Wimbledon Rewind: Djokovic and Serena Thrive, Radwanska and Li Survive, Ferrer and Kvitova Rally, Grass Specialists Sparkle on Day 6
Miraculously after the rain on Thursday and Friday, Wimbledon has set all of its fourth-round matchups for Manic Monday. More than half of the top-ten players there (five men, six women) fell in the first week, and Saturday featured its share of drama despite the welcome sunshine.
Match of the day: Even with the cloud of his father hanging over him at a distance, Bernard Tomic has compiled an outstanding Wimbledon campaign. The enigmatic Aussie has upset two seeded players to reach the second week, most recently No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet. Showing his taste for drama, Tomic played five sets in the first round against Sam Querrey and reached 5-5 in every set against the 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist.
Upset of the day: Few tennis fans knew much about Kenny de Schepper entering this tournament. The 26-year-old Frenchman benefited from a Marin Cilic walkover in the second round and made the most of the opportunity. Not losing a set in the first week of Wimbledon, de Schepper upset No. 20 seed Juan Monaco to reach this stage at a major for the first time.
Comeback of the day: Imperfect in his first two matches, world No. 4 David Ferrer predictably fell behind the mercurial Alexandr Dolgopolov two sets to one. After Dolgopolov steamrolled him in the third set, though, Ferrer regrouped immediately to drop just three games in the next two sets. His far superior stamina gave him a valuable advantage against an opponent who struggles with sustaining energy or form.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There’s death, there’s taxes, there’s Nadal winning on clay, and there’s Tomas Berdych beating up on poor Kevin Anderson. Nine times have they played since the start of 2012, including at four majors, with Berdych winning all nine. At least Anderson took the first set this time and kept the match more competitive than most of its prequels.
Gold star: Considering Kei Nishikori’s promising start to the tournament, Andreas Seppi merits special attention for his five-set battle past the Japanese star. Like Ferrer, Seppi trailed two sets to one before digging into the trenches and holding his ground with an imposing fourth set that set the stage for a tight fifth. As a result of his efforts, Italy leads all nations with four players in the second week of Wimbledon, an odd achievement for a clay-loving nation.
Silver star: One day after demolishing an unseeded opponent, Tommy Haas overcame a much more worthy challenger in Eastbourne champion Feliciano Lopez. Haas bounced back from losing the first set to prevail in four, arranging an intriguing Monday meeting with Novak Djokovic. The German has won both of their previous grass meetings—four years ago—but lost to Djokovic at Roland Garros.
Wooden spoon: At a minimum, one expected some entertaining twists and turns from a match pitting Ernests Gulbis and Fernando Verdasco. The firecrackers fizzled in a straight-sets victory for the Spaniard, who now eyes his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with de Schepper awaiting him on Monday. Gulbis joined a string of unseeded players unable to follow their notable upsets with a deep run.
Stat of the day: World No. 2 Andy Murray cannot face a top-20 opponent until the final. (No. 20 seed Mikhail Youzhny, his Monday opponent, is seeded higher than his ranking because of the grass formula used in making the draw.)
Question of the day: Top seed Novak Djokovic seems to grow more formidable with each round, dismantling Jeremy Chardy today for the loss of only seven games. Can anyone slow his path to the final? Juan Martin Del Potro, the only other man in this half who has not lost a set, might have the best chance. He defeated Djokovic earlier this year at Indian Wells and on grass at the Olympics last year.
Match of the day: One of many players who rallied to win after losing the first set, Li Na rushed through a second-set bagel against Klara Zakopalova but then found herself bogged down in a war of attrition. Li finally opened the door to the second week in the 14th game of the final set. She continues to show more tenacity at this tournament than she has in several months.
Upset of the day: Sabine Lisicki’s victory over the grass-averse Samantha Stosur came as a surprise only on paper. In fact, the greater surprise may have come from Lisicki dropping the first set before dominating the next two. Lisicki has reached the second week in four straight Wimbledon appearances, proving herself the epitome of a grass specialist.
Comeback of the day: British hearts quailed when Laura Robson started a winnable match against Marina Erakovic in dismal fashion. The feisty home hope did not quite recover until late in the second set, when Erakovic served for the match. Needing some help from her opponent to regroup, including a string of double faults, Robson asserted control swiftly in the final set and never relinquished the momentum once she captured it.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There was no Williams déjà vu at Wimbledon, where Kimiko Date-Krumm could not repeat her epic effort against Venus Williams there two years ago. Notching her 600th career victory, Serena surrendered just two games to the Japanese star as she predictably reached the second week without losing a set. Since the start of Rome, the world No. 1 has served bagels or breadsticks in nearly half of the sets that she has played (15 of 31).
Gold star: In trouble against Eva Birnerova when Friday ended, Monica Puig rallied on Saturday to book her spot in the second week. Unlike most of her fellow upset artists, she used a first-round ambush of Sara Errani to light the fuse of two more victories. An almost intra-American match awaits between the Puerto Rican and Sloane Stephens.
