Monday, June 01, 2009

RG.9- Five Points from Oblivion

The House of Federer very nearly imploded on Court Chatrier today.

With neither Rafa Nadal nor Novak Djokovic around anymore, Roger Federer came into his Day 9 Round of 16 match against Tommy Haas as the player under a magnifying glass. As the new "favorite" to win Roland Garros, even he had to know that every point he played today took on additional importance in the grand scheme of things.

And, at the start, he played just as one would expect an all-time great staring history in the face to play. His tennis, at least on serve, was nearly spotless. Through twelve games in the 1st set, he'd yet to lose a solitary point on serve. Thing is, the score was 6-6. In the tie-break, he lost his first two service points. A few minutes later, he was a set down.

Pow! Talk about a shock to the system. So much so that it must have caused him to lose focus. After going up 4-3, 30/15 in the 2nd set, he must have seen his Roland Garros life -- and maybe his ultimate place in history -- flash before his eyes.

Down two sets to love, and battling to keep his head above water in the 3rd set, one couldn't help but wonder whether the Nadal upset had managed to infect the entire tournament, putting crushing pressure on all the potential champions left in the draw as they fully realize in the light of day the opportunity with which they've been presented. Even Federer, thirteen-time grand slam winner, is susceptible... and it looked like his incredibly lucky weekend might go for nothing.

But then Federer realized who he was, and Haas looked around and did the same. The German got within five points of bringing down the House of Federer in the 4th Round, but that was as close as he got. This Roland Garros could still go down the road of a final that will drive people away from their televisions -- Davydenko vs. Robredo, anyone? -- but it will go on from today with Federer still with an eye on tying Pete Sampras' slam record before heading off to SW19.

Federer won 6-7/5-7/6-4/6-0/6-2.

Federer's 2009 Roland Garros quest might end earlier than he'd wish when all is said and done, but it wasn't meant to end like this. Not today.


Next up... Gael Monfils

...we almost had a Queen Chaos sighting on Day 9... but, umm, no.

Things started out fine for Jelena Jankovic. She took the opening set against Romanian world-#41 Sorana Cirstea, but then things got interesting, as they often tend to do when JJ is involved. She soon found herself down 3-0 in the 2nd, got a visit from the trainer to look at her foot, lost the set at love... then played one of those long, drawn-out semi-marathon 3rd sets that make watching her on the big stage such a kick.

Neither player was able to carve out a break in the 3rd until Jankovic did so to take a 5-4 lead. Serving for the match, she led 30/love and could have salted away another slam QF berth... but that just wouldn't be like Jelena. Or Cirstea, as it turned out. The 19-year old broke back, and the race was on to see who'd pull ahead last. Just as one player would seem to have seized an advantage, the other would surge back and they'd play on.

Usually, Jankovic somehow finds a way to win a match like this. But not today. She always seemed to be a beat behind her younger opponent, fighting to stay alive rather than to win. With a forehand that didn't wilt down the stretch, Cirstea finally wore the Serb down in a 3-6/6-0/9-7 victory. Just weeks after her coach left her because she didn't like her attitude, the Romanian has gotten the last laugh with her third Top 20 win (Cornet, Wozniacki) of this tournament and a spot in the quarters.

As for Jankovic... maybe there'll be more time for laughter later in the summer in North America.

...the moment of truth has arrived. We'll soon find out whether or not Svetlana Kuznetsova's resurgent clay persona has any REAL legs. The Contessova finished off Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets today, and will next face Serena Williams, who picked up still more momentum by not surprisingly rolling over Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1/6-2, in the QF.

Is Kuznetsova TRULY over her big stage hiccups? Can she stare down Serena and live to tell about it? For as good as Cirstea might have looked today, one gets the sense that the Russian is probably the only obstacle standing in the way of Williams having a chance to play for a third straight slam title on Saturday.

I still want to be right, so I'm hoping for a Kuznetsova victory... but I'm not holding my breath. juniors action, seven of the Top 10 Boys seeds have already lost, incuding top-seeded Huang Liang-Chi of Taiwan in the 1st Round. On the Girls side, four Top 10ers are out, including two semifinalist from the Girls competition at the Australian Open -- #2 seed Ana Bodgan, who was knocked off by the Netherlands' Lesley Kerkhove in three sets, and #5 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, who was ousted by another Dutch player, Richel Hogenkamp in straights. Yesterday, #7 Lauren Embree and #10 Camila Silva were sent packing.

Also of note today, Bianca Botto upset 1st Round MD winner Olivia Rogowska in a 9-7 deciding final set, and #8-seed Elena Bodgan defeated Anna Orlik, both in 2nd Round matches. In her 1st Rounder today, top-seeded Laura Robson needed three sets to take care of Russia's Karina Pimkina.

