Friday, June 07, 2013

RG.13- The Day Before the Day Before: The Sequel

So, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in a grand slam and produced yet another marathon-length epic that goes down as a true classic. Haven't we seen this act before?

Well, yes. Famously, for one, in the 2012 Australian Open final, a six-hour masterpiece into the dead of the Melbourne night that was finally won by the Serb. But since this semifinal took place at Roland Garros, where Nadal just losing a set to anyone has been headline-worthy for most of the past decade, there was an additional whiff of the familiar as the match played out over the afternoon in Paris, right down to the Spaniard celebrating a 6-4/3-6/6-1/6-7/9-7 victory in a four-and-a-half-hour-plus match which sends him to his eighth RG final, where he'll attempt to win a fourth straight men's title in Paris. For the SECOND time in his career.

For the record, Nadal would be the first player ever in the Open era to four-peat on two different occasions at the same grand slam.

After taking the 1st set, Nadal was looking to push Djokovic's back against the wall, as neither man in their now 35-match head-to-head history (this was their 10th meeting in a slam) has ever come back from two sets down to win against the other. But when the #1-seeded Serb won the final four games of the 2nd to level the contest it promised to be a long day on Chatrier. And it was, too.

In the 4th set, Nadal was twice up a break, and came within two points of victory at 6-5, going for a winner at 30/15 that would have given him double match point. But he missed, opening the door for Djokovic to hold serve and force a tie-break, which he won to take Rafa to a 5th set for just the second time in his RG career (def. John Isner in the 1st Rd. in '11), and to his first five-setter of any kind since losing to Lukas Rosol in the Wimbledon 2nd Round (a match which Tennis magazine just ranked as the biggest slam upset ever) last year.

In the deciding set, the Serb had that "marathon/warrior man" look in his eye, and when he went up a break in the first game against a distracted-by-his-lost-opportunity Nadal, there was every reason to believe that Djokovic might just grab hold of that lead like a pit bull and never give it up. But this was Nadal at Roland Garros, where he sported a 4-0 record against Djokovic -- there was just as much reason to believe it wasn't over yet. And it wasn't. At 4-3, on his third break point attempt, Rafa got things back on serve when Djokovic netted a forehand. As the holds continued, it was 5-5, then 6-6 and 7-7. Nadal was stretched as deep into the 5th as he ever has been, matching even the deciding set of "The Greatest Match Ever Player" against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final of 2008. It was a matter of which man was going to blink first.

It turned out to be Djokovic.

After arguing with the tournament referee on back-to-back changeovers about whether or not the terre battue should be watered down, Djokovic, for one game, turned into something of a version of another Serb that we know and love so well. Faced with a bit of "chaos" on the sideline, Djokovic, so focused on honoring his recently deceased mentor, Jelena Gencic, with a win in Paris to complete his Career Grand Slam, let the chaos slip into his game, briefly losing his concentration and focus. It was all the foothold it, and Nadal, needed to crush his dream.

Serving to stay in the match down 8-7, Djokovic donated four straight points to the Spaniard. A missed easy overhead was followed by him deciding to not cut off a Nadal passing attempt, only to see it land in the corner. A forehand error put Djokovic down love/40, triple match point. Completing the one-game collapse, Djokovic flew another shot long and Nadal won the 5th set by a 9-7 score, keeping Rafa's RG record against him (5-0) spotless and delaying for at least one more year the Serb's so-far-elusive pursuit of a title in Paris. It would seem a good bet that Djokovic will eventually get that title at Roland Garros. But as long as Nadal is around, who knows?

Of course, this WAS just the semifinal. Nadal still has to win another match to lift the Coupe des Mousquataires for a record eighth time. But, really, at this point, isn't that just a formality?

=DAY 13 NOTES= the other men's semifinal, otherwise known as the "2013 Roland Garros 2nd Place Match," David Ferrer took out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach his first career slam final at age 31. All in all, it's great that Ferrer has finally managed to rise to this position in an era where so many other players have always been enough better than him that he's never even gotten a sniff at an actual slam final.

Of course, he'll also be playing Nadal. In Paris. Yep, there's THAT. Sure, Ferrer led Nadal 6-4/4-2 in the Madrid QF a few weeks ago, but he also lost eleven of the final thirteen games in that match in Spain.