Silver star: Tsvetana Pironkova extended her voodoo spell over these lawns with a third second-week appearance in four years. A non-entity at almost all other tournaments, Pironkova could not have chosen a better place to plant her Bulgarian flag. thou
What a difference a day makes: Shortly before play ended on Friday, Petra Kvitova had lost seven straight games to Ekaterina Makarova and narrowly avoided falling behind by a double break in the final set. When she returned in the sunshine of Saturday, Kvitova won five of the last six games to abruptly wrap up a match full of streaky play from both sides.
Americans in London: Also able to collect herself overnight, Sloane Stephens recovered from a second-set bagel to outlast qualifier Petra Cetkovska. Stephens became the only woman outside the top four to reach the second week at every major this year. Nearly joining her was Madison Keys, who gave 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska all that she could handle in a tight three-setter. The impressive serve and balanced baseline power of Keys suggest that we will see much more of her at future Wimbledons.
Question of the day: In 2009, 2011, and 2012, Sabine Lisicki halted the previous month’s Roland Garros champion at Wimbledon. Can she do to Serena what she did to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na, and Maria Sharapova? Plenty of massive serves will scar the grass on Monday.
(June 29, 2013) Twelve. That’s how many times 20-year-old American Sloane Stephens has used the phrase “play hard” in her last two press conferences at Wimbledon this week.
After her turbulent season on the WTA Tour since debuting in the top 20 for the first time in January, that’s all Stephens can focus on – playing hard.
Now through to the fourth round after a rollercoaster of a match against qualifier Petra Cetkovska, Stephens is rebuilding the confidence she lost earlier in the year.
Combined with her fourth round appearance last month at Roland Garros, which she called “pretty good … after not having that many great results over the year,” Stephens said that run helped her “build a lot of confidence.” Now, she comes into Wimbledon “feeling (even) better.”
After becoming an instant celebrity with her surprise win over an injured Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Stephens is now third at odds, according to ESPN, to win Wimbledon behind Williams and 2011 titlist Petra Kvitova. That’s a pretty tall task for a player who has never been past the fourth round of Wimbledon and has yet to even reach a Slam final.
Stephens’ main draw debut at a Slam occurred in 2011 on her favorite surface, the red clay of Roland Garros. And since then, she has gone a respectable 21-8 during her young career. Despite her rather quick ascension up the Slam ranks, she jokes about still being a relative newcomer.
“Even though I played a lot slams, I feel like it’s all new,” Stephens said on Monday. “I came (to Wimbledon) and I … didn’t even know how to get to the locker room.”
Stephens’ young career on court has been an inspiring one, but her off-court presence has quickly outshone her well-crafted style. With many seeds now out from Wimbledon, it’s another opportunity for the young American to revert attention back to her game.
At age 17, Stephens finished 2010 ranked world No. 198, followed it up with a top 100 debut just nine months later and ended the year as the youngest player in the top 100. In July of 2012, she broke into the top 50 for the first time after reaching the third round at Wimbledon, then a left abdominal injury derailed her and she missed the last four months of the season.
Then, the tournament that made her a household name occurred.
Stephens came into the 2013 Australian Open already ranked a proper 25th in the world, but many had still never seen much from the budding 20-year-old. She was carefree, energetic and youthful, and was flying under the radar as she defeated then-world No. 3 Serena Williams on her way to the semifinals.
Then came the media downfall. Clouded by her own words and misrepresentations from some members of the press, Stephens had to combat against comments that she said her and Williams being “besties” and that the elder American was a “mentor.” Though the media blew Stephens’ comments out of proportion, she did little initially to put out the fire.
Another well-timed release of a two-month old interview for ESPN just last month caused an additional stir. In the article, Stephens blasted Williams for being cold to her after her Australian Open win, and Stephens quickly commented that the statements were taken out of context and that she had already sorted it out with Williams directly.
But gone was the lovable interviewee in her post-match press conferences, and her match play during much of this time suffered as well. She again came under heavy scrutiny and she admitted that all of the media attention became too overwhelming for her.
By the first week of May, Stephens’ win-to-loss record on the season outside of the Slams had dropped to 3-6, including five opening round losses.
But looking deeper into Stephens’ results, this statistic shouldn’t be that alarming. She has, for some reason, always performed better at Slams than at WTA-level events.
In 2011, Stephens’ best results came in Carlsbad where she reached the quarterfinals, and the US Open where she reached the third round. Outside of that, she failed to even qualify for seven other WTA events, and additionally lost in the first round of a lower-ranked ITF event to a player outside of the top 400.
In 2012, Stephens reached the third round or better in three of the four Slams, but failed once again to even qualify for three WTA events, though she did reach two semifinals in lower-ranked WTA events.
In 2013 so far, Stephens has reached the fourth round of a Slam twice and the semifinal once, but outside of that, her best showing was once again the semifinal of a lower-ranked WTA event.
All things considered, Stephens has yet to appear past a WTA Premier-level quarterfinal or International-level semifinal, and has only won one ITF title in 2011, yet she is making the fourth rounds of Slams without too much difficulty.
So the question begs to be asked: Why does Stephens perform considerably better at Slams than at WTA-level events?
Well, if you’re looking to Stephens to answer the puzzle, you’ll be disappointed.
