What a day of upsets in Paris. If you can call them upsets. I had picked both Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori to pull through on this quarterfinal Tuesday at the French Open, and they both lost. But in different ways.
First to go down was Federer. And it wasn’t even close. Stan Wawrinka had only beaten Roger twice in 18 career meetings, both times in Monte Carlo. In their four Grand Slam matches I think Stan had won one single set.
With Wawrinka, it’s not a question of game against Roger. He has it. It’s a question of belief. He just has never believed that he can beat really beat Roger. But today was different, much different.
Stan broke early in the first set at love, and you could sense Federer was in trouble. This didn’t have the same feel as in Rome when Stan was ahead early.
In the second, Stan broke again early on. Roger made a late charge in the final set but never broke through, literally as it turned out to be the first time Federer didn’t break serve in a Grand Slam match since 2002. Wawrinka ran away with the match 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4).
“In tennis, always one guy has to win and one guy has to lose,” Federer said. “For him, it’s obviously great to be in the semis now,” said Federer. “I thought he played really good tennis out there today.”
And Roger’s right. Stan played up to his potential.
Watching the match, Stan was simply bullying Federer around the court, like he should do (remember, Stan has won a Slam, beaten the likes of Djokovic and Nadal). And that kept Federer on the defense, which isn’t his game. The wind didn’t help either, but to me that wasn’t an issue. And there was a late controversial call in the breaker also, but it wouldn’t have mattered.
Stan was by far the better, stronger man. It was a mismatch plain and simple.
“I was always really, really nervous when I played Roger, especially in a big moment like a quarter-final of a grand slam,” Wawrinka said.
“I wasn’t really feeling good this morning and before the match but I also knew that’s when I play my best game.”
Well Stan, maybe you should feel sick every morning? You are just figuring this out now? For your semifinal how about guzzling a bottle of tequila the night before? That should help get you sick!
Maybe Roger should, too. Fortunately for Roger, though, the grass season awaits and heck, he did at least do better than last year in Paris.
“I’m looking forward to what’s coming ahead now,” Federer said. “There is nothing really positive about losing today because I don’t need the extra days, but I will use them with my family and have a great time with them and recover my body.
“[I’m] looking forward to Halle, and then clearly Wimbledon. I want to win it, and I feel like my game is good; It’s been solid, it’s been positive, and I have just got to keep it up now.”
Federer hasn’t made a Slam final since Wimbledon last year, and hasn’t won a Slam since 2012 Wimbledon. And approaching 34, it’s not getting any easier. This Wimbledon could be his final shot at 18.
In the second semi – or the one that finished last – JW Tsonga outlasted Kei Nishikori in bizarre 5-setter. Tsonga blew out the young 25-year-old early on but then in the second with Tsonga up 5-2, the match was delayed for about a half hour when part of the scoreboard structure fell off tumbling horrifically into the crowd injuring several fans. Play had to be stopped to tend to the wounded and fans had to be evacuated from the area.
When play resumed both guys were different. Tsonga lost his edge, Nishikori started striking the ball better, and the match was on.
Nishikori would lose the second and go down two sets, but he kept clawing and clawing taking the third and the fourth to force a fifth.
Tsonga, though, elevated his game again, using the crowd to grab and early break in the decider and race to tough 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 win in 3 hours, 44 minutes.
Nishikori fought hard and got lucky with the delay – otherwise Tsonga would have finished him off in another hour. It’s just one of those events for Jo. He’ll play his second career French Open semifinal Friday against Wawrinka. That’s not a good match to be a ball.
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