by Kevin Craig
Roger Federer was able to hand Novak Djokovic is his first loss in 24 matches on Tuesday at the World Tour Finals in London, playing at a consistently high level throughout the match. Federer’s performance stifled the No. 1 player in the world as Djokovic appeared to be stunned by Federer’s play and the simple fact that he was unable to get a lead. Despite going to 2-0 in the group stage, Federer has yet to secure his spot in the semifinal round due to Kei Nishikori getting a three set victory over Tomas Berdych. The win for the 2014 US Open finalist has set up what will be an eventful and intense Thursday at the World Tour Finals.
Federer’s performance over Djokovic was vintage Federer. The first set was very straightforward for both men, as there was only one break point total through the first 11 games. It was in the 12th game of the set that Federer was able to dig into Djokovic’s serve and earn himself the break and win the first set. The second was a breeze for the Suisse as Djokovic’s level dropped massively and he looked nothing like the player who had only lost five matches in 2015 previous to Tuesday. Djokovic was only able to win five points on his first serve in the second set, and he gave Federer way too many opportunities as he donated unforced errors in bunches, giving Federer the 7-5, 6-2 win. While Federer has not locked up his spot in the semifinal round, this match will surely give him the confidence needed to defeat Nishikori on Thursday and secure the first place seed of this group.
Kei Nishikori’s win over Tomas Berdych came in a very entertaining battle that was the first singles match of the tournament to go three sets. Both players were far from their best when it came to serving, but Nishikori was able to win the bigger points and earn himself nine break points throughout the match. This constant pressure on the Berdych serve was pivotal for Nishikori as he was able to fight through the adversity of losing the second set and get the much needed break in the third to get himself the 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win. Despite the win today, Nishikori could still finish in any position in the group, depending on the Thursday results. Likewise, Berdych still has an opportunity to survive through the group stage, but that would require a win over Djokovic and some help from Federer.
The doubles group that played on Tuesday has a much clearer vision about the semifinal stage as the team of Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea were able to secure their spot in the next round with a straight sets win over Jamie Murray and John Peers. This result, along with Bob and Mike Bryan getting an easy victory over Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, set up a winner takes all match for Thursday. With Bopanna/Mergea already clinching the first place spot of the group, the match between Bryan/Bryan and Murray/Peers will decide who moves on to the semifinal stage with the second place spot.
The Bryan brothers were able to garner a good bounce back win over the Italian pairing of Bolelli/Fognini, 6-3, 6-2. Coming off of a disappointing loss in their first match, the Americans looked very comfortable and confident on Tuesday, only dropping eight points on serve and not facing a single break point. Bolelli and Fognini will be disappointed by being eliminated from the World Tour Finals after just two matches, but their 2015 was very successful as they were able to take home the Australian Open title.
The eighth seeded team of Bopanna/Mergea that didn’t secure their spot in the World Tour Finals until the last week of the season seems to be playing with a bit of house money. After defeating the Bryan brothers on Sunday, they were able to dispatch Murray and Peers, the two time grand slam finalists in 2015, in a tight two setter on Tuesday, 6-3, 7-6(5). The win saw them lock up the first seed of the group even if they lose their third match, as they will have a head-to-head advantage over whichever team ends up being the second seed. The team of Bopanna and Mergea enjoy playing in London, as they were able to make the semifinals of Wimbledon earlier in the year and are now playing as confidently as they have in 2015.
By Randy Walker
The 2014 U.S. Open will best be remembered for Serena Williams winning her 18th major title – tying fellow American legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert on the all-time list – and for Marin Cilic’s surprise victory, beating another long-shot finalist Kei Nishikori in the final. However, there were other standout matches that defined the event, as outlined below and as seen in the updated mobile app “This Day In Tennis” available at www.TennisHistoryApp.com
August 26, 2014 – Cici Bellis, 15, becomes the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since 1996, upsetting No. 12 seed and Australian Open finalist Dominka Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round of the U.S. Open. “Believing was the No. 1 thing that I had to do today,” says Bellis, the winner of the USTA National Girls’ 18 Championships. “That’s what my coach told me before the match also: Just go out there and believe that you can win.” Bellis becomes the youngest player to win at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova reached the fourth round at age 15 in 1996.
September 2, 2014 – Kei Nishikori defeats Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-4 in four hours, 19 minutes in a fourth-round match at the U.S. Open that ends at 2:26 am, tying the tournament’s record for the latest finish. Nishikori and Raonic’s finish at the exact time as the 2012 match when Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated John Isner and the 1993 match when Mats Wilander defeated Mikael Pernfors. When asked by reporters if he was impressed by the late finish record, Raonic responds, “Not in the slightest bit.”