“I don’t know,” says Stephens when asked about her Slam performance consistency compared to the rest of her WTA results. “Maybe it’s the food I eat. I’m not really sure.”
Analyzing Stephens’ Slam and Premier events statistics, particularly in three-set matches, from May 2011 to present day, as well as a breakdown of the last twelve months gives some interesting insights.
- When winning the first set in a three-set match at Slams, Stephens has won 85.7% of the time, or 6 out of 7 matches. Compare that to Premier events during the same timeframe where she only won 28.6% of the time, or 2 out of 7 matches.
- In three-set matches won over the last two years, Stephens holds a record of 8-2 at Slams, and 7-8 at Premier events. Over the last twelve months, her Slam record is 7-2 and 3-7 at Premier events.
- Over the last twelve months, the average ranking to which she lost to in three-sets at a Slam was 14, and at Premier events was 38.
- Over the past twelve months, Stephens holds a 15-4 win-to-loss record in all Slam matches, compared to an 11-13 record for all Premier event matches.
- In all Slam losses over the past twelve months, the average ranking of her opponent was 8. Compare that to a ranking of 35 at Premier events during the same time frame.
The statistics breakdown of her matches could continue, but the conclusion is clear: Stephens, whether consciously or not, exerts more into her Slam performances to secure those three-set wins, in particular. Stephens tends to win and lose straight set matches in rather similar ratios across Slam and Premier events – it’s only the three-set matches that show any marked difference.
This week in Wimbledon, after easily getting by her first round opponent Jamie Hampton in straight sets, Stephens was tested with back-to-back three set matches against first Andrea Petkovic then Petra Cetkovska. After winning both first sets in a tiebreak, she had uncharacteristically poor middle sets (6-2 and 6-0, respectively), before bouncing back and winning both nail-biting matches in the third.
Perhaps her confidence at Slams is still somewhat wavering given her results the past few months, but she would be wise to keep that elevated focus and translate it into the other WTA events, and not just at Slams. A few bad draws at a couple of Slams or another injury, and she could see her confidence and ranking faltering. She needs to find a way to win those three-set matches which are being played on smaller stages, and build a proper foundation.
In other words, she needs to take her own advice for every event she enters, and simply “play hard.”
Wimbledon Rewind: Murray Shines, Janowicz Soars, Kerber Crumbles, Ferrer Survives, Kvitova Wobbles on Day 5
The rain continued to make its presence felt on Friday as a mixture of postponed second-round matches and third-round matches unfolded. Here are the studs and duds from the fifth day of Midsummer Mayhem, where no seed is safe.
Match of the day: The tremors of Wednesday’s earthquakes have not quite left Wimbledon. In his second-round match, David Ferrer split the first two sets with compatriot Roberto-Bautista Agut and needed a tiebreak to salvage the third. Perhaps emboldened by the feats of other underdogs, Bautista-Agut battled deep into the fourth set before the last Spanish man left in the draw limped through. After arduous four-set victories in the first two rounds, though, blood is in the water around Ferrer, the victim of multiple turf tumbles. His future opponents await their chances to pounce.
Upset of the day: This upset mostly happened yesterday, in fact, when Grega Zemlja and Grigor Dimitrov exited the court locked at 9-8 in the fifth set. The longest final set of the tournament in terms of games ended with Dimitrov excused to join Maria Sharapova at a sunnier location. Despite his enormous promise, he still has not reached the second week of a major and continues to struggle in the best-of-five format.
Gold star: A non-entity a year ago, Jerzy Janowicz hammered 30 aces against the 15th-seeded Nicolas Almagro to reach the second week of a major for the first time. Janowicz has not dropped a set in the tournament and should be considered the favorite to reach the (gasp) semifinals in the quarter vacated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He has shown far more discipline this week than at most previous tournaments this year.
Silver star: Last year’s runner-up has become the only top-15 man left in the bottom half of the draw. Andy Murray dispatched Tommy Robredo methodically for a third consecutive straight-sets win. He will enter every match until the final as an overwhelming favorite, adding to the pressure already on him at his home major.
One-hit wonder: The man who slew Roger Federer fell victim just one round later, no more able to build on his accomplishment than the man who slew Rafael Nadal. Sergiy Stakhovsky dropped a four-setter to Jurgen Melzer two days after Steve Darcis withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury. But both of these men outside the top 100 will have a story to tell for the rest of their lives.
Question of the day: Brought back today for the third and fourth sets of his second-round match, Jeremy Chardy returns tomorrow to face Novak Djokovic. The French shot-maker reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year and could threaten the Serb on grass with his forward-moving attack. But will he lack the energy to make a match of it?
Upset of the day: Six of the top ten women have started their midsummer holiday already, most exiting in uneventful fashion. World No. 7 and 2012 semifinalist Angelique Kerber looked likely to survive the tsunami of upsets when she led the dangerous Kaia Kanepi, a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist, by a set and by 5-1 in the second-set tiebreak. Undeterred by those odds, Kanepi swept five straight points and eventually the tiebreak. She asserted control early in the final set against a reeling Kerber, who suffered the latest in a string of painful three-set losses this year.
