Mondays With Bob Greene: This is not a tragedy, losing here in Paris

STARS

Robin Soderling beat top-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-7 (2) 6-4 7-6 (2)

Agnes Szavay beat third-seeded Venus Williams 6-0 6-4

Philipp Kohlschreiber beat fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 6-4

Samantha Stosur beat fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-3 4-6 6-1

Victoria Azarenka beat eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-2 6-3

Nikolay Davydenko beat eighth-seeded Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-2 6-4

Sorana Cirstea beat 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 (3) 7-5

SAYING

Brave Nadal finally loses

Rafael Nadal

“This is not a tragedy, losing here in Paris. It had to happen one day. That’s the end of the road, and I have to accept it. I have to accept my defeat as I accepted my victories – with calm.” – Rafael Nadal, after having his record 31-match victory string at Roland Garros snapped.

“This is for sure the biggest moment so far of my career. I couldn’t even dream of this before the match, so I will remember this match for the rest of my life.” – Robin Soderling, after beating Rafael Nadal.

“Everybody’s in a state of shock, I would think. At some point, Nadal was going to lose. But nobody expected it to happen today, and maybe not this year.” – Mats Wilander, a three-time French Open champion on Robin Soderling’s victory over Rafael Nadal.

“It’s just a bad day at the office, as they say.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber.

“I’m used to beating people 6-0. I’m not used to my shot not going in and losing a set 6-0. So it completely was foreign ground for me.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Agnes Szavay 6-0 6-4

“In the fourth game, I just suddenly started feeling so dizzy, and I completely lost my balance.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Victoria Azarenka.

“I’m angry, because even though it was (Roger) Federer, it was a near-miss. I was so close to winning this match.” – Jose Acasuso, after losing to Federer 7-6 (8) 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-2.

“She (a WTA Tour official) told me to play with another T-shirt otherwise I was facing a fine. I told her to find one for me otherwise I would have had to play naked.” – Virginie Razzano, who was told to change her shirt because a sponsor badge on the shirt was misplaced.

“I’m just glad I finally won a match out there.” – Andy Roddick, an American who finally won a match after three straight first-round losses at Roland Garros.

“Well, he actually looks a little bit tired to me. He doesn’t look like he’s fresh enough. I think it’s going to be tough challenge for him to win this time, actually.” – Elena Dementieva, predicting Rafael Nadal will not win a record fifth straight French Open men’s singles title.

“The point is never over. I mean, the ball is a little bit far but I have to find a solution to jump or to dive or slide or whatever, to reach it. And when I think I can, I will try some magic. On a break point, you have to jump or dive. I mean, I go for it.” – Gael Monfils, on his acrobatic style of play.

“He’s not (Rafael) Nadal, but he’s still a great player on clay.” – Janko Tipsarevic, on Andy Murray’s improved game on clay.

“Winning the semifinal is not winning the tournament, so it doesn’t change anything.” – Roger Federer, when asked if he was relieved to see his possible semifinal opponent, Novak Djokovic, lose his third-round match.

“For the Americans, a lot of times, this isn’t our main goal of the year. Ours is generally Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.” James Blake, an American, after losing a first-round match to Argentine qualifier Leonard Mayer.

“I wasn’t nervous at the beginning, but at the end, when I had to close the match, I was very nervous, yes. I was dying of nerves.” – Leonardo Mayer, a qualifier who beat James Blake.

“We’re trying as hard as we can. Once these two weeks are over, the clay talk is over, and we’ll be looking to my most fun part of the year: Wimbledon, grass courts. That’s where we play our best.” – Mardy Fish, an American, after losing a first-round match.

“I feel very disappointed. She’s Serena. She’s one of the biggest players here, so bad luck for the draw,” said Klara Zakopalova, after failing to cash in on eight match points in her first-round loss to Serena Williams.

