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Roland Garros Day 14: Links Roundup with Williams, Mahut, Nadal, Murray and more

Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.

Shot of the Day: After losing the first set, snatching the second, and having the upper hand several times in the third including up 4-2 in the tiebreak, Nicolas Mahut and Mike Llodra lost a tough battle to Mike and Bob Bryan in the men’s doubles, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4). Mahut was the only man on the court appearing in his first Slam final, so it’s no surprise that emotions overcame the Frenchman after their heartbreaking loss.

Toni Nadal says eighth French Open title could be “Nadal’s prized moment”: As Reem Abulleil of Sport 360 writes, “Toni Nadal believes a Rafael Nadal win in the Roland Garros final on Sunday against David Ferrer could be considered his nephew’s greatest success to date considering everything they had to overcome to return to a major final.” Toni Nadal appears to be both shocked and grateful that his nephew has been able to reach a grand slam final.

“I don’t know why we are here. In Sao Paolo, or in Vina Del Mar, we had so many problems and we thought that it would be difficult to be again here in the final. I thought it would be very difficult to be at the top again because the moment was not good, he had problems in his knee and altogether we had doubts whether he can go or not.”

Andy Murray’s French Open absence could be a game changer: Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian has been documenting Andy Murray’s recovery from the back injury that caused him to miss the French Open. Murray says he watched Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal’s semifinal match at Roland Garros and that not playing the French Open was “a hard decision but that sort of match is the reason why I wouldn’t be playing at the French Open.” Murray believes his French Open withdrawal may be “a blessing in disguise” and that he “feels really good and took maybe eight or nine days’ full rest doing nothing and has had no setbacks practicing.”

Serena Williams captures French Open title: Of course the biggest news of the day is Serena Williams claiming her 2nd French Open title (first since 2002) and her 16th grand slam overall placing her 6th on the all-time list. Greg Garber of ESPN notes that Serena “could catch Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert (18 each) as early as this year’s US Open.” Serena talked about how losing in the first round last year helped her enter this particular tournament with a relaxed state of mind.

“I think losing in the first round definitely helped me realize I had no points to defend. I have nothing to lose. I can just kind of relax and just do what I want to do here.”

While Serena may have not been telling the truth when she said she had nothing to lose she certainly looked like she was in cruise control for the vast majority of the tournament.

Bryan Brothers dash French hopes in doubles final: “Ten years ago, Bob and Mike Bryan were establishing themselves as a rising doubles pair when they shockingly ran to the title at Roland Garros, their very first major title” Nick McCarvel writes for the Roland Garros official website. The Bryans ended a not so shocking 2013 French Open campaign by taking down the French tandem of Nicolas Mahut and Michael Llodra in a third set tiebreaker. The Bryan’s were down 4-2 in the third set tiebreaker and managed to capture the final five points and escape with the victory. Afterwards, they admitted to having lady luck on their side to which Bob Bryan stated, “These guys are two of the greatest guys on tour. You played unbelievable today, we were lucky. It could have gone either way today. Today we were pretty fortunate.”

Christian Garin wins boys’ singles title: Christian Garin of Chile took down the younger brother of ATP professional Mischa Zverev, Alexander Zverev, in the boys singles final. Garin, as Guillaume Willecoq describes on the Roland Garros official site, gives “Chilean fans something to shout about once again a year after Fernando Gonzalez retired.”

Wheelchair winners: This Roland Garros featured video highlights the wheelchair tennis competition, one of the most impressive and inspiring competitions that takes place during the French Open but is unfortunately one of the most overlooked.

The Stories that weren’t

Now that it’s officially the off-season, which is all of one month long, you’ve probably seen many many retrospectives and “Best [insert tennis topic here] of 2010” lists. So, instead of doing my own “best of” this week, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the 2010 storylines that didn’t quite pan out.

It’s Finally Andy Roddick’s Year

The Rationale: Last year, Andy Roddick took part in one of the most memorable Wimbledon finals of all time. At 27, most people thought his chances of winning a second Grand Slam were slim, but he powered through the field, defeating hometown favorite Andy Murray in a great four set semifinal. Just like 2004 and 2005, Roddick would face Roger Federer in the final; however, unlike those two times, Andy went after the title with a vengeance, giving us an epic fifth set. Well, a 16-14 fifth set was epic before Isner-Mahut and for a championship match I still consider it pretty incredible. Anyway, we all know how that turned out. Poor Andy went home empty handed once again. Even though he didn’t win, reporters jumped at the idea that Andy was on the right track. So, when Andy posted a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open and backed that up with a finalist appearance at Indian Wells and a win in Miami during the US hardcourt season, a lot of people felt that he was on track to finally win Wimbledon.

The Reality: Unfortunately Roddick crashed out to Yen-Hsun Lu in the 4th round of Wimbledon. After losing in the round of 16 at Legg Mason in early August, Andy fell out of the top 10, leaving no Americans in the top 10 for the first time since the ranking system was instituted. He later confirmed that he was suffering from mononucleosis and had to skip the Rogers Cup in Toronto. The disappointments continued when he lost in the 2nd round of the US Open to Janko Tipsarevic. Then, he was forced to retire from his 2nd round match in Shanghai. However, Andy worked incredibly hard in Basel and Paris to salvage his spot in an eighth consecutive year end championship and is currently ranked 8th in the world.

