Repeat Shocker at Wimbledon: Rafael Nadal Out at Hands of World No. 135 Steve Darcis in Straight Sets
(June 24, 2013) The impossible has happened again at Wimbledon.
After a surprising exit at the hands of Lukas Rosol at last year’s Wimbledon Championships in the second round, world No. 5 Rafael Nadal was dealt another heavy blow on the grass. But this time, in a round earlier and by an opponent ranked even lower.
Monday’s 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 loss to Steve Darcis marks the first time ever that Nadal has lost in the first round of a Major after going 34-0. His opponent hit 53 winners compared to Nadal’s 32, and Darcis hit an astounding 13 aces for his 5’10” frame.
Given his worrisome loss last year, Nadal admitted during his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday that he shouldn’t have played Wimbledon last year.
“Last year I played here because is a tournament that I love, but I was not ready to play here … After Roland Garros I feel that my knee was not there anymore … [T]hat experience for me last year was too much. I suffer too much.”
Though more optimistic coming into Wimbledon this year and playing healthier, on Saturday, Nadal commented that he did not underestimate his first round opponent or how close matches on grass can be.
“[Darcis] is a complete player. I have to play well. I have to play very competitive from the beginning … [O]n this surface, on grass, all the matches are close. Matches can be decided for a few balls. So if you are not hundred percent focused and you’re not at your hundred percent of energy and playing well, you are in big trouble.”
And that’s exactly what happened. With the first set being decided by mere points as it went unexpectedly to a tiebreak, Nadal looked to be in a bit of trouble. And despite having the opportunity to serve out the second set at 6-5, Nadal again faltered and played a poor tiebreak, to go down two sets.
As many expected Nadal to finally wake up and take the match in five sets, he was quickly broken in the opening of the third set and began to look physically and mentally drained. Then, down 5-3 in the third, the camera panned to his uncle and coach Toni Nadal, who himself gave a defeatist smile as he watched on, already grasping the inevitable outcome.
Gone was Nadal’s firepower and energy, and after his loss, the deflated Spaniard addressed the press simply saying, “I didn’t find my rhythm.”
After the big focus on Nadal’s knee during his injury layoff, the Spaniard was questioned several times about the influence his knee played in his defeat. A dumbfounded Nadal finally let out a laugh:
“I think you are joking. I answered this question three or four times already, that I don’t want to talk about my knee this afternoon. The only thing I can say today is to congratulate Steve Darcis, he played a fantastic match. And everything that I will say today about my knee is an excuse. And I don’t like to [make] any excuse when I lose a match like I lost today.”
Nadal again seemed agitated when asked to compare this loss to his loss against Rosol last year. He repeated that he didn’t find any similarities.
Though a shocking loss by most standards, the truth it that Nadal has played a very heavy schedule after coming back from injury and played no tune-up event on grass prior to Wimbledon. He arrived last Tuesday after taking a few days off after Roland Garros.
So the question begs to be asked: should Nadal have adjusted his schedule and taken it lighter in the spring? With a long contemplative pause, Nadal addressed this idea:
“I cannot say when I [make my schedule] if it was wrong or it was positive. Six hours ago, it was a perfect calendar. Now it’s a very negative calendar.”
And, as Nadal states, “that’s sports” for you. Anything can happen. What seemed impossible just hours ago has transpired and left fans with more questions than answers about Nadal’s status, schedule and knee.
(June 22, 2013) With Wimbledon set to kick-off main draw play on Monday, several top players hit the grass courts of the All England Club on Saturday to prepare for the season’s third Slam, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and more.
Rafael Nadal looked right at home on the grass, but he seems to have caught the British bug. And yes, it’s contagious. Someone should remind him he’s Spanish!
And yes, even champions take shirtless breaks on make-shift seats.
Afterwards, Nadal sported a stylish white Nike jacket as he posed for a photo with an excited fan.
Scot Andy Murray also hit the courts on Saturday under the watchful eye of his coach Ivan Lendl.
And Ross Hutchins, a doubles player who recently finished his chemo treatment and is one of Murray’s best friends, joined in on the fun. Nice to see the 28-year-old Brit in such good spirits!
It’s all fun and games though until Murray forgets how to get dressed, and worse yet, how to hold a tennis racquet. I think you’re doing it wrong, Mr. Murray.
