Friday, May 29, 2015

RG.6- The Gilded Alize: A Tale of Today *


As for the whole of Day 6, there was really nothing particularly "earth-shattering" that went down. No matter how much Alize Cornet made it SEEM as if something had occurred that had never before been seen in the history of planet earth.

But that's just her way... so she gets a pass on making the THIRD round seem like the SEVENTH.




Of course, if you just won a match that included nearly 100 unforced errors, you'd fall on your back and thank the Tennis Gods for allowing you to survive, as well.

In the closing moments of #29 Cornet's match with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, the Pastry found herself serving up 5-4, 30/30 in the 3rd set. Looking to reach match point, Cornet aimed her serve towards the deuce court to her left and saw the ball come off her racket and smack into the net on the far right side... of the ad court. Hey, at least she kept it IN the court. Technically. She was broken a point later to tie things at 5-5.

Was Alize going to collapse in an oh-so-French way, with throw-your-hands-up-and-shake-your-head craziness and the-earth-has-just-imploded-so-I'm-going-to-make-the-most-of-this-moment style drama?

Well, maybe that might have happened. But Lucic let Cornet off the hook. Seeking to reach her third career slam 4th Round, but second in the last three majors after her maiden Round of 16 run in London in 1999 at age 16, the 32-year old Lucic threw in a hail of errors of her own. Three consecutive groundstrokes were shot into the net to give the break advantage back to Cornet, allowing her to serve for the match a second time. After failing to get shots over the net in game #11, Lucic perhaps overcorrected in the windy conditions and sailed multiple shots long in game #12. Lucic's 59th unforced error of the day ended things, with the Pastry winning 4-6/6-3/7-5 to give France back-to-back years (Parmentier '14) with women in the Round of 16 in Paris for the first time since at least one woman reached the 4th Round every year from 1997-2007.

"When you cannot get a compliment any other way pay yourself one." - Mark Twain



Of course, it was all enough to cause Cornet to hit the dirt on Chatrier Court and roll around on the terre battue like a, umm, well... like a Pastry in the Round of 16.




But that's okay. After all, at least for today, it's all about Cornet.





=DAY 6 NOTES=
...Alize aside, maybe the most interesting winner on Friday was #7 Ana Ivanovic. Three matches in, and we're STILL waiting for the Serb to realize just what an opportunity she has at this Roland Garros. Once she does, it'll probably be all over for her. But, until then, hope for AnaIvo springs eternal all over again.



The 2008 champ trundled the last remaining teenager in the draw out of the women's draw today, eliminating Donna Vekic 6-0/6-3. This is Ivanovic's third Round of 16 result in Paris since she won the title in her second of consecutive appearances in the RG final seven years ago. After turning around her unfortunate post-2008 slam fortunes a few seasons ago, reaching two QF and four Round of 16's over a seven-slam stretch that ended with the '14 Australian Open, AnaIvo came into Paris having put up 3r-3r-2r-1r results in majors over the last twelve months. Ironically, that has been the very stretch during which she's climbed back into the Top 10 for the first time since 2009, finished in the Top 5 for the first time since 2008 and ended a tour title drought of over two years by winning four crowns in '14, setting a new career high number for sustained success over the course of a single season.



So, after all these years (and all those coaches), Ivanovic is still trying to get that perfect balance. For one brief moment, she had it all in Paris. The #1 ranking. A slam title. The label as the new star of the WTA tour.

That didn't work out so well, though.

If things work out this time (and with just one former slam finalist/champion standing between her and the final in the bottom half of the draw, it just might), she could find herself within arm's reach of that perfect balance yet again. Just don't tell her about this situation.... it might ruin her chances.

So, shhhhhh.

...in what was the "marquee" match-up of the day for the women, well, what we saw was more of a trailer for the real show that Maria Sharapova will be striving to star in next week. Oh, Samantha Stosur opened well, getting a break of serve to take a 2-1 lead in the 1st set. But that was the extent of the Aussie's challenge on Day 6. She immediately lost her serve a game later, the first of three straight times Sharapova was to break Stosur in the set. Stosur won just 40% of her 1st serves in the set (Sharapova won 67%), while she had just seven winners vs. nineteen unforced errors.

Sharapova saved a BP in game #2 of the 2nd, then never looked back. The Russian didn't face another break point, while she broke Stosur mid-way through the set and never relinquished the advantage.



