rafeal nadal

Roland Garros Day 6: Links Roundup with Nadal, Paire, Djokovic, Isner 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: Newly-resurgent Spaniard Tommy Rebredo collapses on the court from exhaustion after his 3 hour 46 minute match against Frenchman Gael Monfils. Robredo came back from two sets down to win it 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2.

Benoit Paire dissects his game: Benoit Paire possesses some of the most unique strokes in all of tennis. In this French Open feature video, the Frenchman discusses his eccentric backhand, his incessant use of drops, and the evolution of his weakest shot that being the forehand.

Novak Djokovic answers all: Novak Djokovic sits down to answer questions from his fellow ATP contemporaries Andy Murray, Gilles Simon, Jeremy Chardy, Richard Gasquet, and Marin Clic. Murray and Gasquet both inquire about their first ever match in the juniors against Djokovic and Jeremy Chardy takes a leap of faith and asks the world the No. 1 the secrets to beating him.

Rafael Nadal still seeking top form: Rafael Nadal’s confidence coming into the French Open could not have been higher. After dropping the first sets of his two opening round matches, the King of Clay is still looking for the level of play that propelled him to seven Roland Garros crowns. As Greg Garber of ESPN reports, Nadal believes he had “a good reaction of the second, playing—even if I didn’t play fantastic—I played the way that I had to play, with intensity, with passion.”

Rafael Nadal condems French Open scheduling: As Matt Cronin of Tennis.com reports, Rafael Nadal expressed his discontent with the scheduling and organizing of his second round match after his second round match was forced back a day due to the rainy conditions in Paris on Thursday.

“I cannot play third after men’s and girls when our possible opponents play second after girls. That’s not fair. The excuse they told me was because [opponent of Fabio Fognini, Lukas] Rosol have to play doubles. I am sorry, but that’s a joke. You have one more week to play doubles if you want to play doubles.”

Monumental year for the Americans in France: It has been an awesome year for the Americans in France—relatively speaking of course. Since 2003 when 11 Americans reached the third round of the French Open, the United States has had no more than 6 Americans reach the third round. This year with Serena Williams leading the way, there are seven Americans in the third round which “is the best the Americans have produced in the past decade” Greg Garber writes in his piece for ESPN.

John Isner overcomes five-set drought at slams: In 2012, American John Isner was defeated in all four majors in five set matches. After the first two sets, it didn’t even look like Isner was going to make it to a fourth set, let alone a decider. In Peter Bodo’s account of the match, he quotes Isner’s coach, Mike Sell, as saying, “Ryan was pretty much in charge there in the first couple of sets, but it turned around when John began to hit through the court. He did a good job keeping that pressure on right to the end there.” After Harrison broke what Bodo calls the first commandment of tennis, which is “Thou Shou Not Double Fault Away a Break Point” at 6-6 in the fifth set, Isner successfully served out the match to win 8-6 in the fifth.

Maria Sharapova finishes off Eugenie Bouchard: After building a 6-2 4-2 lead for herself against Canadian upstart, Eugenie Bouchard, Maria Sharapova was sent off court as the Paris rains proved insurmountable on Thursday evening. Sharapova came back Friday and was able to quickly close off any resistance for Bouchard and take the match 6-2 6-4. Sharapova said that “it was a pretty long day yesterday” but handled the situation with positivity stating, “At 8:45 last night, when it was still raining, it was pretty tough to continue. But I was happy to play part of the match and get myself in a good position to come out again today and finish it off.”

Youth being served: As Christoper Clarey of the New York Times tells us, “At the moment, there is not one teenager in the top 100” in the ATP. In addition, “the three [teenagers] who made it into the French Open draw did so through wildcards or qualifying. Fabrice Santoro believes the drastic dip in success among teenagers in the ATP is due to the fact that “the average level of play is higher now than ever” and “the high physical level of the top players is one that a 19-year-old cannot have.”

French Open Funnies: Check out the most exciting and entertaining moments of the French Open thus far in this 80-second bit.

