Thursday, May 31, 2012

RG.5- The Best Laid Plans of Minions and Maria

The Radwanska might have a Plan, but Maria Sharapova, so far, has The Game.

But not on Day 5. More on that (likely) Radwanska-inspired development later.

=EARLY-ROUND AWARDS - 1st/2nd Rounds (Days 1-5)=
TOP PLAYER: Maria Sharapova/RUS
...sure, she's only played one match. But she still hasn't lost a game. And the last time she won a slam "Early-Round Top Player" award was at the 2008 Australian Open.
RISERS: Agnieszka Radwanska/POL & Petra Martic/CRO
...The Plan has been enacted. Martic took out France's one-and-only title hope on the women's side -- Marion Bartoli.
SURPRISES: Varvara Lepchenko/CAN & Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN
...who would have thought that these two North Americans would outlast their more famous continental colleagues names Williams?
VETERANS: Nadia Petrova/RUS & Klara Zakopalova/CZE
...xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. (Editor's Note: comments redacted to protect Nadia from the Tennis Gods) Of course, Zakopalova doesn't have the same concerns as her fellow "Veteran" honoree.
FRESH FACES Sloane Stephens/USA & Christina McHale/USA
...the best of the young Bannerettes, who just keep getting better -- especially "Tweety" Stephens -- every time out.
COMEBACKS: Ana Ivanovic/SRB & Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez/ESP
...'08 champ AnaIvo is trying to keep one step ahead of the Slam Reaper, while MJMS has led the resurgence of the Spanish women (7-3 so far).
DOWN: Serena Williams/USA, Marion Bartoli/FRA & Jelena Jankovic/SRB ex-champ who used to be 46-0 in 1st Round slam matches and who'll now look to Wimbledon and the Olympics for redemption. A 2011 RG semifinalist who won't have an Olympic-styled chance to sooth EuroClay wounds. And a former #1 who'll still have to be content to look forward to playing for a Fed Cup title in November.

*THE BIGGEST LOSS IN TENNIS HISTORY...if you're to believe all the typical hype given it by ESPN*
1st Rd. - Virginie Razzano d. #5 Serena Williams 4-6/7-6(5)/6-3
...this was a great match. Serena was two points from victory, up 6-4 and 5-1 in the 2nd set tie-break. Razzano's stirring comeback, and Williams' inability to draw upon her vast big match experience to pull it out (even as chair umpire Eva Asderaki seemed to be intent on muzzling Razzano to the point of literally gagging her with a chloroform-soaked handkerchief), made this one of those typically crazy sort of early-round upsets that tend to transform grand slams into compelling, living entities -- four times over -- every single season. Razzano's personal journey to this day -- her fiance died a year ago, and she's coming off a hip injury -- made this a sports story accessible to even non-sports fans. Williams' always-bigger-than-the-room (and tournament, and sometimes sport) persona made the loss -- although it occurred at easily her worst slam -- seem like a tragedy of epic proportions, if ESPN's hype machine is to be believed. As usual when it comes to Serena, everything that happened before her participation at Roland Garros, during her participation at Roland Garros and immediately after her participation at Roland Garros is made to seem exponentially more important with every mention of her name. Relax. As long as Serena doesn't make any side trips to German restaurants over the next few weeks, it'd be no surprise to see her turn this ENTIRE story on its ear in London. Maybe even more than once this summer.

FIRST VICTORY: Samantha Stosur, over Elena Baltacha (the third Brit in four slams to be the first woman eliminated from the tournament).
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Mona Barthel (lost to mini-Bannerette Lauren Davis)
UPSET QUEENS: The Americans. Ten Bannerettes advanced to the 2nd Round, but none were named Serena.
REVELATION LADIES: The French. Their 2nd Rounders didn't turn out so well, but a Pastry -- Razzano -- DID provide THE moment of the tournament so far.
NATION OF POOR SOULS: The Romanians. 1-5 in the 1st Round, with Alexandra Cadantu getting mercilessly double-bageled by Sharapova.
CRASH & BURNER (1r-2r): Serena Williams and Strangeness in Paris are eternal. It's always SOMETHING.
ZOMBIE QUEEN CONTENDER (1r-2r): Victoria Azarenka, who shook off a nasty case of "Paris Amelie" that Ms. Mauresmo apparently infected her with during practice over the weekend. Erasing a 7-6/4-0, with points for 5-0, deficit showed that Vika is now capable of WINNING these sort of "Hard Way" matches after, for so long, losing them to the likes of Serena in Melbourne.
LAST PASTRY STANDING: Mathilde Johansson, the last Frenchwoman standing at RG.
LAST WILD CARDS STANDING: Claire Feuerstin, Melanie Oudin & Irena Pavlovic