...in a match-up of doubles partners, Ekaterina Makarova handled fellow Hordette Elena Vesnina 6-2/6-4 to reach her first Round of 16 in Paris.



In other 3rd Round matches, in a stark contrast to the first two rounds of play, the Germans most definitely did not have their day on Friday. #13 Lucie Safarova eliminated the first of the five women from Germany who reached the Final 32, defeating #20 Sabine Lisicki 6-3/7-6(2), then #21 Garbine Muguruza took out another, taking down #11 Angelique Kerber 4-6/6-2/6-2 as the Stuttgart champ's early run in Paris turned out to be just like her "Queen of Clay" push earlier this spring -- short-lived. Kerber had been 3-0 vs. the Spaniard coming into the match.

Meanwhile, 20-year old #19 seed Elina Svitolina became the youngest woman to advance in the bottom half with a 6-3/2-6/6-4 victory over fellow twentysomething Annika Beck, making the Germans 0-3 on Day 6. Maybe Beck's team should have convinced her that Svitolina was born in Warsaw rather than Odessa?



Germany still has Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges remaining to play on Day 7, though.

In the final 3rd Rounder of the day, 33-year old Flavia Pennetta (#28) became the oldest Round of 16er (so far, as she can still be topped by TWO players in the top half -- Serena and Francesca) with her surprisingly swift 6-3/6-4 win over #8 Carla Suarez-Navarro, who turned in her "dark horse" title contender status a bit earlier than most anticipated.

...in doubles, Hingis/Mirza, Hlavackova/Hradecka, Knapp/Vinci and the Rodionovas advanced, while Bencic/Siniakova upset Kudrayatseva/Pavlyuchenkova. In mixed, Kiki Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor, seeking to win the third leg of a Career Mixed Grand Slam as a duo (they've won Wimbledon and the AO) won, though another Pastry, Caroline Garcia, lost playing alongside Bob Bryan.


...LIKE FROM DAY 6: If looks could kill... Kiki would still be wearing black.



...FLASHBACK FRIDAY FROM DAY 6: Timi of the People: The Early Years




...LIKE FROM DAY 6: Smiling in Paris has officially become an annual habit for Garbi



..."THE ROAD TO SW19 BEGINS" FROM DAY 6:



...and, finally, the full Round of 16 List-A-Palooza arrives tomorrow, but here's a mini-look at some stats involving the women who've reached the 4th Round in the bottom half of the draw:

#2 Maria Sharapova: she's reached 6 consecutive slam 4th Rounds, 5 in a row in Paris
#7 Ana Ivanovic: her first slam 4th Rd. since Melbourne '14
#9 Ekaterina Makarova: 4 consecutive slam 4th Rounds (she's had 3 straight QF, 2 straight SF)
#13 Lucie Safarova: she's reached the 4th Round at 4 of the last 5 slams (before this run, she was 0-for-27 in slams, and 2-of-35 in her career)
#19 Elina Svitolina: this is her first career slam Round of 16
#21 Garbine Muguruza: she's been iffy on the regular tour at times, but she's shined in majors: 2 consecutive slame Round of 16's, 2 consecutive in Paris
#28 Flavia Pennetta: her last Round of 16 in Paris came in 2010
#29 Alize Cornet: maybe she had reason to celebrate wildly. This is just her third slam 4th Round, and the first at RG. She's yet to reach a QF.




=WOMEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16=
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
#7 Ana Ivanovic/SRB vs. #9 Ekaterina Makarova/RUS
#19 Elina Svitolina/UKR vs. #29 Alize Cornet/FRA
#28 Flavia Pennetta/ITA vs. #21 Garbine Muguruza/ESP
#13 Lucie Safarova/CZE vs. #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS

=MEN'S SINGLES ROUND OF 16=
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
x vs. x
#5 Kei Nishikori/JPN vs. Teymuraz Gabashvili/RUS
#14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA vs. #4 Tomas Berdych/CZE
#8 Stan Wawrinka/SUI vs. #12 Gilles Simon/FRA
#13 Gael Monfils/FRA vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI












Maman et Papa à Paris

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on




*FRENCH WOMEN IN RG ROUND OF 16 - since 1997*
1997 Mary Pierce
1998 Sandrine Testud
1999 Julie Halard-Decugis
2000 Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce
2001 Sandrine Testud
2002 Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce
2003 Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Amelie Mauresmo
2005 Mary Pierce
2006 Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Marion Bartoli
2008 -
2009 Virginie Razzano, Aravane Rezai
2010 -
2011 Marion Bartoli
2012 -
2013 -
2014 Pauline Parmentier
2015 Alize Cornet
--
NOTE: Mladenovic still to play 3rd Rd.