...and finally, the upstart spirit of Arantxa Sanchez is alive and well on the twentieth anniversary of the Spaniard's first Roland Garros title. #30-seed Sam Stosur defeated Virginie Razzano in the day's other Women's Round of 16er and will next battle unseeded Cirstea for a spot in the semis. Another of the Final Four spots will come down to either #20 Dominika Cibulkova or unseeded Maria Sharapova. So, we're assured of at least half of the last four being either seeded #20+ or unseeded.

This will be just the fifth time in the last thirty years that a slam has two such low-ranked semifinalists. The most recent occurrences:

=2004 Australian=
#22 Patty Schnyder, SUI
#32 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL

=1999 Wimbledon=
Qualifier - Alexandra Stevenson, USA
Unseeded - Mirjana Lucic, CRO

=1994 Wimbledon=
Unseeded - Gigi Fernandez, USA
Unseeded - Lori McNeil, USA

=1983 Roland Garros=
Unseeded - Jo Durie, GBR
Unseeded - Mima Jausovec, YUG

So, at least there's a little history.

AO - Casey Dellacqua, AUS (4th Rd.)
RG - Alize Cornet & Emilie Loit (3rd Rd.)
WI - Elena Baltacha & Anne Keothavong (2nd Rd.)
US - Serena Williams, USA (W)
AO - Jelena Dokic, AUS (QF)
RG - Virginie Razzano & Aravane Rezai, FRA (4th Rd.)

#1 Dinara Safina/RUS vs. #9 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
#20 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK vs. Maria Sharapova/RUS
Sorana Cirstea/ROU vs. #30 Samantha Stosur/AUS
#7 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS vs. #2 Serena Williams/USA

#23 Nikolay Davydenko/RUS vs. #23 Robin Soderling/SWE
#3 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #12 Fernando Gonzalez/CHI
#5 Juan Martin del Potro/ARG vs. #16 Tommy Robredo/ESP
#11 Gael Monfils vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #10 Mattek-Sands/Petrova (USA/RUS)
#3 Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP) def. #11 Groenefeld/Schnyder (GER/SUI)
#12 Azarenka/Vesnina (BLR/RUS) def. #16 Yan/Zheng (CHN/CHN)
#9 Hsieh/Peng (TPE/CHN) vs. Radwanska/Radwanska (POL/POL)

#1 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/ZIM) vs. Kunitsyn/Tursunov (RUS/RUS)
#3 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) def. #5 Soarez/Ullyett (BRA/ZIM)
Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL) def. Acasuso/F.Gonzalez (ARG/CHI)
M.Lopez/Robredo (ESP/ESP) vs. #2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)

#1 Huber/B.Bryan (USA/USA) def. #5 Sugiyama/Sa (JPN/BRA)
Groenefeld/Knowles (GER/BIH) vs. Kleybanova/Soares (RUS/BRA)
Dechy/A.Ram (FRA/ISR) v. #4 Petrova/Mirnyi (RUS/BLR)
King/Melo (USA/BRA) def. Bammer/Kubot (AUT/POL)

TOP QUALIFIER: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Dinara Safina/RUS
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Corinna Dentoni/ITA d. Sesil Karatantcheva/KAZ 4-6/6-3/6-2
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Vitalia Diatchenko/RUS d. Mathilde Johansson/FRA 1-6/6-2/10-8 (saved 7 MP)
FIRST SEED OUT: #19 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.- Shvedova/KAZ)
UPSET QUEENS: The ex-Russian Kazakhs
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR & Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (both to 3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: xxx
CRASH & BURN: Elena Dementieva/RUS - dominated by Dokic in 2nd, but advances with retirement, then taken out by Stosur in 3rd Rd.
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Victoria Azarenka/BLR - was down 7-5/4-1 vs. Suarez-Navarro in 3rd Rd., won and reached first slam QF
LAST PASTRIES STANDING: Aravane Rezai & Virginie Razzano (both to 4th Rd.)

All for Day 9. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

Maybe it was good for Roger to have to scrap this out because his headaches are just beginning. Monfils is next, and maybe his spin isn't as hard as Nadal's, but it will do until Nadal comes along again.

I was off today, but tomorrow, work starts interfering with my tennis viewing again. I'll be able to see the earlier matches, though. Since Tennis Channel stopped giving us online alternatives, I'm stuck with tuning in to a match when Tennis Chanel wants me to.

Tue Jun 02, 12:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I was surprised that ESPN actually allowed Tennis Channel to show the Sharapova/Cibulkova QF today. Apparently, the Great Oz deigned that its lowly subject could actually broadcast live coverage from all four singles matches on Day 10. Imagine that. I suspect a lot of boot licking was the price. I'm kidding, of course... hmmm, but am I really? ;)

Tue Jun 02, 12:14:00 PM EDT  

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