Ernests Gulbis: Top Four are Boring; Lower-Ranked Players are Treated like Crap

(May 29, 2013) In an interview with L’Equipe, the ever-vocal Ernests Gulbis took to the presses once again, this time calling out the ATP “Big Four” consisting of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

“I respect Roger, Rafa, Novak and Murray, but for me, all four player are boring,” Gulbis stated. “Their interviews are boring. Honestly, they are boring.”

According to Gulbis, when it comes down to it,  “Federer set this trend,” which gives the spectators a “polite” game and not “war, blood and emotions” as in boxing, he says. He believes that “people want to see broken rackets and hear the on-court bursts. ”

Basically, Gulbis wants players to be more like, well, him.

I can’t really argue with the last point about the game, but boring? I wouldn’t necessarily call Djokovic boring. He has had his fair share of code violations for swearing in Serbian on court and smashing more racquets than I can count. Murray too.

But the Gulbis fun doesn’t end there – not even close. Never one to shy away from voicing his talents on and off the court, he continues with two more captivating quotes from his L’Equipe interview:

1. “I do not want to hear in an interview a guy – who I will not name, but who I know well, that he thinks all his opponents are assholes – putting on an act” in his pressers.

Without naming the player, Gulbis is calling someone out — and I bet they know exactly who they are even if they are not reading his interviews. In truth, it piques my curiosity, and now I, strangely, want to know who it is, too. But will we ever find out or will the truth die on Gulbis’ lips?

The fact that he forces us to pose questions like this is precisely what makes the Latvian so intriguing and frustrating. Even if you don’t want to listen, he makes you listen. Whether it’s on a tennis court or in a presser, his character is hard to ignore. It makes you wonder just how many players actually pay attention to what he says, given how consistently he dishes it out. It seems like quite a few, in fact, including Feliciano Lopez who says that “Gulbis is a nice guy but always says things that can create some interest.” Clearly, fans and media are not the only ones being baited.

2.  “The system is much too bureaucratic. The top guys need to talk so things can change, but they’re pretty happy that (lower-ranked) players are treated like shit and do not have enough money to pay for good coaches.”

Do the selection of words coming out of the Latvian’s mouth even surprise anymore? In a way, yes. His constant stream of opinion is refreshing, but there are many who would rather tennis be without Gulbis. Both sides have enough footage to use as support.

He not only calls the “top guys” boring, but also insists that despite all their talks for higher compensation at tournaments, equality and change in the men’s game, it essentially doesn’t matter to them because they are above it. And how bold of Gulbis to use the word “happy” when describing how the top guys must feel when looking at their counterparts being treated badly by the system. That’s either stupid or takes guts to stand up against if true.

However, given Gulbis’ trajectory up the rankings, he may soon find himself in one of those top positions as well. What then? Will what he says in defense of lower-ranked players then be also a sham when he’s holding the mic and talking of change, or will he have enough influence to actually contribute to making these changes?

In an interview with Sport 360, Gulbis commented that despite all his off court opinions, he’s still a tennis player first.

“I can sometimes be somewhat disrespectful in some press conferences but when I play I really want to respect the opponent. I don’t want to take medical timeouts. I don’t like to screw up the other player’s rhythm. I don’t like this. I want that the better player wins without any screwing games.”

Gulbis was an intriguing figure when he first came onto the scene as a fresh 19-year-old defeating then world No. 8 Tommy Robredo in three easy sets at the US Open, and he is still an intriguing figure today.

True to his extravagant nature, Carole Bouchard of L’Equipe reveals that after his loss to Gael Monfils on Wednesday, the Latvian stuck around the press center eating a banana, and even requested a copy of his L’Equipe interview from the newspaper. This guy, indeed!