September 4, 2014 – Roger Federer saves two match points and rallies to beat Gael Monfils 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in a dramatic U.S. Open quarterfinal that concludes just before midnight. Monfils leads 5-4 in the fourth set and holds two match points before Federer fights back to win in a comfortable fifth set, coming back from 0-2 down for the ninth time in his career. “I feel lucky to be able to do a press conference as the winner instead of the loser,” Federer tells reporters. “But I’m also proud that I fought and stayed with him. The problem was that I was just one point from the end.”
September 5, 2014 – Bob and Mike Bryan win their 100th career doubles title defeating Marcel Granoller and Marc Lopez 6-3, 6-4 for their fifth U.S. Open final. “It’s always sweet winning a Grand Slam,” Mike Bryan says after the final. “This just adds some extra whip cream and cherries and nuts on top.”
September 6, 2014 – In one of the most shocking semifinals in U.S. Open history, both the No. 1 and No. 2 men’s seeds are upset as No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic is defeated by No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 and No. 2 seed Roger Federer is defeated by No. 14 Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
September 7, 2014 – Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open for a sixth time and for a third year in a row defeating Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3 in the final. At age 32, Williams becomes the oldest woman to win the U.S. Open in the Open Era and also earns her 18th major singles title, tying her for fourth place all time with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who congratulate her on court during the post-match ceremonies and present her with a Tiffany bracelet.
September 8, 2014 – Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded No. 14, becomes one of the most unexpected U.S. Open champions in history, winning his first major title with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over Kei Nishikori. Nishikori, who upset world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, becomes the first man from Asia to play in a Grand Slam final.
The 2014 US Open was known for many surprises. While Serena Williams lived up to her reputation and claimed yet another Grand Slam title, over on the men’s side, Marin Cilic surprised us all by going all the way to the top. At just 25 years old, he managed to beat some of the world’s best recognised tennis stars including Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, and has now cemented himself as an up and comer to rival today’s ‘big four.’
Cilic may have surprised us all, but there were a few other golden moments which will not be forgotten in a hurry. Here’s a look back at some of the best moments of the US Open 2014.
Kei Nishikori breaks a personal record
While Marin Cilic was raising a few eyebrows and getting bookmakers at www.bettingsports.com talking, Kei Nishikori was another young prodigy to stun at this year’s US Open event. The 24-year-old made it all the way to the final, but while he did not take the title, he did have one extraordinary achievement. After beating Stan Wawrinka, he became the first Japanese player to reach a semi-final since Ichiya Kuamagae in 1918.
Andy Murray bows out once again
After his Wimbledon success in 2013, Andy Murray suffered a huge fall from grace this year as he exited Wimbledon early and failed to take the title at the US Open. While some say that he was plagued with back injuries, it could just be that world number one Novak Djokovic was too much for him. The quarter final saw Murray’s sensational exit this year as Djokovic beat him 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 6-4.
Caroline Wozniacki has a bad hair day
Recent break ups with golf champions were the least of Caroline Wozniacki’s worries as she went head to head with Aliaksandra Sasnovich on August 27th. The Danish beauty managed to get her hair caught in her racket during play, making for a memorable photo opportunity for the hundreds of spectators watching her. Thankfully, she managed to progress to the final, but was ultimately overwhelmed when it came to meeting champion Serena Williams.
The fall of Roger Federer
It’s becoming more and more likely that the ‘big four’ – Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, (who was out due to a wrist injury) Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are soon to be replaced by today’s younger stars. This is particularly true for Roger Federer, who, at 33, was overwhelmed by this year’s champion, Marin Cilic, in the semi finals.
Play is already in full swing as qualifiers took to the courts for their matches, and top players like Juan Martin del Potro, Andrea Petkovic and Tommy Haas hit the practice courts on a hot weekend in Washington, D.C. to kick off the Citi Open.
Check out the full gallery from opening weekend, including other players like Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Irina Falconi, Jessica Pegula, Rhyne Williams, Donald Young, Christian Harrison, Caroline Garcia, Matt Ebden, and Sloane Stephens.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
Wimbledon Rewind: Djokovic and Serena Thrive, Radwanska and Li Survive, Ferrer and Kvitova Rally, Grass Specialists Sparkle on Day 6
Miraculously after the rain on Thursday and Friday, Wimbledon has set all of its fourth-round matchups for Manic Monday. More than half of the top-ten players there (five men, six women) fell in the first week, and Saturday featured its share of drama despite the welcome sunshine.
Match of the day: Even with the cloud of his father hanging over him at a distance, Bernard Tomic has compiled an outstanding Wimbledon campaign. The enigmatic Aussie has upset two seeded players to reach the second week, most recently No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet. Showing his taste for drama, Tomic played five sets in the first round against Sam Querrey and reached 5-5 in every set against the 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist.
