Sunday, May 27, 2012

RG.1- Day One is the Loneliest Number

I file this recap under protest, just as I've done every year since Roland Garros began this whole Sunday start business a few years ago.

But, hey, the tournament organizers made a little extra money (which is good, I guess, since every little built helps when vast improvements are slated to be made at RG over the next few years). Plus, it's always fun to get to see which players REALLY have pull (or lack a big, complaining mouth... which may explain Sam Stosur's Day 1 role), because THEY won't EVER be playing on this first Sunday. Scheduled on the show courts for Day 2? Azarenka, Li, Djokovic and some guy named Federer. Exactly.

Thing is, though, the tennis wasn't all that great, either. The biggest drama of the day might have been waiting to see which player would be the very first to notch a singles win at this second slam of 2012.

For a bit, it looked as if it would be Svetlana Kuznetsova. The '09 champ took the 1st set from Mirjana Lucic, then grabbed an early 2nd set lead. But Sveta being Sveta -- to prove the point, she's once again armed with yet another new coach -- she bogged down a bit and caused the end of the match to be delayed. In the meantime, Stosur and Lucie Safarova raced to set and 5-0 leads of their own against, respectively, Elena Baltacha and Anastasiya Yakimova. Finally, Stosur, after failing to put away match point on Court Chatrier while Safarova closed in on her own first attempt over on Court 2, made it official and took home a 6-4/6-0 victory. Less than a minute later, Safarova won 6-2/6-0.

It was the most drama of the day until, well, Venus Williams had a bit of a slow start in one of the last-to-start matches against Argentina's Paula Ormaechea. Venus lost the 1st set, but gradually got her game as together as that rather smart dress she was donning today. She eventually won 4-6/6-1/6-3, finally allowing herself a slight smile at the end of the match, and maybe internally questioning whether or not she's going to have the energy to compete in singles, doubles AND mixed at the Olympics in a few months.

That's a discussion for later. But her potential 2nd Rounder against The Radwanska might be for much sooner than that.

...Melanie Oudin is only 20, but it seems like she's been away forever. Maybe she's back, though. Oudin earned a wild card into the RG draw because of her good recent ITF results, but after her 0-2 start against Johanna Larsson today it was easy to wonder if she was going to squander her opportunity to get her first grand slam match victory since 2010. No worry was necessary, though, as Little MO went on to win twelve of the next sixteen games against Swedish Avenger #2, putting up twenty-three winners in eighteen games and closing out the win on her fourth match point. Oudin may not yet have recaptured the soaring confidence she had back in 2009 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but it's a nice start.

This was the American's first career RG win, first main draw tour win since last August, and only her second since last June. In fact, before today, the last MD victory she'd put up came via a retirement, and her previous round advancement before that had been due to a walkover.

For a while, it looked like the great luck that Oudin was sporting three years ago might have followed her to Paris, as her potential next opponent, Sara Errani, dropped the 1st set of her match against Casey Dellacqua. Needless to say, the little Italian has been pretty spectacularly gutsy on red clay in '12 (even if Patrick McEnroe came up a bit short by calling her a "pretty good" claycourter today), winning three singles titles (she's 19-3 on the clay overall) and five doubles crowns on the stuff already this year.

[Of note: P-Mac also said that Dinara Safina was "retired" today, though I wonder if Dinara might dispute the "official" quality of that notion. She did when Marat said the same thing a while back.]

It was only a brief false alarm, though, as Errani came back to win in three sets. Now, we'll get a 2nd Round match-up that has to be in the running -- if not the lead -- for the "Lowest Average Height" Award between two opposing players in Paris. another match of note, there was a bit of Canadian-on-Canadian crime perpetrated. Aleksandra Wozniak took out Heidi El Tabakh in straight sets. With the only other Canadian in the draw -- Stephanie Dubois -- losing today, it was an unfortunate pairing for A-Woz and HET, eh?

...with so few playing, and none losing, the wait to see who'll be the "First Seed Out" will continue on Day 2.

Besides Oudin, the other wild card to notch a win today was Irena Pavlovic. Pavlovic also factors into the "Last Pastry Standing" race, as the Frenchwoman was joined in the 2nd Round today by Mathilde Johansson. Qualifiers who advanced were Alexa Glatch and Dinah Pfizenmaier.