Nadal’s Winning Ways Are Over

The Rationale: Rafael Nadal is pretty much the King of the French Open and in 2009, for the first time since he started participating, he didn’t take home the trophy. In fact, Nadal lost rather shockingly to Robin Soderling in the 4th round. Suffering from tendonitis in both knees, Rafa was unable to defend his 2008 Wimbledon title and eventually lost in the semifinals at the 2009 US Open. Rafa failed to defend his Australian Open title after being forced to retire in the quarterfinals against Andy Murray. Nadal’s last title came in Rome in April of 2009. By April 2010, he still hadn’t won a single title.

The Reality: Nearly one year after his title in Rome, Rafa decimated Fernando Verdasco in the Monte Carlo final. Proving his Monte Carlo title was no fluke, Nadal blew through the clay court season, winning Rome and Madrid, and capping it all off with his fifth French Open title. After that, Rafa went on to win his second Wimbledon title and completed a career Grand Slam at the US Open. After a slow start to the year, 2010 actually ended up being all about Rafael Nadal.

Justine Henin’s Magical Comeback

The Rationale: After a two year retirement, Kim Clijsters came back to win the 2009 US Open in just her third tournament back from retirement. So, when Justine Henin announced that she too would be returning to professional tennis, the expectations were high. Not to disappoint, Henin defeated Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, and Zheng Jie en route to the Australian Open final. She lost to Serena Williams in three sets, but was off to a good start considering this was her second tournament back from retirement. She reached the semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open in March before losing to compatriot Kim Clijsters in three sets, but managed to crack the top 25 after starting the season unranked.

The Reality: Justine has won the French Open four times, but fell to Sam Stosur in the 4th round of this year’s tournament. No matter, Justine had mentioned that the purpose of her comeback was to finally win Wimbledon. Justine is a two time finalist and three time semifinalist at the grass court tournament and it is the only trophy keeping her from completing a career Grand Slam. Henin was seeded 17th by the start of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships but was set on a course to meet fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the 4th round. It was one of the most anticipated match ups of the tournament and Kim prevailed in three sets. The real disaster was not the loss, but a fall Justine took in the first set. After sustaining an elbow injury, she was forced to end her season after her Wimbledon loss. Henin is set to return to tennis at the Hopman Cup in January, and this story may very well become relevant again.

Ernests Gulbis Is Ending His Slacker Ways

The Rationale: Ernests Gulbis is only 22, but he’s already compiled quite a reputation on tour for having lots of untapped talent, but little motivation. Some days he looks absolutely inspired and some days he looks anything but. However, 2010 started off as a great year for the young Latvian. In February he reached the semifinals at the Regions Morgan Keegan event in Memphis and went on to win his first ATP title at Delray Beach. At the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Gulbis reached his first semifinal at an ATP Masters 1000 event. The real story from Rome was that Gulbis beat World No. 1 Roger Federer in the second round. While he eventually lost the semifinal to Rafael Nadal, he was the first player to win a set against Rafa in the 2010 clay season.

The Reality: Gulbis was forced to retire in the first round of first round of the French Open and skipped out on this year’s Wimbledon. He proceeded to lose in the first round of the US Open as well. Articles popped up everywhere in May about Gulbis’ new dedication to tennis, but as soon as he started losing consistently again, those articles were nowhere to be found. He ended the year without progressing past the 1st round of any major. However, he did manage to finish the season at a career high No. 24.

Clearly this is just a small sampling of the stories that weren’t quite right. We aren’t psychic so journalists can only go off the information they have at hand. All of these stories made sense at the time but fortunes change and injuries occur. Since this is certainly not a comprehensive list, feel free to send me some of your favorite false stories of 2010.

WIMBLEDON DAY 5: FAMILIAR FEDERER RETURNS

By Peter Nez

“This is the Federer we’ve been accustomed to seeing,” long time commentator Dick Enberg stated in the third set when Roger was serving for the match, which became his first straight sets victory at the Wimbledon Championships thus far, having “struggled” in his first two rounds. I’m not convinced it was necessarily a struggle, even though he rarely goes five sets in a major, particularly on grass, even more bizarrely at Wimbledon, but I am of the opinion that the men’s game is so vastly talented and Federer is engaged in a constant staving off of young upstarts day in and day out, being one of the oldest on tour currently, dominating multi generational huddles, and as Mahut and Isner have proved, anything can happen on any given day. And what does Alejandro Falla and Bozo the clown have to lose? Absolutely nothing. Their impetus must be to go for broke, full throttle, no hesitation, and little thought for marginal play, or else what could be the only outcome possible? ‘Fortune favors the brave,’; an aphorism that parades the sports psychologists halls and sessions frequently, and to face that mind set every time you step out on court is something only the greatest athletes can relate to. Falla was the perfect embodiment, Soderling: a vision of execution, and Bozo was an anomaly at best. Clement was the perfect opponent for Roger to get back to Swiss precision and rhythm.

Federer is renowned for stepping up his play as tournaments progress, especially majors, and today was no different. The serve and movement was intact, the energy on court apparent, and with an opponent who is devoid of any perplexing weapons, Roger showed us all why he has six Wimbledon titles and counting. Greatness comes easy to those with an abundance, but without the proof of its prowess renewed continually on the world’s grandest stages, even past accolades can seem shadowed and distant. Federer thrives on confidence maybe more now than he ever did before and a match like this, taking Clement out in three seasoned sets, could give him the boost he needs with a draw that looms with hungry contenders. If Australia 2010 has showed us anything, when Roger’s game is on, nobody has a chance.