Roger Federer also enjoyed a nice hit with Lleyton Hewitt, complete with Hewitt’s 4-year-old son Cruz crashing the party from the stands.
(Click on the picture to play video.)
And for die-hard fans who are just itching to see more color on the holy grass of Wimbledon, ladies and gentleman, I present to you Caroline Wozniacki, the always daring adidas-clad fashion star.
(June 21, 2013) Rafael Nadal’s dominance of the French Open has been absolutely remarkable. No other player in the history of tennis has so utterly conquered such a prestigious event year after year. Winning his eighth title at Roland Garros just a few short weeks ago, Nadal is the only player in the history of men’s tennis to win eight titles at single grand slam. His supremacy, even without the title, has been superior to the control both Roger Federer and Pete Sampras had over Wimbledon during their primes.
And as the tennis world closes in on Wimbledon, Nadal is looking to extend his clay court triumphs to the revered lawns of the All England Club. Nadal is seeded fifth in the tournament which undoubtedly has been the impetus for much debate over the seeding process. In addition, this specific seeding arrangement has put the Spaniard on a quarterfinal collision course with Federer, and possibly Andy Murray in the semifinals.
With this all said, how can the rest of the tennis world stifle the Spanish locomotive as he powers his way into Wimbledon? Let’s take a look at some strategies and tactics that can be used to attack Nadal as he pursues a third Wimbledon crown.
Diminish the margins quickly with an offensively-geared mindset - As Daniel Brands demonstrated in the first round of the French Open, one of the simplest strategies to integrate against Nadal is to endlessly take the initiative. Brands entered the match with a definitive intention which was to bludgeon each ball with as much pace as possible hoping to deny Nadal any opportunity of meeting his racket to the ball. This game plan is definitely simple enough in theory but it’s actually much harder to actualize on clay against Nadal. On grass, Nadal is less capable of engaging his opponents into marathon rallies during which he slowly eats away his opposition’s court position, fitness, and hope. Grass reduces the height at which the ball is being played and increases the speed by which the ball moves through the court. This combination facilitates more aggressive play and better rewards players who take more risks, an integral aspect of taking down Nadal.
Slice with caution - One feature of grass courts is that the ball tends to bounce low and skid thus making underspin shots infinitely more effective. Nadal’s forehand grips approaches a full-western which makes low balls harder to play. Those with more extreme forehand grips are more naturally suited to play higher reaching balls as the natural contact point is around chest level. Players with full western grips have a harder time getting under and swinging up the back of the ball, an abundantly necessary aspect of accelerating and obtaining power with such an extreme grip. This strategy is definitely a potent one to use against Nadal but is one that needs to be used with caution. If not executed with the appropriate pace and depth, the underspin backhand is a shot that Nadal is capable of running around and crushing. A weak slice backhand which can be equated to a flailing chip return by Federer is exactly the type of shot Nadal feasts on.
Serve variation - One of the main strategies used by the last three players (Federer, Djokovic, Rosol) to defeat Nadal at Wimbledon was to mix up their serve placement. Forcing Nadal to constantly adapt and adjust on the return is critical. Firstly, it keeps him off balance and consistently guessing. Secondly, Nadal’s forehand and backhand grips are far apart, so if Nadal is guessing backhand and the serve is targeted to his forehand, he’s not going to be able to switch his grip in time. As a result, he is likely going to be forced to chip the return back into play which more often than not will put him on the defensive.
Serve and Volley - There are many commentators and writers alike who have touted this play as old-fashioned and obsolete but I firmly believe that it can work. If Nadal retreats behind the baseline, players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer who possess versatile all-court games can use Nadal’s defensive return position as a catalyst to their offensive aggression. Again, caution must be used with the serve and volley tactic because Nadal is very apt at placing the ball at the feet of his opponents. In addition, serving and volleying on second serves is ill-advised because Nadal will move closer to the baseline to return and he will be able to take larger cuts on typically weaker serves.