TOP QUALIFIER: Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #11 Angelique Kerber/GER
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Wang Yafan/CHN d. #15 Richel Hogenkamp/NED 2-6/7-6(7)/8-6 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - Francesca Schiavone/ITA d. #xx Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS 6-7(11)/7-5/10-8 (3:49; third-longest RG match)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): xx
=============================
FIRST VICTORY: (Q) Teliana Pereira/BRA (def. WC Ferro/FRA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Caroline Garcia/FRA (lost 1st Rd. to Vekic/CRO)
UPSET QUEENS: The Croats
REVELATION LADIES: The New Australians
NATION OF POOR SOULS: United States (most players in draw w/ 17, but tied for 4th w/ just 4 1st Round winners)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP, Paula Kania/POL, Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL, Teliana Pereira/BRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Virginie Razzano/FRA & Amandine Hesse/FRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Cornet(W), Mladenovic
MADEMOISELLE/MADAM OPPORTUNITY: xx
IT "??": xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: Azarenka/BLR, Lucic-Baroni/CRO, Stephens/USA, Ivanovic/SRB
CRASH & BURN: #2 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 2r to Lucic-Baroni/CRO)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #19 Elina Svitolina/UKR (2nd Rd. vs. Putintseva - down 6-1/3-0, then 4-1 in 3rd; won 9-7 deciding set)
JOIE DE VIVRE: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
DOUBLES STAR: xx
KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM VETERAN CUP (KDK CUP): Nominees: Schiavone/ITA (34; ended 8-match slam losing streak; def. Kuznetsova 10-8 3rd set in 2nd Rd.), Date-Krumm/Schiavone (78-year old doubles duo), S.Williams/USA
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx



* - a nod to Mark Twain's The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873)

...born Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910). American author, lecturer and humorist. Writer of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Twain's writing and large personality made him a public figure and, ultimately, an American icon. A renowned traveler, Twain entertained fans around the world with his opinionated wit.





All for Day 6. More tomorrow.

Read more...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

RG.5- The Celebrated Jumping Francesca of Milan, Italy *


Whenever she finally calls it a career -- and maybe that'll be longer from now than would be the case with most almost-35 year old tennis stars -- Francesca Schiavone should construct a tent, build a fire, pop open a bottle of wine, toast some marshmallows and then slip into a comfy sleeping bag and simply take up residence on the grounds of Roland Garros.

Really, why would she ever want to leave? And why would anyone want her to?



Age is relevant only when someone wishes to believe it to be so, even if the calendar says otherwise. Still, as she came to Paris to play for the fifteenth consecutive year, in her fifty-ninth straight major (just three off the WTA record), it was apparent that Schiavone's opportunities to light up the Roland Garros sky were dwindling. And fast.

"When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it's a sure sign you're getting old."
- Mark Twain


While Schiavone might be one of the most fit players on tour (if not THE fittest), the last few seasons have seen her career take a sharp turn away from the (seemingly, at the time) late-career peak of 4-5 years ago when she reached back-to-back finals in Paris, winning her sole grand slam title in 2010 to become the oldest first-time slam champion ever at just a shade under thirty years of age. She arrived in France last week having lost eight straight slam singles matches, a streak of futility that even included a 1st Round exit in Paris a year ago that seemed to quite possibly be a tennis career's version of "the canary in the coal mine." The end seemed near. The Italian ended 2014 ranked #82, her first finish outside the Top 50 in fourteen years. She failed to reach a final for just the second time (w/ 2008) in the last decade, and every early loss (she's had eight one-and-done tournament results in '15, and lost to players outside the Top 100 seven times) made one wonder just how many more her pride would allow her to endure.

But Paris changed her career. It gave her a legacy. And over the last few days, it's given Schiavone new life.