Comeback of the day: Still in the draw with Victoria Azarenka’s withdrawal, Flavia Pennetta has made the most of the opportunity. The Italian veteran had earned mostly tepid results since returning from injury this spring, but she now finds herself in the second week of Wimbledon. Pennetta dropped a first-set bagel to fellow clay specialist Alize Cornet, only to wrest away the momentum in a second-set tiebreak and cruise through the third. Call it Kanepi-Kerber Lite.
Gold star: Depending on the result of a postponed match, Marion Bartoli might find herself the highest-ranked woman in the bottom half of the draw when Monday arrives. The 15th seed and 2007 finalist notched another straight-sets win over another mediocre opponent. It is possible that Bartoli could reach the semifinals without facing anyone ranked higher than No. 70 Christina McHale, but one cannot fault her for the shortcomings of those around her.
Silver star: The adrenaline of playing a top-ten woman at Wimbledon probably carried Laura Robson to her first-round upset of Maria Kirilenko. Another rush of adrenaline arrived when Robson stepped onto Centre Court for her next match. She used it to her advantage in a comfortable victory over Mariana Duque Marino. With no seed left in her vicinity, a quarterfinal berth would not come as a shock.
One-hit wonder: Like Stakhovsky, Michelle Larcher de Brito subsided meekly in the wake of her massive upset. She fell to the equally unremarkable Karin Knapp, giving Italy at least two women in the second week pending Roberta Vinci’s match tomorrow. The last supposedly rising star who defeated Maria Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon, Alla Kudryavtseva, never went on to achieve anything more significant. We will see whether Larcher de Brito can build something stronger from it.
Americans in London: In a tale of two very different sets, No. 17 Sloane Stephens eked out a tiebreak against qualifier Petra Cetkovska—and then gulped down a bagel in the second set. She will return tomorrow with one set to decide who reaches the second week. If Stephens does, she would have advanced to that stage at every major this year, more than eight of the top ten women can say. Meanwhile, Alison Riske avenged compatriot Mallory Burdette’s loss to Urszula Radwanska by battling past Agnieszka’s sister in three sets.
Question of the day: Leading fellow lefty Ekaterina Makarova by a set and 2-1, world No. 8 Petra Kvitova lost seven straight games. The easily flustered former champion now trails Makarova by a break in the final set as a golden opportunity to plow deep into a major draw threatens to slip away. Can Kvitova collect herself when play resumes tomorrow?
A wild Wednesday swept through the All England Club. We glance back through the avalanche of upsets that rendered some sections of both draws almost unrecognizable as a major.
Roger rolled: 36 straight quarterfinals at majors. Seven Wimbledon titles in the last ten years. None of his legendary opponent’s credentials mattered to the 116th-ranked Sergei Stakhovsky, who became the lowest-ranked man to defeat Roger Federer in a decade. His moment of truth came in the fourth-set tiebreak, as crucial for the underdog as it was for the favorite considering the momentum that Stakhovsky had built by winning the second and third sets. Federer had started to reassert himself late in the fourth, and he surely would have secured the fifth set if he had reached it.
Unlike Alejandro Falla in 2010, and Julien Benneteau in 2012, Stakhovsky made sure that the Swiss did not survive the crossroads. A barrage of unreturnable serves early in the tiebreak, a clutch backhand down the line, and a sequence of magnificent lunging volleys brought him to match point on his serve. Sure enough, Federer saved it with a pinpoint passing shot. But Stakhovsky kept his composure through what felt like an interminable rally with the champion serving at 5-6 in the tiebreak. Finally, a Federer backhand floated aimlessly wide as time seemed to stand still on Centre Court, where things like these never happen.
Maria mastered: Off the WTA radar for years, former prodigy Michelle Larcher de Brito had gained most of her publicity from distinctively elongated yodels. She entered the main draw as a qualifier, though, which meant that she had accumulated more grass matches than her heralded opponent. Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova has stumbled early in the draw there more often than not in recent years. Slipping and skidding around the site of her first major breakthrough, she never found her rhythm or range from the baseline in a loss that recalled previous Wimbledon setbacks to Alla Kudryavtseva and Gisela Dulko.
The finish did not come easily for de Brito, as it never does against Sharapova. The girl who long has struggled with her serve deserves full credit for standing firm through deuce after deuce as five match points slipped past until the sixth proved the charm.
Vika victimized: Injuring her leg during her first-round victory, world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka never reached her scheduled Centre Court rendezvous with Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday. Azarenka withdrew from Wimbledon while blasting the All England Club for creating unsafe playing conditions. She now needs only a retirement or walkover at Roland Garros to complete a career injury Slam, and she will hand the No. 2 ranking back to Sharapova after the tournament.
Jo-Wilfried jolted: Also on the retirement list in a day filled with injuries, world No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga handed Ernests Gulbis a ticket to the third round after losing two of the first three sets. A semifinalist at Roland Garros and at Queen’s Club, Tsonga had seemed one of the tournament’s leading dark horses at the outset. But Gulbis, the most dangerous unseeded man in the draw, eyes an open route to a quarterfinal against Andy Murray.
