Halep to meet in French Open final

It didn't take a lot of imagination to believe that Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep would end up together in the Roland Garros final. Unless, of course, you're a member of the U.S. tennis media, in which case, perhaps you're still sitting there a bit slack-jawed. The 2012 champion, seeded 7th at the event, did "that thing" again today--dropped a set, picked right up in the next set, and won the third set 6-2. Genie Bouchard apparently didn't get the memo about needing to beat 'Pova in straights if she were to have a chance.

It was a pretty good match, as far as these types of matches go. Bouchard played a great first set, letting Sharapova look into a mirror and see all her own signature shots come right back at her--often as winners. The Canadian was aggressive and she was accurate, which is a deadly combination in tennis. She eventually caved, though. And you have to wonder whether part of her was just waiting for it to happen. Sharapova's ability to pull comebacks at this tournament is scary.

The thing is, Sharapova didn't really play at that high a level throughout much of today's semifinal, making it theoretically easier for the very motivated Genie Bouchard to carve away at the Russian's confidence, as well as her game. But that's just theory. The fact was, Sharapova had very recent memories of making big match comebacks in both the round of 16 and the quarterfinals. The knowledge that she could do it helped her to do it again. Bouchard is a real talent, and her ascent is very impressive, but Sharapova had history on her side--tennis history and her personal history. She hit harder, found more angles and moved better when the time came that she had to fight to survive.

Sharapova's 4-6, 7-5 6-2 victory places her in the final for a third consecutive year.

For Simona Halep, this is new territory. Halep expertly defeated a nervous Andrea Petkovic, 6-2, 7-6. Petko had her moments, and some of the rallies were very exciting, but in the end, Halep--once again--knew how to win. Halep had first and second serve win percentages of 75 and 56.

The 4th seed has yet to drop a set at Roland Garros. By the end of today's match, she had bits of clay all over her, which made me think briefly of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who used to leave the court with part of the court sticking to her body.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2015 Fed Cup draw made today

This morning at Roland Garros, the 2015 Fed Cup first round draw was made:

World Group

Canada vs. Czech Republic
Italy vs. France
Poland vs. Russia
Germany vs. Australia

World Group II
The Netherlands vs. Slovakia
Romania vs. Spain
Sweden vs. Switzerland
Argentina vs. USA

Also, it was determined that the 2014 Fed Cup final, which will feature the Czech Republic and Germany, will be held in Prague on an indoor court. An indoor court is, of course, the favored surface of Czech star Petra Kvitova.

French Open--what they said

I think she played a good match. The problem was not that. It was me. No power, no energy. Like that, it's tough to play tennis.
Sara Errani

It’s the type of tennis that, in theory, any pro should be able to play, but it’s not nearly as easy as Petkovic made it look.
Steve Tignor

I have to say, today I was in a real zone. I didn't think at all. I was just focused on what I had to do.
Andrea Petkovic

You can put many excuses or whatever, but I think the key is that Simona was at her best. My movement was not perfect; the shots not so good.
Svetlana Kuznetsova

Does any player, man or woman, move the ball from one corner to the other as freely and easily and smoothly as Halep does?
Steve Tignor

This time I was very relaxed and it was a perfect day. So now I feel good. I feel my game. I feel prepared for the next match.
Simona Halep

I was just overwhelmed by emotion. I had no boy to kiss, so I kissed my racket.
Andrea Petkovic

Down to four

Victory Column, Place du Chatelet
One is on a major comeback path, one is the upstart of upstarts, one has quietly worked her way to the elite end of professional tennis--and then there's Maria Sharapova.

It used to be Andrea Petkovic, aka Petko, aka Petkorazzi, who was the leader of the most recent wave of German tennis on the WTA tour. But her injuries were serious and chronic, and so it fell (pun perhaps unconsciously intended) to Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki to take on the role of Germany's major hope. Kerber has had to deal with a chronic back problem, which seems to have put her upward climb on hold. Kerber has also had an issue with being too defensive a player (though her defensive play has gotten her pretty far). And for all her talent, Lisicki is both mentally and physically fragile, and hasn't been able to make good on the expectations held of her.