And who better to help bring it out of her -- and share the moment -- than Svetlana Kuznetsova? The 29-year old '09 RG champion, a recent Madrid finalist, has also had her most consistent slam success in Paris, and the last time they met -- when Schiavone was a spry pup of 30 -- they combined to devastating effect when it come to the grand slam record books. At the 2011 Australian Open, Schiavone saved six match points and claimed a 16-14 3rd set to finish off a 4:44 contest that is the longest slam match in the Open era. What were the odds that they could combine to produce anything close to that classic this time out?

Well, at it turned out, they were, ummm, pretty good.

In a marathon match of amazing drama and fun, Schiavone and Kuznetsova engaged in another memorable duel. It had defense, offense, drops shots, high volleys, low volleys, long scrambles, artistic slides, game-changing saves, lost leads, engaging comebacks, a saved match point, a kitchen sink and even a few ice trays thrown in just to keep things fresh. Even better than all that was the outright, visible joy with which Schiavone engaged in the battle.




Early on, it was Kuznetsova who excelled during the thrill of the chase. She saved a set point, and converted on her own fourth attempt to grab a 13-11 tie-break that ended the nearly hour-and-a-half opening set. As Schiavone fell down a break early in the 2nd, she rebounded -- as everyone sort of expected, because we're talking about Francesca in Paris... and Sveta, well, anywhere she sets down her racket bag -- to win the set 7-5 to knot the match. After 139 minutes on court, though, they were hardly finished. The first two sets were just the appetizer for a more thrilling 3rd.

Switching rolls, Kuznetsova took the early lead this time, going up 4-2 and serving for the match four times. But Schiavone broke the Russian as she served while leading 5-4, 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7 to stay alive in the city that habitually breathes new life into her energetic body, which reciprocates by providing drama the likes of which we saw on Court 1 today. Kuznetsova held a match point at 6-5, but the Italian saved it with a stunning one-handed slice backhand passing shot that she guided behind the Russian as Sveta closed in on the net to reach what she hoped would be a down-the-line shot that she could put away with a volley that would send her forward into the 3rd Round at Roland Garros for the twelfth straight year.



As the drama of the final set carried on and on, it didn't matter that ten of the final eleven games would include breaks of serve. Every point was a novel all its own, with wailing competitors unleashing shots that couldn't possibly be answered with anything remotely similar... until they were. And then the process would simply begin anew a few moments later. As it was, Kuznetsova was the one who blinked in the closing moments, but she didn't lose the match because of her inability to do anything. Schiavone won it because her abilities once again outdistanced any vague notion of time and the limitations it may place on us all.



Schiavone held serve in game #17 of the set, then reached match point during Kuznetsova's service game soon after. The Russian dumped a forehand volley into the net, ending the 1:35 deciding set to put the finishing touch on a 6-7(11)/7-5/10-8 score that favored the Italian. At 3:50, it's the third-longest women's match in Roland Garros history.






As the excitable Italian bounded around the court in celebration of her win, she still looked as fresh as she had four hours earlier. In fact, she looked like she could go another three hours on the dirt in her brightly-colored outfit and glowing yellow shoes. If she had to. Or, you know, just for the heck of it.

Another Roland Garros memory is in the books for Francesca. The magic is alive. In the grit. In the grind. And, looking at her draw (no seeded players stand between her and the QF), this might not be the last time we see the celebrating jumping Italian from Milan sparkling in her element during this tournament, either.

Paris might be the City of Light... but, for Schiavone, it's also the City of Life. And may she live there forever.





=DAY 5 NOTES=
...even with all the excitement of Kuznetsova/Schiavone, it's worth noting that the match was very nearly upstaged by the upsets of a pair of Top 4 seeds, #1 Serena Williams and #4 Petra Kvitova. Playing in cool conditions that, to their detriment, slowed down the courts, both women -- with Maria Sharapova, two of the three currently reigning slam champions on the WTA tour -- fell behind early but managed to take down their mounting errors long enough to fight their way through to the 3rd Round.

Of course, we've seen these sort of outings from both in the past. Williams generally finds a way to win anyway, while Kvitova often doesn't. So far in Paris, though, the Madrid champ has escaped legit upset challenges in both of her matches. Today against Silvia Soler-Espinosa, the same old pattern developed, as the Czech took a 4-2 1st set lead and held set point at 5-4. But she failed to convert it, then let errors slip into her game and ended up dropping a 7-4 tie-break to fall behind in the match. Late in the 2nd, she held a break advantage, only to give it back to knot the set at 4-4. SSE got within six points of a straight sets victory, but Kvitova pulled off a break on her third BP of game #9 and then served out the set. She pulled away in the 3rd to win 6-7(4)/6-4/6-2.