Upset of the day: Few tennis fans knew much about Kenny de Schepper entering this tournament. The 26-year-old Frenchman benefited from a Marin Cilic walkover in the second round and made the most of the opportunity. Not losing a set in the first week of Wimbledon, de Schepper upset No. 20 seed Juan Monaco to reach this stage at a major for the first time.
Comeback of the day: Imperfect in his first two matches, world No. 4 David Ferrer predictably fell behind the mercurial Alexandr Dolgopolov two sets to one. After Dolgopolov steamrolled him in the third set, though, Ferrer regrouped immediately to drop just three games in the next two sets. His far superior stamina gave him a valuable advantage against an opponent who struggles with sustaining energy or form.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There’s death, there’s taxes, there’s Nadal winning on clay, and there’s Tomas Berdych beating up on poor Kevin Anderson. Nine times have they played since the start of 2012, including at four majors, with Berdych winning all nine. At least Anderson took the first set this time and kept the match more competitive than most of its prequels.
Gold star: Considering Kei Nishikori’s promising start to the tournament, Andreas Seppi merits special attention for his five-set battle past the Japanese star. Like Ferrer, Seppi trailed two sets to one before digging into the trenches and holding his ground with an imposing fourth set that set the stage for a tight fifth. As a result of his efforts, Italy leads all nations with four players in the second week of Wimbledon, an odd achievement for a clay-loving nation.
Silver star: One day after demolishing an unseeded opponent, Tommy Haas overcame a much more worthy challenger in Eastbourne champion Feliciano Lopez. Haas bounced back from losing the first set to prevail in four, arranging an intriguing Monday meeting with Novak Djokovic. The German has won both of their previous grass meetings—four years ago—but lost to Djokovic at Roland Garros.
Wooden spoon: At a minimum, one expected some entertaining twists and turns from a match pitting Ernests Gulbis and Fernando Verdasco. The firecrackers fizzled in a straight-sets victory for the Spaniard, who now eyes his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with de Schepper awaiting him on Monday. Gulbis joined a string of unseeded players unable to follow their notable upsets with a deep run.
Stat of the day: World No. 2 Andy Murray cannot face a top-20 opponent until the final. (No. 20 seed Mikhail Youzhny, his Monday opponent, is seeded higher than his ranking because of the grass formula used in making the draw.)
Question of the day: Top seed Novak Djokovic seems to grow more formidable with each round, dismantling Jeremy Chardy today for the loss of only seven games. Can anyone slow his path to the final? Juan Martin Del Potro, the only other man in this half who has not lost a set, might have the best chance. He defeated Djokovic earlier this year at Indian Wells and on grass at the Olympics last year.
Match of the day: One of many players who rallied to win after losing the first set, Li Na rushed through a second-set bagel against Klara Zakopalova but then found herself bogged down in a war of attrition. Li finally opened the door to the second week in the 14th game of the final set. She continues to show more tenacity at this tournament than she has in several months.
Upset of the day: Sabine Lisicki’s victory over the grass-averse Samantha Stosur came as a surprise only on paper. In fact, the greater surprise may have come from Lisicki dropping the first set before dominating the next two. Lisicki has reached the second week in four straight Wimbledon appearances, proving herself the epitome of a grass specialist.
Comeback of the day: British hearts quailed when Laura Robson started a winnable match against Marina Erakovic in dismal fashion. The feisty home hope did not quite recover until late in the second set, when Erakovic served for the match. Needing some help from her opponent to regroup, including a string of double faults, Robson asserted control swiftly in the final set and never relinquished the momentum once she captured it.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There was no Williams déjà vu at Wimbledon, where Kimiko Date-Krumm could not repeat her epic effort against Venus Williams there two years ago. Notching her 600th career victory, Serena surrendered just two games to the Japanese star as she predictably reached the second week without losing a set. Since the start of Rome, the world No. 1 has served bagels or breadsticks in nearly half of the sets that she has played (15 of 31).
Gold star: In trouble against Eva Birnerova when Friday ended, Monica Puig rallied on Saturday to book her spot in the second week. Unlike most of her fellow upset artists, she used a first-round ambush of Sara Errani to light the fuse of two more victories. An almost intra-American match awaits between the Puerto Rican and Sloane Stephens.
Silver star: Tsvetana Pironkova extended her voodoo spell over these lawns with a third second-week appearance in four years. A non-entity at almost all other tournaments, Pironkova could not have chosen a better place to plant her Bulgarian flag. thou
What a difference a day makes: Shortly before play ended on Friday, Petra Kvitova had lost seven straight games to Ekaterina Makarova and narrowly avoided falling behind by a double break in the final set. When she returned in the sunshine of Saturday, Kvitova won five of the last six games to abruptly wrap up a match full of streaky play from both sides.