By Maud Watson
As with Roland Garros, the question of whether to seed fifth-ranked Nadal at No. 4 or No. 5 was one of the hottest topics heading into Wimbledon. The verdict is in, and the seeding committee has opted to leave him seeded fifth. The decision has left some, like John McEnroe, scratching their heads, but it was the right decision. Wimbledon has a standard mathematical formula for determining the men’s seeds. The formula factors in grass court results over the last two years, with those of the previous 12 months weighted heavier than those of the past 24 months. Nadal had a dismal grass court season in 2012, and though he reached the finals of Wimbledon in 2011, he had a poor showing in his Wimbledon tune-up that year as well. Additionally, though he has won Wimbledon twice, it is not like he has dominated at SW19 anywhere near to the same extent as he has in Paris. If the folks in Paris were willing to seed him fifth had Murray not withdrawn, Wimbledon is definitely within its right to do the same. Would it be a surprise if he won the title here? Not overly. But he definitely doesn’t deserve an edge in his quest to do so at Ferrer’s expense.
Serena Williams is no stranger to controversy and thanks to some insensitive comments made a couple of months ago, she finds herself mired in it once again. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Serena made some off-the-cuff remarks regarding the infamous Steubenville rape case, which have many up in arms. Few would argue that, outside of something being slipped into her drink, the young victim acted irresponsibly. But Serena’s decision to carry it a step further by unmistakably insinuating that the victim was mostly to blame for what transpired and was even “lucky” that it wasn’t worse was off base. She further dug herself into a hole when she seemed to suggest that the primary perpetrators were potentially treated too harshly. To her credit, Serena has since backed off those comments. It would have been nice had she taken full responsibility for them instead of insinuating that her remarks were misrepresented (a scenario that seems somewhat unlikely given that the reporter used a recorder, and Serena isn’t outright accusing the reporter of misquoting her), but her damage control efforts and willingness to reach out to the victim’s family are admirable. It’s certainly an improvement over how she handled the 2009 US Open debacle, and hopefully this controversy won’t prove a distraction with Wimbledon around the corner.
Wimbledon has yet to get underway, but the women’s competition has already suffered a couple of blows. Both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams have withdrawn with injuries. Kuznetsova is undoubtedly disappointed to have to forgo the Championships thanks to an abdominal strain she suffered at Roland Garros. The Russian has worked hard to rebuild her ranking, and after a quarterfinal showing in Paris where she was the only player to have Serena on the ropes, her inability to even attempt to build on that momentum is a disappointment. Venus, too, has fallen victim to a lingering injury, with her back still causing her fits. Grand Slam champions deserve to go out on their own terms, and as players like Serena and Federer have proven time and time again, it’s dangerous to write them off. But many, including Venus herself, have to wonder how much longer she’s going to be out there after this latest setback. The injuries and health issues are piling up, and the results haven’t been there for some time. She also looks far more distressed, annoyed, and upset than in years past when matches aren’t going in her favor. If the back doesn’t heal fast, Venus may be packing it up sooner than many anticipated.
One of the game’s most dangerous underachievers, David Nalbandian, will be out indefinitely after undergoing both hip and shoulder surgery. The Argentine still remains on crutches and has yet to test his shoulder. Despite the growing frequency of his injuries, however, the 31-year-old veteran isn’t ready to hang up the racquet just yet. Perhaps inspired by the likes of Haas, Robredo, and Baker, Nalbandian still feels he can produce stellar tennis. A trip back to the upper echelons of the game is unlikely in the cards, but it would be nice to see him have at least one more good go at it. He was one of the few players capable of giving all of the top players a run for their money, and when he’s on, he has a beautiful game to watch. Here’s to hoping he makes a full recovery and dazzles us again.
Czech newspapers are reporting that Radek Stepanek and former WTA pro Nicole Vaidisova are calling it quits after three years of marriage. The newspaper rumors were confirmed by Czech Davis Cup Captain Karel Tejkal. It always did seem odd, especially with the age gap (Stepanek is 34 and Vaidisova 24), that these two walked down the aisle in the first place, so news of their divorce isn’t really a shock. What is a shock, however, is that Stepanek, who has also previous dated Martina Hingis, is now rumored to be dating former Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova – a player even younger than Vaidisova. Kvitova has acknowledged awareness of the rumors but has yet to confirm their validity. She has merely asked all to respect her private life so as to avoid further outside distractions at the year’s third major. That’s all fine and well, but she’s living in a fool’s paradise if she thinks she’s heard the last of this, which given her recent struggles, doesn’t bode well for her chances of picking up Wimbledon title No. 2.
By James A. Crabtree
As usual this Wimbledon is about the big 4, just not the top 4 seeds.