As close as Petra looked to defeat, in some ways Williams appeared to be even closer. Well, except when you considered that she's Serena, and things could totally turn around in a few points. And that's ultimately what happened against German Anna-Lena Friedsam.

World #105 Friedsam came to Paris having a dreadful year. She was 5-12 with just one main draw WTA victory in '15 (last week in Nurnberg). Williams' last loss to a player ranked outside the Top 100, though, was her 1st Round defeat by Virginie Razzano at Roland Garros in 2012. For a few moments, it looked as if that might be the foreshadowing "Stat of the Day." But, instead, Serena ran her career record in slam 2nd Rounds to 56-2 as she avoided her second straight 2nd Round loss in Paris, having suffered her worst-ever slam loss last year against Garbine Muguruza at this very stage of the tournament (her only other 2nd Round loss came vs. Venus in Melbourne in 1998).

Williams dropped her serve in two of her first three service games of the match, and her unforced error broke her serve a third time in the 1st to gave Friedsam the chance to serve out the set. She did, winning it 7-5. After Williams got a break of serve to go up 4-2 in the 2nd, things seemed to be turning in her favor, but then her service issues continued as she immediately went down love/40 and handed her advantage back. This is where the "it's always something" tone of Williams' trips to Paris from 2003-12 looked ready to seize the day once more. But with the set on serve with Serena up 4-3, Williams held firm to win the final two games and knot the match, then broke the German in the opening game of the 3rd.



That was enough to put Serena in front for good. She won 5-7/6-3/6-3, but will likely have to clean up some of the numbers she put up today -- 52 unforced errors and eight DF -- in her next match against Vika Azarenka if she's to win the second leg of a true Grand Slam two weekends from now. Remember, Vika had Williams dead to rights just recently in the 3rd Round in Madrid, holding triple match point before crumbling in a hair of double-faults.

...speaking of Vika, the #27-seed had the "honor" -- or "misfortune," depending on your point of view -- of being the next-up match following the marathon Schiavone/Kuznetsova clash on Court 1.




After having such difficulty closing out matches coming into Paris, Azarenka has been very efficient this week. Just like in her 1st Round win over Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, Azarenka put things away today on her first match point in a 6-2/6-3 victory over Lucie Hradecka.

...elsewhere, my preseason pick of Swarmette Andreea Mitu as one of 2015's surprise players is starting to look pretty good. First, she shined in Fed Cup play against Canada this spring, then today she pulled off an even bigger win, taking down #12 Karolina Pliskova to reach her first career slam 3rd Round. The Romanian lost the 1st set to the Czech, and Pliskova looked as if she might advance in straights after she saved nine break points over two games and then broke Mitu to take a 4-3 lead. But Mitu immediately broke back on her twelfth BP attempt of the set. Mitu had three set points at 5-4 before Pliskova held and then pushed things to a tie-break. There, Mitu evened up the match by converting on her fifth SP.

In the 3rd, Mitu opened with another break of serve, then broke the big-serving Czech in her third and fourth service games of the set, as well. Finally, on her fourth MP over the last three games (Pliskova saved two on serve), Mitu closed out the biggest win of her career with a hold to claim a 2-6/7-6(5)/6-4 victory.



...earlier, #5 Caroline Wozniacki had become the second Top 5 seed to fall in Paris, as her Roland Garros fortunes continued to come up short. The Dane lost to Julia Goerges, 6-4/7-6(4), dropping to 4-4 in their head-to-head and failing to advance beyond the 3rd Round in this event for the eighth time in nine tries. She's failed to get out of the 2nd Round in Paris the past three years.




...in doubles, winners included Makarova/Vesnina, Mattek-Sands/Safarova, Dellacqua/Shvedova, Hsieh/Pennetta, Pliskova/Pliskova and Garcia/Srebotnik. And Caroline got to play on Court 16, so all is well there. Lisicki/Petkovic and Muguruza/Suarez-Navarro (at the hands of fellow Bailaoras, Soler-Espinosa & Torro-Flor) lost.