Rafael Nadal pulls out of London Olympics; Serena Williams on a mission — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Déjà vu

It was three years ago when Rafael Nadal suffered a major upset at Roland Garros at the hands of Robin Soderling, announced he had knee problems, and then pulled out of Wimbledon, unable to defend his crown. Now it seems he’s been handed a very similar scenario in 2012. After a hard loss in the second round of Wimbledon, he’s once again battling knee problems that have inhibited his ability to prep for London, meaning that he will be unable to attempt to defend his singles gold medal and serve as flag bearer for Spain. But while this is a troubling immediate concern for Nadal, it also brings plenty of uncertainty to the bigger picture. It would be plain stupid to write Nadal off just yet. Things looked bleak in 2009 before he turned it around to put together a banner year in 2010. But he’s three years older now, more of the competition is starting to catch up, the knee problems are never going to go away, and his style of play is only going to increase the wear and tear on his joints. Champions are stubborn. They don’t like to change the playing styles that have brought them so much success. But at this juncture in his career – and another heartbreaking pullout – it might be time for Rafa to consider doing more re-tooling of his game.

Woman on a Mission

The US Open Series got underway last week at the Bank of the West Classic, and it was a familiar champion that was left holding the trophy aloft. Serena Williams has rarely played the week after winning a slam, but she made an exception this year as she jetted from the lawns of Wimbledon to sunny California to successfully defend her title in Stanford. Stanford marked the site of a lucrative summer campaign for Williams last season, and she’s no doubt hoping for more of the same in 2012. But pundits are guessing there was a little more driving Serena to compete the week after winning her fourteenth major than just looking to recapture some good vibes. If she can successfully defend the bulk of her points this summer, she’s in with a real chance to finish the year as the No. 1 ranked player in the world. It’s certainly an attainable goal given how frequently the top spot has changed hands, and the younger Williams already has the experience of knowing what it takes to get there. If she’s truly dedicated towards reaching the upper-most echelons of the game, it’s going to make for an interesting summer.

Back on Track

While Tipsarevic secured a title in Germany, Ferrer continued his best year with a win in Sweden, and Cilic thrilled the home crowd in Croatia, the biggest ATP stories came out of the grass court event in Newport. The winner, John Isner, is undoubtedly elated to notch a tournament win and perhaps get his season back on track. Newport served as a catalyst to a great summer for him the past, and after the slump he’s been in, a victory in the City by the Sea is just what the doctor ordered. If he’s once again able to use this as a springboard to pile up the wins and confidence throughout the summer, look for him to be a force to be reckoned with at the US Open. The finalist in Newport is also noteworthy. Lleyton Hewitt, who has undergone a number of surgeries and played very little in 2012, proved that he’s still got the moves, even on the challenging grass courts. Though he fell one match shy of garnering his first tournament win since 2010, it was an excellent effort by the two-time Grand Slam champion. Hard saying how much longer he’ll be competing at the top professional level, but if he can continue to find that vintage form that made him the youngest ever to finish a season ranked No. 1, he can still cause more than a few problems for the game’s best.

Major Shift

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that hell has frozen over, but a big change is slated to come to the All England Club in 2015. After studying the facts and figures, the powers-at-be have decided to bump Wimbledon back a week, allowing players both a little more recovery time following Roland Garros and the opportunity to gain an extra week’s prep on grass. The event that may be most impacted by this change is the tiny 250 event in Newport, typically played the week after Wimbledon. Presumably, Newport may look to grab a spot before The Championships, but even if that occurs, the move could have a negative effect on its field. How many players will opt to travel to the States for a week on grass only to return to Europe for Wimbledon? And if Newport is allowed to remain after Wimbledon, will players be as willing to participate, or will they look to get straight onto the hard courts in preparation for the US Open? But the potential woes of Newport aside, this is great news for tennis overall. It should lead to less grumbling and hopefully ensure even higher quality grass court tennis.

Assuming the Helm

In what is probably a welcomed change by many of the French WTA Players, two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo has been named the new French Fed Cup captain. She replaces Nicolas Escude, who has been involved in a drawn out controversy concerning leaving top French player Marion Bartoli off the team due to her coaching arrangement with her father. As one of the most successful French players in recent decades, she brings a wealth of experience to the table – experience and guidance from which many of France’s fledgling talents could benefit. Smart move by the FFT, and hopefully the move pays dividends in the near future.