Americans in London: Also able to collect herself overnight, Sloane Stephens recovered from a second-set bagel to outlast qualifier Petra Cetkovska. Stephens became the only woman outside the top four to reach the second week at every major this year. Nearly joining her was Madison Keys, who gave 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska all that she could handle in a tight three-setter. The impressive serve and balanced baseline power of Keys suggest that we will see much more of her at future Wimbledons.
Question of the day: In 2009, 2011, and 2012, Sabine Lisicki halted the previous month’s Roland Garros champion at Wimbledon. Can she do to Serena what she did to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na, and Maria Sharapova? Plenty of massive serves will scar the grass on Monday.
Wimbledon Rewind: Smooth Sailing for Djokovic, Serena, Berdych, Del Potro, Radwanska, and More on Day 4
After the turmoil of Wednesday, a tranquil Thursday came as a welcome respite. Rain forestalled several of the matches at Wimbledon, but most of the familiar names managed to take the court—and live to fight another day.
Match of the day: The grass on the outer courts continued to score victories in its ongoing rivalry with those patrolling it. Two Frenchmen, Michael Llodra and Paul-Henri Mathieu, added themselves to the accumulating body count with retirements. As the tournament unfolds, one wonders whether the specter of so many injuries will cause many players to move more tentatively, undermining the quality of tennis.
Upset of the day: Only one top-20 player on either side fell on Thursday, but he fell with a resounding thud. No. 17 Milos Raonic exited in straight sets to Igor Sijsling, forcing only one tiebreak. Unimpressive on grass throughout his career, Raonic has not followed in the footsteps of other huge servers from Balkan origins who have shone at Wimbledon. To his credit, Sijsling unleashes plenty of power himself, as an upset of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier this year showed.
No, not again: For the second straight day, one of the Big Four reached a first-set tiebreak on Centre Court against an unremarkable opponent. In contrast to Federer-Stakhovsky yesterday, though, Novak Djokovic’s encounter with Bobby Reynolds grew less rather than more intriguing after the first set. The world No. 1 settled down with discipline to surrender just four games over the next two sets as his challenger faded.
Gold star: What a difference a year makes for Tomas Berdych, who has brushed aside the memories of his first-round exit at Wimbledon in 2012. Berdych halted Daniel Brands in straight sets, impressive considering the effort that Brands mounted against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. When Berdych last defeated Brands at Wimbledon, with much more difficulty, he reached the final.
Silver star: The eighth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro usually finds grass his worst surface, but he has cruised through the first two rounds without dropping a set. After hitting a flashy around-the-netpost winner in his first match, Del Potro earned the chance to shine on Centre Court against Jesse Levine. He did not disappoint despite a second-set lull, starting and finishing with conviction.
Caution light: Extended to four sets in his first match, world No. 9 Richard Gasquet again spent longer than necessary on court in finishing off Go Soeda. Having lost just three games in the first two sets, Gasquet lost the plot temporarily and let the third set slip away in a tiebreak. His best result at a major came at Wimbledon with a 2007 semifinal, but he looks vulnerable this year.
Americans in London: RIP, this category, after just two rounds of the main draw. Bernard Tomic followed his upset of Sam Querrey with a predictably dominant effort against James Blake, while Ivan Dodig dispatched Denis Kudla in straight sets. The last man standing at Wimbledon 2013, Bobby Reynolds, stood no real chance against Djokovic. Andy Roddick, where hath thou gone?
Question of the day: Far from the spotlight, Kei Nishikori quietly has strung together a pair of solid victories. He lurks in the section of Ferrer, mediocre in his first match and defeated by Nishikori on grass last year. Could Nishikori mount an upset or two to reach a quarterfinal or semifinal?
Match of the day: Much superior to her opponent, Jana Cepelova, the 11th-seeded Roberta Vinci could not dispatch her in straight sets and nearly paid the price. Cepelova nipped at her heels until 7-7 in the final set, when the Italian reeled off one last burst to cross the finish line and keep her Wimbledon campaign alive.
Upset of the day: Court 2 has started to acquire the reputation of the preceding Court 2 as a haven for upsets, at least in the women’s draw. Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki fell there yesterday, and today it witnessed the demise of No. 24 Peng Shuai at the hands of Marina Erakovic. Granted, few fans will remember that result after the tournament.
Top seeds sail: Facing Caroline Garcia in the second round for the second straight game, Serena Williams generously gave her two more games than she did in Paris. Stingier was world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who has lost fewer games through two rounds than any other women’s contender. Like Del Potro, Radwanska made the most of her Centre Court assignment and should return there later this fortnight if her form persists.