A SIGN OF THE TIMES... or just Paris?: Venus and Serena didn't even make it to Day 5. Does it mean anything? I guess we'll maybe get some idea in London. Hmmm, does that count as hype for Wimbledon from more than three weeks out? Okay, I'm guilty... a little.

...well, The Radwanska was at it again in the closing hours of Day 5.

The Day 5 marathon between Paul-Henri Mathieu and John Isner (geez, what is it about Isner and Frenchmen in slams?) set all sorts of Roland Garros records: most games in a set (34), longest set (2:28) and longest single-day match (5:41). Overall, the match is the second-longest ever at RG (to the 6:33, two-day match between Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement in '04).

So, where are the fingerprints of The Radwanska to be found in this? Well, because of the collateral damage this long match caused.

Since the Maria Sharapova/Ayumi Morita match was scheduled to be played after Mathieu/Isner, the Russian -- The Radwanska's long-time nemesis -- is now one round behind the thirty-one women who have already advanced to the 3rd Round. Another player who might be in Agnieszka's future path (in the QF) is Angelique Kerber. After her match was suspended after just three games last night, the German had to finish HER match today. Coincidence? I think not.

...elsewhere on The Radwanska Front: I do believe that Brad Gilbert has been used. Used by The Rad, and then made an example of on Day 5. You see, before the start of action on Thursday, ESPN2's Gilbert had put out an "Upset Alert" on today's match with Petra Kvitova, believing that the Czech -- flying more under the radar than a reigning Wimbledon champ should be, honestly -- would indeed fall today. Of course, Kvitova took the 1st set from her opponent in :24 and cruised to a 6-1/6-3 victory. Somehow, though, I sense that BG's statement didn't come TOTALLY from him. You see, I believe that The Radwanska is dispensing false information just to see if anyone will "bite." The Rad had one of It's minions whisper this audacious "Upset Alert" notion into the ears of several people at Roland Garros, just to see if anyone would be loose-lipped enough to leak the secret and prove themselves as "untrustworthy" allies.

Likely, even The Radwanska figured that no would fall for the idea of URSZULA Radwanska, not Agnieszka, upsetting Kvitova today, so it'd be just a minor test. But when you're talking about The Plan, NO test is minor. Gilbert took The Rad's bait. It took very little time for his ill-timed "prediction" to make him look a bit foolish. It was an instructive moment for The Radwanska. Gilbert cannot be trusted to keep his mouth shut. He will receive no more secret missives about The Plan from any of The Rad's minions for the rest of this tournament.

What could Gilbert possibly do to upset The Plan, you ask? Hey, I have no idea. I just know that it's best not to try to understand The Radwanska, but to simply marvel at its ingenuity and resourcefulness... if you know what's good for you.

...elsewhere, Caroline Wozniacki took down Jarmila Gajdosova 6-1/6-4. As a result, people are finally talking about how Serena's absence might prove to be a boon for the Dane (though, really, maybe pointing out that no one was talking about her being in a good, less pressure-packed position, might ramp the pressure up a good bit). C-Woz says that she's enjoying not being the #1 seed and all the added attention and pressure the role means. Maybe. But her results since she lost the top spot have yet to show that it's "helped" her. Still, she has a chance here to get herself pointed in the right direction. We'll see.

Tsvetana Pironkova's hypnotist's work finally wore off after one set of play by the Bulgarian against Francesca Schiavone. The '10 champ came back after dropping the 1st set to win in three.

