RG.1- I Hate Early Sunday Play in Paris... and so does Amelie
I'm not a fan of this early Sunday action at Roland Garros. And, after today, I suspect that Amelie Mauresmo would say the same.
Of course, not that she's ever been very comfortable playing on the slow red clay in Paris in front of a French crowd that she has invariably disappointed each and every year she's played there. At this point, even after having a fine EuroClay season the last few months, she was openly hedging her RG bets and talking more about her chances at Wimbledon before she'd even stepped onto the court on Day 1.
I guess that should have been the warning sign that her stay in this tournament wasn't going to be a long one. It wasn't, either. She's already gone, in a quick seventy-seven minutes at the hands of Anna-Lena Groenefeld by the score of 6-4/6-3.
Oh, well. I guess if you arrive with little confidence in your own ability to reverse your sorry history at an event (ex-#1 Mauresmo's only advanced past the 4th Round twice), you're pretty much destined to live down to your own miniscule expectations.
It's too bad. But good luck to Amelie at SW19, I guess.
=DAY 1 NOTES=
...first off, I'd like to officially apologize to Kaia Kanepi. I guess I should have known that predicting the #19 seed to reach the semifinals of this tournament was tantamount to placing her proverbial head in the guillotine. It was, as it turned out. She was the first seed ousted today, in a three-setter against qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova, 7-6/3-6/6-2.
I probably shouldn't mention that Agnes Szavay was my original pick as the "wild" semifinalist for this RG, but I got cold feet and changed my mind at the last moment. Whoops... sorry, Agnes.
...defending champion Ana Ivanovic didn't play a perfect game on Day 1, but she won. And that's all that matters. AnaIvo's 7-6/6-1 win over Sara Errani allows her to last at least a few more days in Paris. If she can get her feet under her, who knows? Call it the "Serena Williams Way to Play a Slam."
...in men's action, AN AMERICAN WON A MATCH! Yeah, only one -- Robert Kendrick, who was a physical wreck by the time his day was through -- but since that's been such a rare occurrence in Paris in recent years it's worth a mention. Also, Ivo Karlovic had a fairly normal day, for him. He served a RG record 55 aces, but lost a two-sets-to-love lead against Lleyton Hewitt and was bounced from the tournament. Oh, Ivo.
...aside from Shvedova, two other qualifiers won matches today: Hordette Vitalia Diatchenko, who defeated Mathilde Johansson, and Arantxa Rus, who knocked off 16-year old French wild card Olivia Sanchez.
...remember a few years ago when they first instituted this early Sunday play? The featured performer that day was Maria Sharapova, and she DID NOT LIKE having to play so early. Well, the suddenly-unseeded Russian didn't have to worry about that this year. Instead, she'll take to the court tomorrow, as Day 2 will feature arguably four of the five most famous faces in the sport in action -- Sharapova, Venus, Rafa and Roger. See, I LIKE the first MONDAY at a slam.
...and, finally, aside from the inconvenience, another reason I hate this early Sunday play is that the just-concluded regular week (which included TWO first-time WTA champs this week) gets shortchanged. So, to see the Backspin Awards for Week 20, look below for the "Bare Bones" version of the usual recap.
*WEEK 20 CHAMPIONS*
WARSAW, POLAND (Premier $600K/Red Clay)
S: Alexandra Dulgheru d. Alona Bondarenko 7-6/3-6/6-0
D: Kops-Jones/Mattek-Sands d. Yan/Zheng
STRASBOURG, FRANCE (Int'l $220K/Red Clay)
S: Aravane Rezai d. Lucie Hradecka 7-6/6-1
D: Dechy/Santangelo d. Feuerstein/Foretz
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Alexandra Dulgheru/ROU
...the 18-year old Swarmette, ranked #201, qualified for her first WTA main draw, then proceeded to win the tournament! She's only the sixth player ranked #200-or-worse to win a WTA title in tour history.