This is the first Wimbledon since 2008 a slightly altered group make up those positioned for a meeting in the semi-finals. Back then Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were the top seeds and Nikolay Davydenko was the fourth. Andy Murray was way back as the 12th seed, making it to the quarterfinals where he was defeated at the hands of that years champion, Nadal.
This year 5th seed Nadal, on current form, is more than suspected of just reaching the semi. Many believed the legendary Majorcan would be bumped up in the seedings, but to relegate current 4th seed David Ferrer would have been bad form. Incredibly the Majorcan has seemed invincible since returning to action in February and would relish nothing more than lifting the title he last won back in 2010. The question is can Nadal lose this year, on current form? Well, it was the grass that aided the Nadal disappearance act contributed by two surprise losses last year, firstly Kohlschreiber at Halle and Rosol at Wimbledon. It will be interesting to see if it’s demons that remain or a quest for vengeance that prevails. Either way a quarterfinal clash with Federer should be enough incentive to push him through the draw even though a potential fourth round with Stan Wawrinka (or Hewitt for the more romantic) should cause some fireworks.
Federer, after a slow start seems to be finding form ahead of his attempt at an 8th Wimbledon crown. With that sort of record it’s strange to think we are even considering anybody else for the title. That being said his 2013 Wimbledon journey is lined with traps including ‘2012 Nadal tamer Rosol’ and Poland’s Janowicz.
After winning Halle Federer now has 77 titles, tying him for third on the career ATP list with John McEnroe, behind only Ivan Lendl with 94 and Jimmy Connors’s 109. But has Federer found form too late? 2013 has been tough and to date Federer has only beaten one top ten player this year. Federer returns to Wimbledon as champion but strangely having lost the last match he played on Centre Court.
The match Federer lost was the Olympic final against Andy Murray. The great Scot is the first Brit to win a slam in 76 years but to the more picky home fans only a Wimbledon title will suffice. They remember well that Murray was in control in last years Wimbledon final and very close to taking a commanding two set lead. This picky bunch want more than last years gold and fresh strawberries. This picky bunch envision, after 77 years, sipping a celebratory drink greater than Pimms. In truth these particular fans bring not only added pressure but also the strange desperate phenomenon known as hope. An attribute that is enough to will their man through a tough five sets (possibly Robredo or Youzhny) but three big successive victories that could be Tsonga, Federer or Nadal and then Djokovic is a big ask.
2011 champion Novak Djokovic is the number one seed and world number one, but has the unique possibility of flying beneath the radar. Strangely whenever Djokovic is not playing at his 2011 level people tend to doubt him in favour of the others but this is becoming his magic trick. With all the hoopla and stories surrounding the others the superb Serb could sail through the draw until at least a fourth round meeting with old man Tommy Haas then a quarterfinal with Berdych. When it comes to five sets Djokovic’s hunger, resolve and retrieval expertise are unmatched meaning he could be the safest bet for this years title. As long as he doesn’t stay too long in cruise control.
At the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year, one man entered the tournament as a clear favorite to extend his mastery over it. Wimbledon presents a much blurrier and thus more intriguing picture, for any of the top four men will have a real chance to win. Here is my best shot at an early ranking of contenders ahead before the draw.
1) Roger Federer: The man who has won seven of the last ten men’s titles at Wimbledon probably enters as a slight favorite because of those credentials alone. While Federer has not defeated nemesis Rafael Nadal there (or at any major) in six years, he claimed consecutive victories over his other two rivals en route to the 2012 title. Defeating both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, he showed how the best serve and best forecourt skills of the Big Four can trump the superior physicality and consistency of the others on grass. Federer recaptured the Halle title last week despite some concerning stretches of fallibility against opponents whom he would have dominated in his prime. He still owns just one victory over a top-10 opponent this year, and he will need to win efficiently in the earlier rounds to conserve energy for more demanding competition.
2) Rafael Nadal: A two-time Wimbledon champion, Nadal did not lose before the final there between 2006 and 2011. When Lukas Rosol snapped that streak last year, he continued a trend in which unheralded men with massive serves have troubled the Spaniard in the first week. Take a careful look at his early draw, then, but prepare for him to raise his level several notches if he survives any early tests. The grass slows during the course of the fortnight, especially behind the baseline where Nadal prefers to play, and that factor should aid him in the second week. No questions remain about his ability to recapture championship form in his comeback, including on surfaces other than clay. Nadal’s Indian Wells title, built upon victories over three top-eight opponents, proved the latter point. Dominant at Wimbledon against Andy Murray, he holds the momentum in key rivalries against Djokovic and Federer.
