by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams was able to fight off a spirited attack from Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday at the French Open as she won their third round encounter, 6-4, 7-6(10).
Williams, who has been the No. 1 player in the world for the past 172 weeks, got the match started in a manner that most of her matches go, holding at love and forcing her opponent to stress in her first service game, winning the first six points of the match. Mladenovic, though, was able to fight for the hold and quickly turned the first set in her favor as she became the aggressor and was dominating the majority of the points, bringing the French crowd to life.
“I had not been playing my game. I was playing really defensive. It’s not me,” said Williams.
Mladenovic was able to take Williams to deuce in three of her last four service games in the set, having a look at four break points in that span.
Williams, being the fierce warrior that the tennis world has come to know, fought off all of that pressure and quickly applied it to Mladenovic as she served to stay in the first set at 4-5. Williams raced out to a 0-40 lead in the game, eventually converting on her third break point to close out the set with the only break of the match.
In the second set, Williams carried the momentum and played dominantly as she never fell behind in any of her service games. Playing so freely on her own serve, Williams continuously had looks to break Mladenovic’s serve, seeing nine in total in the set, but was unable to take advantage of any of them and was forced to play an epic tiebreak that lasted 19 minutes.
That tiebreak was put on hold for more than two and a half hours as a massive thunderstorm passed over Paris and delayed all play at Roland Garros. But once the rain had subsided and the courts were prepared for play again, the level of play from Williams and Mladenovic was just as high as it was before the rain came.
Mladenovic, the No. 26 seed, held leads at 3-0 and 5-2 in the tiebreak, but Williams was able to win four points in a row for a 6-5 lead and a match point. Mladenovic was able to save four match points, and had a set point of her own, but in the end, the 21-time major champion was too good and capitalized on her fifth match point to close out the two set win in over two and a half hours.
“I think she played well. I feel like I made a tremendous amount of errors, but I feel like she kind of forced me to,” said Williams, praising Mladenovic’s play.
Williams’ win sees her move into the fourth round of the French Open where only 16 women are left, and she will take on Elina Svitolina, the No. 18 seed.
by Kevin Craig
Daria Gavrilova kept Australian tennis fans’ hopes alive for a deep run as she was able to defeat the No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 on Friday at the Australian Open to advance to the round of 16. Gavrilova has been the sole Australian representative in the women’s singles draw since Tuesday, as she was the only Australian woman to advance out of the first round.
In the first set, Gavrilova and Mladenovic exchanged breaks in each of their second service games before Gavrilova would go on to break in the seventh game and hold on to that lead to close out the set. The efficient 32-minute first set included zero deuce games and only saw two games in which the loser of the game got to 30.
The second set was more tightly contested as the first game lasted nine points before Mladenovic was able to hold. Gavrilova then held for 1-1, the last hold before four consecutive breaks were exchanged. After being down a break twice and battling back both times, Mladenovic went on to get a break in the tenth game and close out the second set, forcing a decider.
Gavrilova and Mladenovic wound up playing the longest third set of the women’s singles tournament at the Australian Open as they needed 20 games to decide a winner. Once again, Gavrilova was able to break early in the set, but was unable to consolidate as she was broken right back by Mladenovic to get the set to 1-1. There was minimal trouble on serve until Gavrilova broke Mladenovic again to go up 5-4 and have a shot at serving out the match. Her consolidation troubles continued, though, she was broken at 15 and Mladenovic prolonged the match. Finally at 9-9, Gavrilova got the decisive break to go up 10-9 and went on to hold to make her first fourth round at a slam.
One of the main differences in the match came in the unforced errors department as Mladenovic committed 61 while Gavrilova contained hers to 30. The two were not unfamiliar with each other though, as they had faced off in the 2009 final of the French Open juniors, where Mladenovic was able to get the straight sets win. Gavrilova was able to get her revenge on Friday, and is able to continue her dream run in front of her home fans.
The Aussie winning the 171 minute match is a testament to her maturity and ability to keep her composure in difficult situations as she continues her best run at a slam. The 21 year old dubbed the win as the “best win of [her] whole career,” but has an opportunity to get an even better one as she will take on the No. 10 seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round.