Petko, who won Charleston this year, said in April that having to endure so many injuries and so much rehab taught her to stop relying so much on her physical prowess and to be a smarter tennis player. The banging up of one's body is never a "blessing" in disguise, but Petkovic has used her misfortune to learn an important lesson. Just how important that lesson has been is evident by her performance in Paris. And while it's true that the German delight hasn't had to face anyone seeded very high except for 10th seed (and 2012 finalist) Sara Errani, she took out hard-fighting crowd favorite Kiki Mladenovic and a very determined Kiki Bertens. (Among her other varied and amazing talents, Petko is now also the Kiki-Slayer!)

Eugenie Bouchard, who gets to play You-Know-Who in the semifinals, perhaps appears all the more amazing because she still has a child's face (thus making it easy for fans to project qualities onto her-- and to project stuffed animals at her). But regardless of how young she looks and whatever illusion that creates, Bouchard is obviously the Real Thing. The Canadian star also reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, and she recently won her first title in Nurnberg. Bouchard appears to be blessed with a champion's mindset, in addition to her athletic skills.

Simona Halep has shown promise for several years. Last year, she broke through in a very big way, winning six titles on three different surfaces, and earning the nickname, "Halepeno." Halep is marvelously athletic, in a flexible, stretchy, speedy way. And she's clever and confident and no-nonsense, which makes her a breath of fresh air. And as good as she is on every surface, clay is where she shines the most. Briefly put, Halep knows how to win. As a junior, in fact, in 2008, she won at Roland Garros.

Sharapova has won the French Open before. Long considered (even by herself) a non-entity on clay, the Russian star took the time to figure out how to win on the tricky surface, and her clay record is now outstanding. She has lost only once on clay this season. She will face Bouchard in the semifinals. Another upstart, Garbine Muguruza, tried to get rid of Sharapova, but she wasn't able to get the job done. The job is very difficult.

Halep and Petkovic take care of business in straight sets at the French Open

4th seed Simona Halep, who has now lost only 22 games at Roland Garros this year and has yet to drop a set, advanced to the semifinals today with a 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Svetlana Kuznetsova. The 2009 champion was hampered by a chronic thigh injury, and she had the injury tended to and her thigh wrapped during the match. While Kuznetsova was getting treatment, Halep shadow-swung, did some moderate jumping and performed some stretches.

The Russian player is nothing if not physically tough, had to deal not only with thigh pain, but with drizzly, windy conditions. And with her Romanian opponent. Halep had some lapses during the match, but she recovered from them quickly, without appearing to be bothered by them. She played with more precision than she did against Sloane Stephens, and she served better. At one point, toward the end, she scrambled to far ad side of the net to deftly flick over an angled volley in a move that was pure Radwanska, and which thrilled the crowd. The usually calm Halep even looked excited about what she had done.

Also taking advantage of the terrible conditions was Andrea Petkovic, who cruised through her quarterfinal against 2012 champion Sara Errani. The conditions made it harder for Errani to do just about everything she does well, and it took only just a little over an hour for Petkovic to upset the 10th seed. It was a very solid performance by the German player, who emphasized her comeback from multiple injuries when she won the Family Circle Cup in April.

Neither Halep nor Petkovic has ever before been to the semifinals of the French Open. 

Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro did together in doubles what they couldn't do individually in singles--advance to the semifinals. The Spanish team upset 4th seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik.

The mixed doubles final is set: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Jean-Julien Rojer will play Julia Goerges and Nenad Zimonjic. Groenefeld and Rojer upset 3rd seeds Yaroslava Shvedova and Bruno Soares.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

French Open--what they said

Is it the worst defeat in your career?
Yes, you can say so. This loss today is very difficult for me.  I was leading. I won the first set. The second I lost, but it was close. And the third set was within my reach but I lost.  This happens sometimes. She is a very tough player and she fought on each point until the end.
Carla Suarez Navarro

I think I played very good in three sets, but in the important moments I need to improve my mentality.
Garbine Muguruza

Who is Judy Murray?
Maria Sharapova

We’re in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I’m going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal.
Genie Bouchard, referring to Sharapova

At the very beginning she gave me points.  I almost had nothing to do. But then I was not showing enough courage on the court. Next time I'll show more courage.
Carla Suarez Navarro

Sweeping the court

Courtney Nguyen asks: Is Simona Halep the most graceful player on the women's tour?

