Early Roland Garros casualties, Wozniacki wins in Brussels and Almagro triumphs in Nice

Berdych First Major FO Casualty:

Czech star Tomas Berdych became the first major casualty of the 2011 French Open when he fell to French qualifier Stephane Robert in the first round. He led the 32-year-old qualifier by two sets to love but let it slip to crash out in five. He was a semi-finalist here on route to the Wimbledon final in 2010 so his early exit here is a big shock. “I gave it all today,” said an ecstatic Robert, the world No.140 who had never previously won at Roland Garros. “I fought for my life. In the third set, he started to give me some points. Winning that set gave me confidence and I became more aggressive on the return.” The giant Croat Marin Cilic was also a first round casualty as he bowed out on day one to Spain’s Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-7(5), 4-6, 4-6. Nicolas Almagro was also another early-round casualty. The Spaniard had recently been on an excellent run that saw him climb in to the world’s Top 10, but despite leading by two sets to love on his favoured surface he, like Berdych, let it slip. The Polish world No.122 Lukas Kubot was the beneficiary, profiting to win 3-6, 2-6, 7-3(3), 7-6(5), 6-4. In the women’s draw, former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic struggled with recent injuries as she fell to the Swedish No.1 Johanna Larsson 6-7(3), 6-0, 2-6 amid fits of tears. The 22-year-old Larsson’s only previous Grand Slam win came here a year ago, which makes her victory over the Serbian star doubly impressive.

Tomas Berdych


Wozniacki Lifts Brussels Open:

World number one Caroline Wozniacki lifted her fourth title of the year on the eve of the French Open when she overcame Peng Shuai 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the Brussels Open. Shuai started the stronger on the clay-court surface Wozniacki usually finds difficult to play on and it wasn’t long before she took the first set. But the Dane rallied to take her WTA finals record to 16-10. “It’s my fourth title of the season. I was pleased with the way I played and fought today,” Wozniacki said afterwards. “I’m happy to be the first winner of this [inaugral] tournament. It’s a beautiful city and the crowd has been great all week. Now I’m looking forward to Roland Garros.” Despite the result Shuai was happy with her week’s performance. “I’m really happy to have reached the final here and to play so many good matches on the clay,” Peng said. “I played really well in the first set today but then Caroline fought and came back. I’m really looking forward to Paris.”

Almagro Secures Nice Title:

Nicolas Almagro’s early French Open exit was a surprise given his recent good form in the sport, including lifting the Open de Nice Cote d’Azur last weekend with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3 win over Romania’s Victor Hanescu. It was his third clay-court title of the season and cemented his place among tennis’ top tier in 2011. He was made to work hard during the win but showed good poise to overcome his industrious opponent. “I feel good. I’m very happy with the victory today,” said Almagro. “I think I didn’t play my best tennis at the beginning of the match, but in the second set I started to play better, hitting my forehand with more confidence, and finally I was able to win the match.”

Petkovic Triumphs in Strasbourg:

It’s not the way any player wants to win, but Germany’s Andrea Petkovic lifted her second WTA title via an opponent’s retirement as France’s Marion Bartoli limped out of the final of the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Petkovic led 6-4, 1-0 when a thigh strain meant that Bartoli could no longer continue. “It’s always a strange feeling when someone retires because you feel happy and sad at the same time,” Petkovic said. “I’m happy to win the title and the points – we’re all in a rush for points during the year! But I was sad to end there because I was playing really well. I also feel sad for Marion – I really like her; she’s a really nice girl. I had a bad injury in 2008 so I know how it feels.”

Germany Claim Record Fifth Team Cup:

Germany claimed its record fifth Power Horse World Team Cup in Dusseldorf on the weekend following a 2-1 win over Argentina in the final. World No.19 Florian Mayer got them off to a great start with a 7-6(4), 6-0 victory over Juan Monaco in the first singles rubber but Juan Ignacio Chela tied proceedings with a 6-4, 7-6(4) win over Philipp Kohlschreiber. So it fell to the doubles rubber, where Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner teamed up to overcome Chela and Maximo Gonzalez 6-3, 7-6(5) to secure the title. “Every title is important, but a team title is something very special in tennis,” said Kohlschreiber afterwards. “We have a great team, it’s real fun. I lost my singles match, but I came out strongly for the doubles and it’s great to have a happy ending. We’ve been looking forward to this event because we knew we had a great team spirit and this success is a really great honour for everybody.”

