rain delay

Roland Garros Day 5: Links Roundup with Federer, Stosur, Jankovic, Lepchenko 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: Novak Djokovic was among the lucky ones to finish his match before the rain called it a day on Thursday. He defeated Argentine Guido Pella in just under an hour-and-a-half and a score of 6-2, 6-0, 6-2. He next faces Grigor Dimitrov and is seeking to avenge his loss to him from Madrid just earlier this month.

Vavara Lepchenko soaring but under the radar: Vavara Lepchenko was not only the last American woman standing in the French Open last year but she has ascended the WTA rankings and is now the third highest ranked American women. But, as Lepchenko told Ravi Ubha in his piece for the New York Times, “It seems like I’m in the shadow.” She continued on to say, “I follow a few journalists on Twitter from the United States, and I always see they post once someone loses or wins from the United States, and I never get mentioned until I win a few rounds…” Ubha also discussed Lepchenko’s difficulties in terms of gaining notoriety and how this has impacted her ability to attract sponsors.

Marion Bartoli explains and reveals on court eccentricities: In this Roland Garros feature video, Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli explains why she turns her back in between points, her flexing and jump prior to returning, and the “air shots” or shadow swings she takes in between points.  Bartoli also discussed how as she puts it, “having a song in her head” helps her concentrate during matches.

Steve Tignor’s take on Ernests Gulbis: After calling Big 4 “boring,” talking more specifically in regards to their interviews, Ernests Gublis is receiving an onslaught of criticism for his negative critique of Djokovic, Murray, Federer, and Nadal. But not all is criticism. While Steve Tignor of Tennis.com doesn’t necessarily assent with Gulbis’s assessment of the big four, he appreciates how straightforward the Latvian is.

“As a fan and reporter, I want every player to be as honest as possible.  I want to know what they really think; I want to know who I’m writing about and who I’m rooting for.  In this sense, I like Gulbis’ honesty—the guy is a journalist’s dream.”

Taking down the King of Clay:  Rafael Nadal has won 93 percent of clay courtn matches he has contested in his career and has only lost 21 matches total.  Beating the Spaniard on this surface has required nothing short of herculean efforts. Kamakshi Tandon of ESPN believes several ingredients necessary in concocting a recipe to defeat Nadal on clay include winning in three sets, having a lot of power, and rushing Nadal.

Jelena Jankovic praises Gabrine Muguruza: After her comprehensive 6-3 6-0 defeat of 19-year-old Gabrine Muguruza of Spain, a match in which the Serb won the final 12 games of the match, Jelena Jankovic touted her younger foe.

“She’s a great up and coming player. She hits the ball very hard, very flat. And especially in the beginning of the match she gave me a lot of trouble. I figured out the way to play against her, and I think I did pretty well.”

Candid Kevin Anderson car interview: In this edition of Road to Roland Garros, South African Kevin Anderson discusses his favorite district in Paris, his best experience in Paris, who he thinks the best player of all time is and more.

Federer applauds Nadal’s growthAs the ATP reports, Roger Federer believes “Nadal is more or less still the same player” but that “his strengths and his weaknesses are even better now.” Federer also discussed Nadal’s physical growth in specificity stating, “Of course also he’s fitter. He’s no longer a young boy. He’s a man now. He has experience on top of that.  So he’s really improved.  It’s spectacular and the results are there to show, to prove it.”

Bethanie-Mattek Sands shocks Li Na: Bethanie-Mattek Sands of the United States scored a career best victory over 2011 French Open champion, Li Na by a score of 5-7 6-3 6-2. This is a remarkable victory for Mattek Sands considering where she was just a year ago when she was contemplating retirement as Jim Caple of ESPN reports.

“I got to the point where I couldn’t even play my game. I couldn’t even work out. That’s the reason I was thinking I didn’t want to play tennis. It’s too frustrating.”

Sam Stosur anticipates Jankovic match:  After displacing Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets, Sam Stosur will face Jelena Jankovic in a match that pits a grand slam champion against a former world No. 1. Stosur realizes a victory against Jankovic will be a big win, especially considering her recent setback to Jankovic in Stuttgart.

“It’s always tough playing Jelena. We played about four or five weeks ago in Stuttgart and she beat me there. I’m certainly expecting a tough match—I have to be ready to work hard, and hopefully play as well than I have so far this week.”