“I don’t see trouble. What I see is a champion that found a way to win on a day that she didn’t play good. See, in order to be a champion, you have to win when you should lose.” – Richard Williams, after his daughter Serena squandered eight match points before beating Klara Zakopalova 6-3 6-7 (5) 6-4.

“I felt like I had the match in my hands and I was doing well and even if I didn’t win, I was playing really well … I felt like I probably played the best tennis that I played this year.” – Jelena Dokic, after retiring with a back injury while leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva.

“I think the Serena now would definitely beat the other Serena. I’m older. I think I’m wiser. I think I’m just a more mature player.” – Serena Williams, after her second-round win over Virginia Ruano Pascual.

SHOCKER

Rafael Nadal’s stranglehold on Roland Garros was smashed by Sweden’s Robin Soderling in a fourth-round match. It was the first time the Spaniard, who was seeking his fourth consecutive French Open title, had lost on the red clay of Roland Garros. In his opening round match, Nadal snapped Bjorn Borg’s record of 28 straight French Open match wins by a man. His second-round victory eclipsed Chris Evert’s overall tournament record of 29 consecutive match victories. He got to 31 straight before running into Soderling, a player Nadal had never lost to before. In their last meeting, on clay in Rome in April, Nadal won 6-1 6-0. This time Soderling finished with 61 winners, 28 more than Nadal, and advanced to the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.

SENT PACKING

Serbian Ana Ivanovic has failed to defend her women’s singles title at Roland Garros, losing a fourth-round match to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-2 6-3. Last year’s French Open victory pushed Ivanovic into the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings. Since then she has struggled and came into this year’s tournament seeded eighth. Ivanovic had a trainer look at her neck before the final game of the first set, and later said she began feeling dizzy and lost her balance. Azarenka grabbed a 4-0 lead in the second set en route to her victory.

SURPRISING SHARAPOVA

She spent the first week working overtime, but Maria Sharapova was still around at the stare of the second week of the French Open. The unseeded Russian won four straight three-set matches to gain a quarterfinal berth at Roland Garros for the fourth time in her career. This is Sharapova’s first Grand Slam tournament since she lost a second-round match at Wimbledon last summer. She then suffered an injury to her right shoulder and underwent surgery in October. Sharapova only played one singles tournament before her remarkable run in Paris. “I’m definitely a little bit sore, but I’ll be fine,” Sharapova said. “That’s why the Grand Slams are great. You have a day in between, a day to recover, and that always helps the body.”

SISTERS STOPPED

Sisters Venus and Serena Williams won’t be adding to their stash of Grand Slam doubles titles at this year’s French Open. The American duo wasted a match point in their 7-6 (4) 5-7 7-6 (6) loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and Nadia Petrova of Russia. Venus served for the match at 6-5 and was broken. The sisters led 6-5 in the tiebreak, one point from victory, before Mattek-Sands and Petrova won the last three points of the match. The Williams sisters won the French Open in 1999, one of their eight Grand slam doubles titles.

SETBACK

Jelena Dokic was leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva when she was forced to retire from their second-round French Open match because of a back injury. Playing in her first French Open since 2004, Dokic appeared to pull something in her lower back at 2-2 in the second set. She left the court to receive treatment from the tournament trainer and returned to break Dementieva and take a 6-2 3-2 lead. But Dementieva won the next two games before Dokic, tears streaming down her face, retired. “I didn’t deserve to win this match,” Dementieva said. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Dokic rolled her ankle in his fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January. “Obviously it’s not my time at the Grand Slams,” she said. “I’m not 15 anymore, so it’s time probably to take more care now.”

SQUEAKING AND SQUEALING

A teenager from Portugal, Michelle Larcher de Brito, was the talk of Roland Garros more for her sound than her game. Grunting, squealing and moaning with every shot, the 16-year-old qualifier reached the third round before she was silenced by France’s Aravane Rezai. “It’s very disturbing, it’s disturbing me,” Rezai told the umpire before insisting the umpire consult the Grand Slam supervisor on the issue. Larcher de Brito shrieked when she hit the ball, yelped when Rezai’s shots were long and slammed her racquet when she was frustrated, earning boos from the crowd. “It’s just something I’ve done always since I started playing tennis. I’m going to keep on doing it because it’s really part of my game,” said Larcher de Brito, the first Portuguese player to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam tournament.