3) Novak Djokovic: The world No. 1 may attract the least scrutiny of the Big Four heading into the season’s third major. Federer defends the title, Nadal seeks to complete a third Channel Slam, and Murray bears the hopes of the host nation on his shoulders. A Wimbledon champion two years ago, Djokovic will finish the tournament in the top spot regardless of his result and may arrive at the All England Club in an emotional lull. Revenge on Nadal for his heartbreaking loss to the Spaniard at Roland Garros might offer the Serb some motivation, or he may need time to regroup emotionally. His reliance on extended baseline rallies and vulnerability at the net may hamper him on grass, although Djokovic acted wisely to choose rest rather than preparation ahead of Wimbledon. Strangely, he has played only three matches against the rest of the Big Four on grass, winning just one.
4) Andy Murray: And so it begins, the quest to become the first British man since the Second World War to win Wimbledon. For the first time, though, Murray plunges into the cauldron of scrutiny as a proven major champion, which might relieve the pressure on him even as it may raise expectations. He arrives at Wimbledon fresher than the other contenders, having cut short his clay season after a back injury in Rome. Murray reaped the rewards of that decision immediately when he reclaimed the Queen’s Club title that he won in 2011. He defeated both Djokovic and Federer at the All England Club last year when it hosted the Olympics, another experience that should help settle his nerves, and he also now knows the feeling of playing the Wimbledon final. Murray will hope to avoid Nadal, from whom he has won one set in three Wimbledon meetings.
5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Realistically, one struggles to imagine anyone other than the Big Four lifting the Wimbledon trophy. Extending beyond that group, 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych might seem the most logical contender as the only active man other than the four above to reach the Wimbledon final in the last decade. But Berdych has disappointed for most of the last few months, outside a victory over Djokovic in Rome, and he has only one quarterfinal in eight other Wimbledon appearances. A more plausible threat could come from a man whose explosive serving and deft touch at the net positions him for success on grass. Tsonga defeated Federer at Wimbledon two years ago, an upset that he repeated at Roland Garros last month, and he has won sets from Murray and Djokovic there. The short points on this surface reward his shot-making talents while camouflaging his impatience and lapses in focus.
In a day or two, I will return with a similar article on the women’s contenders. Constructing the hierarchy of their title chances oddly came more easily than it did for the men.
By Maud Watson
Race for No. 1
After a record-setting eighth Roland Garros title, Rafael Nadal has put himself in a prime position to finish as the year-end No. 1 for the second time in his career. Though Nadal typically doesn’t perform as strongly in the second half of the season as he does in the first, he usually performs well at the key events like Wimbledon, the US Open, and at least one or two of the Masters events. Then there’s the defending points factor. Nadal may stand nearly 5,000 points behind current No. 1 Djokovic, but the Spaniard only has 90 to defend from here on out compared to 6,800 for the Serb. Couple that with the way Nadal has dominated the courts since his return in February, and reaching the pinnacle of the rankings looks like a distinct possibility. The pressure is on Djokovic to defend what he did in 2012 by shaking off the disappointment of losing such a close semifinal against Nadal a week ago in Paris. It’s a subplot to keep an eye on throughout the remainder of 2013.
Chalk another one of the veterans against the next generation, as Lleyton Hewitt has played some inspiring and gritty tennis to book a spot in the quarterfinals of Queen’s. The Aussie had to come from behind in his opener against American Michael Russell, but since then, he’s taken out both upstart Dimitrov and big-hitting Sam Querrey. Hewitt has won the title in London on multiple occasions, so he’s no stranger to the lawns. But given the amount of injuries he’s had to overcome, this has to qualify as a pretty satisfying start to his grass court campaign. Juan Martin del Potro may prove a tough out, but with the Argentine still looking rusty after his own recent layoff, Hewitt has a good look at going even deeper and setting himself up nicely for not only the remainder of the all-too-short grass court season, but the upcoming summer hard court series as well.