...AWARDS: Mathilde Johansson earned the "Last Pastry Standing" honors when her Day 4 win wasn't followed by any Frenchwoman advancing along with her into the Final 32 on Day 5. One of the women who lost today was Virginie Razzano, who fell to Arantxa Rus in straight sets two days after her huge upset of Serena. Rus, remember, is the young Dutch player who knocked off Kim Clijsters last year in Paris.

Wild Card Melanie Oudin lost yesterday, along with Irena Pavlovic. Claire Feuerstein's loss today to Nina Bratchikova means the three are co-"Last Wild Cards Standing."

Six qualifiers won 1st Round matches, but only Yaroslava Shvedova's win on Day 5 has allowed of them to continue to breath 3rd Round air. It's the second time the Kazakh has been "Last Qualifier Standing" at RG, having shared the honor in '09.

...for a bit today, it looked like Sesil Karatantcheva might be ready to put up the best result by a slam Lucky Loser since Sandra Kleinova reached the Australian Open 3rd Round in 1997, and at RG since Gloria Pizzichini's 3rd Round run in 1996. But after dropping the 1st set, Carla Suarez-Navarro came back to defeat the Kazakh in three sets.

With her loss, Karatantcheva still hasn't reached a slam 3rd Round since her 2005 Roland Garros QF result as a 15-year old. Of course, a lot of things have changed for her since then. She was banned by the tour for a positive drug test, and is now playing for Kazakhstan rather than her former home nation of Bulgaria. Stilll, her one slam main draw win this year in Paris is as many as she's totaled over the entire past six years in majors.

Apparently, The Radwanska's reach couldn't extend to Sesil, but I was wondering if there might be a connection between the two when it looked like Karatantcheva was going to have the most unlikely run at a slam in fifteen years, and there ARE a few. Sort of. Sesil was the 2004 RG junior champion. One year later, she reached the women's QF in Paris. The next month, Agnieszka won the Wimbledon Girls title. And one year later, Agnieszka won the RG Girls crown, as well.

Intriguing. But I guess there's nothing there. If anyone sees Agnieszka talking with David Goffin in Paris, though, an alarm should be sounded since Goffin DID advance to the men's 3rd Round today as a Lucky Loser.

...the it-could-be-interesting all-Bannerette matchup between Christina McHale and Lauren Davis didn't live up to advance billing. McHale won in straights, showing her experience and why she's the highest-ranked American not named Williams. Later, Varvara Lepchenko made it three Americans in the 3rd Round, the most in Paris in years. Problem is, Lepchenko's advancement meant we had to say goodbye to Jelena Jankovic, who added yet another three-set loss to her poor record of results since leading Serbia to the Fed Cup final. So, we won't get that Schiavone/Jankovic match that could have been such great fun.

I blame The Radwanska. And considering that Schiavone & Flavia Pennetta eliminated Agnieszka & Kerber in doubles today, I sense this was either a payback/trade-off situation for Francesca, who may or may not have a role in The Plan. The Radwanska is nothing if not thorough.

...well, they finally found way to make an early-round (or late-round, for that matter) Andy Murray match interesting to watch. He has to come in with some sort of back issue (locking up, or just suffering from an early-morning muscle "thing" from sleeping the "wrong way"), and come THIS CLOSE to retiring in the 1st set before deciding to play on, and then having the kinks in his back work themselves out as he guts his way to a victory.

Even coach Ivan Lendl said the back issues were a blessing in disguise. Since he couldn't serve normally, Murray had to be more aggressive during points and play the sort of tennis he'll need to if he's ever going to win a slam title.

Hmmm, maybe Caro should try sleeping on a metal park bench during the majors?

...Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci won their 15th straight doubles match, and 23rd consecutive on clay.

...ESPN2 opened its coverage today by talking about the absence of the Williams Sisters in the draw. A list was shown on the screen showing the slams in which both sisters had both lost before the 4th Round. Truthfully, it was really something that should have been highlighted yesterday, but better late than never. Well, except that the list was wrong. As I noted yesterday, this is the third time such a result has occurred, but ESPN2 listed a fourth instance. But the '99 RG that was included on the list included a "1st Round" loss by Venus that was actually a "4th Round" exit.

Serves them right, I say, for never giving an explanation for the whole Federer/Connors slam match win record info being changed the other day.

