Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ostapenko glides into French Open quarterfinals

I got what I got from ballroom dancing
Paul McCartney

Jelena Ostapenko, of the extremely expressive face and body, almost became a professional ballroom dancer, and she credits ballroom dancing for helping her with her footwork. Her favorite dance is the cha-cha-cha, which involves an excessive shuffling of the feet. Ballroom dancing also helps one develop poise and confidence, two things that come in mighty handy for a tennis player. 

Today, the young Latvian star defeated former French Open runner-up Sam Stosur 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the round of 16 in just under two hours. Ostapenko hit 46 winners and made 34 unforced errors, which is a very nice stat. Now, the plot thickens: In the quarterfinals, Ostapenko will face Caroline Wozniacki, whom she defeated in the Charleston quarterfinals in April. 

In that match, Ostapenko beat the Dane in straight sets, hitting 40 winners and 26 unforced errors. And except for some shakiness at the end when it took her a few match points to close, the 19-year-old was in charge throughout.

For her part, Wozniacki defeated 2009 champion Svetlana (Oh, Sveta) Kuznetsova 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. 

Venus Williams, the last holder of a major singles championship standing, was sent home by Timea Bacsinszky, the same woman who sent her home last year, also in the round of 16.

And then there was that other match--the one contested by defending champion Garbine Muguruza and home favorite Kiki Mladenovic. You could say that it had everything, I suppose. There was a bit of muguing around by the Spaniard, and Mladenovic (after I wrote that she now had control of her nerves) double-faulted 16 times. 

They played for just under two hours, though it seemed longer to me. It probably seemed longer to Muguruza, too. There is no ruder crowd than the French, and there is no greater crowd agitator than Mladenovic. Though she certainly didn't go full Bartoli (an impossibility), the Frenchwoman was quite animated throughout the match, and the atmosphere eventually carried its own drug-like energy. 

Muguruza should have been able to handle that, and perhaps she could have. But Mladenovic herself was yelling in response to some of Muguruza's errors, and that seemed to be the last straw for the defending champion. The scene, in its totality, clearly rattled her somewhat. Had I been in charge of Muguruza's preparation, I would have taken her through a "rehearsal" of yelling, booing, shouting, fist-pumping, etc. Once you've practiced keeping your cool in the middle of something like that, it's much easier for you to ignore the real thing.

Mladenovic won, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. As Muguruza left the stadium, she gave the French crowd a finger wag, which--of course--resulted in her getting booed. I appreciated the gesture because I think Muguruza tends to hold too much in at times. In her press conference, she had a tearful moment and had to retreat, but she returned as her usual articulate and gracious self.

I was okay with either of them winning (though Mladenovic, strictly because of the quality of her tennis), but no matter what, I didn't like seeing it end the way it did. I've long suspected that Muguruza is a lot more complex and vulnerable than she lets on, and this was just a very unfortunate way for the champion to have to make an exit. 

So today, we lost the defending French Open champion (Muguruza), a former U.S. Open champion (Stosur), a former U.S. Open and French Open champion (Kuznetsova), and a former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion (Williams).

There was also third round catch-up today. Karolina Pliskova defeated last-German-standing Carina Witthoeft, and Elina Svitlina defeated Magda Linette in a very respectable scoreline of 6-4, 7-5. In the all-South American battle, Veronica Cepede Royg defeated Mariana Duque-Marino in a very competitive three-set match.

The surprise of the day, also a third round contest, was Petra Martic's easy defeat of 17th seed Anastaija Sevastova. Sevastova has been on kind of a hot streak since she came back from retirement, playing the best tennis of her career. Martic is just coming back from a lengthy injury recovery. Nevertheless, she prevailed, 6-1, 6-1. 

We don't know what tomorrow's highlight will be, but a good guess would be the quarterfinal match to be played between Frenchwomen Caroline Garcia and Alize Cornet. Not only are they both French, but--you know, it's Alize!

But there's more. Cornet recently served as one of Mladenovic's minions when the French Federation determined that Garcia wasn't injured enough to justify skipping Fed Cup. Forcing players to play Fed Cup is draconian. And, in such a system, some will identify with the aggressor. In this case, "some" were Mladenovic, Pauline Parmentier and Cornet, all of whom mocked Garcia for declaring she was too disabled from a back injury to participate in Fed Cup rubbers. 

I think it's a must-watch.


Todd.Spiker said...

"Mladenovic's minions" ;)

In a shocking revelation (to no one), Kiki admitted today that she hasn't apologized or spoken to Caroline Garcia since the FC mess, thought today's crowd wasn't bad at all, and felt like the Stuttgart crowd was tough toward her in her final vs. Siegemund. Now she faces Bacsinszky, whose integrity she questioned in FC this year when she took an injury timeout to look at her previously injured knee after she'd taken a fall, something that she said her "values" wouldn't allow her to do.

Hey, she's just tryin' to make French tennis great again, I guess. ;)

Diane said...


I can't recall the last time a player was so consistently looking for a fight around every corner. I like that she stays pumped up all the time, but honestly--she would have gotten so much out of the Jungian shadow workshop I attended yesterday. There's a lot going on in that head.

Todd.Spiker said...

Rather than ask her whether she's "apologized" to Garcia, I wish someone would ask if she feels there was any reason for her to do such a thing. The answer would have been more telling.

Diane said...


I must say, on another matter, that I found Kiki's lack of defensiveness in the press conference to be a plus. She seemed rather candid, I thought, in discussing the crowd's frenzy; it was a thoughtful answer. Also, it made me think of something BJK said decades ago--that tennis spectators should be able to yell and scream all they want. She felt that way because of her love of team sports, a concept echoed by Mladenovic.