Gold star: With an Eastbourne title behind her, Elena Vesnina entered Wimbledon with more momentum than most players. All of that momentum crumbled when she collided with grass specialist Sabine Lisicki, a quarterfinalist or better in her last three Wimbledon appearances. Lisicki’s impressively dominant victory moved her within two rounds of an intriguing collision with Serena.
Silver star: The oddest scoreline of the day came from the fifth seed, Li Na, who defeated Simona Halep 6-2 1-6 6-0. Not unfamiliar with such rollercoasters, Li managed to stop Halep’s 11-match winning streak, which had carried her to two June titles on two different surfaces. The Chinese veteran drew a formidable early slate of opponents, but her route looks smoother from here.
The story that never grows old: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Sara Errani have departed Wimbledon. Kimiko Date-Krumm has not. The Japanese veteran reached the third round, although now she must face Serena. Date-Krumm took Venus deep into a third set at a recent Wimbledon, defying the power gap between them.
Americans in London: Rain postponed Alison Riske’s match against Urszula Radwanska, but Madison Keys beat both the rain and 30th seed Mona Barthel with ease. Up next for Keys is Agnieszka Radwanska in an intriguing contrast of styles. While an upset seems like a bridge too far for Keys at this stage, she can only benefit from the experience of facing a top-five opponent at a major.
Question of the day: Usually feckless on grass, Samantha Stosur has wasted little time in dispatching two overmatched opponents. She next faces occasional doubles partner Lisicki in a battle of mighty serves. Can she overcome Lisicki’s substantial surface edge, or were these first two wins a mirage?
Matches and events fly past in the fortnight of a major too quickly to absorb everything that happens. But, now that the red dust has settled, here are the memories that I will take from Roland Garros 2013.
Gael Monfils and the Paris crowd making each other believe that he could accomplish the impossible, and then Monfils accomplishing it.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands looking completely lost at the start of her match against Li Na and then gradually finding her baseline range, one rain delay at a time.
The courteous handshake and smile that Li gave her conqueror despite the bitter defeat.
Shelby Rogers justifying her USTA wildcard by winning a main-draw match and a set from a seed.
Grigor Dimitrov learning how to reach the third round of a major, and learning that what happens in Madrid stays in Madrid.
Bojana Jovanovski teaching Caroline Wozniacki that what happens in Rome doesn’t stay in Rome.
Ernests Gulbis calling the Big Four boring, and former top-four man Nikolay Davydenko calling him back into line.
Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur settling their features into resigned masks they underachieved yet again at a major.
John Isner winning 8-6 in the fifth and then coming back the next day to save 12 match points before losing 10-8 in the fifth.
Virginie Razzano winning twice as many matches as she did here last year.
Tommy Haas dominating a man fourteen years his junior and then coming back the next day to save a match point and outlast Isner when the thirteenth time proved the charm.
Benoit Paire losing his mind after a code violation cost him a set point, and Kei Nishikori quietly going about his business afterwards.
Ana Ivanovic telling journalists that “ajde” is her favorite word, and sympathizing with Nadal for the scheduling woes.
Tommy Robredo crumpling to the terre battue in ecstasy after a third consecutive comeback from losing the first two sets carried him to a major quarterfinal.
Sloane Stephens calling herself one of the world’s most interesting 20-year-olds.
Nicolas Almagro swallowing the bitter taste of a second straight collapse when opportunity knocked to go deep in a major.
Victoria Azarenka reminding us that it is, after all, rather impressive to win a match when your serve completely fails to show up.
Fernando Verdasco clawing back from the brink of defeat against Janko Tipsarevic to the brink of an upset that would have cracked his draw open—only to lose anyway.
Alize Cornet pumping her fist manically in one game and sobbing in despair the next.
Mikhail Youzhny remembering to bang a racket against his chair instead of his head.
Francesca Schiavone catching lightning in a bottle one more time in Paris, just when everyone thought that she no longer could.
Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet putting on a master class of the one-handed backhand.
Svetlana Kuznetsova walking onto Chatrier to face Angelique Kerber and playing like she belonged there as a contender of the present, not a champion of the past.
Roger Federer joining alter ego @PseudoFed on Twitter, and fledgling tweeter Tomas Berdych telling one of his followers that his most challenging opponent is…Tomas Berdych.
Agnieszka Radwanska proving that her newly blonde hair wasn’t a jinx, but that major quarterfinals still might be.
Jo-Wifried Tsonga showing us his best and worst in the course of two matches, illustrating why he could win a major and why he has not.
Sara Errani looking the part of last year’s finalist while tying much bigger, stronger women up in knots.
Novak Djokovic overcoming a significant personal loss midway through the tournament and standing taller than ever before at the one major that still eludes him.
Jelena Jankovic completing a dramatic come-from-behind win and a dramatic come-from-ahead loss against two top-ten women in the same tournament.