Caro curbed: An Eastbourne semifinal aside, Caroline Wozniacki has struggled without respite since reaching the Indian Wells final in March. Another early loss thus comes as no great surprise for someone who lost in the first round of Wimbledon last year. Wozniacki secured just four games from Petra Cetkovska, not the first upset that the Czech has notched on grass.
Tall men toppled: Their opponents had nothing to do with it, but the tenth-seeded Marin Cilic and American No. 2 John Isner added themselves to the exodus of retirements. While Isner did not harbor real hopes for a deep run, Cilic reached the final at Queen’s Club barely a week ago and had reached the second week of Wimbledon last year. Of the top-16 seeds in the bottom half of the men’s draw, only Murray and Nicolas Almagro remain.
Serbs swiped: More comfortable on slower surfaces, former No. 1s Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic departed in straight sets on Wednesday. Ivanovic’s loss came at the hands of rising Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard, who may rival Laura Robson (or Larcher de Brito?) for the breakout story of the women’s tournament. The proudly patriotic Jankovic may take some comfort in the fact that her misfortune came at the hands of a fellow Serb. Her conqueror, Vesna Dolonc, is the only Serb left in the women’s draw.
Hewitt halted: The 2002 champion soared to a straight-sets victory over the 11th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the first round, only to tumble back to earth against flashy Jamaican-turned-German journeyman Dustin Brown. Lleyton Hewitt’s defeat leaves Novak Djokovic as the only former champion and only No. 1 in the Wimbledon men’s draw.
And more…: The seeded casualties did not stop there. Fernando Verdasco bounced No. 31 Julien Benneteau in straight sets, No. 22 Sorana Cirstea lost two tiebreaks to Camila Giorgi, and No. 27 Lucie Safarova let a one-set lead get away against another Italian in Karin Knapp. Nadal’s nemesis, Steve Darcis, also withdrew from Wimbledon with a shoulder injury.
Hanging on tight: In the women’s match of the day, No. 17 Sloane Stephens narrowly kept her tournament alive against Andrea Petkovic by surviving an 8-6 third set. Stephens will have a real chance to reach her second semifinal in three 2013 majors with both top-eight seeds gone from her quarter. Also extended to a third set were No. 19 Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 25 Ekaterina Makarova, the latter of whom overcame rising Spanish star Garbine Muguruza. Meanwhile, men’s 20th seed Mikhail Youzhny needed five sets to survive Canadian youngster Vasek Pospisil as hardly anyone escaped at least a nibble from the upset bug.
Rising above the rubble: But a few contenders did. Extending his winning streak to seven, second seed Andy Murray notched another routine victory as he becomes the overwhelming favorite to reach a second straight Wimbledon final. Murray’s pre-final draw might pit him against a succession of Tommy Robredo, Youzhny, Gulbis, and Benoit Paire or Jerzy Janowicz—hardly a murderer’s row, although the Gulbis matchup might intrigue.
In the wake of a difficult first-round victory, 2011 champion Petra Kvitova caught a break today when Yaroslava Shvedova withdrew. Kvitova becomes the only top-eight seed to reach the third round in the bottom half of the women’s draw. She could face a compelling test from Makarova on Friday, but her most significant competition might come from Stephens or Marion Bartoli in the semifinals. Struggling mightily for most of the spring amid coaching turmoil, 2007 finalist Bartoli has picked an ideal time to find some form again. She ousted Christina McHale in straight sets today and has become the highest-ranked woman remaining in her quarter.
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 Rewind: Wawrinka Wins Thriller; Djokovic Finishes Strong; Sharapova, Azarenka, Nadal Cruise on Monday
From 256 players to 16, the Roland Garros draws keep shrinking. We keep returning to keep you updated on the latest attrition.
Match of the day: After Richard Gasquet had won his first eleven sets of the tournament, he lost the plot just long enough for Stanislas Wawrinka to reset himself. Once again, Gasquet allowed a two-set lead to evaporate at a major. But he battled valiantly to the end, only succumbing 8-6 in the fifth as Wawrinka reached his first Roland Garros quarterfinal.
Most improved: The outlook is not bright for Wawrinka in the next round, however, for he faces a rejuvenated Rafael Nadal. The birthday boy celebrated turning 27 with his most emphatic win of the tournament, finally delivering sustained quality from start to finish. Nadal will have one more tune-up before the Friday battle with his archrival.
Least improved: That is, assuming that Novak Djokovic reaches that stage. The death of his former coach predictably took its toll on his game in a four-set victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber, who converted only two of thirteen break points. Djokovic asserted that his motivation to win here had risen rather than dulled, but he rarely has produced his best tennis in situations of personal turmoil.
Stat of the day: Not since 1971 had a man as old as Tommy Haas reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros. But the German achieved that feat for the first time in 12 appearances, crushing Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets two days after saving a match point against John Isner.
Question of the day: Haas dominated Djokovic in Miami this spring. Can he repeat the feat when they meet in the quarterfinals?
Match of the day: None. All of the higher-ranked women won in straight sets to leave Svetlana Kuznetsova the only unseeded quarterfinalist in either draw.