In the hours and days following Marion Bartoli’s maiden Grand Slam win, pundits and commentators have been hard at work spinning the wheel of adjectives (if not euphemisms) to describe the Frenchwoman. “Quirky.” “Eccentric.” “Unique.” All of which are ways of dancing around the word one really wants to use when opining on the veteran top tenner: “weird.”
Compared to her WTA colleagues, it’s true: Marion Bartoli is weird. While her two-handed groundstrokes set her apart from the rest on a fundamental level, Bartoli has made a career of exaggerating the sport’s fundamentals. She takes dramatic practice cuts before kangaroo jumping her way into a widely open-stance return position. She winds up to serve in a hitch-filled motion that looks more like a manual flip book of what a serve is supposed to look like. She is very aware of her surroundings, acknowledging cheering fans with an emphatic fist pump of appreciation.
Even in the context of a tournament so full of surprises and early round upsets that Wimbledon itself was re-dubbed “Wimbleweird,” Bartoli managed to stand out. Though coming into what has been her best major tournament (reaching the finals in 2007), the Frenchwoman had suffered through a middling 2013 highlighted by her decision to extricate her father from his perennial position as her coach and confidante. While bigger names went out in her half of the draw, Bartoli continued to cruise, not only reaching the final without losing a set, but also doing so without facing a top 10 player.
Against prohibitive favorite Sabine Lisicki, Bartoli continued to “weird out” those in attendance. The German had taken out two of the top four seeds, and had won three of her four matches against the Frenchwoman (including a quarterfinal encounter at the All-England Club two years ago). Yet, Lisicki crumbled under the weight of expectation, and Bartoli steadied her own nerves to play with the enthusiastic poise that has seen her conquer multiple Slam champions and reigning World No. 1s throughout her career.
As she closed out victory with an ace and jubilantly skipped over to greet her supporters (including her father with her new hitting partner, Thomas Drouet), I began to wonder if the read on Bartoli was all wrong.
Maybe Marion is one of the normal ones.
As a player, what was weird about Bartoli, whose best results have come on grass, using her on-the-rise groundstrokes to overwhelm seven opponents en route to the title? As a person, shouldn’t the athlete who gracefully stalks about big stages seemingly immune to nerves and tension look more to viewers like the “weird” one?
In this way, Bartoli is the People’s Champion in more ways that one would think. Over the years, she has approached a game often played at immortal levels as methodically as she has uniquely, constantly trying new and better ways of competing with the game’s elite. What many deemed “rituals,” she has seen as formulas for success. Where she has shown fits of greatness, she has also shown human frailty as she struggled with various injuries that derailed potentially earlier title runs.
When she saw she could go no further with her father’s coaching earlier this year, she began opening up to other ideas, and even made amends with the French Federation after years of ostracism and alienation. Fed Cup Captain Amelie Mauresmo and teammate Kristina Mladenovic’s presence in Bartoli’s player box was proof that Bartoli had been warmly welcomed back into the fold.
With these changes came a dip in form; some may have thought her master plan had backfired, but Bartoli refused to buckle under the immediate consequences of major change. As she’s always done, she continued to work and fine-tune her team until they were as formulaic as her two-handed volleys.
In victory and in press, she was charming and unguarded, standing in stark contrast with the high-jumping cartoon character one sees between points. Her pure, unadulterated joy was very human, something we all could imagine feeling after reaching the precipice of our life’s purpose.
If there was anything “weird” about Marion Bartoli holding the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft, perhaps it had to do with the fact that, despite the changes in technology, the vast accumulation of natural (or superhuman) talent, even the steely nerves shown throughout the tennis world, a normal young woman can continue to grow, change and tinker with her game and rise to the pinnacle of her sport.
After all these years and compared to the surrounding names in the Wimbledon Compendium, Marion Bartoli may still be a “weirdo.” But her fortnight at the All-England Club proved that she was something more.
She’s one of us.
The sunny island of Sicily hosts the more notable of the two small women’s tournaments in the week after Wimbledon. Palermo will host both of the leading Italian stars, who eye one more chance to capitalize on their best surface.
Top half: Bounced from Wimbledon in the first round, Sara Errani returns gratefully to clay after a one-match grass season. The world No. 6 took a wildcard into one of her home tournaments, where she has won two titles. In search of her second 2013 title defense, Errani can look ahead to a second-round meeting with fiery Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. Two other clay specialists join her in a section filled with hyphenated names. Mariana Duque-Marino impressed with her shot-making during a tight loss to Marion Bartoli at Roland Garros, while Silvia Soler-Espinosa has become a fixture of Spain’s Fed Cup team.