David Ferrer, the forgotten man, reaching his first major final at age 31 in a reward for all of those years toiling away from the spotlight.
Maria Sharapova staying true to her uncompromising self and ending a match in which she hit 11 double faults with—an ace.
Serena Williams consigning her last trip here to the dustbin of history.
Rafael Nadal collapsing on the Chatrier clay just as ecstatically the eighth time as he did the first.
Staying up until 5 AM to watch a certain match, and wanting to stay up longer for one more game or one more point.
Looking forward to jumping back on the rollercoaster at the All England Club.
Roland Garros Rewind: Wawrinka Wins Thriller; Djokovic Finishes Strong; Sharapova, Azarenka, Nadal Cruise on Monday
From 256 players to 16, the Roland Garros draws keep shrinking. We keep returning to keep you updated on the latest attrition.
Match of the day: After Richard Gasquet had won his first eleven sets of the tournament, he lost the plot just long enough for Stanislas Wawrinka to reset himself. Once again, Gasquet allowed a two-set lead to evaporate at a major. But he battled valiantly to the end, only succumbing 8-6 in the fifth as Wawrinka reached his first Roland Garros quarterfinal.
Most improved: The outlook is not bright for Wawrinka in the next round, however, for he faces a rejuvenated Rafael Nadal. The birthday boy celebrated turning 27 with his most emphatic win of the tournament, finally delivering sustained quality from start to finish. Nadal will have one more tune-up before the Friday battle with his archrival.
Least improved: That is, assuming that Novak Djokovic reaches that stage. The death of his former coach predictably took its toll on his game in a four-set victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber, who converted only two of thirteen break points. Djokovic asserted that his motivation to win here had risen rather than dulled, but he rarely has produced his best tennis in situations of personal turmoil.
Stat of the day: Not since 1971 had a man as old as Tommy Haas reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros. But the German achieved that feat for the first time in 12 appearances, crushing Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets two days after saving a match point against John Isner.
Question of the day: Haas dominated Djokovic in Miami this spring. Can he repeat the feat when they meet in the quarterfinals?
Match of the day: None. All of the higher-ranked women won in straight sets to leave Svetlana Kuznetsova the only unseeded quarterfinalist in either draw.
Most improved: Into her third quarterfinal here, Victoria Azarenka improved to 11-0 at major this year by sweeping nine straight games from 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone. Azarenka had descended from second-round frailty to third-round fecklessness, so this authoritative fourth-round display came as a welcome relief to her fans. She will seek her first Roland Garros semifinal against Maria Kirilenko.
Americans in Paris: Down they went like dominoes, none able to win a set from their fourth-round opponents. Bethanie Mattek-Sands could solve Li Na but not Maria Kirilenko, while Jamie Hampton could solve Petra Kvitova but not Jelena Jankovic. When Tuesday dawns in Paris, Serena Williams will fly the stars and stripes all by herself. To be honest, though, nobody would have expected any Americans other than Serena to reach the middle weekend.
Stat of the day: Marching ever further into her title defense, Maria Sharapova recorded her 33rd consecutive victory on clay (and 43rd in her last 44 matches) against opponents other than Serena. The best clay winning percentage of any active woman got a little better when she swatted Sloane Stephens aside with a much stronger serving display than in her previous two matches.
Question of the day: All of the top four women have reached the quarterfinals, three without losing a set. Can any of their opponents forestall a semifinal convergence?
On the second Monday of Roland Garros, the remaining quarterfinal lineups take shape. We continue our comprehensive look at the round of 16.
Novak Djokovic vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber: Four long years ago, Kohlschreiber stunned the future No. 1 in the third round here, their only clay meeting. Never have they met since Djokovic became the Djuggernaut in 2011, so that history offers little guide. Growing more impressive with each round, he demolished Grigor Dimitrov to reach the second week without dropping a set. Kohlschreiber has played only two matches here, receiving a second-round walkover, but he too has shone in limited action and appears to have recovered from a recent injury. Highlighted by his elegant one-handed backhand, the German’s shot-making talent should produce flurries of winners and an ideal foil for Djokovic’s court coverage. But he lacks the consistent explosiveness to hit through the Serb from the baseline.
Tommy Haas vs. Mikhail Youzhny: Two veterans wield their one-handed backhands in hopes of a quarterfinal rendezvous with Djokovic. Far from a clay specialist, Youzhny may have surprised even himself by reaching the second week here, although he did win a set from the Serb in Monte Carlo and compiled a solid week in Madrid. A week later, he halted Haas routinely in Rome for his second win of the clay season over a top-20 opponent. Youzhny’s third such victory came over Janko Tipsarevic on Saturday, perhaps aided by the Serb’s fatigue in playing the day after a grueling five-setter. Meanwhile, Haas found the stamina to win a five-set epic from John Isner on Saturday without a day of rest, putting younger men to shame. Able to weather the adversity of twelve match points squandered, he looks as physically and mentally fit at age 35 as he ever has.
