Tuesday, June 02, 2015

RG.10- Old Times on the Terre Battue *

A Serb, a Czech and a slam. Oh, my!
A Serb, a Czech and a slam. Oh, my!
A Serb, a Czech and a slam. Oh, my!

When Ana Ivanovic and Lucie Safarova meet on the terre battue, good things tend to happen. Well, at least for one of them. We'll soon find out which player will receive the rabbit's foot at this Roland Garros when they face off in the semifinals in two days.

As it was, Day 10 was about carving out two of what would be the final four surviving women in the season's second slam. As it turned out, it wasn't all that difficult a task. The winners left no doubt that they deserve the honor.

#7-seeded Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 RG champ playing in her first QF in Paris since she won the title, jumped on first-time slam quarterfinalist #19 Elina Svitolina early on. AnaIvo took a break lead in the second game of the match, then exchanged breaks in the next two games to take a 3-1 advantage mid-way into the 1st. Never bothered by the windy conditions that ruled the day (and, later, helped contribute to a truly dangerous situation on Chatrier), the 27-year old Serb never relinquished her lead. After saving a break point in Game #7, she took the set 6-3 and then opened the 2nd with still another break of her 20-year old Ukrainian opponent's serve.

Ivanovic saved two break points a game later, then finally pushed her lead out to an unreachable point with a break in game #7 to go up 5-2. Still avoiding the notion of succumbing to the pressure of being anything close to a "favorite," even as she was the only player in the QF not named Serena to have ever reached a slam final (let alone win one, or nineteen), AnaIvo pulled out her biggest weapon to put the final nail in the coffin of Svitolina's chances, blasting a forehand passing shot on match point and closing out a 6-3/6-2 win in which she held a 37-8 advantage in winners.

Interestingly, during that career run in Paris in '08, the Serb defeated Safarova in the 2nd Round. While AnaIvo was winning her match on Chatrier today, #13 Safarova was busy doing the same against #21 Garbine Muguruza on Court Lenglen. While this is Ivanovic's first slam semi since she was 20-year old looking for her maiden major crown, the 28-year old Czech has arrived a bit later to the stage when it comes to being a force in the final chapters of slams.

A key component in the Czech squad's recent domination of Fed Cup competition, Safarova's big event surge can be traced back to a big missed opportunity sixteen months ago in Melbourne. In the 3rd Round of the Australian Open, Safarova held a match point for a straight sets win over Li Na. Her down-the-line shot just missed its mark. Li went on to win the match, and her second grand slam title. When Safarova arrived in Paris last spring, she needed to remove the taste of that loss from her mouth. Her win over Ivanovic in the 3rd Round did the trick, giving her her best slam result in seven years.

Much like how Ivanovic's win on the terre battue over her foreshadowed a great result for the Serb seven years ago, Safarova's victory in what was just their second tour-level meeting on red clay (they also played on clay in an ITF challenger in '02) might be looked at at the result that launched a new phase in the Czech's career, as well. A month later, Safarova reached her first career slam semifinal at Wimbledon, then followed that up with another Round of 16 result at the U.S. Open. She reached a career-high ranking after the Open, and matched her best-ever year-end finish. While her singles results started slowly in '15, Safarova won her first slam title in doubles with Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the AO, while her Paris run had already assured her of her first Top 10 ranking before she took the court today.

Playing against hard-hitting 21-year old Spaniard Muguruza, Safarova was tasked with pulling off a similar game plan to the one she had against Maria Sharapova in the Round of 16: thwart her opponent's power with shots deep into the court and good defense, but don't sacrifice the essential aggression that would be necessary to claim the extended rallies that would result.

Muguruza's intriguing power was evident early, as she accurately placed her shots well inside the lines and showed why she's often able to pound, pound, pound some opponents off the court (see Halep in Fed Cup). But Safarova remained steady and, most importantly, kept things on serve. The Spaniard held a break point in game #6, but the lefty Czech saved it with a forehand up the line, then held for 3-3. She went up 40/love on Muguruza's serve after a deep defensive get extended a point and led to an error from the Spaniard. But Muguruza saved all three break points, then a fourth with some good defense of her own that was followed by an aggressive forehand that Safarova failed to get back. Muguruza got to game point... but double-faulted. She finally held on GP #3, then again saved a handful of BP (six in the set) after falling behind 15/40 in game #11. A game later, Safarova sent things to a tie-break with a game-winning ace.