Neither of the most intriguing players in the second quarter has a seed next to her name. Two of the Italians in this section emerged from irrelevance at Wimbledon and will hope to dazzle their compatriots. Both Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp reached the second week on grass, their least effective surface, despite rankings outside the top 100. The evergreen Anabel Medina Garrigues, who bageled Serena Williams in Madrid, could meet Pennetta or Knapp in the quarterfinals. Much less intriguing are the two Czech seeds, Klara Zakopalova and Karolina Pliskova. Still, Zakopalova reached the second week at Roland Garros last year, for the slow conditions suited her counterpunching style.
Bottom half: Unfortunate to draw Maria Sharapova in her Wimbledon opener, Kristina Mladenovic gained some consolation by winning the mixed doubles title with Daniel Nestor. Almost overnight, she travels to Palermo as the third seed. Mladenovic will have some breathing room as she adjusts from one surface to another, situated in an especially forgiving section. Young French star Caroline Garcia might face Irina-Camelia Begu in a second-round contrast of styles. A quarterfinal between Garcia and Mladenovic could offer some insight onto the future of women’s tennis in France after Bartoli.
Second seed Roberta Vinci joined Pennetta and Knapp in the second week of Wimbledon but struggled in the first week and fell heavily to Li Na. All the same, Vinci remains within striking distance of the top 10 at the age of 31 while continuing to shine in doubles with Errani. This Italian veteran could meet Wimbledon surprise Eva Birnerova, who almost reached the second week as well. The canny Lourdes Dominguez Lino then would confront Vinci in a battle of traditional clay specialists.
Final: Errani vs. Vinci
Top half: The Hungarian Grand Prix does not look particularly grand this year with not a single entrant from the top 25. Leading the pack is Lucie Safarova, whose 2013 campaign has lurched from signs of hope to unmitigated disasters. Safarova has defeated Samantha Stosur twice this year and reached a clay semifinal in Nurnberg, but she won one total match at three more important clay events in Stuttgart, Madrid, and Paris. Ripe for an upset, she might fall victim to the promising Petra Martic. Despite a horrific start to 2013, Martic recaptured some of her form at the challenger level and reached the third round of Wimbledon, where she won a set from Tsvetana Pironkova. South African No. 1 Chanelle Scheepers holds the other seed in this section.
Doubles specialist Lucie Hradecka will look to bomb her way through a section that includes young German star Annika Beck. The fourth seed in Budapest, Beck reached a quarterfinal and a semifinal at International events on clay earlier this year. Perhaps she will have gained inspiration from her compatriot Lisicki’s breakthrough at Wimbledon. Lara Arruabarrena won a challenger earlier this year and gained attention for reaching the fourth round of Indian Wells, where she upset Vinci. The 80th-ranked Spaniard will hope to outlast erratic fifth seed Johanna Larsson with her consistency.
Bottom half: Probably the favorite for the title, third seed Simona Halep seeks to extend a ten-match winning streak at non-majors. Even before that romp through Nurnberg and s’Hertogenbosch, Halep reached the semifinals at the Premier Five event in Rome. That quality passage of play should have primed her for a deep run in Budapest, although the heavy serve of home hope Timea Babos could pose an intriguing threat. Seventh seed Maria Teresa Torro-Flor would meet Babos before Halep, hoping to build on clay victories over Francesca Schiavone and Daniela Hantuchova this spring.
Finishing the clay season in style, Alize Cornet won a title in Strasbourg and took a set from Victoria Azarenka in Paris. She will look to rebound from a massive collapse against Pennetta at Wimbledon against Hradecka’s doubles partner, Andrea Hlavackova. The faded Shahar Peer joins an alumnus of the Chris Evert Tennis Academy, Anna Tatishvili, elsewhere in the section.
Final: Unseeded player vs. Halep
The third major of 2013 ended today with an exclamation point as Andy Murray brought euphoria to a nation starved for a home-grown Wimbledon champion. Here are some thoughts.