Rafael Nadal vs. Kei Nishikori: After Nadal lost a set to the Japanese star in their first meeting five years ago, he has swept their remaining three meetings without losing more than four games in any set. None of them has come on clay, which should tilt the balance of power even more clearly in Nadal’s favor. If he brings his flustered, disheveled form of the first week into the second week, however, Nishikori has the coolness, consistency, and belief to punish him. The last Asian player left in either draw recently defeated Federer on the Madrid clay, and he owns a victory over Djokovic as well. Nadal needs to start this match more solidly than he did his three previous matches, or he might dig an early hole for himself again. Even if he does, Nishikori’s vanilla baseline game should play into Rafa’s hands eventually.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Richard Gasquet: The Swiss No. 2 could have renamed himself “Wowrinka” after a clay season in which he surged back to the top 10. Just outside it now, he seeks to reach his first Roland Garros quarterfinal with a fifth victory over a top-ten opponent this spring. This match will feature a scintillating battle of the two finest backhands in the men’s game, Wawrinka’s the sturdiest and Gasquet’s the most aesthetically pleasing. A strong four-set victory over fellow dark horse Jerzy Janowicz will give the former man valuable momentum for tackling an opponent who did not lose a set in the first week. Once fallible when playing in or for France, Gasquet has improved in that area during this mature phase of his career. He remains highly unreliable when sustained adversity strikes or when a match grows tense, as this match should.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Maria Kirilenko: When they collided on hard courts this spring, the Russian prevailed uneventfully. That result captured the relative status of their games then, Mattek-Sands struggling to gain traction in the main draws of key tournaments and Kirilenko arriving from a semifinal at Indian Wells. The gap separating their trajectories has narrowed during the clay season, where Mattek-Sands suddenly has emerged as a credible threat. A victory over Sara Errani launched her toward a semifinal in Stuttgart, while an upset over Li Na here has catalyzed this second-week run. The American will dictate the terms of this engagement by attempting to bomb winners down the line before Kirilenko settles into the rallies. Against someone who defends as adeptly as the Russian, that tactic could reap mixed results for someone whose accuracy ebbs and flows.
Francesca Schiavone vs. Victoria Azarenka: In a bizarre head-to-head considering their histories, Azarenka has won both of their clay meetings and Schiavone their only match on hard courts. Those trends do not reflect the surface advantage that one would hand the Italian, once a champion and twice a finalist here. Azarenka never has ventured past the quarterfinals, by contrast, and has struggled both mentally and physically with the demands of clay. She may need more experience on it to solve its riddles, but Schiavone could confront her with an intriguing test. A player who prefers rhythmic exchanges from the baseline, Azarenka can expect to find herself stretched into uncomfortable positions and forced to contend with an array of spins and slices. If she serves as woefully as she did against Cornet a round ago, Schiavone might have a real chance at another miracle.
Jamie Hampton vs. Jelena Jankovic: It looks like a clear mismatch on paper, and it could prove a mismatch in reality. A three-time Roland Garros semifinalist and former No. 1 confronts an American who never has reached a major quarterfinal or the top 20. But Hampton will bring confidence from her upset of Petra Kvitova, an opponent with much more dangerous weapons than Jankovic can wield. The bad news for the underdog is that the Serb also will have brought confidence from her previous round, a three-set comeback against former Roland Garros finalist Samantha Stosur. Jankovic often follows an excellent performance with a clunker, though, as she showed in Rome when she collapsed against Simona Halep after upsetting Li Na. And Hampton won their only prior meeting last year at Indian Wells.
Maria Sharapova vs. Sloane Stephens: The defending champion looked a few degrees less than bulletproof in the second sets of her last two victories. Perhaps Sharapova relaxed her steeliness a bit in both when she won the first sets resoundingly from her overmatched prey. While she deserves credit for finishing both in style, future opponents may find hope in those lulls. On the other hand, Sharapova struggled on serve throughout her match against Stephens in Rome—and lost a whopping three games. Her experience buttressed her on the key deuce points, which she dominated, while her return devastated the Stephens serve. The 20-year-old American has surpassed expectations by reaching the second week here again, although she has benefited from a toothless draw. Needing help from Serena to stun the world in Melbourne, Stephens will need help from Sharapova to stun the world in Paris.
The remaining second-week lineups fell into place on Saturday at Roland Garros. Here’s a look back at the studs and duds.