SPANISH FIRE

It took three sets before Serena Williams finally beat her Spanish foe, but it was a point in the opening set that riled the world’s number two-ranked player. With Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez close to the net, Williams fired a shot right at her. She managed to get her racquet on the ball, but Serena says the ball also hit her opponent’s arm. “The ball did touch her 100 percent on her arm,” Serena said. “The rules of tennis are when the ball hits your body, then it’s out of play. You lose a point automatically.” Television replays seemed to back Serena’s version, but Martinez Sanchez insisted the ball did not hit her and the umpire agreed. “To say I’m a cheat is stupid,” Martinez Sanchez said. “I’m not going to comment on it.”

SAY NO TO DRUG TESTS

Rafael Nadal wants the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to stick up for the players and against the World Anti-Doping Agency’s new out-of-competition drug-testing rules. A number of top players, including Serena Williams, have complained about a new WADA rule that says athletes must say where they will be for one hour each day so they can be found for testing. Saying that’s too invasive, Nadal complains that it will be tough to keep WADA constantly updated on his whereabouts.

SANIA ENGAGED

Tennis isn’t the only thing on the mind of Sania Mirza these days. The 22-year-old Indian star has become engaged to a longtime friend, Sohrab Mirza. Despite the same last names, they are not related – yet. According to family members, the 23-year-old Sohrab Mirza, who is studying business, and the tennis star will be married on July 10 in her hometown of Hyderabad. In January, Sania became the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament title when she teamed with India’s Mahesh Bhupathi to win the Australian Open mixed doubles crown.

STRETCHED

Two-time Grand Slam tournament finalist Mark Philippoussis says he is broke, facing a legal battle to keep his home and suffers from depression. The Australian player, who earned more than USD $7 million during his career, said he is being sued for failing to pay the mortgage on his home in Melbourne, Australia. Once ranked eighth in the world, Philippoussis says he has been unable to play for three years following several knee operations. The knee injury ended his ATP tour playing career, which saw him reach the 2003 Wimbledon final, losing to Roger Federer, and the 1998 US Open final, where he fell to Patrick Rafter. Philippoussis said he is looking to play in tennis legends events with former stars like John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Pat Cash.

STRONG ENOUGH

Two freshmen are the newest National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tennis champions. Unseeded Devin Britton of the University of Mississippi became the youngest men’s singles champion, while Mallory Cecil of Duke captured the women’s singles crown. Britton ended a 22-match win streak by Steve Moneke, beating the Ohio State senior 3-6 6-2 6-3. In her final, Cecil beat Laura Vallverdu of the University of Miami 7-5 6-4.

SPANKED

Southern California has been awarded the 2008 Pac-10 Conference men’s tennis title after UCLA was penalized for using an ineligible player. The violation was self-reported by UCLA and the ineligible player wasn’t identified. UCLA had to forfeit all singles and doubles matches in which the player participated. As a result, team results of UCLA’s matches against Southern California and Arizona State were reversed, giving Southern Cal a 7-0 record. UCLA dropped into a second-place tie with Stanford at 5-2.

SITES TO SURF

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com/index.html
Prostejov: www.czech-open.com/
London: www.aegonchampionships.com
Halle: www.gerryweber-open.de/
Lugano: www.challengerlugano.ch
Marseille: www.opengdfsuez-marseille.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)

ATP

$170,000 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,000,000 AEGON Championships, London, Great Britain, grass
$1,000,000 Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, grass
$119,000 BSI Lugano Challenger, Lugano, Switzerland, clay

WTA

$220,000 AEGON Classic, Birmingham, Great Britain, grass
$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Marseille, Marseille, France, clay