Against Sharapova, the Czech had dominated a 1st set tie-break, garnering the momentum with which she surged through the 2nd to victory. In this one, Safarova's backhand up the line ended a 26-shot rally to give her a 3-1 lead, and another backhand up the line took the advantage to 5-2. On her second set point, Safarova used her forehand as the weapon of choice, as her winner gave her a 7-3 tie-break victory.

As with the Sharapova match, the win caused Safarova to pick up speed. She jumped ahead 2-0 with a break as Muguruza's errors mounted as she seemingly battled to fight off the frustration of dropping the 1st set. But she collected herself quickly enough to challenge Safarova, even if she never was able to overtake her. Up 40/15 on the Czech's serve (after having just one BP shot in the 1st), Muguruza got back on serve when Safarova netted a backhand.

In game #5, the Spaniard again held a break point, but Safaraova saved it with the help of an effectively wide serve and held for 3-2. A game later, Safarova's ability to convert expert defense into sudden offense finally turned the tide. The Czech ended a long rally with an aggressive forehand to get to 30/30 on Muguruza's serve. Winded from the previous point, Muguruza then double-faulted and followed up with another error as Safarova got the break and took a 4-2 lead. A game later, Safarova seemed to have missed an opportunity after her wide serve set up a forehand winner up the line on game point, only to see her just miss her target. Muguruza soon held a break point, but harmlessly netted her service return.

It was her last chance to get back into the match. Safarova held on GP #2 when Muguruza smacked a forehand into the net to give the Czech a 5-2 lead.

Two games later, as a confident Safarova began her attempt to serve out the match at 5-3, Muguruza was only down a single break. But her inability to successful get at Safarova's serve (converting one of her four measly BP chances on the day) made it outwardly appear as if she was facing a much steeper uphill climb. She didn't seem fired up and confident (think Vika in a similar situation, or Serena or Maria) of her ability to pull it off, perhaps betraying a hint of what has caused her -- even with her big, potentially slam-winning game -- to blow quite a few leads and put up some surprisingly inconsistent results over the last season and a half. Safarova held in a routine manner, finishing things off with a forehand winner down the line to win 7-6(3)/6-3.

So, Muguruza's run in Paris is over. But it was successful one. One year after her career-defining (so far) win over Serena Williams at Roland Garros, she matched her '14 QF result and put up victories over Camila Giorgi, Angelique Kerber and Flavia Pennetta. She'll be back, and will likely be even better than she's been up until now. She might just win this tournament one day.

Safarova, looking to follow in the footsteps of FC teammate Petra Kvitova and a handful of other Maidens who have have appeared in slam finals since the "glory days" of Czech tennis in the 1970s and '80s, is proving that in 2015 experience and hard work continue to pay dividends on the tennis tour. The pattern of late-twentysomethings and thirtysomethings who have had great -- and often career-best -- slam results during the "late" stages of their careers (including the likes of slam winners Li, Stosur & Schiavone, not to mention recent slam achievers like Pennetta, Petkovic, Peng and fellow Czech Strycova) is one again embodied in Safarova's slam results over the past year. After reaching one slam QF in her first thirty-six majors, she's now reached a pair of semifinals in her last four. And she can still climb deeper into the beast than that.

Just like the first time they met on the terre battue in 2008, the winner of Ivanovic/Safarova will be playing on the final weekend in Paris with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen at stake. While the moment is still somewhat new for the Czech, AnaIvo's been here before. Rather quietly, she's so far shown over the last ten days that maybe a player can be BOTH a "young achiever" and a "late bloomer"... but only after a whole lot of underachieving in between.

So, will AnaIvo's seven-year itch result in a slam resurrection that no one really saw coming almost two weeks ago? Hmmm, maybe it's best to just be smart, and not over-think what's happened so far, or what might come next.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

...in doubles, Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina, the '13 RG champs, reached the semfinals on Day 10. They'll face Casey Dellacqua & Yaroslava Shvedova.

The only two women still alive in both doubles draws advanced to the semifinals in mixed. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (w/ Mike Bryan) and Lucie Hradecka (w/ Marcin Matkowski) won their QF matches. Both will play in women's doubles QF matches tomorrow, as BMS joins with Safarova in trying to become the first team to defeat the Hingis/Mirza Dream Team twice and keep alive their hopes of a 2015 Doubles Slam (they won the AO in their first-ever teaming in January).

...in juniors, the Round of 16 is set. The top seed to fall today was #5 Dalma Galfi of Hungary, who was defeated by Hordette Olesya Perunshina. Unseeded Emily Arbuthnott took out #15 Julieta Estable (ARG), and is joined in the final sixteen by fellow Brit, #8 Katie Swan, who knocked off Canada's Katherine Sebov. But #6 Catherine Robillard-Millette defeated Tessah Andrianjafitrimo (darn... now the commentators are off the hook), maintaining a Canadian presence in the draw.