...the nation with the most wins today on the women's side was the United States. Four Bannerettes -- Venus, Oudin, Glatch and Irini Falconi -- won. On the other side of the coin, only one Brit played. But Elena Baltacha's status as the first woman ousted from this Roland Garros means that Great Britain has now produced the "First Loser" at three of the last four slams.

...seriously, Chris Fowler on ESPN2 today must have been the only person -- before the match started and was mostly dominated by the man who probably still has nightmares starring John Isner and large patches of open grass fields -- who found it troubling that Andy Roddick could lose to Nicolas Mahut in the 1st Round. Sure, the Frenchman only had two career wins at Roland Garros before today, but Roddick only had nine himself (he's now 9-10 overall) since he first played in Paris in 2001, and is still trying to come back from a hip injury. Of course, being that it WAS grand slam tennis coverage being aired in the U.S., I guess the commentators are essentially under orders to talk about Roddick. Of course, debating whether or not he really deserves a slot(s) on the Olympic tennis team at the moment would have been of more consequence.

...what's this? Patrick McEnroe and Chris Evert preview that women's field at the start of ESPN2's coverage today and P-Mac doesn't even mention his pick to win the title -- Radwanska -- during the entire segment? Hmmm, I wonder if a certain caveman colleague of mine -- no, not Brad Gilbert -- had anything to do with that? After all, Carl -- who also picked A-Rad -- does NOT like to share. If A-Rad wins, Carl will take FULL credit. If she doesn't, of course, it'll be all Patrick's fault.

Of note, on the same telecast, Evert noted how Stosur defeated Serena in last year's U.S. Open by "beating her at her own game," which, she said, she'd "never seen before." I guess she was otherwise engaged during the 2004 Wimbledon final?

1. Serena Williams, USA...she didn't lose a match
2. Maria Sharapova, RUS...won Rome, but lost badly to Serena. Hmmm.
3. Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci, ITA...haven't lost on clay since '11
4. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL...40-1 vs. anybody-but-Vika
5. Sara Errani, ITA...eight clay titles (3s/5d) in 2012
HM- Kaia Kanepi, EST...titles on hard and clay courts this season case you didn't realize, Gael Monfils isn't at this RG, his home nation's slam. Always fragile, he made the expert decision to play last week in Nice. He got hurt. Yeah, I know, shocking, isn't it? He's out three weeks. He'll miss Paris, and also not be in shape or prepared to last long at Wimbledon, either. In other words, it was another case of "the usual" when it comes to Monfils. You see, this is precisely why I included him on the Anti-Backspin Team a while back.

Speaking of Monfils...

...I said the other day that the only story of any interest on the men's side was the three-headed monster of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Let me amend that slightly. Brian Baker (USA) is surely a nice story, for however long it lasts at this Roland Garros. A former junior star, he was the Boys runner-up at RG in 2003. After playing a bit on the ATP tour in 2005-06, he injured his hip after the U.S. Open. He's spent the last six years having five surgeries on his hip and elbow (the "Tommy John" procedure, a rarity for a tennis player), as well as for a sports hernia. He briefly played a bit in '07, but he seemed lost to history, and spent time coaching at a small college. Now 27, after feeling healthy again last year, he began to play in Futures events. Last week, he qualified for the ATP event in Nice, knocked off Monfils (see, there's the French waste-of-talent's link), and reached the final. He's a wild card entry to this Roland Garros. He faces Xavier Malisse in the 1st Round.

...I know that the prospect of Djokovic winning a fourth straight slam will be discussed often over the next two weeks, so the feat is going to be called SOMETHING. The non-calendar "TigerSlam" came naturally in golf, and the "SerenaSlam" that soon followed was a nice take-off. Even the never-happened "RafaSlam" had a certain ring to it. But what of Djokovic's attempt? Granted, there's no real easy way to go. None sound particularly "right."

I've been going with "DjokerSlam," though that I first heard that come out of Brad Gilbert's mouth makes me want to reconsider. I'm open to "NoleSlam" (pronounced "no-lay," as in the Serbian shortened form of Novak). But I won't be referring to his attempt at a "NovakSlam." In my opinion, it's the most boring-ass version. Naturally, Fowler made a point to say it about 100 times in the first few hours of ESPN2's coverage today. I just think it's too pat, like how here in the U.S. EVERY scandal has to be referred to with a "gate" at the end of it (the NFL's "Bountygate" being the most recent, ludicrous example) just because everyone is too lazy to come up with something else since the original Watergate scandal in the early 1970's.