That was…historic: 77 years, and counting no longer. It often must have felt like 777 years to Andy Murray and members of his team, so often did the media dangle British futility at Wimbledon over his head like the sword of Damocles. With a convincing straight-sets victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Murray echoed his achievement in winning an Olympic gold medal on home soil last year. He will open play on Centre Court at Wimbledon 2014 as the defending champion.
But also anticlimactic: Considering the magnitude of the history at stake, and the quality of his opponent, one felt certain that an epic of breathtaking drama would unfold. Instead, Djokovic played by far his worst match of the tournament at the most costly time. He surrendered 40 unforced errors across three sets even by the generous standards of the Wimbledon scorekeepers. Djokovic had much less reason to want this title desperately than did Murray, and it may have showed. Not that any British spectator regretted the routine scoreline.
Symptoms of a real rivalry: Through nearly 20 meetings now, the Djokovic-Murray rivalry has not caught fire to the extent that Federer-Nadal, Djokovic-Nadal, or Federer-Djokovic did. Perhaps it is the lack of contrast between their styles, or the fact that they rarely seem to play their best against each other at the same time. But the matchup in three of the last four major finals is the key ATP rivalry of the future, if not the present, and at least it has taken plenty of twists and turns. After Murray swept the Olympics and the US Open, Djokovic swept the year-end championships and the Australian Open, only to see Murray bounce back at Wimbledon. One cannot predict a winner between these two from one match to the next, not the case for long stretches of the Federer-Nadal and Djokovic-Nadal rivalries.
Return to normalcy: Their Australian Open matchup felt like an anomaly when neither man lost serve until the third set, and Djokovic never dropped serve at all. Wimbledon set this return-heavy rivalry back on track despite a surface oriented around the serve. Murray and Djokovic combined for 11 breaks across three sets, and at least one of them rallied from trailing by a break in every set.
The grass is greener: Murray’s decision to withdraw from Roland Garros in favor of maximizing his grass chances paid off in spades. He has won his last three tournaments on grass and reached four straight finals on the surface. With his victory over Djokovic, moreover, Murray has won eight consecutive sets against top-three opponents on grass. Could it become his favorite surface?
No place like Down Under: Despite his stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking and consensus recognition as the best player in the world, Djokovic has built most of his success on the Australian Open. His dominance there include a 4-0 record in finals and a 6-1 record against the Big Four, contrasted with a 2-5 record in finals and a 5-14 record against the Big Four at other majors. In fact, Murray now has matched Djokovic’s title count at other majors by winning one title each at Wimbledon and the US Open, none at Roland Garros.
Four in a row: Earlier in his career, Murray was the member of the Big Four most likely to stumble early or severely stub his toe. That trend has changed as he has reached the final at his last four majors, showing the consistency expected of a contender, and he has played a fifth set against only one opponent outside the Big Four in 2012-13. His No. 2 ranking owes much to that improvement.
Del Potro lurking (again): At the Olympics last year, Juan Martin Del Potro extended Roger Federer through a 36-game final set. It depleted the Swiss star’s energy ahead of the gold medal match against Murray. Something similar might have happened at Wimbledon this year when Del Potro battled Djokovic for 4 hours and 43 minutes ahead of the final against Murray. On the other hand, Djokovic’s superb fitness has risen above similar burdens before.
No competition, no problem: Not facing a single top-16 seed before the final, Murray did not struggle to raise his level when the level of competition spiked. Of course, quarterfinal and semifinal opponents Fernando Verdasco and Jerzy Janowicz played better than their rankings suggested.
Practice makes perfect: The experience of losing last year’s final may indeed have helped Murray survive the only slight patches of adversity that arrived this year. Winning the first set 6-4, as he did against Federer, he again found himself under pressure in the second set. But this time Murray held off a second-set rally that could have turned around the Wimbledon final for the second straight year. He did something similar in the third set, although by then a Djokovic comeback seemed implausible.
Hangover ahead: After he won the Olympics and the US Open last fall, Murray faded sharply over the next few months while adjusting to his new status as a major champion. One might expect a similar swoon after this equally important breakthrough at Wimbledon. On the other hand, Murray may feel spurred to defend his US Open title, and he usually shines on North American summer hard courts.
More drama elsewhere: France produced its second champion of this Wimbledon when Kristina Mladenovic partnered Daniel Nestor to win the mixed doubles title. The pair rallied from losing the first set and survived a topsy-turvy decider to win 8-6. The last set played on Centre Court in 2013, it epitomized many of this tournament’s unpredictable trajectories.