While Muguruza lost in the women's QF, the Spanish girls did well, as Paula Badosa and Aliona Bolsova (def. #7 Usue Arconada) both advanced. Hungary's Fanni Stollar defeated Pastry Fiona Ferro (a WC in the women's MD), while #4 CiCi Bellis survived an 8-6 3rd set against Russia's Sofya Zhuk.

Also, #3 Katerina Stewart's strange Roland Garros experience continued, as well, with a win over Aussie qualifier Priscilla Hon.

3...RUS (Blinkova, Kalinskaya, Pervushina)
3...USA (Bellis, Dolehide, Stewart)
2...CZE (Kolodziejova, Vondrousova)
2...ESP (Badosa, Bolsova)
2...GBR (Arbuthnott, Swan)
1...CAN (Robillard-Millette)
1...GER (Hobgarski)
1...HUN (Stollar)
1...SUI (Teichmann)

In girls doubles, AO champs and #1 seeded Maidens Miriam Kolodziejova & Marketa Vondrousova have advanced to the quarterfinals.

...(BELATED) LIKE FROM DAY 10 9: The face of joy...

...LIKE FROM DAY 10: Going out with their heads held high...

...INTERESTING FROM DAY 10: Imagine how tennis history would be different if more players held such sentiments. For good, as well as bad, I suppose.

..."Hmmmm..." FROM DAY 10: Current talking Future?

...GRATUITOUS (and maybe slightly inappropriate) SHOT AT USTA FROM DAY 10: So, what, did Roland Garros have a "Bring Your Kid to Work Day" and a little official from the USTA ran off and loosened some screws?

Several people were injured, but apparently no one was seriously injured.

No word yet from the in-construction U.S. Open roof on Ashe.


..."HERE WE GO" FROM DAY 10: Yui Kamiji, begin again...


"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." - Mark Twain

Hmmm, I wonder what he'd say about Kim Kardashian?


...LIKE FROM DAY 10: At least for any "Good Petra" fan. (Maybe "Bad Petra" can be tied to the top of the Eiffel Tower?)


...and, finally, the wheelchair competition will begin soon. Tennis magazine's Top 50 moments list included the birth of WC tennis in 1976:

#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. #17 Sara Errani/ITA
#23 Timea Bacsinszky/SUI vs. Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL
#7 Ana Ivanovic/SRB def. #19 Elina Svitolina/UKR
#13 Lucie Safarova/CZE def. #21 Garbine Muguruza/ESP

#1 Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. #6 Rafael Nadal/ESP
#3 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #7 David Ferrer/ESP
#14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga/FRA def. #5 Kei Nishikori/JPN
#8 Stan Wawrinka/SUI def. #2 Roger Federer/SUI

#1 Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND) vs. #7 Mattek-Sands/Safarova (USA/CZE)
#4 S-W.Hsieh/Pennetta (TPE/ITA) vs. #9 Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE)
#12 Dellacqua/Shvedova (AUS/KAZ) def. #13 Krajicek/Strycova (NED/CZE)
#2 Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) def. Soler-Espinosa/Torro-Flor (ESP/ESP)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #6 Bolelli/Fognini (ITA/ITA)
#3 Dodig/Melo (CRO/BRA) vs. #5 Rojer/Tecau (NED/ROU)

J.Zheng/Kontinen (CHN/FIN) vs. Hradecka/Matkowski (CZE/POL)
Srebotnik/Tecau (SLO/ROU) vs. #2 Mattek-Sands/M.Bryan (USA/USA)

#1 Marketa Vondrousova/CZE vs. Emily Arbuthnott/GBR
Katharina Hobgarski/GER vs. Olesya Pervushina/RUS
#3 Katerina Stewart/USA vs. #14 Anna Blinkova/RUS
#12 Paula Badosa Gibert/ESP vs. #6 Charlotte Robillard-Millette/CAN
#8 Katie Swan/GBR vs. Jil Teichmann/SUI
#13 Mariam Kolodziejova/CZE vs. #4 CiCi Bellis/USA
Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov/ESP vs. Fanni Stollar/HUN
#16 Anna Kalinskaya/RUS vs. Caroline Dolehide/USA