Del Potro Back in LA:

2008 Farmers Classic winner Juan Martin del Potro will return to the event this summer. The 2009 US Open winner is returning to top form after missing most of 2010 with a wrist injury and organisers are delighted that the Argentine star is returning to the site of his first hard court title when he overcame Andy Roddick in the final three years ago. He is the only man other than Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to have won a Grand Slam title since the 2005 French Open. “I really look forward to returning to the Farmers Classic and Los Angeles this summer where I won my first major American event,” del Potro said. “My tremendous early success and victory over Andy Roddick really helped me launch my run to the world’s Top 10. I have many great memories of the Farmers Classic fans, UCLA Tennis Center, and the beautiful city of Los Angeles.”

Querrey in for Newport:

Sam Querrey has signed up to play at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, RI, this summer. The world No.28 was a finalist there in 2009 and joins a field already including Ivo Karlovic as well as young Americans Ryan Harrison and Ryan Sweeting. The tournament week also includes the 2011 induction ceremony where this year Andre Agassi takes his seat among the sport’s greats.

Federer Bemoans Ball Choice:

Roger Federer, head of the ATP Players Council, says that there are too many types of ball in use around the tour, and that players are struggling to come to terms with the continual changes. The comments come after many players, including Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer, criticised the new Babolat balls used in the 2011 French Open for being harder and faster than many of their contemporaries. “I guess the disappointing part here in this whole story, because I’m hearing a lot of conversations about the balls, it’s just that they’re not the same from what we’ve just played for the last month,” said Federer. “And that for us is the most frustrating part, is that the tournaments all changed to the Roland Garros ball after last year; Roland Garros has changed their balls again. Now we’re stuck with a different deal for all the different ATP Tour events. That is the frustrating part that we need to adjust before the French, different balls.”

Battling Razzano Falls:

Brave French star Virginie Razzano has spoken about playing her first round French Open match just days after losing her fiancé and former coach Stephane Vidal due to a brain tumor, aged just 32. “I can’t explain this strength. It took me a lot of courage to get on the Philippe Chatrier court today,” Razzano told reporters after she fell 3-6, 1-6 to Jarmila Gajdosova. “I had lots of emotions and sighs because it’s difficult for me to be here today. It’s painful. It’s hard. If I did it, it’s for Stephane. But also for me, because [he] wanted me to play. He wanted me to continue to go on with my life, even if in these very painful circumstances, very difficult circumstances. He had faith in me. He knows I have this strength that he also had, and this is also why we worked so well together. We had courage. We fought together day after day. And if I played today, it was as if it was something written. I grabbed all my courage. I don’t have much. I’m very fragile. I feel lonely, and even though there are many people around me supporting me, but I still have the strength in me that keeps me standing up and moving on step by step. I’m mourning right now, and it’s difficult.”

Myskina Jets In for Russian Mission:

Two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has confirmed that former French Open Champion Anastasia Myskina is jetting in to Paris to coach her through the tournament. The 2004 winner has flown in to help the 2009 champ who has recently been through a flurry of coaches due to her continued slump in form. Young American Ryan Harrison also told a small group of reporters that he has hired coach Scott McCain through to the end of the US Open. McCain will split his time between Harrison and Indian star Somdev Devvarman.

Vaidisova still Happily Married:

A representative for Nicole Vaidisova has denied that her and husband Radek Stepanek have split. The two, who married last summer, are at RG together this week.

Ferrer Improves Clay Record:

David Ferrer’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 second-round win over Julien Benneteau at Roland Garros was the Spaniard’s 200th win on clay during his career. Rafael Nadal’s five-set thriller against John Isner in round one was the first time the Spaniard has ever had to go the distance at the French Open. Last week at the Power Horse World Team Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany, Swedish star Robin Soderling notched the 300th win of his career when he beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-7(4), 7-6(7), 6-3.

Little Pre-Slam Change in Rankings Watch:

Germany’s Florian Mayer entered the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings at No.19 following last week’s play. Romania’s Victor Hanescu climbs nine to No.60 while Igor Kunitsyn jumps 11 to No.75. The Israeli Dudi Sela’s 17-slot climb sees him enter the Top 100 at No.91 while Germany’s Rainer Schuettler climbs three to No.98. Andrea Petkovic’s victory in Strasbourg saw her rise to a career-high No.12 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings while Brussels finalist Peng Shuai is a career-high No.25 after her title defeat to Caroline Wozniacki. Sam Stosur climbs back above Maria Sharapova and Li Na to No.6 in the world. Bojana Jovanovski makes her Top 50 debut while Ayumi Morita joins her there at No.47. Mirjana Lucic returns to the Top 100 at No.96, her highest slot since 2000.

GOAT Race Update:

Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have earned themselves 20 extra points in the 2011 GOAT race for entering the French Open, Nadal edging himself over 1,000 points. All points are doubled for Grand Slam events.

Roger: 685 Rafa: 1010