One round done, six more to go at the second Grand Slam of the tennis season, the French Open in Paris.
I may have been on vacation the last few days but I still managed to catch a good serving of French Open goodness thanks to the Tennis Channel and ESPN. Here are a few thoughts.
First, for either draw there’s not much to pick and choose. The favorites are through on both sides and we’ve seen very few upsets.
Ernests Gulbis’s defeat has to be the surprise of the men’s draw. Gulbis had been one of the better players this clay season but as we’ve seen again, quite a difference between ATP matches and Grand Slam matches. Today, Sam Querrey, a winner in Serbia, also got bounced adding more importance to the notion of “peaking” at the right time.
Four-time winner Rafael Nadal knows that and today he got in a nice workout against Gianni Mina. No it wasn’t Gael Monfils but it sure as heck looked like him. The results would have been the same regardless. Nadal cruised 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 into the second round.
“I was practicing really well all the days, but I played very well three tournaments,” Said Nadal. “But, you know, first day here is always a little bit more nervous than usual. I think I played bad, but I won anyway, without problems, so that’s always important and positive thing. But I think I can do it much – a lot of better, much better next round.”
Andy Roddick hadn’t played a match on clay this year and for a good 90 minutes or so it looked like it. After dropping the first Jarkko Nieminen got his game on track and seemed to be headed for another upset of a former No. 1 American at Roland Garros. But Jark was unable to match his win over Andre Agassi back in 2005 as Roddick roared back to take the final two sets and win 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3.
“You know, there was a lot of ugliness out there today,” said Roddick. “But, you know, at the end of it, I get to play again. So that’s that’s all you you go into a day hoping to get through a day, and I got through today.
“He [Nieminen] does a great job because he makes up for his weaknesses. Obviously his second serve is probably his weakest part. But if you take a crack at it down the middle, he’s so good down the middle of the court just redistributing the ball. So I was getting a little frustrated with that. He’s tough.”
Roddick’s fortune grew when his section of the draw blew up after upsets of Eduard Schwank the Tank and Juan Monaco, who were ushered out by unknown Slovenians Blaz Kavcic and Grega Zemlja, respectively.
In addition to Nadal, the Spanish Armada showed no signs of leakage at all in Paris. David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Fernando Verdasco and Nadal collectively went 12-0 in sets on Tuesday to waltz into round two.
Also today. Lleyton Hewitt posted an impressive win over Jeremy Chardy and Robby Ginepri stunned the weary Querrey 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2.
In the women’s event, Justine Henin picked up her 22nd straight win at the French Open. The four-time winner is just a victory away from a possible third round clash with Maria Sharapova, who also won today. Marion Bartoli and Shahar Peer were other winners.
The big story for the women was the continued televised collapse of Dinara Safina. A year ago the Russian was nearly unstoppable. Now she’s tripping over herself and her game’s in complete disarray. It’s almost sad to see. Today Safina incorrigibly squandered a 4-1 third set lead to lose to an ailing 39-year-old Kimiko Date 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Date was suffering badly with calf/leg injury or cramps but somehow hung around long enough to allow Safina implode and give her the match. It worked.
“I mean, of course you want to win, and especially I saw her, she’s cramping,” said Safina who had been in the French Open final the last two years. “Then I just started to look at her instead of thinking what I was doing until 4-1. And then I just – I was more thinking about her than about myself, what I had to do. I lost the momentum. At least I started to play a little bit better. I just immediately get tight.”
Safina also confirmed that she has sacked Zeljko Krajan as coach and for the moment replaced him with Gaston Etlis.
As for tomorrow, the highlights include Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, JW Tsonga and Venus Williams.
Federer should crush Alejandro Falla. Soderling may drop a set but will get past Taylor Dent and Tsonga I think wins in straights over Josselin Ouanna.
I also think Andy Murray had his near-death experience already against Richard Gasquet yesterday and he should be fine for a few more round including Wednesday’s tussle against JI Chela. And I think my man Monfils struggles but wins against Fabio Fognini.
Not a great day of intriguing matchups but if the right guys win that should make for some better contests down the road.
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