#1 Orlando Luz/BRA vs. Reilly Opelka/USA
#12 Theo Fournerie/FRA vs. #6 Michael Mmoh/USA
Djurabeck Karimov/UZB vs. #13 Tommy Paul/USA
#11 Ly Hoang Nam/VIE vs. Manuel Pena Lopez/ARG
#8 Chung Yunseong/KOR vs. Juan Pablo Ficovich/ARG
#15 Casper Ruud/NOR vs. #4 Corentin Denolly/FRA
Alex Molcan/SVK vs. #10 Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera/CHI
#16 Stefanos Tsitsipas/GRE vs. #2 Taylor Harry Fritz/USA

#1 Kolodziejova/Vondrousova (CZE/CZE) vs. Di Lorenzo/Stefani (USA/BRA)
Teichmann/S.Xu (SUI/CHN) vs. #7 Yadlapalli/W.Zheng (IND/CHN)
x vs. x
x vs. x

x vs. x
#3 Mmoh/Santillan (USA/JPN) vs. Lopez San Martin/Munar (ESP/ESP)
Madaras/Wessels (ROU/GER) vs. #4 Blumberg/Paul (USA/USA)
x vs. x

Bye bye Paris. Till next time... Ps I ?? you

A photo posted by Victoria Azarenka (@vichka35) on

How did I manage to middle it? ?? ??

A photo posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

2015 AO: Venus Williams, USA & Martina Hingis, SUI
2015 RG: Lucie Safarova, CZE

5...Cara Black, ZIM
5...Lisa Raymond, USA
5...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO *
4...Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
3...Sania Mirza, IND
3...Samantha Stosur, AUS
2...Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2...Martina Hingis, SUI
2...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
* - active in RG Mixed draw

2006 Roland Garros QF (c) - Nadal 2-0 - Djokovic ret.
2007 Indian Wells F (h) - Nadal 2-0
2007 Miami QF (h) - Djokovic 2-0
2007 Rome QF (c) - Nadal 2-0
2007 Roland Garros SF (c) - Nadal 3-0
2007 Wimbledon SF (g) - Nadal 1-1 - Djokovic ret.
2007 Montreal SF (h) - Djokovic 2-0
2007 Masters Cup RR (h) - Nadal 2-0
2008 Indian Wells SF (h) - Djokovic 2-0
2008 Hamburg SF (c) - Nadal 2-1
2008 Roland Garros SF (c) - Nadal 3-0
2008 London F (g) - Nadal 2-0 (7-6/7-5)
2008 Cincinnati SF (h) - Djokovic 2-0
2008 Beijing SF (h) - Nadal 2-1
2009 Davis Cup 1st (c) - Nadal 2-1
2009 Monte Carlo F (c) - Nadal 2-1
2009 Rome F (c) - Nadal 2-0
2009 Madrid SF (c) - Nadal 2-1 (3-6/7-6/7-6[11], Djok 3 MP)
2009 Cincinnati SF (h) - Djokovic 2-0
2009 Paris SF (h) - Djokovic 2-0
2009 Masters Cup RR (h) - Djokovic 2-0
2010 US Open F (h) - Nadal 3-1
2010 ATP Finals RR (h) - Nadal 2-0
2011 Indian Wells F (h) - Djokovic 2-1
2011 Miami F (h) - Djokovic 2-1
2011 Madrid F (c) - Djokovic 2-0 (ends Nadal 37-con clay)
2011 Rome F (c) - Djokovic 2-0 (Djokovic 7 con. titles)
2011 Wimbledon F (g) - Djokovic 3-1 (ends Nadal 20-con Wimb.)
2011 US Open F (h) - Djokovic 3-1
2012 Australian Open F (h) - Djokovic 3-2 (GS F record 5:53)
2012 Monte Carlo F (r) - Nadal 2-0 (8 con. M.C. titles)
2012 Rome F (c) - Nadal 2-0
2012 Roland Garros F (c) - Nadal 3-1 (no "NoleSlam")
2013 Monte Carlo F (c) - Djokovic 2-0 (ends Nadal MC streak)
2013 Roland Garros SF (c) - Nadal 3-2 (Nadal 2nd 5-set RG; 9-7 5th)
2013 Montreal SF (h) - Nadal 2-1
2013 US Open F (h) - Nadal 3-1
2013 Beijing F (h) - Djokovic 2-0 (Nadal replaces as #1)
2013 ATP Finals F (h) - Djokovic 2-0 (22 con. wins)
2014 Miami F (h) - Djokovic 2-0 (1:24)
2014 Rome F (c) - Djokovic 2-1
2014 Roland Garros F (c) - Nadal 3-2 (9th RG)
2015 Monte Carlo SF (c) - Djokovic 2-0
2015 Roland Garros QF (c) - Nadal 70-1 at RG, Djokovic 26 con. wins; Nadal 39 con RG wins; 44th meeting (most in Open era)
OVERALL: Nadal 23-20
CLAY: Nadal 13-5
SLAMS: Nadal 9-3