Since this was an issue back in '08 when it last happened, I was on alert for it this time around -- largely because it was ESPN that focused on it four years ago. So, one would think that someone at ESPN might remember the '08 occurrence and the delay and the error wouldn't have happened. But I guess it points to the revolving door that exists in the ESPN2 tennis team, both behind and in front of the camera.


Arnaud Clement getting one final day in the spotlight. The French veteran retired today after his match with David Goffin. Clement, a '01 Australian Open singles finalist, was always one of the coolest-looking customers in tennis. I always enjoyed watching him play, win or lose. I guess it was largely because he's the only player I can think of who played all his matches while wearing stylish-looking dark sunglasses, but that's far more than can be said about a lot of other players.

Later in the day, the Mathieu/Isner match ended with less than an hour to spare when it comes to keeping Clement in the RG record books for longest match. I guess The Radwanska likes Arnaud, too.

...and, finally, something that I forget to mention the other day.

In my notes during the Serena/Razzano match, I wrote a little off-hand comment about how the color of Serena's outfit was almost a perfect match for all the advertising surrounding the court. It sort of made her melt into the background in some of the TV shots taken from the sidelines. I wrote, "Does it mean anything?"

Weirdly enough, in some figurative sense, maybe it DID. Of course, the same thing happened when she wore blue on the blue clay in Madrid... and things worked out pretty well for her there.

If The Radwanska is trying to trick me, it won't work.

[through 2nd Rd.]
13-9...United States (Lepchenko,McHale,Stephens)
10-5...Russia (Bratchikova,Kuznetsova,Pavlyuchenkova,Petrova)
7-3...Spain (Martinez-Sanchez,Medina-Garrigues,Suarez-Navarro)
7-11...France (Johansson)
6-2...Italy (Errani,Pennetta,Schiavone)
6-7...Czech Republic (Kvitova,Zakopalova)
5-2...China (Li,Peng)
5-3...Germany (Goerges,Kerber)
3-1...Poland (A.Radwanska)
3-2...Belarus (Azarenka)
3-2...Serbia (Ivanovic)
3-3...Kazakhstan (Shvedova)
3-4...Australia (Stosur)
2-0...Denmark (Wozniacki)
2-0...Estonia (Kanepi)
2-1...Croatia (Martic)
2-1...Slovak Republic (Cibulkova)
2-2...Canada (Wozniak)
2-2...Netherlands (Rus)
[no players left in draw]
1-2 = SWE
1-3 = HUN,TPE
1-4 = GBR
1-6 = ROU
0-2 = AUT,UKR

NOTE: Sharapova/RUS vs. Morita/JPN still to be played

2002 (Week 1 POW) Serena Williams, USA *
2003 (Week 1 co-POW) Serena Williams, USA & Kim Clijsters, BEL
2004 (Week 1 POW) Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2005 (Week 1 POW) Kim Clijsters, BEL
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2007 Justine Henin, BEL *
2008 Ana Ivanovic, SRB *
2009 Dinara Safina, RUS
2010 Venus Williams, USA
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2012 Maria Sharapova, RUS
* - won title

2008 Alize Cornet & Emilie Loit (3rd Rd.)
2009 Virginie Razzano & Aravane Rezai (4th Rd.)
2010 Marion Bartoli & Aravane Rezai (3rd Rd.)
2011 Marion Bartoli (SF)
2012 Mathilde Johansson (in 3rd Rd.)

2006 (3rd Rd.) Julia Vakulenko/UKR, Aravane Rezai/FRA
2007 (3rd Rd.) Dominika Cibulkova/SVK, Alla Kudryavtseva/RUS & Ioana-Raluca Olaru/ROU
2008 (QF) Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP
2009 (3rd Rd.) Michelle Larcher de Brito/POR, Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ
2010 (4th Rd.) Chanelle Scheepers/RSA
2011 (3rd Rd.) Chan Yung-Jan/TPE, Nuria Llagostera-Vives/ESP
2012 (in 3rd Rd.) Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ

2008 Mathilde Johansson/FRA & Olivia Sanchez/FRA (2nd Rd.)
2009 Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)
2010 Jarmila Groth (Gajdosova)/AUS (4th Rd.)
2011 Iryna Bremond/FRA, Caroline Garcia/FRA & Pauline Parmentier/FRA (2nd Rd.)
2012 Claire Feuerstein/FRA, Melanie Oudin/USA & Irena Pavlovic/FRA (2nd Rd.)