Hmmm, since I did mention the NFL, let me see... we'll have Robert Griffin III quarterbacking the Redskins this year. His nickname is "RG3." How about "ND4?" That way, if Djokovic does win four -- or five -- in a row, it can just be updated to fit the circumstances.

Just a thought.

...LIKES FROM DAY 1 (or thereabouts):

-- Jon Wertheim, in his RG preview on, referring to the Schiavone/Date-Krumm 1st Round match: "Almost 75 years of woman!" (Of course, then he picked KDK to win in an upset and turned it into something of a downer.)

-- Seeing Chris McKendry in the ESPN2 anchor chair this morning at 5am (I set the alarm, and the DVR, just in case). No, it's not (totally) because she's an ex-D.C. sportscaster and I always liked her when she was here. It's not because she's the greatest at what she's currently being called upon to do, either. Because, honestly, she isn't. But she's improving greatly with every slam, though. She'll still occasionally sound a little TOO obviously practiced when presenting her tennis facts/history (like how today, when Darren Cahill mentioned Mary Pierce, McKendry jumped in with a quick "the former French player who won here," sounding a bit like she'd memorized the fact while cramming for her semester final the night before) rather than sounding as if she'd come by the info naturally over the course of following the sport for years.

Really, I include her appearance here, like I always will, just because it meant that Hannah Storm WASN'T on the ESPN2 set.

-- On NBC, during a discussion between John McEnroe and Mary Carillo on the scheduled improvements to the Roland Garros site, including a new stadium with a roof by 2017:

McEnroe: "Presumably the court with the roof will be where they play the finals of the men's and women's..."

Carillo: (interjecting) "-and the U.S. Open final."

"Ouch! Zing!," joked McEnroe. Yep, Carillo's still got it. Maybe she should fill in for the Zingbot on "Big Brother" this summer.

...and, finally, to get serious for a moment. I mentioned a few months ago the story that Carillo filed on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" (the segment can be seen here) on the horrendous molestation allegations against Hall of Fame player/coach Bob Hewitt by several of his former, then-underage, tennis pupils. The evidence seemed pretty strong at the time that the charges were truthful (the report even included alleged love letters written by Hewitt to one of the girls), and the Hall of Fame announced that it would conduct an investigation into the story, as it is not without precedent for HOF membership to be revoked in light of such charges (such a thing has occurred in gymnastics).

But, apparently, things have changed, and the HOF is now no longer intending to investigate these charges against one of its inductees, and is instead looking to re-write rules for potential future instances of allegations being made against enshrined members. As a result, nothing seems as if it will be done by the sport to address the actual charges made against Hewitt, or whether or not he broached the HOF's guidelines and should have his membership revoked. Needless to say, this has angered Hewitt's accusers and many others around the sport of tennis.

I've been approached to publicize and promote a Twitter petition that has been put together to try to convince the HOF to follow through on the investigation into the Hewitt case that is promised months ago, and I will gladly do that. Here's the link to that petition, which I'll include in the site sidebar starting tomorrow.

It's important to get to the bottom of this. Not just for the women who have made the charges against Hewitt, but for the sport of tennis itself. It already has a poor history of protecting its young, especially female, athletes. While, in the light of previous molestation cases elsewhere, it is never smart for people "on the outside" to a rush to final judgment, someone in a position of power within the tennis hierarchy, at the very least, needs to address the Hewitt case now with some sort of investigation rather than sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away. With the lack of a better place to turn, that responsibility would seem to fall on the HOF's shoulders.

If not the HOF, then who, or what?

The message sent in this case can't be that one can outlive such charges without in any way being held accountable by the sport through which the alleged crimes were given an opportunity to occur in the first place. Once Hewitt himself is long gone, after all, it is the sport whose name will continue to be sullied by such situations, as well as a failure to address them properly, even if such action occurs sometimes decades late, and/or serves to "only" help the victims by letting them know that their voices did not go unheard and that the tennis establishment did not let them down once again.