Most improved: Into her third quarterfinal here, Victoria Azarenka improved to 11-0 at major this year by sweeping nine straight games from 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone. Azarenka had descended from second-round frailty to third-round fecklessness, so this authoritative fourth-round display came as a welcome relief to her fans. She will seek her first Roland Garros semifinal against Maria Kirilenko.
Americans in Paris: Down they went like dominoes, none able to win a set from their fourth-round opponents. Bethanie Mattek-Sands could solve Li Na but not Maria Kirilenko, while Jamie Hampton could solve Petra Kvitova but not Jelena Jankovic. When Tuesday dawns in Paris, Serena Williams will fly the stars and stripes all by herself. To be honest, though, nobody would have expected any Americans other than Serena to reach the middle weekend.
Stat of the day: Marching ever further into her title defense, Maria Sharapova recorded her 33rd consecutive victory on clay (and 43rd in her last 44 matches) against opponents other than Serena. The best clay winning percentage of any active woman got a little better when she swatted Sloane Stephens aside with a much stronger serving display than in her previous two matches.
Question of the day: All of the top four women have reached the quarterfinals, three without losing a set. Can any of their opponents forestall a semifinal convergence?
On the second Monday of Roland Garros, the remaining quarterfinal lineups take shape. We continue our comprehensive look at the round of 16.
Novak Djokovic vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber: Four long years ago, Kohlschreiber stunned the future No. 1 in the third round here, their only clay meeting. Never have they met since Djokovic became the Djuggernaut in 2011, so that history offers little guide. Growing more impressive with each round, he demolished Grigor Dimitrov to reach the second week without dropping a set. Kohlschreiber has played only two matches here, receiving a second-round walkover, but he too has shone in limited action and appears to have recovered from a recent injury. Highlighted by his elegant one-handed backhand, the German’s shot-making talent should produce flurries of winners and an ideal foil for Djokovic’s court coverage. But he lacks the consistent explosiveness to hit through the Serb from the baseline.
Tommy Haas vs. Mikhail Youzhny: Two veterans wield their one-handed backhands in hopes of a quarterfinal rendezvous with Djokovic. Far from a clay specialist, Youzhny may have surprised even himself by reaching the second week here, although he did win a set from the Serb in Monte Carlo and compiled a solid week in Madrid. A week later, he halted Haas routinely in Rome for his second win of the clay season over a top-20 opponent. Youzhny’s third such victory came over Janko Tipsarevic on Saturday, perhaps aided by the Serb’s fatigue in playing the day after a grueling five-setter. Meanwhile, Haas found the stamina to win a five-set epic from John Isner on Saturday without a day of rest, putting younger men to shame. Able to weather the adversity of twelve match points squandered, he looks as physically and mentally fit at age 35 as he ever has.
Rafael Nadal vs. Kei Nishikori: After Nadal lost a set to the Japanese star in their first meeting five years ago, he has swept their remaining three meetings without losing more than four games in any set. None of them has come on clay, which should tilt the balance of power even more clearly in Nadal’s favor. If he brings his flustered, disheveled form of the first week into the second week, however, Nishikori has the coolness, consistency, and belief to punish him. The last Asian player left in either draw recently defeated Federer on the Madrid clay, and he owns a victory over Djokovic as well. Nadal needs to start this match more solidly than he did his three previous matches, or he might dig an early hole for himself again. Even if he does, Nishikori’s vanilla baseline game should play into Rafa’s hands eventually.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Richard Gasquet: The Swiss No. 2 could have renamed himself “Wowrinka” after a clay season in which he surged back to the top 10. Just outside it now, he seeks to reach his first Roland Garros quarterfinal with a fifth victory over a top-ten opponent this spring. This match will feature a scintillating battle of the two finest backhands in the men’s game, Wawrinka’s the sturdiest and Gasquet’s the most aesthetically pleasing. A strong four-set victory over fellow dark horse Jerzy Janowicz will give the former man valuable momentum for tackling an opponent who did not lose a set in the first week. Once fallible when playing in or for France, Gasquet has improved in that area during this mature phase of his career. He remains highly unreliable when sustained adversity strikes or when a match grows tense, as this match should.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Maria Kirilenko: When they collided on hard courts this spring, the Russian prevailed uneventfully. That result captured the relative status of their games then, Mattek-Sands struggling to gain traction in the main draws of key tournaments and Kirilenko arriving from a semifinal at Indian Wells. The gap separating their trajectories has narrowed during the clay season, where Mattek-Sands suddenly has emerged as a credible threat. A victory over Sara Errani launched her toward a semifinal in Stuttgart, while an upset over Li Na here has catalyzed this second-week run. The American will dictate the terms of this engagement by attempting to bomb winners down the line before Kirilenko settles into the rallies. Against someone who defends as adeptly as the Russian, that tactic could reap mixed results for someone whose accuracy ebbs and flows.