RISERS: Aravane Rezai/FRA & Alona Bondarenko/UKR
...22-year old Rezai won her first career title in Strasbourg. A-Bond had one of those "best of times/worst of times" weeks, defeating Sharapova and reaching the Warsaw final, but then losing to Dulgheru in a love 3rd set. Hmmm, I wonder which she'll be thinking about when she takes the court on Day 2?
SURPRISES: Lucie Hradecka/CZE & Anne Keothavong/GBR
...while Vaidisova wilts on the vine, Hradecka is a Czech Maiden who's blossoming. She reached her second career tour final in Strasbourg. In Warsaw, Keothavong, seemingly setting all sorts of records that Laura Robson will likely knock down in a few years, became the first British woman to reach a tour SF on clay since Jo Durie in 1983.
VETERANS: Nathalie Dechy/Mara Santangelo, FRA/ITA
...in Strasbourg, the pair won their third doubles title of the season.
FRESH FACES: Ayumi Morita/JPN & Viktoriya Kutuzova/UKR
...both reached their first career tour SF in Strasbourg.
DOWN: Jelena Dokic/AUS
...Dokic lost in the 1st Round in Warsaw to Ioana-Raluca Olaru in a match she deemed one of the worst she's played in years. And for Dokic, that's saying something.
ITF PLAYER: Kristina Antoniychuk/UKR
...she won a $25K in Kharkiv, Ukraine, getting wins over Ksenia Milevskaya and Oksana Kalashnikova.
JUNIOR STARS: Laura Vallverdu (Univ. of Miami) & Mallory Cecil (Duke)
...the pair, junior Vallverdu and freshman Cecil, have advanced to Monday's NCAA singles championship. Vallverdu outlasted Georgia freshman Chelsey Gullickson in three sets, while Cecil handled Miami's sophomore Julia Cohen in straights.
Warsaw SF - Dulgheru d. Hantuchova
...6-4/6-7/6-1. After this one, the Romanian's run in Poland could no longer be considered a fluke.
*RECENT RG FIRST SEEDS OUT*
2005: #25 Dinara Safina, RUS (lost to Razzano/FRA)
2006: #18 Elena Lihovtseva, RUS (lost to Sprem/CRO)
2007: #31 Severine Bremond, FRA (lost to Krajicek/NED)
2008: #15 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE (lost to Benesova/CZE)
2009: #19 Kaia Kanepi, EST (lost to Shvedova/KAZ)
*2009 FIRST-TIME CHAMPIONS*
JAN - Victoria Azarenka, BLR/19 (Brisbane)
JAN - Petra Kvitova, CZE/18 (Hobart)
FEB - Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP/26 (Bogota)
APR - Sabine Lisicki, GER/19 (Charleston)
MAY - Yanina Wickmayer, BEL/19 (Estoril)
MAY - Aravane Rezai, FRA/22 (Strasbourg)
MAY - Alexsandra Dulgheru, ROU/18 (Warsaw)
*ALL-TIME LOWEST-RANKED WTA CHAMPIONS*
#579...Angelique Widjaja, 2001 Bali
#285...Fabiola Zuluaga, 2002 Bogota
#259...Tamira Paszek, 2006 Portoroz
#234...Lindsay Davenport, 2007 Bali
#205...Kumiko Okamoto, 1989 Tokyo
#201...Petra Langrova, 1988 Paris
#201...ALEXANDRA DULGHERU, 2009 WARSAW
TOP QUALIFIER: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): xxx
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xxx
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xxx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: Corinna Dentoni/ITA d. Sesil Karatantcheva/KAZ 4-6/6-3/6-2
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xxx
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xxx
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F): xxx
FIRST SEED OUT: #19 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.- Shvedova/KAZ)
UPSET QUEENS: xxx
REVELATION LADIES: xxx
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: xxx
IT GIRL: xxx
MADEMOISELLE/MADAM OPPORTUNITY: xxx
COMEBACK PLAYER: xxx
CRASH & BURN: xxx
ZOMBIE QUEEN: xxx
LAST PASTRY STANDING: xxx
DOUBLES STAR xxx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xxx
All for Day 1. More tomorrow.