(June 16, 2013) As Daniela Hantuchova defeats Croat Donna Vekic for the Aegon Classic title in Birmingham, we recap the best photos from the semifinals and finals this weekend.
Gallery also includes Alison Riske, Ashleigh Barty, Casey Dellacqua, Sabine Lisicki, Madgalena Rybarikova and Kristina Mladenovic, and is by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
(June 15, 2013) There has been plenty of great play and memorable moments at the WTA Aegon Classic, and we’ve compiled the best photos from days 3, 4 and 5 around the grounds.
Players include Daniela Hantuchova, Kristina Mladenovic, Heather Watson, Sabine Lisicki, Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sanchez, Magdalena Rybarikova, Kristen Flipkens and Ajla Tomljanovic.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
(June 11, 2013) The WTA event in Birmingham kicks off the grass season this week, and first round notable winners from Monday and Tuesday include Madison Keys, Bojana Jovanovski, Mona Barthel, Yanina Wickmayer, Kristina Mladenovic and qualifiers Alison Riske and Maria Sanchez.
Also in today’s gallery: Eugenie Bouchard, Anne Keothavong, Yulia Putintseva, Tara Moore, Melanie South, and Melanie Oudin who was the defending champion but was knocked out by Croat Ajla Tomljanovic.
Photos by Christopher Levy
For the second time in three days, inclement weather limited the action in Paris. This rewind tilts more towards the women’s side, which featured more headlines and more matches overall.
Match of the day: In a sequel to the Battle of the Sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, Mother Nature confronted a host of ATP players today and defeated most of them. Fewer than half of the scheduled men’s matches finished on Thursday.
Gold star: Probably aware of the rain clouds overhead, Novak Djokovic lost no time in disposing of Guido Pella in 86 minutes. The world No. 1 lost just four games and gains a timing advantage over rival and semifinal opponent Rafael Nadal, who never took the court because of the rain.
Silver star: Grigor Dimitrov reaches the third round of a major for the first time, dispatching home hope Lucas Pouille in straight sets. Granted, Dimitrov would have had nobody to blame but himself had he failed to knock off the 324th-ranked Pouille, but a milestone remains a milestone. And the rematch with Djokovic looms on Saturday with both men on full rest.
Most improved: Also beating the raindrops was Benoit Paire, who regrouped from an unsteady four-setter against Marcos Baghdatis to oust Lukas Kubot in straight sets. People called Lukas generally had a bad day, though, as…
Rematch that won’t happen: Lukas Rosol fell to Fabio Fognini in four sets, the expected outcome but not the outcome that many of us wanted. With a mini-upset, Rosol would have faced Rafael Nadal in a bid to repeat his staggering Wimbledon upset.
Anticlimaxes of the day: The trickle of injuries continued to flow from the men’s draw with a walkover by Yen-Hsun Lu, advancing Philipp Kohlschreiber, and a retirement by Dmitry Tursunov, sending Victor Hanescu through.
Tough luck: Suspended within three games of a comfortable victory over Horacio Zeballos, Stanislas Wawrinka must come back tomorrow. His ability to finish off Thiemo De Bakker just before darkness in the previous round looks even more clutch now.
Question of the day: How much difference does it make that Djokovic can maintain his regular schedule, while Nadal will not?
Awards sweep of the day: Match of the day? Check. Comeback of the day? Check. Surprise of the day? Check. Across three sets and two rain delays, Bethanie Mattek-Sands rallied from a disastrous start against 2011 champion Li Na to oust the sixth seed. The upset bolsters a surprising resurgence on clay by the American veteran and ends a deeply disappointing clay season for Li, who fell short of the quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome before exiting Paris in the second round. For Mattek-Sands, the door lies open for a deeper run in this relatively weak section of the draw.
Gold star: Building on her comfortable first-round victory, Samantha Stosur cruised past home hope Kristina Mladenovic on Court Philippe Chatrier. Stosur held the status of the heavy favorite in that match, but one could have imagined the difficult weather conditions and the challenge of playing a Frenchwoman on a show court might have flustered her. Not the case.