Martina Navritalova has been named the first woman to compete in the WTA Legends event, which will be held in conjunction with the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Not that some of us needed to be reminded, but the sexism in professional tennis is very ugly.

Genie Bouchard is the first Canadian to ever reach two major semifinals.

Oh, to have BBC access during Wimbledon. Both Laura Robson and Marion Bartoli will be commentators.

Sharapova and Bouchard advance to French Open semifinals

During the first set of the French Open quarterfinal match between Garbine Muguruza and Maria Sharapova, it seemed as if Serena Williams--by virtue of the blessing she bestowed on the Spaniard at the net last week--was more or less beating Sharapova all the way from the beach in Miami. A blessing is a powerful thing, to be sure, but so is the will of Maria Sharapova.

Beaten down 6-1 in the first set, in exactly the same fashion as Williams was, Sharapova then found herself serving at 4-5 in the second. Wait! Hadn't we just seen this, or something very much like it? So, Sharapova held--emphatically. And then she broke Mugaruza, and then she won the set.

There's a lesson in this, and one that, as fans, we know well. On these occasions, you're advised to beat Sharapova in straight sets, or the outcome won't be one that you'll like. It will be kind of like closing a screen door to keep out a tornado.

Sure enough, in the third game of the final set, Muguruza seriously blinked. It was a long blink, lasting twelve minutes.The Spaniard failed to convert five game points, and that was that. Sharapova won the set 6-2. I didn't find the match very interesting--I never find these types of matches very interesting. I was much more entertained by what was going on on Suzanne Lenglen, where Muguruza's countrywoman, Carla Suarez Navarro, was engaged in a battle against Eugenie Bouchard. However, curiosity kept me returning to the Sharapova match. It apparently never occurred to those in charge of scheduling to not put both quarterfinals on at the same time.

Suarez Navarro led 5-2 in the first set, which Bouchard won 7-2 in a tiebreak. The Spaniard won the second set 6-2, then went up 4-1 in the third. 4-1 can be such a deceptive lead, and especially for a player like Suarez Navarro, whose nerves are her greatest enemy. Bouchard won ten consecutive points, then suddenly, it was 4-all. The Canadian rising star won the final set 7-5 on her third match point. She was simply too mentally stable to go away.

Bouchard reached the semifinals at the Australian Open, and now here she is again, on clay at the French. Are there any doubters remaining? In Melbourne, Bouchard's run was halted by eventual champion Li Na. Now she will have to face Sharapova, which is no small feat. And even if she should lose that match, Bouchard will have made a big announcement about herself to the tour.

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci did some beating down of their own. The 2nd-seeded Italians defeated Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals. And top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai defeated Cara Black and Sania Mirza to also go to the semifinals.

In mixed doubles, Kiki Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor were defeated in the quarterfinals by Yaroslava Shvedova and Bruno Soares.

Monday, June 2, 2014

French Open--what they said

After going down 5-4 in the third, I just sort of told myself, "Okay, listen, you have to play aggressive. You have to go for your shots, and nobody's going to give you the quarterfinals just because you're nice, so go gain it"
Andrea Petkovic

I’m really happy I’m in quarterfinals for the first time in my life here because I love Paris....I have a lot of confidence in myself. Day by day I play better.
Simona Halep

All the points were very tough. I just tried to be focused.
Sara Errani

I could have lost first round; that would have been real bad, right?
Sloane Stephens