Francesca Schiavone vs. Victoria Azarenka: In a bizarre head-to-head considering their histories, Azarenka has won both of their clay meetings and Schiavone their only match on hard courts. Those trends do not reflect the surface advantage that one would hand the Italian, once a champion and twice a finalist here. Azarenka never has ventured past the quarterfinals, by contrast, and has struggled both mentally and physically with the demands of clay. She may need more experience on it to solve its riddles, but Schiavone could confront her with an intriguing test. A player who prefers rhythmic exchanges from the baseline, Azarenka can expect to find herself stretched into uncomfortable positions and forced to contend with an array of spins and slices. If she serves as woefully as she did against Cornet a round ago, Schiavone might have a real chance at another miracle.
Jamie Hampton vs. Jelena Jankovic: It looks like a clear mismatch on paper, and it could prove a mismatch in reality. A three-time Roland Garros semifinalist and former No. 1 confronts an American who never has reached a major quarterfinal or the top 20. But Hampton will bring confidence from her upset of Petra Kvitova, an opponent with much more dangerous weapons than Jankovic can wield. The bad news for the underdog is that the Serb also will have brought confidence from her previous round, a three-set comeback against former Roland Garros finalist Samantha Stosur. Jankovic often follows an excellent performance with a clunker, though, as she showed in Rome when she collapsed against Simona Halep after upsetting Li Na. And Hampton won their only prior meeting last year at Indian Wells.
Maria Sharapova vs. Sloane Stephens: The defending champion looked a few degrees less than bulletproof in the second sets of her last two victories. Perhaps Sharapova relaxed her steeliness a bit in both when she won the first sets resoundingly from her overmatched prey. While she deserves credit for finishing both in style, future opponents may find hope in those lulls. On the other hand, Sharapova struggled on serve throughout her match against Stephens in Rome—and lost a whopping three games. Her experience buttressed her on the key deuce points, which she dominated, while her return devastated the Stephens serve. The 20-year-old American has surpassed expectations by reaching the second week here again, although she has benefited from a toothless draw. Needing help from Serena to stun the world in Melbourne, Stephens will need help from Sharapova to stun the world in Paris.
The remaining second-week lineups fell into place on Saturday at Roland Garros. Here’s a look back at the studs and duds.
Match of the day: Returning to the battlefield after playing an 8-6 fifth set yesterday, John Isner outdid himself in the effort department. The American giant rallied from two sets down against Tommy Haas, saving twelve match points in the fourth set. Isner even claimed a 4-1 lead in the fifth set as a second comeback in two days from losing the first two sets loomed. Somehow managing to break and saving a match point at 4-5, Haas hung on until Isner finally cracked at 8-8. The thirteenth match point proved the charm.
Unsurprising surprise of the day: Also back in action a day after an 8-6 fifth set, Janko Tipsarevic predictably responded less impressively than Isner did. The eighth seed fell to Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets. Whoever thought that Youzhny would reach the second week of Roland Garros and have a real chance at a quarterfinal berth deserves a glass of Champagne’s finest.
Nice story of the day: Overshadowed this tournament by someone else from Switzerland, as he usually is, Stanislas Wawrinka posted a solid four-set win over the dangerous Jerzy Janowicz. Wawrinka had not known whether he would participate in Roland Garros this year because of a leg injury, so he will feel confident that he made the right decision.
Scandal of the day: A set point against Kei Nishikori awaited Benoit Paire—or so it seemed. Umpire Enric Molina took away the opportunity with a coaching code violation, resulting in a point penalty. An infuriated Paire argued his case at length, but Molina appeared to have ruled correctly. Probably spurred by the incident, Paire bludgeoned his way to win the set anyway, although he lost the match.
Gold star: Like fellow Head endorser Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic always fancies a taste of revenge. He ravaged Grigor Dimitrov’s serve without mercy just weeks after finding it nearly invulnerable in Madrid. Toppled in three sets that time, Djokovic lost just seven games here.
Silver star: Baby steps for Rafael Nadal, who looked far from his overwhelming King of Clay self again but at least advanced in straight sets. Nadal had thrashed third-round opponent Fabio Fognini in Rome. This match proved much more competitive but never really in doubt once he survived a slow start to win a first-set tiebreak.
Stat of the day: The twelve match points saved by Isner were the most ever saved by any man in a match at a major.
American men in Paris: None reach the second week. RIP, this category.
Question of the day: Djokovic’s fourth-round opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber has advanced routinely to this stage and upset the Serb here in 2009. Can he make things interesting on Monday?
Match of the day: Just like Monfils-Berdych, the Stosur-Jankovic duel of veteran clay specialists lived up to its billing. Jankovic repeated her Stuttgart upset of the world No. 9 after losing the first set and closing out a long, tight decider. Her clay revival this year should lead to her first major quarterfinal in recent memory,…
Surprise of the day: …although Jamie Hampton might have something to say about it. The small American who gave Victoria Azarenka a scare in Melbourne bundled Petra Kvitova out of the tournament. Facing little resistance early, Hampton needed to navigate a long second-set tiebreak to prevent the advantage shifting back to the favorite in the third set. Kvitova has lost before the quarterfinals at three straight majors.
Nice story of the day: Perhaps the nicest story of the tournament, in fact. 2010 champion and 2011 finalist Francesca Schiavone returns to the second week in Paris despite a disappointing season, finishing off top-ranked Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli without much ado.