Silver star: Beating the rain more easily than anybody, Jelena Jankovic also built on a solid start to the tournament by dropping just three games to Garbine Muguruza. Like Stosur, Jankovic has reached three semifinals here, so she will bear watching as the tournament reaches its midpoint.
Lesser surprises of the day: A meager 2013 for Dominika Cibulkova continued when the former Roland Garros semifinalist fell in three sets to Marina Erakovic. Much less skilled on clay than her opponent, Cibulkova could muster fewer excuses for her loss than could the recently injured Yaroslava Shvedova. Last year’s quarterfinalist will lose plenty of ranking points after falling to qualifier Paula Ormaechea.
Most improved: After she wobbled through three sets against Aravane Rezai, Petra Kvitova advanced much more efficiently against a far more creditable opponent in Peng Shuai. This section of the draw has become fascinating with Stosur set to face Jankovic and the winner due to meet Kvitova.
Least improved: Dominant in her first match, Victoria Azarenka struggled to finish off the overmatched Annika Beck in two sets closer than they looked. Perhaps the rain derailed Vika’s rhythm. The good news of the day for her is that she cannot face anyone ranked higher than No. 12 Maria Kirilenko en route to the semifinals.
Tough luck of the day: Defending champion Maria Sharapova stood six points from victory at 6-2 4-2 deuce before the tournament suspended play for the night. Sharapova will need to return tomorrow for the coup de grace. On the other hand, she can thank Djokovicfor finishing his match so swiftly that she could play as much of her match as she did.
Good luck of the day: Top Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli would have faced Mariana Duque-Marino on an outer court had she played on Thursday. Following the rain and the rescheduling, she will return to Court Philippe Chatrier to start Friday’s matches. That setting and the amplified crowd support should boost Bartoli as she attempts to work through her serving woes.
Americans in Paris: Sloane Stephens pulled rank on Vania King, moving within one victory of a second straight appearance in the second week here. If you just look at majors, Stephens has compiled an excellent season. The rest of the American contingent stood at deuce, with Jamie Hampton a comfortable winner and Melanie Oudin a resounding loser to Zheng Jie.
Question of the day: After Li’s loss, who is most likely to face Azarenka in the quarterfinals?
Our Thursday preview discusses eight matches from each singles draw, starting this time with the WTA.
Kristina Mladenovic vs. Samantha Stosur: Her opening victory over Kimiko Date-Krumm looked impressive on paper with the loss of just two games. Now, however, Stosur must face a Frenchwoman much more worthy of her steel. Mladenovic caught fire on home soil in February when she reached the semifinals of the Paris Indoors, although she faces an uphill battle against an opponent more accomplished on clay and much more experienced at this level.
Maria Sharapova vs. Eugenie Bouchard: Teenagers have troubled Sharapova in the first week of majors before, from the Melanie Oudin catastrophe at the US Open to a hard-fought encounter with Laura Robson at Wimbledon and a narrowly avoided stumble against Caroline Garcia here. Bouchard reached the semifinals of Strasbourg last week, where she threatened eventual champion Alize Cornet. On the other hand, the 19-year-old Canadian eked out only two games from the woman who designs her Nike outfits when they met in Miami this spring.
Francesca Schiavone vs. Kirsten Flipkens: Logic suggests that the second round marks the end of the road for Schiavone, who faces a seeded opponent there. Her history at this tournament suggests that we should not lean too heavily on logic and give her a fighting chance against a young Belgian more successful on faster surfaces.
Li Na vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands: When they met in Stuttgart this spring, the 2011 Roland Garros champion eased past her fellow veteran. Mattek-Sands pulled off a series of impressive victories that week, reaching the semifinals as a qualifier. The indoor conditions in Stuttgart fit her game better than the outdoor terre battue here, and Li looked much crisper in her opener against Anabel Medina Garrigues than she had earlier this clay season.
Marion Bartoli vs. Mariana Duque-Marino: Surviving the grueling three-hour trainwreck in her first-round match may have liberated Bartoli to swing more boldly henceforth. Or Colombian clay specialist Duque-Marino might finish what Govortsova started, capitalizng on the double faults that continue to flow. Bartoli cannot count on the Chatrier crowd to rescue her this time.