41 - Bjorn Borg, Wimbledon 1976-81
40 - Roger Federer, Wimbledon 2003-08
40 - Roger Federer, US Open 2004-09
39...Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2010-15 (active)
31 - Pete Sampras, Wimbledon 1993-96
31 - Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2005-09

AO: Aniek Van Koot, NED
RG: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
US: Aniek Van Koot, NED
AO: Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
RG: Yui Kamiji, JPN
US: Yui Kamiji, JPN
AO: Jiske Griffioen, NED
AO: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
RG: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
WI: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
US: Griffioen/Van Koot, NED/NED
AO: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
RG: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
WI: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
US: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR
AO: Kamiji/Whiley, JPN/GBR

TOP QUALIFIER: Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #11 Angelique Kerber/GER
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Wang Yafan/CHN d. #15 Richel Hogenkamp/NED 2-6/7-6(7)/8-6 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - Francesca Schiavone/ITA d. #18 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS 6-7(11)/7-5/10-8 (3:49; saved MP; third-longest RG match)
FIRST VICTORY: (Q) Teliana Pereira/BRA (def. WC Ferro/FRA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Caroline Garcia/FRA (lost 1st Rd. to Vekic/CRO)
REVELATION LADIES: The New Australians
NATION OF POOR SOULS: United States (most players in draw w/ 17, but tied for 4th w/ just 4 1st Round winners)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP, Paula Kania/POL, Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL, Teliana Pereira/BRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Virginie Razzano/FRA & Amandine Hesse/FRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: Alize Cornet (4th Rd.)
MADEMOISELLE/MADAM OPPORTUNITY: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI & Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL (play for spot in first slam SF)
IT "??": (Swarmette) Andreea Mitu/ROU (last Romanian standing)
COMEBACK PLAYER: #7 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (1st RG QF since '08 title)
CRASH & BURN: #2 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 2r to Lucic-Baroni/CRO)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #19 Elina Svitolina/UKR (2nd Rd. vs. Putintseva - down 6-1/3-0, then 4-1 in 3rd; won 9-7 deciding set)
JOIE DE VIVRE: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: Hingis/Mirza (SUI/IND), Mattek-Sands/USA, Hradecka/CZE, Srebotnik/SLO

* - a nod to Mark Twain's Old Times on the Mississippi (1876)

...born Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910). American author, lecturer and humorist. Writer of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Twain's writing and large personality made him a public figure and, ultimately, an American icon. A renowned traveler, Twain entertained fans around the world with his opinionated wit.

All for Day 10. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

That Bacsinszky quote is wonderful, and it so completely describes her.

In the category of "What Do I Know?"--wow, AnaIvo. I didn't see this coming. Ana is on a tear, but Lucie will be a challenge. I think they are evenly matched and that it will be a great match (if one of them doesn't get all nervy).

Tue Jun 02, 07:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I know... and I can't figure out if the alternate universe where EVERY tennis player ever thinks the same way would be a better world, a worse one or just one that you'd like to visit once in a while after Bad Petra steals away an afternoon or Monfils wastes a few hours of another. ;)

Tue Jun 02, 08:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Well, Bartoli didn't pratice her French writing either since her retirement! She managed to do three mistakes in 12 words. (I actually had to read it twice to get what she said.)

Tue Jun 02, 08:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...


Didn't you know? French French is different from Canada French.

- An Unnamed Gringo

Tue Jun 02, 09:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Eric - LOL

Wed Jun 03, 12:55:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Now that I think about it, I guess this gringo's name is Randy.


Wed Jun 03, 12:57:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

You know, I don't think Stan's shorts are that bad -- I, myself, have a pair like that. He just needs to pair it with a different shirt. Methinks, polka dots. Purple.

Paris is just "ahead" in its fashion.

Wed Jun 03, 06:02:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Oh, I think most people have a pair of shorts that look like that (or similar) -- I do, too -- but the bigger issue might be whether or not most of those people would wear them in a grand slam on court surrounded by thousands of people. :)

Then again, it's a bit of a signature for his run, isn't it? Sort of like Vika's white shorts, Agassi's denim and Rafa's old cut off sleeves and capri pants, which not everyone liked as much as others, either.

At least it's something to talk about. Or make fun of... which is useful, too. :D

Wed Jun 03, 11:36:00 AM EDT  

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