Over and Out
A couple of popular ATP favorites are already out of Wimbledon, with reports that Fish is planning to skip and Monfils is a definite no-show. Fish’s withdrawal isn’t a shocker given that the American had already pulled out of Queen’s and has played so little this season. He has reportedly been in contact with the folks in Atlanta and confirmed to them that they will be his first event since playing earlier this spring. Monfils’ withdrawal is a little more mysterious. He’s playing this week in Halle and has already caused an upset by upending Ranoic. Despite his good start in Halle and decent run in Paris, however, the Frenchman has been forced to withdraw from SW19 due to a personal problem. He didn’t elaborate on what that problem is, but it is serious enough for him to skip the year’s third major. Hopefully we’ll see both men back soon, as they’re still capable of producing some eye-catching tennis.
Two players who will be in Wimbledon thanks to a couple of wildcards are Andrea Petkovic and Nicolas Mahut. The German woman is a former Top 10 player, and though she’s been struggling in her comeback due to a litany of injuries, she still has plenty of potential. With any luck, the generosity of Wimbledon will spark a deep run so that she isn’t reduced to applying for wildcards or playing qualies in the months to come. That’s a scenario that’s a little less likely with Mahut. The Frenchman is definitely closer to the end of his career and never enjoyed the same kind of singles success as Petkovic. But he is part of Wimbledon history as one of the two men to contest the longest match as the Championships when he lost 68-70 to John Isner in 2010. Mahut also recently reached the doubles final at Roland Garros, and he does have a nice grass court game. If ever there was place where he might be able to produce a bit of a magic from the kindness of a wildcard, it would be on the lawns of Wimbledon.
Making the Cut
Forbes recently released its annual list of 100 highest-paid athletes and tennis impressively supplied its fair share of members. The list looks at revenue earned from June 1, 2012 – June 1, 2013, which is generated from prize money, endorsements, and appearance fees. Not surprisingly, Roger Federer was the top among tennis players, and he was very nearly the top banana overall. The Swiss finished second behind golf’s Tiger Woods with $71.5 million. His fellow ATP pros Djokovic and Nadal also made the list at 28 and 30 respectively (which in Nadal’s case is particularly impressive given that he missed the second half of 2013). There were only three women to even appear on the list, and tennis swept those spots, with Sharapova (22), Serena Williams (68), and Li Na (85) all posting hefty incomes the previous year. It’s once again wonderful to see an individual sport like tennis so well represented on the list and hats off to the six who made the cut.
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 Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.
Shot of the Day: After winning a record-breaking eighth Roland Garros title, and before making the media rounds, Rafael Nadal happily posed with the ball kids who worked the final. Perhaps there’s a future Roland Garros champ among them!
Elena Vesnina wins first grand slam title: It was seven times lucky for Elena Vesnina as she and countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova captured the French Open crown defeating the top seeded team of Sara Errani and Robert Vinci. As the WTA official website reports, “Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina upset the odds and the defending champions to win the doubles title.” The Russian pair were delighted with their victory which was their first over the Italian duo.
Vesnina told reporters “I think we’re extra happy because we beat them first time. We played a lot of times against them; they’re the best team in the world. They’re playing so good, so it’s really tough to play against them, especially on clay.”
French Open Flare: During the second set of the final between Spaniards Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, as Tennis Grandstand reported earlier “a shirtless and masked protestor with the words ‘KIDS RIGHT’ written across his chest, ran onto Nadal’s side of the court, lighting a red flare.” Working quickly, “security tackled the man and threw him off the court as another personnel guarded Nadal.” Nadal was definitely frazzled by the incident as he proceeded to drop his next service game but was ultimately able to close out the set.
“Well I felt a little bit scared in the first moment,” said Nadal. “These kinds of things are impossible to predict. When these kind of things happen, we are very lucky that we have good security around. They managed very well to stop the situation.”
Roger Federer and Tommy Haas to team up in Halle: As the ATP World Tour reports, “Good friends Roger Federer and Tommy Haas will make their team debut at the Gerry Webber Open this week.” The pair is set to square off against the 2010 Wimbledon champs, Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner. Despite a tough draw, Haas spoke of his and Federer’s excitement in teaming up.
“It’s our first time playing together. It’s great to do this at this time in our careers. I hope we can focus, as we’ll probably have too much of a good time out there. It will be nice to play in front of some very enthusiastic fans and have a good doubles match, against Melzer and Petzschner.”