In Mixed, Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Mike Bryan handed Genie Bouchard (w/ Max Mirnyi) another loss, while Chan Yung-Jan (w/ Leander Paes) defeated sister Hao-Ching (w/ Marin Draganja). Martina Hingis won her 1st Round match with Paes (they're the AO champs), but Sania Mirza lost hers with Bruno Soares. Mirza/Soares were the #1 seeds here and reached the semis in Melbourne.


...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Oh, Francesca. Go ahead... do what you wish. You've earned it.



..."WHAT DOES IT SAY...?" FROM DAY 5: ...that when Schiavone and Kuznetsova play I sometimes just start to laugh at the quality of noises coming from both sides of the net? Seriously, it's like they're torturing animals out there or something. And yet I can't stop listening.



...SOMETIMES-IT-WORKS-OUT FROM DAY 5: No player has gotten more on-air material out of a loss than John McEnroe has from his squandered lead against Ivan Lendl in what turned out to be his best chance to ever win a Roland Garros title. He's now been lamenting -- and feeding off -- that defeat for thirty-one years.



...LIKE FROM DAY 5: Maria being Maria




..."OMMMMMMMMMMMMM" FROM DAY 5: Maybe Petra should just go do some yoga on a hill and have a Coke and a smile. It might bring her enlightenment. Ding!



...and, finally, the final 32 is set. While a few trends from the 1st Round have held up, some have gone by the wayside.

There are still more Germans standing than women from any other nation, including the entire Fed Cup front line (Kerber, Petkovic) and "second team" (Lisicki & Goerges), as well as a member of the NextGen (Beck). Meanwhile, while the Bannerettes had a bad 1st Round (4-13), they went undefeated in the 2nd, including straight sets wins by Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens. The Czech youngsters faltered, as the more accomplished Maidens (Kvitova, Safarova) advanced, while the opposite occurred with the Romanians as only Begu and Mitu have survived. Almost the entire fabled Italian veteran class (Errani, Pennetta & Schiavone) are alive, and perhaps still smelling the celebratory vapors of that FC win over the U.S.. While only one teen (Vekic) has reached the 3rd Round, five thirtysomethings join her there.

Oh, yeah... and Tsvetana Pironkova has once again found a way to slip through the crowd. A "surprise," but also no surprise at all when you consider her now-you-see-me-now-you-don't career where she alternates between the "most dangerous player in the draw" status and "was she even in the draw?" early-round exits. In her career, the Bulgarian has exited slams in the 1st or 2nd Rounds thirty-three times, while this is just the fifth time she's reached the 3rd Round. But whenever she's gotten this far, she's put up a perfect 4-0 mark in the Final 32. Other than in a final, the 3rd Round is the only slam round in which she's never lost. She's twice lost in the Round of 16, and has put up a QF and SF result at Wimbledon.

A few awards...

* - with the Germans leading the way, I'll go with Angelique Kerber as the "Top Early-Round Player." She's allowed a total of six games through two matches... but she'll face Garbine Muguruza next. So, maybe she'll repeat her "Queen of Clay" great start/bad finish scenario?

* - today's results mean that the "Last Qualifier Standing" is a four-headed beast, with Lourdes Dominguez-Lino, Paula Kania, Sesil Karatantcheva and Teliana Pereira sharing the honor. This is the earliest the draw has been cleared of qualifiers in a slam since the 2007 Wimbledon, and the earliest in Paris since 2005.

* - Francesca Schiavone gets the "Joi de Vivre" Award, for obvious reasons, becoming just the second non-Pastry winner since I first handed it out in 2011.

Kristina Mladenovic defeated Danka Kovinic today to join Alize Cornet in the 3rd Round, keeping the face for "Last Pastry Standing" alive for at least a little while longer. Kiki didn't go through quite the late-match drama when it came to serving out this match as she did vs. Bouchard, but she WAS broken serving up 5-3 for a straights sets win. Eventually, she broke Kovinic to lock away the win. Maybe the key was sticking with the all-black outfit?



The 3rd Round will feature match-ups of former #1's & slam champs with Serena/Vika and Sharapova/Stosur (Maria won in the RG 4th Rd. in '14) facing off, and we'll also see a rematch of one of last year's quarterfinals (Petkovic/Errani) two rounds earlier.

A doubles duo (Makarova/Vesnina) will meet on the singles court, as well. Makarova leads the head-to-head 5-1, not counting a win in a junior event in Russia in 2002. Vesnina's only win in the series came in a challenger event in 2004.






