Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Daily Backspin, RG 4: No Pigeons, But a Healthy Helping of French Dressing

The highest seed to fall on Day 4 was but a "lowly" #22 (Ai Sugiyama), so the pigeons were apparently busy cooking up an entirely new master plan to seize control of this tournament. Either that, or they just wanted to stay out of the rain.

But while there weren't as many pigeons causing trouble, there sure were a number of Pastries floating around out there... and not just the delightful dessert variety, either.

Those six flags represent the six French women still alive in the singles draw, with half of the 2nd Round still to be completed. Some of the Pastries' names are familiar, such as Nathalie Dechy and Emilie Loit, but some are most definitely not the topics of everyday conversation. If you'd ever heard of Mathilde Johansson a week ago, and aren't French yourself, raise your hand (can't imagine there are too many able to smell their deodorant right now).

How about Aravane Rezai, or Alize Cornet, who's the youngest player in the draw at just 16? Today, Cornet completed her suspended 1st Round match, wiping out Virginia Ruano-Pascual (who, at 32, while no Martina Navratilova, is still twice the kid's age) in a 6-1 3rd set; while Rezai eliminated the aforementioned Sugiyama in their 2nd Round meeting.

Even the men are getting into the act, with the likes of Gael Monfils, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Florent Serra, Mathieu Montcourt, Julien Benneteau, and youngster Jeremy Chardy still kicking around, and vet Sebastien Grosjean possibly ready to assume his usual snake-lurking-in-the-grass role that's managed to get him into the semis of three of the four slams during his underrated career.

Of course, the one Pastry that I didn't mention might be the one we'll be talking about the longest in this tournament.

Amelie Mauresmo is rested, primed, and feeling no pressure. Yet, at least... though Melbourne officially took away a great deal of the crippling weight of unfulfilled Parisian expectation, the same weight on her shoulders that has annually prevented Mauresmo from reaching her potential in her home nation's event. With that Oz title in her trophy case (hmmm, does a "tarnished" slam trophy take up as much space as an "untarnished" one... like, say, the one Steffi Graf won in Paris in '88 when she double-bageled an overwhelmed-by-the-moment Natasha Zvereva in the final? Just wondering.), might this be the world #1's Roland Garros to win?

Oddly enough, not as much discussion was going on about Mauresmo the Potential Champion before play begin, at least in comparision to pre-Melbourne '06 slams. At least it didn't seem that way. Henin-Hardenne, Hingis, Kuznetsova, Petrova (now who would pick HER?) and even Venus were debated, but Mauresmo was simply the first French #1 seed.

Then everyone started to play, and now the prospects of an "Amelie" sequel are looking quite possible, even while Audrey Tautou is out running around with Tom Hanks.

Come Wimbledon, could we be whispering "Grand Slam," but NOT talking about Monsieur Federer?

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Australian Open
Chris O'Neil (1978) & Mark Edmondson (1976)
Roland Garros
Mary Pierce (2000) & Yannick Noah (1983)
Virginia Wade (1977) & Fred Perry (1936)
U.S. Open
Serena Williams (2002) & Andy Roddick (2003)

Of course, don't expect similar ruminations about British tennis during an SW19 Daily Backspin, no matter who the big hill is named for during each round of action.

(There, now I've properly jinxed Mauresmo at Roland Garros, and Andy Murray will meet Tim Henman in the final to determine this year's Wimbledon champion. My work is done here.)

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Washington, D.C.'s two newspapers, The Washington Post and The Washington Times, didn't even offer an outright mention of Petrova's loss yesterday, as Andy Roddick's exit took all the headlines. The one line that printed the result didn't even list her as the #3 seed.

So, apparently, if a Russian loses on the terre battue and nobody is around to hear about it, maybe she DOESN'T make a sound, after all.

(Oh, but the Washington Redskins did sign Dennard Wilson and Daniel Martz as training camp fodder... er, I mean free agents.)

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Maria Sharapova had a fairly easy time with Iveta Benesova in their 2nd Round match, so I guess the Czech didn't follow the birdseed advice. (Hmmm, Sharapova's overcome match points in this tournament... just like Anastasia Myskina and Justine Henin-Hardenne the past two years.)

Next up is Alicia Molik.

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THE MIND OF MYSKINA: speaking of the Czarina, this is what she said after her win over Sania Mirza.

"I give one more chance to myself this year to do well, and I do have a goal. I know it's a really tough one, but it's to be in Madrid (at the YEC) by the end of the year. So if I can reach that one, that's going to be perfect. There's so many things you can do besides the tennis. I don't want to be in the middle (of the pack) of something. I want to be either the top player or just (do) something else good."

Myskina's thinking about the dreaded "r" word? Hopefully, it's just one of those Myskina moments that make her post-match comments some of the more "interesting" on tour.

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We just about had an episode of "ATP Smackdown!!" today after the Ancic/Capdeville match, as the two got into a shoving match after Ancic put away match point. Capdeville questioned whether he'd hit the ball twice on a volley, and neither Ancic nor the umpire would pay his argument much mind. If the umpire hadn't stepped between them like he did, Albert Montanes might just have gotten a walkover in the 3rd Round match that Ancic will now be able to play against him.

The rain and Marc Gicquel, another French player, prevented the all-Navratilova match (well, 50%) from being played today, as the 29-year old pushed all the "to follow" matches back several hours by overcoming having lost the first two sets in under an hour to wage a nearly five-hour five-set battle with Nicolas Kiefer that ended with the dirtied and bruised (literally) German winning 11-9.

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Jockey Edgar Prado visited Barbaro yesterday. He asked the horse when he was going to be getting back up on his feet again.

Barbaro said, "Hey, get off my back!"


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DAY 5: Thursday, June 1


...well, there's still this leftover from Day 4:


But for some new ideas, there's always...

1) Nadal/Kim. Just kidding.
2) Dementieva/Kutuzova. The next endangered Russian?
3) Blake/Almagro. Blake could be the last American man standing, if he wins this tough one.
4) Morigami/Perry. Nadia's stepchildren.
5) Peer/Pironkova. Melbourne's surprise is still around to stir up some more trouble in the same place Sesil caused so much a year ago.
6) Groenefeld/Jackson. Is some delicious Girl Friday revenge on the menu?
7) Mauresmo/Santoro vs. Likhovtseva/Nestor. Shouldn't this all-French Impressionist duo be playing in the Louvre?

Ah, here we go...

DULKO/KIRILENKO vs. HARKLEROAD/MATTEK it the "Weapons of Mass Distraction" match.

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The ITF sent condolences to the Iraqi Tennis Federation after the deaths of a coach and two players in Baghdad. They were shot and killed by gunmen, apparently because they were wearing shorts.

Some stories need no additional comment, really.

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All for Day 4.


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