And did I mention that it's Rafa in Paris? So far in his RG career, he's 58-1 there. So... Women's Doubles, top-seeded Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci will attempt to defend their '12 RG title (as well as win a third straight slam, and fourth major crown in the last five). The Italians defeated #5 Petrova/Srebotnik in the semis today, while #4 Makarova/Vesnina took out #2 Hlavackova/Hradecka in the other half of the draw. Vesnina will be playing for her first career slam crown, while Makarova will be looking to add her first Doubles slam to the Mixed crown she won this past January in Melbourne with Bruno Soares. juniors, the finals are set. In the Girls semifinals, #2-seed Belinda Bencic, who's been winning almost everything in recent months, defeated Louisa Chirico in three sets, while #5 Antonia Lottner "pulled a Serena" and took out #1-seeded Ana Konjuh 6-0/6-1. The Boys final will be contested between #4-seeded Alexander Zverev (GER) and unseeded Chilean Christian Garin.

Garin is also in the Boys Doubles final with fellow Chilean Nicolas Jarry. They'll face Kyle Edmund (GBR) and Frederico Ferreira Silva (POR). Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova will face the team of Domenica Gonzalez (ECU) and Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) in the Girls final.


that NBC didn't revert back to its past form and "embargo" the Nadal/Djokovic match and prevent it from being seen live on Tennis Channel.


on NBC, as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the chair umpire both bent over to inspect a small patch of red clay, the Frenchman shooing away the umpire's hand at one point to refer to a mark that HE thought was the correct one on the baseline, which was a totally different mark from the one that that umpire was referring to. After NBC's HawkEye replay placed the ball (barely) on the line, Ted Robinson noted that the challenge system isn't used at Roland Garros because the technology doesn't fit the "margin of error" to be determined accurate. Oh, but the silly practice of humans pointing to different marks in the dirt, both of which may or may not be the correct marks left by tennis balls that may or may not have touched a line IS within the margin of error? I suspect we might be better off calling in "Dexter Morgan" to test his expertise in "clay spatter patterns." But, of course, then we might have some "collateral damage" of which we might not wish to speak.

Really, though, however "accurate" -- which surely the current "eye-test" system is not -- the challenge system technology may or may not be on clay, it'd be better to hold our collective noses and go with that than the sort of ridiculous sideshow acts we've seen in recent weeks regarding disputed ball marks in the clay.

...and finally, the wheelchair champions were crowned today, as Frenchman Stephane Houdet defended his RG singles title, while Sabine Ellerbrock (GER) won her first, completing a sweep of the top two women's seeds with a victory in the final over #2-seed Jiske Griffioen. Ellerbrock thus wins the "It (post-Vergeer champion)" title for this Roland Garros.

In doubles, both of Ellerbrock's singles victims -- Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot -- defeated her and Sharon Walraven in the doubles final, while Houdet teamed with Japan's Shingo Kunieda, who he defeated in the singles final, to claim the doubles championship.

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #2 Maria Sharapova/RUS

#3 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #4 David Ferrer/ESP

#1 Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) vs. #4 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. Llodra/Mahut (FRA/FRA)

Hradecka/Cermak (CZE/CZE) def. #5 Mladenovic/Nestor (FRA/CAN) 1-6/6-4/10-6

#5 Antonia Lottner/GER vs. #2 Belinda Bencic/SUI

Christian Garin/CHI vs. #14 Alexander Zverev/GER

D.Gonzalez/Haddad Maia (ECU/BRA) vs. #2 Krejcikova/Siniakova (CZE/CZE)

#3 Edmund/Ferreira Silva (GBR/POR) vs. #5 Garin/Jarry (CHI/CHI)

Sabine Ellerbrock/GER def. #2 Jiske Griffioen/NED 6-3/3-6/6-1

#2 Stephane Houdet/FRA def. #1 Shingto Kunieda/JPN 7-5/5-7/7-6

#1 Griffioen/Van Koot (NED/NED) def. Ellerbrock/Walraven (GER/NED) 6-2/6-3

#1 Houdet/Kunieda (FRA/JPN) def. #2 Reid/Vink (GBR/NED) 3-6/6-4/10-6

2006 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
2007 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2008 Dinara Safina, RUS
2009 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
2010 Ons Jabeur, TUN (jr.)
2011 Caroline Garcia, FRA
2012 Sara Errani, ITA
2013 [post-Vergeer WC champ] Sabine Ellerbrock, GER

6...Bjorn Borg
5...Henri Cochet
5...Jaroslav Drobny
5...Roger Feder
5...Rene Lacoste
5...Ivan Lendl
5...Mats Wilander

24...Roger Federer, SUI (17-7)
17...RAFAEL NADAL, ESP (11-5)
10...Novak Djokovic, SRB (6-4)
6...Andy Murray, GBR (1-5)
4...Lleyton Hewitt, AUS (2-2)