The WTA should investigate Halep for anti-American activities. It was painful to watch how she kept hitting the ball away from Stephens, to prevent the American from hitting clean shots. She also quite obviously used excessive spin to confuse the American player and intentionally returned balls that Stephens thought would be winners. On repeated occasions she chased down drop shots that should have been winners. It is also deeply disturbing that the line judges joined in this xenophobic attitude, calling out Stephens' shots that had landed barely several feet outside the lines. To add insult to injury, the umpire awarded the match to Halep 6-4 6-3, without regard for artistic expression and self-professed big tournament experience by Stephens.
From a comment on Tennis.com

I wanted her...to run a lot on court, and I think I played aggressive, and I dominated the match, I think.
Simona Halep

I didn't feel like dancing. But people were coming just to see the dance. They were like, "Andrea, dance, dance." Then I sort of did it to don't disappoint the people.
Andrea Petkovic




Halep reaches her first Roland Garros quarterfinal

French Open 4th seed Simona Halep, the highest-ranked woman left in the draw, advanced to her first-ever French Open quarterfinal today when she defeated Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3. It was a bit hard to watch Halep and Stephens because--at least for one very long set--all the real action was taking place in the Jankovic vs. Errani match--more on that in a moment.

Halep wasn't at her best, but it's a good sign that on an "off" day, she can still win. The Romanian's serve, which has looked so good in the last few weeks, was tentative, and lacked the big pop and careful placement we've seen from it lately. Halep's movement was as great as always, though, and when the big points loomed, she knew how to win them. She worked her way slowly through the first set, gaining confidence as she went. By the time the second set rolled around, Stephens hadn't exactly folded, but she was clearly beatable.

Halep broke Stephens six times out of six opportunities. The 4th seed hit 19 winners and made 25 unforced errors. Stephens hit 15 winners and made 35 unforced errors. Stephens did a good job of getting her serve in, but she didn't really do too much with it.

Halep will need to get her new serve back in gear and clean up her game for her quarterfinal match.

Errani and Jankovic. Oh, the drama! The first set lasted 81 minutes and was as thrilling as anything you would hope to see on a clay court. Naturally, there were "things" going on. Prince was in the stands watching the Italian and the player formerly known as world number 1. Some Serbian fans were very annoyingly intense. Jankovic played with a painful right thigh, and was seen by both a trainer and a doctor, who applied massage, re-wrapped the thigh and provided some medication.

But for all her pain, JJ held at set point at 6-5 in the first set. Errani broke her, and then went on to win the tiebreak 9-7. The scurrying Italian fireball hit the softest drop shots throughout, repeatedly frustrating an already frustrated Jankovic. Errani broke Jankovic right away in the second set, and ultimately won it, 6-2. Errani also found a workaround for that second serve of hers--she got her first serve in 90% of the time.

There were some breathtaking rallies in this match, several of which went over 20 shots. Errani's next task will be to play Andrea Petkovic, who was able to fend off a spirited Kiki Bertens, 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.

In today's final match, which was moved to Court 1 so that it could be played before darkness fell, 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Lucie Safarova 6-2, 6-4. It wasn't until the middle of the second set that Safarova looked to be truly in the contest, and though she was able to take advantage of some of her opponent's errant ways, it was too little too late. Kuznetsova has always played her best at the French Open, and she looks as good as ever.

There are now two former champions left in the draw, as well as two Spaniards and two Russians. There are no Kikis remaining.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Garbine Muguruza vs. Maria Sharapova
If Muguruza didn't think getting Serena Williams in the second round was her worst nightmare, she might think that getting Sharapova in the quarterfinals is. The 2012 champion's three-set victory over Sam Stosur left no doubt that she is to be feared from now on. For her part, Muguruza still seems kind of relaxed, thanks partly to a smart coach, who took the Spaniard's phone away from her after she upset Williams.

Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Eugenie Bouchard
Bouchard has pretty much had a romp through this event, taking out Angelique Kerber in the round of 16 as though it were nothing. Now she's up against an actual clay court expert, albeit one whose nerves have historically given her a lot of trouble.