I miss my @sunny.cali ????

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on













*WOMEN'S FINAL 32 - BY NATION*
5...GER (Beck, Goerges, Kerber, Lisicki, Petkovic)
4...USA (Falconi, Keys, Stephens, S.Williams)
3...ITA (Errani, Pennetta, Schiavone)
3...RUS (Makarova, Sharapova, Vesnina)
2...CRO (Lucic-Baroni, Vekic)
2...CZE (Kvitova, Safarova)
2...ESP (Muguruza, Suarez-Navarro)
2...FRA (Cornet, Mladenovic)
2...ROU (Begu, Mitu)
1...AUS (Stosur)
1...BEL (Van Uytvanck)
1...BLR (Azarenka)
1...BUL (Pironkova)
1...SRB (Ivanovic)
1...SUI (Bacsinszky)
1...UKR (Svitolina)

**RG "EARLY-ROUND TOP PLAYER" WINNERS**
2002 (Week 1 POW) Serena Williams, USA *
2003 (Week 1 co-POW) Serena Williams, USA & Kim Clijsters, BEL
2004 (Week 1 POW) Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2005 (Week 1 POW) Kim Clijsters, BEL
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2007 Justine Henin, BEL *
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB *
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
2010 Venus Williams, USA
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2012 Maria Sharapova, RUS *
2013 Serena Williams, USA *
2014 Simona Halep, ROU
2015 Angelique Kerber, GER
--
* - won title

*RG "LAST QUALIFIER STANDING"*
2006 (3rd) Julia Vakulenko/UKR, Aravane Rezai/FRA
2007 (3rd) Dominika Cibulkova/SVK, Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS & Ioana-Raluca Olaru/ROU
2008 (QF) Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
2009 (3rd) Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR, Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
2010 (4th) Chanelle Scheepers/RSA
2011 (3rd) Chan Yung-Jan/TPE, Nuria Llagostera-Vives/ESP
2012 (QF) Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
2013 (3rd) Paula Ormaechea/ARG, Dinah Pfizenmaier/GER
2014 (4th) Kiki Bertens/NED
2015 (2nd) Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP, Paula Kania/POL, Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL, Teliana Pereira/BRA

*RG "JOIE DE VIVRE" WINNERS*
2011 Virginie Razzano, FRA
2012 Virginie Razzano, FRA
2013 Serena Williams, USA
2014 Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2015 Francesca Schiavone, ITA





TOP QUALIFIER: Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #11 Angelique Kerber/GER
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Wang Yafan/CHN d. #15 Richel Hogenkamp/NED 2-6/7-6(7)/8-6 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - Francesca Schiavone/ITA d. #xx Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS 6-7(11)/7-5/10-8 (3:49; third-longest RG match)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): xx
=============================
FIRST VICTORY: (Q) Teliana Pereira/BRA (def. WC Ferro/FRA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Caroline Garcia/FRA (lost 1st Rd. to Vekic/CRO)
UPSET QUEENS: The Croats
REVELATION LADIES: The New Australians
NATION OF POOR SOULS: United States (most players in draw w/ 17, but tied for 4th w/ just 4 1st Round winners)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP, Paula Kania/POL, Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL, Teliana Pereira/BRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Virginie Razzano/FRA & Amandine Hesse/FRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: In 3rd Rd.: Cornet, Mladenovic
MADEMOISELLE/MADAM OPPORTUNITY: xx
IT "??": xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Azarenka/BLR, Lucic-Baroni/CRO, Stosur/AUS, Stephens/USA
CRASH & BURN: #2 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 2r to Lucic-Baroni/CRO)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #19 Elina Svitolina/UKR (2nd Rd. vs. Putintseva - down 6-1/3-0, then 4-1 in 3rd; won 9-7 deciding set)
JOIE DE VIVRE: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
DOUBLES STAR: xx
KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM VETERAN CUP (KDK CUP): Nominees: Schiavone/ITA (34; ended 8-match slam losing streak; def. Kuznetsova 10-8 3rd set in 2nd Rd.), Date-Krumm/Schiavone (78-year old doubles duo), S.Williams/USA
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx



* - a nod to Mark Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1867)

...born Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910). American author, lecturer and humorist. Writer of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Twain's writing and large personality made him a public figure and, ultimately, an American icon. A renowned traveler, Twain entertained fans around the world with his opinionated wit.





All for Day 5. More tomorrow.

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