Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fighting Italians out, one Kiki standing

Today, former French Open runner-up Sara Eranni joined Roberta Vinci, Francesca Schiacone and Camila Giorgi in saying au revoir to Paris. Petra Kvitova said goodbye, too, after she lost two tiebreak sets to Bethanie Mattek-Sands. It was sad to see Petra go, but that sadness is really minimal compared with the joy of seeing her compete so well after all that she has been through.

Yesterday, I was really surprised to see Mona Barthel lose, but I was more surprised today to see Kiki Bertens go out in straight sets. Bertens, a semifinalist in 2016, lost to CiCi Bellis.

The other Kiki--Kiki Mladenovic--was the one who knocked out Sara Errani. Mladenovic said that her back is still stiff, but she is not in pain at this time. That's a good thing, since the Frenchwoman has a serious shot at winning the whole thing.

The two "shaky" contenders both lived up to their reputations. Defending champion Garbine Muguruza and 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova both had to go three sets to secure their places in the third round--Muguruza against the increasingly dangerous Anett Kontaveit, and Muguruza against Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin.

Oh, and while all this was going on, Ons Jabeur upset 6th seed Dominika Cibulkova.

Kuznetsova's next opponent will be Zhang Shuai, and next up for Muguruza is Yulia Putintseva, and who doesn't want to see that? (I probably won't, because I'll be in workshops all day Friday, or the schedulers will put the match on 11:00, which is 4:00 where I live.) If Garbine mugus around and Julia yells and carries on, the match will be--well, about as expected.

Next up for Mladenovic is Shelby Rogers, who has once again inserted herself in an interesting way into a big draw. There's a very good chance that Mladenovic will meet Muguruza in the round of 16, and--assuming both are feeling healthy enough--that could be an extraordinary occasion (sure to be broadcast at 11:00 because that's the kind of luck I have--and I would consider getting up to watch it). The crowd will respect its defending champion, of course, but will most likely go into a frenzy over Kiki.

One of the other big contenders, Simona Halep, plays her second round tomorrow, against Tatjana Maria. Elina Svitolina, also a contender, plays her second round tomorrow, too. The Rome champion will face off against the Bulgarian Woman of Mystery, Tsvetana Pironkova.

In the past, Pironkova made a kind of niche hobby of knocking off huge stars on grass and hard courts--especially at Wimbledon, and she had a particular gift for upsetting Venus Williams. In the past few years, however, the gifted but wildly inconsistent Bulgarian has left everyone alone. Now, the last place we would expect to see her pop up again would be on a clay court, but she reached the quarterfinals last year, and it was she who defeated clay specialist Barthel in the first round this yesr--with a 6-0, 6-4 scoreline.

We may still be in the second round, but at the French Open, it's never too early to advise everyone to expect nothing but the totally unexpected.

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