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Simona Halep
Halep's performance today left something to be desired, especially in the serving department. Assuming she gets her serve back on for the quarterfinals, it could be very entertaining to see her and Kuznetsova play each other for the first time. The Russian is great on clay, but she can go mentally off at big moments. Spectators will see a lot of red dust as these two slide and spin and put on what I think will be the best show of the day.

Sara Errani vs. Andrea Petkovic
Sara Errani is a woman on a mission. In her own way, she is Sharapova-like in France. After going through a terrible slump, the Italian has her mojo back, and Petko will have to serve very well and be on her toes every moment to counter the volleys, spins and drop shots coming off of Errani's racket.

In doubles, the run of Kiki Mladenovic and Flavia Pennetta was ended today by Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. Also winning today were Marina Erakovic and Arantxa Parra Santonja, as well as 4th seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik. Perhaps most interesting, today's other winning team was the Spanish duo of Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro, who are both still in the singles draw. In fact, they are headed for a semifinal collision in the singles draw--only first they have to defeat Maria Sharapova and Genie Bouchard, respectively.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

French Open--what they said

Sharapova didn't even bother to RSVP, she just crashed through the front door.
Todd Spiker

I was really mentally prepared for anything, for a battle.
Eugenie Bouchard

How quickly things can turn. I don't think I did much wrong. It was just one of those things. You miss a ball, she hits a good serve next one, play a sloppy game, and all of a sudden, you're even--and she runs away with it.
Sam Stosur

I didn't play my best tennis today. I couldn't find my rhythm. I was completely not on the court. I was there and I was trying to come back, but I just wasn't feeling the ball, and it was really tough. I don't really know what happened.
Angelique Kerber

It was difficult to return her serve. Although I was able to break her, I wasn't feeling comfortable.
Carla Suarez Navarro

Of course, now I'm very happy what I did. But I want to continue.
Garbine Muguruza
 
Why wouldn't there be? I'm in a Grand Slam fourth round. I lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open. I lost the first set playing an opponent who's played a great tournament so far. There's no reason why I should be walking around with my head down.
Maria Sharapova, on her display of intense emotion 

Eugenie, did you have a plane to catch today?
Nope.
Eugenie Bouchard

Spaniards continue dominant run at Roland Garros

Both Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Open today. Muguruza took out wild card Pauline Parmentier, the last Frenchwoman standing, in straight sets (6-4, 6-2). Parmentier fought as hard as she could againt the rising Spanish star, but to no avail.

Suarez Navarro, seeded 14th, had to deal with yet another of the tournament's upstarts, Ajla Tomljanovic. She defeated Tomljanovic 6-3, 6-3.

No one had an easier time of it than Genie Bouchard, who needed just 51 minutes to roll 8th seed Angelique Kerber into a German pancake. Bouchard was simply relentless, hitting 30 winners and making only eleven unforced errors. She was successful nine of nine times at the net, and she should be, shall we say. pretty rested for her quarterfinal meeting with Suarez Navarro.

And then there was 'Pova. She lost the first set (double-faulting on the final point) to an aggressive and on-target Sam Stosur. Then, with the Russian serving at 3-4, 30-all in the second set, something happened. Actually, two things happened: Stosur began her not quite inevitable but not unusual decline, and Sharapova turned on whatever switch it is that she turns on when it looks like she's close to losing to someone she's accustomed to dominating. The 2012 champion won nine straight games, and really, Stosur might just as well have been in the stands for most of it.

Sharapova went a bit crazy out there. At 5-0, she was yelling and shaking her fist like someone performing in Le Theatre National de Bartoli. What can you say, except this is Maria at her fighting best, and this is Stosur at her--well, you know.

The two top doubles seeds--Hsieh and Peng, and Errani and Vinci--both advanced today.

Kerber and Stosur weren't the only entities to collapse today. The Roland Garros app for the iPhone and iPad died--I don't know whether the Android app went out with it. I woke up early this morning and found that my phone app wouldn't open, but it was hours before my iPad app stopped functioning. According to a report on Roland Garros Radio, officials are "working on it."