**2013 ATP FINALS**
9...RAFAEL NADAL (6-2)
6...DAVID FERRER (2-3)
3...Novak Djokovic (3-0)
3...Andy Murray (2-1)
3...Stanislas Wawrinka (1-2)

TOP QUALIFIER: Anna Schmiedlova/SVK
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q2: #24q Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE d. Alexandra Panova/RUS 1-6/7-5/10-8
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #13 Marion Bartoli/FRA d. Olga Govortsova/BLR 7-6(8)/4-6/7-5
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): QF - #1 Serena Williams/USA d. Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS 6-1/3-6/6-3
FIRST VICTORY: #5 Sara Errani/ITA (def. Rus/NED)
FIRST SEED OUT: #11 Nadia Petrova/RUS (lost 1st Rd. to Puig/PUR)
UPSET QUEENS: Slovak Republic
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Czech Republic (2-8 in 1st Rd.)
LAST QUALIFIERS STANDING: Paula Ormaechea/ARG & Dinah Pfizenmaier/GER (both 3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Virginie Razzano/FRA (3rd Rd.)
LAST PASTRIES STANDING: Marion Bartoli/FRA, Alize Cornet/FRA & Virignie Razzano/FRA (3rd Rd.)
IT "??": [post-Vergeer WC champ] Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
COMEBACK PLAYER: #18 Jelena Jankovic/SRB
CRASH & BURN: #10 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN (4 of 5 pre-4th Rd. slam exits since lost #1 ranking, before which had reached 4th Rd.-or-better 10 of 11 times)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #13 Marion Bartoli/FRA (1st Rd.: down a break 3 times in 1st & 2 MP in 3rd set; 2nd Rd.: down 4-1 in 1st & a break in 2nd set in 2nd Rd.)
JOIE DE VIVRE: #1 Serena Williams/USA
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: Hradecka/CZE, Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS)
AMG SLAM FUTILITY UPDATE: lost 1st Rd. to #6 Li Na, once again failing to reach a slam QF in her career (so Anna Smashnova still has a buddy)
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: Nominees: Bencic/SUI, Lottner/GER

All for Day 13. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

I think it's fitting that Sanchez Vicario was presenting the trophy. She beat Serena in her debut at the French Open. Serena has said, if not for Sanchez, she would have won that year. Felt it in her bones.

That match against Sloane must really sting. She was up, and despite injury, if she had held her nerve she would have won. If she had, she might have all four in a row again.


Post match speech:

Maria: What a great past year you've had. Producing such great tennis.

I was thinking, "Producing such great tennis at my expense."

Maria has now lost the Olympics, the year end championships, Miami, Madrid, and Roland Garros to her. That's some big hardware.

Great coverage Todd!

Sat Jun 08, 11:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Thanks, Eric. Hey, she could STILL win four in a row. Remember, the last SerenaSlam began with a win in Paris. Hmmm...

Sat Jun 08, 12:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

7 years, 7 champions

I think that maturity and patience has a lot to do with winning the French Open. And that has been the biggest difference in Serena 3.0. Patience, willingness [to improve], focus, enjoyment. People point to her fitness, but I think that's a byproduct of her mental maturity. Realization of her ability and place in history and how the window of opportunity is closing.

I know Serena has always said she loves Paris...but I always wanted to tell her that Paris doesn't really love you. I think she made progress this year in terms of winning over the public...but I still feel like it's a tenuous and superficial feeling. Maybe that's just the French crowd...but I feel like they have deep love for Maria and Federer. (I also feel like they begrudge Rafa...only due to 7 titles.)


Serena Williams chronicles

1.0 - 1998 - 2005
rise: 1998 - 2002; fall 2003 - 2005
noteables: serena slam, derailed by injuries; era defined by youth

2.0 - 2006 - 2010
rise: 2006 - 2008 US Open; fall 2010
noteables: had to overcome injuries and lack of focus; derailed by foot injury in 2010; developed service accuracy; era tinged with arrogance

3.0 - 2011 - present
rise: 2011 - 2012 Wimbledon
noteables: improved fitness, era defined by appreciation and personal maturity and an eye to history


I have tremendous respect for Maria Sharapova. I am really impressed by her attitude, mental fortitude, and professionalism. It takes a lot to show up every time despite knowing she's not the best. Everyone can learn something from that.

"If you have to show up, why not compete." - Serena


I hope someone posts the Henin interview of Serena on youtube. I want to see it.

Nay, I NEED to see it.

Did anyone see it?

Sat Jun 08, 02:30:00 PM EDT  

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