Five Classic Finals: While the men’s final between David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal certainly wasn’t a classic battle by any stretch of the imagination, Roland Garros has had no shortage of thrilling championship matches. Live Tennis has come up with their 5 best French Open finals of all time including Bjorn Borg’s first French Open title in 1974 when he came back from two sets to love down to beat Manuel Orantes in five sets and Andre Agassi’s 1999 French Open crown which proved to be his only title at Roland Garros.
Lessons from Serena Williams’s stellar French Open: Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover wrote about Serena Williams’s victory over Maria Sharapova and the significance of her French Open title. Lindsay wrote about this being the best win of Serena’s career, her multi-dimensional game, and how impressive Serena’s win streak over Maria Sharapova is.
Rafael Nadal discusses French Open title: Rafael Nadal put forth an absolute master class in his straight sets victory over David Ferrer. The Spaniard was firing off all cylinders and pressured Ferrer into a plethora of errors. In his post-match press conference, Nadal talked about how the match was closer than what the score would seem to indicate, his extremely high level of play during certain points of the match, and how important this victory is to him. In addition, Nadal credited those who have helped him to make such a strong and successful comeback after his 7 month layoff.
Rafael Nadal may have lost his first set at Roland Garros 2013, but he won his last set. The King of Clay burnished his legend on the surface even further by securing an eighth Roland Garros title at the expense of fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Here are some key things to know about the final and Nadal’s achievement more generally.
The superior Spaniard: Ferrer ends the tournament ranked higher than Nadal, but no human agrees with the computers on that opinion. He looked very much David to the Goliath across the net, understandable considering that he contested his first major final today against a career-long nemesis. A few exceptions like Francesca Schiavone aside, even weathered veterans do not excel in that situation.
Calm after the storm: After the dramatic sweep of the Djokovic-Nadal semifinal, the final’s relatively routine narrative came as the anticlimax that most envisioned. The match contained few turning points or real momentum shifts, not surprising for a rivalry in which one man had won 16 straight meetings on this surface.
Look out, Sampras: Nadal moves within two major titles of tying the American for second place on the all-time list. Surely he will bring his peak clay form to Paris at least two or three more times, which means that, with any luck at all, he ultimately should pass Sampras and perhaps even edge within range of a certain someone else.
Be jealous , Monte Carlo: You’re not alone anymore at the top of Rafa’s list. Nadal now has won as many titles at Roland Garros as he has at his Mediterranean fortress—or anywhere else. In fact, his eight titles here are the most that any man has won at any major.
21-1: That is Nadal’s record against top-ten opponents since losing to Roger Federer at Indian Wells last year. Djokovic predictably notched the “1,” handing the Spaniard his only defeat on European clay this season in Monte Carlo.
26-1: That is Nadal’s record in clay finals against opponents other than Federer and Djokovic. He also improves to 4-0 in major finals against opponents other than those two, Roland Garros hosting three of those wins. Horacio Zeballos recorded the “1” in the first tournament of Nadal’s comeback this year.
Uprooting top seeds: Only once in the last ten years (Nadal in 2011) and twice in the last twenty (Gustavo Kuerten in 2001) has the top seed won the Roland Garros men’s singles title. Nadal has held a seed lower than No. 1 seven times and won the tournament every time. Six times out of seven, he defeated the top seed en route to the title.
A breath of fresh air: Today was the first men’s major final since Wimbledon 2010 that featured someone from outside the Big Four. But Roland Garros 2013 became the 14th consecutive major won by one of them, and 32nd of the last 33.
The minimalist major: Only once since 2000 has the Roland Garros men’s final reached a fifth set. All of the other three majors have featured multiple five-set men’s finals during that span.
London calling: Is Nadal the favorite at Wimbledon? He’s certainly not the prohibitive favorite, as he was at Roland Garros, but once again Djokovic might be the only member of the Big Four who can stop him there. Nadal has dominated Murray on grass and crushed Federer twice this year, albeit on slower surfaces. Even Djokovic might have trouble bouncing back from Friday to reverse that result in a month. Nadal’s greatest challenge might come in the early rounds there, as it often has.
Au revoir, Paris: The bad news is that this article concludes the series of Rewinds and Fast Forwards from Roland Garros next year. The good news is that I have one last Roland Garros article appearing tomorrow on my favorite memories from the tournament overall. The best news is that Wimbledon Fast Forward starts two weeks from today.
Question of the day: How many Roland Garros titles will Nadal win in his career? I’m setting the over-under at 10.5.