Top seeds show frailty…: Victoria Azarenka barely could hold serve at all for a set-plus against Alize Cornet, dropping a break at love to concede the first set to someone with a 24-match losing streak against top-30 opponents. After an emphatic first set, Maria Sharapova suddenly lost the plot and fell behind by a double break to the persistent but faded Zheng Jie amid serving struggles.
…but finish strong: Once adversity struck, both top women showed their spine. World No. 3 Azarenka raced through a 6-1 third set, while world No. 2 Sharapova swept six of the last seven games. If you want to score a huge upset, you cannot afford to labor as consistently on serve as Cornet and Zheng did. That is too much additional pressure stacked on top of the pressure created by the circumstances.
Adieu, les bleues: Barely wobbling through her two previous matches, Bartoli followed Cornet to the exit as the last Frenchwomen faded from the draw in the first week. Credit to each of them for fighting bard, but France simply is not a first-tier tennis power in the women’s game.
Stat of the day: Sharapova converted all eight of her break points against Zheng, who held serve exactly once in the match.
Americans in Paris: Who would have thought that the stars and stripes would supply a quarter of the women’s final sixteen on the clay of Roland Garros? In addition to Hampton and Serena Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands rallied from losing the first set for the second straight match to dominate clay specialist Paula Ormaechea late. Sloane Stephens took advantage of a soft draw to repeat her second-week result here from last year. Now 8-1 at majors and 11-1 at non-majors, Stephens saves her best for when it means the most.
Questions of the day: Can Schiavone flap the visibly flappable Azarenka on Monday? And how many women’s quarterfinalists will the USA produce? All but Serena will be underdogs next round.
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?
Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.
Shot of the day: A stormy view of Suzanne Lenglen court where Tommy Haas took out Guillaume Rufin in straight sets “while sick and on antibiotics” as tweeted by his proud wife, Sara Foster.
Rain, Rain, Go Away: Day 3 of the French Open commenced with an unfortunate 2.5 hour rain delay. The lengthy delay not only pushed back the third day of opening round matches, but it puts players such as Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova at disadvantage because as the Associated Press reports, “They won’t begin until at least Wednesday, three days after some players were already into the second round.”
Philipp Kohlschreiber tells all: In this Road to Roland Garros feature, German Philipp Kohlschreiber discusses the prospect of serving up a triple bagel, his favorite movie and actor, his goals when entering a match, and even dresses up in a Viking costume.
Nick Kyrgios poised and patient: In an interview following his first round victory over Radek Stepanek, Australian Nick Kyrgios said “playing juniors has been a major step in being so confident” but he realizes thinking too far ahead can spell trouble. His coach, Simon Rea, echoed this sentiment stating, “I don’t view this as a skyrocketing path to the top 50 for Nick (but rather) an important step on his journey.”
Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal demonstrate erratic nature of tennis: As Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated describes, Rafael Nadal and Sloane Stephens have had markedly different results since the Australian Open but their first round matches would indicate otherwise.
“Given his form coming in, he figured to make quick work of Daniel Brands, a German journeyman of little regard” but as any tennis player and fan can attest to and as Wertheim articulates “there are no sure bets in tennis.” Nadal fans held their breath for nearly two sets before the Spaniard ran away with the win in four.
“Since Australia, it’s been tough sledding for Stephens … (but) on Monday, with efficiency and deceptively hard hitting, she pushed aside Karin Knapp 6-2 7-5.”
Jack Sock playing in the memory of friends: In a picture American Jack Sock posted via twitter, he indicated he is “not only playing for myself but for two friends that passed away in the last couple of weeks.” Sock penned in the initials of his two friends on the shoes he would presumably be wearing during the French Open: Brian Boyd from his high school days and Alex Rovello from their years playing in the juniors, who was a University of Oregon tennis player and died in a tragic accident recently. Today, Sock recorded his first ever victory at the French Open over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain in straight sets.
Ernests Gulbis discusses future, on court etiquette: In an article written by Reem Abulleil of Sport 360, Gulbis stated that recognizes the lack of pressure he will deal with for the rest of the season. He said, “I have no points to defend until the end of the year. I think ranking wise I’m probably in the best position of anybody. Step by step we’re going to get somewhere.” Although Gulbis may display animosity toward his opponents on and off the court he told Sport 360 “I can sometimes be disrespectful in some press conferences but when I play, I really want to respect the opponent.”
Bernard Tomic injured, forced to retired, comments on father: Bernard Tomic was forced to retire in his opening round match of the French Open against Victor Hanescu claiming that he felt his “leg sort of tear and didn’t know what it was.” Not wanting to talk about the incident in Madrid with his father, Tomic only said “my dad’s still my coach, and he’ll always be, because, you know, I grew up with him and he knows me better than everyone else.” Tomic said in regards to injury that he is “lucky it’s not huge” and that he should be ready in time for Wimbledon.
19-year-old Lucas Pouille scores massive win: Lucas Pouille, a 19-year-old French wildcard, won his first ever tour level match, defeating American wildcard Alex Kuznestov in three convincing sets. In an article (translated) written by Lucas Apulia of francetv, Pouille stated, “It was fabulous, I had an incredible time. When I finished the game, I was really happy.”