Tennis View Magazine Giveaway: Our friends at Tennis View Magazine have launched a great contest, giving fans the chance to win one of 12 daily Babolat prize packages during Roland Garros, that includes a Roland Garros Aeropro Drive tennis racket plus a six-pack racquet bag and accessories. To enter, follow steps at the following link: http://www.tennisviewmag.com/promotions

Owning It: Vandeweghe Versus Putintseva

During many a Real Housewives reunion special, a middle-aged, mildly affluent woman sits in a tight, off-the-shoulder cocktail dress (I’ve watched a couple in my day), and tells another similarly dressed woman to take responsibility for her actions. In other words, “own it.”

With this sort of cartoonishly glamorous set up unfortunately missing from the tennis world, it can be difficult to keep track of the daily drama, on both a macro (the game’s elite) and micro level (everyone else). Like those sage Bravo producers, we can often bow to clips conclusively showing Juan Martin del Potro dissing Andy Murray’s mother, or Jelena Jankovic imitating compatriot Ana Ivanovic’s signature fist pump.

But just like those bastions of reality television, it is almost always what happens “off-camera” that stirs up the most controversy. As a New Jersey housewife would probably say, “the fewer witnesses, the better.”

In tennis, nothing breeds isolation quite like a rain delay. With troubling forecasts predicting rain through early next week in Europe, qualifying matches in last minute warm-up tournaments like Brussels were driven indoors to ensure the event reaches completion. One such match was ripe for drama, rain or shine.

In one corner was 21-year-old CoCo Vandeweghe. A former US Open girls’ champion, the young American made a dream run to the Stanford finals last summer. Since then, however, she has struggled to reign in her high-octane game, and coming into Brussels had yet to win back-to-back matches this year. Granddaughter to a former Miss America, Vandeweghe’s senior career has been largely played under the radar, but she has had a “princess” moment or two, as evidenced by her twitter account.

Her opponent likely needs no introduction: the “delightfully offensive” Yulia Putintseva. After pushing Serena Williams to a tiebreak in Madrid, the teenaged Kazakh suffered a potentially soul-crushing loss in Rome, failing to convert a 5-1 final set lead to Madrid quarterfinalist Anabel Medina Garrigues. But whether you’re throwing drinks on someone at a party or playing a tennis match, it helps to be a little bit delusional. Shrugging off her fourth three-set loss (three of them from a set up) of the year, Putintseva crushed her first two opponents, including an equally offensive (though arguably less delightful) Michelle Larcher de Brito.

Playing on a surface that mitigates her weapons and exposes her suspicious movement, Vandeweghe had been surprisingly comfortable in Brussels, and took a tight first set from Putintseva with only one break separating the two. From there, Putintseva went on a tear, winning 12 of the next 14 games, and broke the big-serving American five times for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory.

But it was after the match where the drama (allegedly) reignited.

With no one reporting more than the score of “Brussels QR3 Vandeweghe/Putintseva,” Vandeweghe took to Twitter to enlighten the public to that which many already consider to be obvious:

https://twitter.com/CoCoVandey/status/336491458251091968

From there, CoCo outlined an exchange following the match’s conclusion where the victorious Putintseva allegedly told her, “You are a terrible player only serve. I win all the rallies.” The American went on to accuse Putintseva’s father/coach, Anton, of not only condoning, but also “clapping” as his daughter made these biting observations.

Hours later, Putintseva popped up on Twitter herself, at first to nonchalantly express her satisfaction at qualifying for the main draw, then to give us a “No comment,” re: CoCo. Elaborating for a fan, she said,

https://twitter.com/Yulka1995P/status/336576876623577088

which appears to imply whatever occurred was a two-way street. But why many flocked to Putintseva’s support in the immediate aftermath of this bizarre incident was the same reason why reality TV fans love Nene Leakes and Caroline Manzo: Putintseva appeared to take ownership of what many would consider a gauche act of gamesmanship. In its own way, that was breath of fresh air in a sporting world that can often feel stilted and devoid of cadence. It keeps us from our own delusion that everyone on the Tours is there to make friends. Because they’re not, they’re here to win.

And thus would have ended this episode of The Real Tennis Players of Brussels, until Putintseva took to Twitter again early this morning. After tacitly accepting Vandeweghe’s version of events, she made a complete about face when asked about the incident directly:

https://twitter.com/Yulka1995P/status/336721573585223682

In barely 140 characters, the teenager took her ownership, and sold it back to the American, who has already rallied support from the American media.

Is Putintseva a cult hero for telling it like it is, or a spoiled brat deflecting blame? Is Vandeweghe a victim of needless trash talk, or a bully for inciting an angry mob on an 18-year-old? For a Tour that peaked in the late 90s because of exchanges like these, it might behoove us all not to ask too many questions, sit back, and “watch what happens.”