2006 Roland Garros - Kirsten Flipkens, BEL (2nd Rd.)
2006 U.S. Open - Nicole Pratt, AUS (2nd Rd.)
2007 Wimbledon - Alize Cornet, FRA (2nd Rd.)
2008 U.S. Open - Mariana Duque-Marino, COL (2nd Rd.)
2009 Roland Garros - Mariana Duque-Marino, COL (2nd Rd.)
2009 Wimbledon - Kristina Kucova, SVK (2nd Rd.)
2010 Roland Garros - Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA (2nd Rd.)
2011 Wimbledon - Stephanie Dubois, CAN (2nd Rd.)
2012 Roland Garros - Sesil Karatantcheva, KAZ (2nd Rd.)
NOTE: last LL 3rd Rd. result was at '97 AO by Sandra Kleinova/CZE

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: #1q Kiki Bertens/NED d. Annika Beck/GER 6-1/4-6/9-7
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Virginie Razzano/FRA d. #5 Serena Williams/USA 4-6/7-6(5)/6-3
FIRST WINNER: #6 Samantha Stosur/AUS (def. Baltacha/GBR)
FIRST SEED OUT: #30 Mona Barthel/GER (lost 1st Rd. to Lauren Davis/USA)
UPSET QUEENS: United States
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Romania (1-5 in 1st Rd; A.Cadantu double-bageled & 18 total points)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ (in 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARDS STANDING: Claire Feuerstein/FRA, Melanie Oudin/USA & Irena Pavlovic/FRA (all 2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: Mathilde Johansson/FRA (in 3rd Rd.)
IT: xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominee: Spanish women
CRASH & BURN: #5 Serena Williams/USA (lost 1st Rd. to Razzano/FRA; led 6-4 & 5-1 in 2nd set tie-break; was 46-0 in career slam 1st Rd. matches)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Nominee: #1 Azarenka (down 7-6/4-0, BPs for 5-0 to Brianti in 1st Rd.)
JOIE DE VIVRE: Nominees: Razzano/FRA, Schiavone/ITA & Sharapova/RUS

All for Day 5. More tomorrow.


Blogger jo shum said...

so todd, subconsiously you must be really liking A-Rad, blaming on her everything that could go wrong in the tournament. :)

i am glad i didn't watch the full match of mathieu and isner as i was too sleep by 3-3 fifth set. what to say, it's the power of the crowd and playing in front of home audience always pushes one more step forward.

saw somewhere saying that caro now hired a new coach and said it's working well. wonder if we will see any difference here? admittedly i have not tuned in for any of her matches yet.

saw another interview article of li, she was so mad at her loss in rome final that she asked anyone not to talk to her about tennis for 3 days after the match. what a character. :o i like it, and i believe she has a point to prove if she gets to face sharapova again. l have to say, i like her attitude in a weird way. can't wait to see a rematch between the two.

Thu May 31, 10:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Caro is working with ex-AO champ Thomas Johansson, and she's saying she likes to have a firm voice telling her what to do in practice. We'll see how well that works out.

That said, with The Radwanska's Plan (or at least what we THOUGHT was the plan) seemingly now gone haywire, the wonder here is, "Just WHAT was The Plan anyway?" Might the REAL Plan STILL be in play?

Fri Jun 01, 09:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Thomas was in my top 3 favourite players when he was an active player. Does that mean that I will have to like Wozniacki now?

Ouch, Radwanska is out and hard! Too bad. :( But it means that Kuznet is in and tough when we least expected it! :D

Fri Jun 01, 05:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Well, Johansson is a "helping coach." Piotr is still around. I don't expect Johansson to last long, but will be glad to be proven wrong (if he's a good coach).

Fri Jun 01, 08:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, Zidane. I wouldn't jump the gun on declaring any allegiances. As Diane said, Johansson's longevity might not be any longer than that of most of Sveta's coaches.

Fri Jun 01, 10:29:00 PM EDT  

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