Match of the day: Returning to the battlefield after playing an 8-6 fifth set yesterday, John Isner outdid himself in the effort department. The American giant rallied from two sets down against Tommy Haas, saving twelve match points in the fourth set. Isner even claimed a 4-1 lead in the fifth set as a second comeback in two days from losing the first two sets loomed. Somehow managing to break and saving a match point at 4-5, Haas hung on until Isner finally cracked at 8-8. The thirteenth match point proved the charm.
Unsurprising surprise of the day: Also back in action a day after an 8-6 fifth set, Janko Tipsarevic predictably responded less impressively than Isner did. The eighth seed fell to Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets. Whoever thought that Youzhny would reach the second week of Roland Garros and have a real chance at a quarterfinal berth deserves a glass of Champagne’s finest.
Nice story of the day: Overshadowed this tournament by someone else from Switzerland, as he usually is, Stanislas Wawrinka posted a solid four-set win over the dangerous Jerzy Janowicz. Wawrinka had not known whether he would participate in Roland Garros this year because of a leg injury, so he will feel confident that he made the right decision.
Scandal of the day: A set point against Kei Nishikori awaited Benoit Paire—or so it seemed. Umpire Enric Molina took away the opportunity with a coaching code violation, resulting in a point penalty. An infuriated Paire argued his case at length, but Molina appeared to have ruled correctly. Probably spurred by the incident, Paire bludgeoned his way to win the set anyway, although he lost the match.
Gold star: Like fellow Head endorser Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic always fancies a taste of revenge. He ravaged Grigor Dimitrov’s serve without mercy just weeks after finding it nearly invulnerable in Madrid. Toppled in three sets that time, Djokovic lost just seven games here.
Silver star: Baby steps for Rafael Nadal, who looked far from his overwhelming King of Clay self again but at least advanced in straight sets. Nadal had thrashed third-round opponent Fabio Fognini in Rome. This match proved much more competitive but never really in doubt once he survived a slow start to win a first-set tiebreak.
Stat of the day: The twelve match points saved by Isner were the most ever saved by any man in a match at a major.
American men in Paris: None reach the second week. RIP, this category.
Question of the day: Djokovic’s fourth-round opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber has advanced routinely to this stage and upset the Serb here in 2009. Can he make things interesting on Monday?
Match of the day: Just like Monfils-Berdych, the Stosur-Jankovic duel of veteran clay specialists lived up to its billing. Jankovic repeated her Stuttgart upset of the world No. 9 after losing the first set and closing out a long, tight decider. Her clay revival this year should lead to her first major quarterfinal in recent memory,…
Surprise of the day: …although Jamie Hampton might have something to say about it. The small American who gave Victoria Azarenka a scare in Melbourne bundled Petra Kvitova out of the tournament. Facing little resistance early, Hampton needed to navigate a long second-set tiebreak to prevent the advantage shifting back to the favorite in the third set. Kvitova has lost before the quarterfinals at three straight majors.
Nice story of the day: Perhaps the nicest story of the tournament, in fact. 2010 champion and 2011 finalist Francesca Schiavone returns to the second week in Paris despite a disappointing season, finishing off top-ranked Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli without much ado.
Top seeds show frailty…: Victoria Azarenka barely could hold serve at all for a set-plus against Alize Cornet, dropping a break at love to concede the first set to someone with a 24-match losing streak against top-30 opponents. After an emphatic first set, Maria Sharapova suddenly lost the plot and fell behind by a double break to the persistent but faded Zheng Jie amid serving struggles.
…but finish strong: Once adversity struck, both top women showed their spine. World No. 3 Azarenka raced through a 6-1 third set, while world No. 2 Sharapova swept six of the last seven games. If you want to score a huge upset, you cannot afford to labor as consistently on serve as Cornet and Zheng did. That is too much additional pressure stacked on top of the pressure created by the circumstances.
Adieu, les bleues: Barely wobbling through her two previous matches, Bartoli followed Cornet to the exit as the last Frenchwomen faded from the draw in the first week. Credit to each of them for fighting bard, but France simply is not a first-tier tennis power in the women’s game.
Stat of the day: Sharapova converted all eight of her break points against Zheng, who held serve exactly once in the match.
Americans in Paris: Who would have thought that the stars and stripes would supply a quarter of the women’s final sixteen on the clay of Roland Garros? In addition to Hampton and Serena Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands rallied from losing the first set for the second straight match to dominate clay specialist Paula Ormaechea late. Sloane Stephens took advantage of a soft draw to repeat her second-week result here from last year. Now 8-1 at majors and 11-1 at non-majors, Stephens saves her best for when it means the most.
Questions of the day: Can Schiavone flap the visibly flappable Azarenka on Monday? And how many women’s quarterfinalists will the USA produce? All but Serena will be underdogs next round.