B-level Americans Thriving at French Open
Wind replaced rain Wednesday at the French Open where the men played catch-up, with 38 matches completed on the day. Unlike last year, where nary an American male made it out of the first round, this year a number of lower-ranked Americans are surviving the early rounds.
On Wednesday the USTA French Open Wildcard Tournament winner Wayne Odesnik won again, defeating Korea’s Hyung-Taik Lee in four sets to move into the third round. Other American winners in first-round play were Robby Ginepri (d. countryman Donald Young in four sets), Bobby Reynolds (d. Thierry Ascione in four), and Mardy Fish (d. Agustin Calleri in four).
“When we come over here, we’re already, I think, one step slower than the other Europeans and other guys,” Ginepri said. “But to be honest, I’m enjoying the clay, and I’m actually a little sad that this is the last clay tournament of the year.”
Someone show Ginepri the ATP calendar — there are six claycourt events in July alone.
Four Top 10-seeded players were in action Wednesday, with (3) Novak Djokovic (d. Miguel Angel Lopez Jaen) and (10) Andy Murray (d. Jose Acasuso) both moving into the third round in straight sets, and (2) Rafael Nadal (d. Thomaz Bellucci) and (5) David Ferrer (d. Steve Darcis) both into the second round in straight sets.
“These were two difficult days, because as time goes by you get nervous and you can’t practice,” Nadal said of the rain delays. “So I probably lost the rhythm I acquired before this tournament. But I hope this won’t be a problem for the rest of the tournament.”
Three seeded players were upset on the day when (11) Tomas Berdych was outlasted in five sets by Frenchman Michael Llodra; (20) “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic was likewise beaten in five by Alejandro “If You Lead, I Will” Falla; and former No. 1 and (23) Juan Carlos Ferrero, who retired with injury against Marcos Daniel.
Highlights in all-unseeded play was former No. 1 Marat Safin topping Frenchman Jean-Rene Lisnard after dropping the first set; Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro beating Evgeny Korolev in straights in his final French Open; Juan Ignacio Chela defeating big-serving American John Isner in five in a match that spanned three days; and Gael “Force” Monfils straight-setting fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement.
Highlights of play on Thursday at Roland Garros are (1) Roger Federer vs. Spaniard Al Montanes, Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro vs. (5) David Ferrer, (7) James Blake vs. the lethal Latvian “The Importance of Being” Ernests Gulbis, (4) Nikolay Davydenko vs. former No. 1 Marat Safin, another former No. 1 in (25) Lleyton Hewitt vs. Mardy Fish, an upset special in Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez vs. (30) Dmitry Tursunov, and (9) Stan Wawrinka vs. Croat riser Marin Cilic.
Sharapova Double-Faults Way Into 2nd Round at French Open
Amidst windy conditions Wednesday at the French Open, world No. 1 Maria Sharapova looked like your average club player in delivering 17 double faults and somehow squeaking by fellow Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6 to move into the second round. The willowy self-described “global brand” attributed the wind to sailing her serves long and spinning weak deliveries into the bottom of the net.
“Apart from eating and breathing the sand, it was great,” Sharapova said. “It’s dry and you’ve got sand blowing in your face. So you think it’s a hardcourt, but then you feel like you’re in a desert.”
Thank goodness, said Sharapova, that she was facing one of the C-level Russian scrubs and could get away with averaging more than one double fault per game.
“I don’t think I’d be able to get away with not playing and not serving that well with maybe a different opponent and somebody that has more experience, a top player,” Sharapova said. “But I’ll work on it, and it will be better.”
Other Top 10-seeded players into the second round Wednesday were (6) Anna Chakvetadze (d. Nuria Llagostera Vives in three), (7) Elena Dementieva (d. Vera Dushevina); and winning second-round matches were (2) Ana Ivanovic (d. Lucie Safarova), (5) Serena Williams (d. Mathilda Johansson), and (10) Patty Schnyder (d. Timea Bacsinszky in three).
Seeded upset victims were (9) Marion Bartoli, falling to Casey Dellacqua in three; (17) Shahar Peer, upended by Sam Stosur; and (20) Sybille Bammer, ousted by Aleksandra Wozniak.
“I’m just fed up,” Bartoli told reporters. “I’m going to turn off my mobile phone, turn off my TV set, and forget about Roland Garros. I’m going to try not to think about it. Go far away, very far away. Why not take a short break, some holidays? Because since the beginning of this year I’ve been playing and I felt tired and I thought, ‘Well, this is probably psychological,’ but it’s five months I’ve been feeling this, in this state, being very tired.”
Matches to look for Thursday at Roland Garros are (8) Venus Williams vs. Selima Sfar, (22) Amelie Mauresmo vs. Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, (1) Maria Sharapova vs. American Bethanie Mattek, (4) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. American Vania King, and (21) Maria Kirilenko vs. China’s Jie Zheng.
I’M NOT A HEADCASE: Richard Gasquet, who withdrew from the French Open citing a bad knee, says don’t count him out: “What can I say except that it’s been a huge amount of bad luck for me,” Gasquet said. “I keep reading I’m having a hard time mentally, but it’s not true. I’m really in a good frame of mind. I’m motivated. Believe me. Big results are going to come, better than a semifinal in a Grand Slam.”
MISC.: No top-seeded woman at Roland Garros has ever lost a first-round match. Ever…Rafael Nadal is a perfect 22-0 on the red clay at Roland Garros. The Spaniard is also now 35-0 in clay best-of-five set matches…That’s 20 straight Grand Slam first-round wins for Maria Sharapova…Argentine qualifier Eduard Swank has won his last 20 matches…Until Wednesday, Paul-Henri Mathieu had never come back from a two-set hole…Five American men are still alive in Roland Garros after the first round of play. Much better than the goose egg they laid last year…Rain is expected to return Thursday and last into Friday…Andy Murray has won his last five sets without facing a single set point…Gustavo Kuerten is the last No. 1 men’s seed to win Roland Garros…Rafael Nadal has won 109 of his last 111 matches on clay…Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka are both former Roland Garros junior champs…Maria Sharapova served 17 double faults in her first-round win over Evgenyi Rodina…So how come Ashley Harkleroad posing for Playboy isn’t big news on the WTA Tour website? No matter how much we search, we can’t seem to find that story…Due to the Beijing Olympics on this year’s calendar, the weeks of July 7 and July 14 have four tournaments each, a first in ATP history according to the ATP’s Greg “The Remorseless Eating Machine” Sharko…Serena Williams on the possibility of appearing in Playboy: “I can’t say right now it’s in any thought of my mind to be in that mag. I do appreciate that mag. I think (Playboy owner) Hugh Hefner is a great businessman.”
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