Monday, June 01, 2009

RG.8- Mister Federer's Lucky Weekend

And on the final weekend of May 2009, Roger Federer smiled.

Or at least he should have, as one day after Novak Djokovic was sent packing at Roland Garros... gulp... so was Rafael Nadal.

Yes, it's true. After four years, thirty-one straight wins, four RG title runs with just seven sets lost before Sunday, Nadal was out-hit, outstretched and outplayed by big #23-seed Robin Soderling of Sweden, who won 6-2/6-7/6-4/7-6 on a windy Paris day when everything we thought we knew about this tournament turned out to be wrong.

So, apparently, Nadal's Madrid loss to Federer, two near-misses against Novak Djokovic and (too?) heavy pre-RG schedule DID mean something. Or not. After all, as the Spaniard noted after the match, he played the same sort of schedule the last four years and he WON Roland Garros. This time, he lost. There's probably no deep, dark secret to take from this single result.

One thing that MIGHT have some meaning, though, could be Soderling's attitude toward Nadal. Much as Rafa's takedown of Federer can partly be attributed to his total lack of fear of him (not hatred toward him, mind you, as he's now stated he'd like to see Federer win this title), Soderling certainly arrived without any feelings of awe toward Nadal... you'd never mock and/or mimic Rafa to his face as he did at Wimbledon two years ago if you felt that.

Nadal is used to getting respect from his opponents, but Soderling didn't have a lot to spare. Based on prior actions, bowing down in such a way just isn't in the Swede's make-up. Not that we can or should expect, or would ever want, future Nadal opponents to follow this path, but it does show that... well, it's A WAY to go.

Even in a sport of "ladies" and "gentlemen," a few "bitches" and "bastards" can make things interesting. I'm just sayin', you know.

Who'll now emerge from the Rafa-less top half is a discussion for another day, as now all eyes fall on Federer.

He now has the best opportunity he'll ever have to get his first Roland Garros title, complete a career Grand Slam, tie Pete Sampras' all-time slam mark... and spend the summer trying to get history TOTALLY on his side in either London or New York. Sure, if he wins now without Nadal around, there'll be something of an urge to declare him a RG champion with an asterisk. But he HAS been the second-best claycourter in Paris the last three years, so we wouldn't exactly be talking about a pauper-to-king situation.

Of course, Rafa or no Rafa, Federer still has to win four more matches to claim this title. Imagine, if he DOESN'T win the title now. Whew! Talk about another can of worms.

Needless to say, he'd BETTER win.

(By the way, sorry about the woeful lateness of this post. About that, though... do you think I'd get away with if I did something unspeakable to someone affiliated with Microsoft? It would be fully justified, and would make me feel a GREAT DEAL better right about now. Hint, hint. Enough said on this subject.)

...Sunday was certainly a "day for champions"... not. As '08 women's champ Ana Ivanovic was bounced, as well.

Zombie Queen Victoria Azarenka, who was very nearly out of the tournament a few days ago, took out AnaIvo 6-2/6-3 to reach her first career slam QF. Of course, Ivanovic's confession after the match that she started feeling dizzy a few games into the match leaves one to wonder whether she was physically right in it... or whether it was a case of the pressure going to her head.

With her championship points now set to fall off, the current world #8 will take a real ranking hit.

Meanwhile, for a brief instant today, it appeared as if Dinara Safina might be tested by Aravane Rezai. The Pastry actually had a break chance on the Russian's serve in the first few games of the match.

I DID say brief, though, right? Safina held... and didn't lose another game the entire match, winning 6-1/6-0.

In the day's first women's 4th Round match, unfortunately, Agnes Szavay fell victim as much to Dominika Cibulkova as she did the ages-old flat-performance-after-a-big-upset bugaboo. After entering the match having lost just fourteen games through three matches (fourth-best amongst the women), the Hungarian was quickly down 4-0 in this one, and ended the 1st set with two winners against a whopping twenty-three unforced errors. Cibulkova had only two 1st set winners herself, but just nine errors.

By the time Szavay started playing, it was too late. She did make Cibulkova take four match points over three games to finally finish off the 6-2/6-3 victory to reach her first career slam QF, but I suspect that was of little consolation to Szavay in the aftermath of a blown opportunity.

In the other women's Round of 16 match, Maria Sharapova had another one of THOSE matches, but again she pulled through in the end over Li Na, 6-4/0-6/6-4.

...oh, and SERENA LOST, too. No, not in singles -- in doubles. She and Venus lost to Nadia Petrova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who overcame a match point in the 3rd set tie-break to win 7-6/5-7/7-6. Petrova, by the way, along with both Liezel Huber and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, is part of the group of three women still alive in the QF of both the Women's and Mixed doubles competitions.

...and finally, once again a big thanks to NBC, which took multiple hours to finally show two and a half sets of the four-set Nadal/Soderling match. What would have been a stunning moment, had it been seen live, turned out to be a memorable RESULT watched after hearing about the monumental upset through an ESPN radio report earlier in the day (at least in my case). When you wait half a day to air the biggest upset at Roland Garros in many a year, unless potential viewers choose to hide themselves under a rock all day, you tend to suck all the drama out of what would have been something to behold. Oh.. and a big double thanks to NBC yet again, for putting an embargo on the Sharapova/Li match, not even allowing Tennis Channel to allude to it (just like the Nadal match, which is sort of like a network airing an Election Day newscast but only talking about every race EXCEPT for the Presidential one), and then showing a whopping TWO games of the three-set match.

Ah, NBC. Still proud as a peacock. What we do without you guys?

AO - Serena Williams, USA
RG - Patty Schnyder, SUI
WI - Venus Williams, USA
US - Vera Zvonareva, RUS
AO - Yan Zi/Zheng Jie, CHN
RG - Elena Dementieva, RUS
WI - Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
US - Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
AO - Jelena Dokic, AUS
RG - Maria Sharapova, RUS

WI - Venus Williams, USA
AO - Jelena Jankovic, SRB
RG - Dinara Safina, RUS
WI - Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
US - Jelena Jankovic, SRB
AO - Dinara Safina, RUS
RG - Victoria Azarenka, BLR

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #10 Mattek-Sands/Petrova (USA/RUS)
#3 Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP) vs. #11 Groenefeld/Schnyder (GER/SUI)
#12 Azarenka/Vesnina (BLR/RUS) vs. #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) vs. #5 Soarez/Ullyett (BRA/ZIM)
Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL) vs. Acasuso/F.Gonzalez (ARG/CHI)
M.Lopez/Robredo (ESP/ESP) vs. #2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)

#1 Huber/B.Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #5 Sugiyama/Sa (JPN/BRA)
TBD vs. Kleybanova/Soares (RUS/BRA)
Dechy/A.Ram (FRA/ISR) s. #4 Petrova/Mirnyi (RUS/BLR)
King/Melo (USA/BRA) vs. 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 PASTRY STANDING: (temporary) both Aravane Rezai and Virginie Razzano to 4th Rd.

All for Day 8. More tomorrow.


Blogger leia said...

Oh, that match was just total torture to watch - at least for a Rafa fan. Rafa was playing nowhere near his best, it felt like each point was an amazing struggle for him AND Robin was playing super amazing and never dropping the level of his game.

We all knew the winning streak had to end some time, I just wished it didn't have to end this way.

Another painful match to watch was Vika crushing Ana in straights. While I don't particularly root for Ana, there's something rather sad seeing the difference of her playing from a year ago and today. I liked that Ana better. Hope she gets her groove back.

Interesting second week now. Why, RG, why?

Mon Jun 01, 04:51:00 AM EDT  

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