At one time, Hewitt himself was in a position of authority and responsibility. One that he may have abused in a most horrifying way. At the time, REAL authority was no where to be found. What's the HOF's excuse now?

Anyway, back to tennis tomorrow.

2009 Li Na/CHN (def. Domachowska/POL) & Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS (def. Olaru/ROU)
2010 Dominika Cibulkova/SVK (def. Ivanova/RUS)
2011 Simona Halep/ROU (def. Kudryavtseva/RUS)
2012 Samantha Stosur/AUS (def. Baltacha/GBR)

2011 WI: Katie O'Brien, GBR (lost to Date-Krumm/JPN)
2011 US: Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT (lost to Niculescu/ROU)
2012 AO: Heather Watson, GBR (lost to Azarenka/BLR)
2012 RG: Elena Baltacha, GBR (lost to Stosur/AUS)

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: #1q Kiki Bertens/NED d. Annika Beck/GER 6-1/4-6/9-7
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST WINNER: #6 Samantha Stosur/AUS (def. Baltacha/GBR)
IT: xx

All for Day 1. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

Wow Todd, breaking out the French for the French Open.

I do believe it's the first time I've heard you say "boring-ass"


Is it just me or is Chris Evert really anti-Serena? I just remember her open letter to Serena... I dunno... Maybe it's a philosophy thing...Chris Evert = talented and professional; Serena = talented and...does what she likes...

I mean Evert did pick Sharapova to win...


I can't believe it's only the French Open and ARad already has 47 matches under her belt...I hope she withdraws from all summer events except for the biggies. How else will she survive the rest of the season...not to mention two big title defenses in the Fall...

Sun May 27, 09:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Oh and I hope Brian Baker does it just me or does he look like a brunette Beavis from Beavis and Butthead??

(Todd, please delete this is inappropriate...)

Sun May 27, 09:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Ha! He does look like Beavis. He's cute, though. I'm so glad for him that he did so well in Nice.

Some people think Evert is anti-Serena; I've never perceived it, though.

Sun May 27, 09:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


And I think it's grammatically correct, too. :D

Next up, "crazy-ass" (which I'm borrowing from Oprah... really, she said it all the time in that behind-the-scenes show on OWN last year).


Yeah, I think that, as with everything with Serena, mountains are made of likely mole hills.

Mon May 28, 06:30:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

Vika came back from the death valley. Todd, you almost had the 1st seed 1st round out. I didn't see the 1st half of the match, only seeing the scoreboard while at work made my heart bumped quick fast.

Somehow I feel that momo is not very in sync with vika's team. Ever since she joined, vika's game has fallen apart quite badly. ;0

Mon May 28, 08:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Azarenka was just an error-machine early on. 7-6/4-0 and points for 5-0.

Hmmm, maybe here is where I'll pull out that "26 the Hard Way" link to refer back to a match that maybe helped her out a bit today?

(Double) Hmmmm... so at 5am Federer was playing for win #233 to pass Connors for all-time slam wins. Five hours later, he was TYING him with #233. I know Connors was an amazing competitor, but it's amazing how he got an additional win this afternoon, twenty years after his last match.

The truth is that it's a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Two "official" listings -- the ATP site and the AO site -- currently list Connors' 1975 Australian Open with different match totals. Stupid me, I've been using the ATP's stats for years. I mean, I guess I should have know that the actual tour wouldn't have actual correct numbers for actual players in actual slams. Right?

Anyway, so Connors DOES have 233 wins, now (or would it be "still?") the same as Federer after his Day 2 win. Got that? I'll show the "evidence" of my investigation on the RG.2 post.

Mon May 28, 11:54:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

You even have time to support Oprah and watch OWN! My hero!

Mon May 28, 01:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Are you watching Baker, Todd?

And why is everyone referring to Li Na as the first Asian Grand Slam of either sex? Hello, CHANG?!?!

I feel like I should update Urban Dictionary and put a picture of Michael Chang under "chopped liver"

Mon May 28, 02:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, not anymore, though. What a horrible network that is (except for an occasion hour here or there, like when she did the special with Steven Tyler). The behind-the-scenes show was far better than the actual show it was behind the scenes of.

Mon May 28, 02:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

He WAS Asian-AMERICAN, though. So I guess that's why.

Mon May 28, 02:19:00 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home