Ashleigh Barty vs. Maria Kirilenko: Both women enter this match in excellent form, the Australian teenager having scored her first career victory at a major and the Russian having yielded just a single game. This tournament has offered a fine showcase for some of the WTA’s rising stars, although Kirilenko’s consistency should leave Barty few options.
Jelena Jankovic vs. Garbine Muguruza: Continuing her clay success this spring, Jankovic won more of the key points than she often does in fending off occasional nemesis Daniela Hantuchova. A heavy-hitting Spaniard awaits in Muguruza, who knocked off another Slam-less No. 1 this year in Caroline Woznacki. Consecutive fourth-round appearances at Indian Wells and Miami suggested Muguruza’s readiness to take the next step forward on a hard court, but her clay results have lagged behind.
Petra Kvitova vs. Peng Shuai: Yet another three-set rollercoaster defined Kvitova’s path to the second round. While she looks invincible at her best, seemingly anyone will have a chance against her on her vulnerable days. Far from just anyone, Peng won a set from Kvitova on a hard court this year and another set on grass last year. Last week, she reached a Premier final in Brussels, by far her most notable result since her career year in 2011.
Lucas Pouille vs. Grigor Dimitrov: Never has Dimitrov advanced past the second round of a major. Barring unforeseen circumstances, that streak of futility should end here. Ranked outside the top 300, Pouille has spent most of his limited career at the challenger level, although he did win his first match in straight sets. Dimitrov aims to set up a third-round rematch of his Madrid meeting with Novak Djokovic.
Rafael Nadal vs. Martin Klizan: Unable to deliver a strong opening statement in his first match, Nadal instead revealed some notable signs of frailty. He should settle into a groove more smoothly against a less explosive opponent, using the opportunity to reassert his clay supremacy. Few players bounce back from a shaky effort better than Nadal.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Janko Tipsarevic: In their most significant match to date, Tipsarevic held match points against Verdasco at the 2011 Australian Open before tanking the fifth set when the fourth slipped away. The Serb remains an enigmatic competitor who has struggled through a barren season, but he did win their two meetings since then. Also in dismal form for most of 2013, Verdasco appeared to raise his confidence over the last month. He demolished his first opponent and should hold a clear surface edge.
Tommy Haas vs. Jack Sock: The raw American won his first main-draw match at Roland Garros in scintillaing fashion after notching three wins in qualifying just as easily. Fourteen years his senior, Haas shares Sock’s preference for faster surfaces. He has produced some solid clay results this year, though, whereas his opponent lost five straight matches before arriving in Paris. If Sock maintains a high first-serve percentage, this match could become very competitive but still probably not an upset.
Lukas Rosol vs. Fabio Fognini: With the winner almost certianly destined to face Rafael Nadal, this match bears the whiff of intrigue over the possibility of a Wimbledon rematch. Fognini’s superior clay game should snuff out Rosol’s hopes for another chance at the Spaniard, especially across a best-of-five match. The Italian reached a Masters 1000 semifinal in Monte Carlo, although his results have tapered since then. For his part, Rosol won his first career title in Bucharest, defeating Gilles Simon en route.
Ryan Harrison vs. John Isner: Rare is the all-American match in the second round of Roland Garros, created this time by an odd quirk of the draw. Harrison defeated Isner at Sydney just before the older American withdrew from the Australian Open, the start of a disastrous season for him outside a small title in Houston. Nor did the upset launch Harrison’s season in style, for he fell outside the top 100 this spring and has won just two main-draw matches since that January victory over Isner. The latter can draw inspiration from his five-setter here against Rafael Nadal in 2010.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Horacio Zeballos: One of these men barely finished off his match on Tuesday, while the other needed to return on Wednesday for two more sets. Both Wawrinka and Zeballos defeated marquee Spaniards to win clay titles this spring, Zeballos stunning Nadal in Vina del Mar and Wawrinka dominating Ferrer in Portugal. The Swiss No. 2’s achievement marked merely one episode in a general upward trend, though, whereas the Argentine’s breakthrough has remained an anomaly.
Robin Haase vs. Jerzy Janowicz: Haase recently collected the ATP record for consecutive tiebreaks lost, halting at the same number as Roger Federer’s record of major titles won. The floundering Dutchman might play a few more tiebreaks against a man who can match him hold for hold. The clay-court savvy of both men languishes relatively low, causing them to battle the surface as well as each other.