Sunday, May 22, 2016

RG.1- Oh, Petra. Oh, Paris.

No slam would be complete without Petra Kvitova taking a commanding lead and then soon afterward teetering on the edge of oblivion. We only had to wait a few hours to be treated to the ritual at this year's Roland Garros.

Make no mistake, nothing was going to stop Petra from being Petra... and all the good AND bad that such a thing entails.

While the rain threatened to wipe out even the abbreviated Day 1 schedule in Paris on Sunday, the Weather Gods relented long enough to at least allow the first wave of matches scheduled today to be completed as four hours of tennis were followed by a disheartening period of frustration, only to replaced by jubilation... with more disappointment waiting just around the corner.

You know, sort of how Kvitova's existence at 2016's second slam seems surely fated to play out.

Like the weather, the Czech was good in the early going. She jumped on Montenegrin Danka Kovinic from the start on Chatrier Court, winning the 1st set with ease and going up an early break in the 2nd. She led 6-2/3-0 and seemed on her way to becoming the first woman to post a main draw match victory at this slam.

But this is Petra. So, ummm, no.

Resembling a passing dark cloud, Kvitova once more brought doom and gloom to the court for all the Petra Pals. Kovinic secured a break to take a 5-4 lead in the 2nd, only to see Kvitova take a love/40 lead on her opponent's serve a game later. But the three break points were squandered as four straight Kvitova errors brought Kovinic to set point. A forehand lob winner grabbed a 6-4 set and knotted the match. At 2-2 in the 3rd, Kvitova double-faulted and went down break point. She managed to hold for 3-2... but she wasn't finished.

In game #9, at 4-4, the Czech double-faulted three times and helped Kovinic gain the break and have the opportunity to serve out the match vs. the #10 seed, a two-time slam winner, former RG semifinalist, all-around good egg... and the most frustrating player on the Most Interesting Tour in the World.

But Kovinic is still feeling her way through big moments like these (see April's Istanbul final), and after fighting off a BP and getting to within two points of victory, the 21-year old found herself with a short ball at the net at deuce. But rather than put away what should have been a clean angled winner, she pushed a weak shot down the middle of the court right into Kvitova's strike zone. The Czech fired a winner to get another BP chance, which she converted to get back on serve at 5-5.

Just as the weather cleared up late in the day, so did Kvitova's funk. After holding at love, Kvitova shifted the pressure to survive back to her less experienced foe. After being two points from the 2nd Round, Kovinic had to hold serve to avoid having her '16 Roland Garros ended before the first Monday. Kvitova's running forehand winner down the line gave her a match point, and Kovinic's errors handed her a 6-2/4-6/7-5 victory escape rite of Petra grand slam passage.

"I played a lot of three-set matches, but it's not my plan when I'm stepping on the court, but if I have to, I really have to. I think that from the experience, I believe that I still can win it. Even she's serving for the match or something like that. It's really difficult in close situations, but I still am trying to trust myself," Kvitova said with a smile.

So at least there's that.

Hsieh Su-Wei (def. Lara Arruabarrena) is up next in the 2nd Round. But just like the predominant weather forecast for Paris this week, don't expect blue skies and fluffy clouds for Kvitova, if this match tells us anything. Of course, considering who we're talking about, maybe this match actually tells us nothing. Or maybe it's everything.

(Throws up hands!)

Either way, for your own safely, for however long Kvitova is with us at this Roland Garros, make sure to bring an umbrella, hunker down and hope for a moment during her matches where you'll be able to lift your chin up without worrying about getting an unexpected rain drop in your eye.

Literally, and figuratively.

Oh, Petra.

...before the weather had its "moment," there were a few "firsts" that were taken care of on Day 1.

#24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova notched the First Victory of the tournament, taking out 19-year old qualifier (the youngest to play her way into the MD) Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-2/6-0; while the Spaniard's fellow qualifier Viktoriya Golubic became the first "of her kind" to put up a 1st Round win in Paris, taking out Alison Riske 6-2/1-6/6-2.

But, really, other than Kvitova's escape, the weather was the "star attraction" on Sunday. After it had appeared as if there would be little tennis played, the first wave of matches WERE started and finished on schedule through the opening four hours of the day. But then the expected suspensions finally started to arrive, and soon NO tennis was being played at Roland Garros.

The resumption of play was pushed back to no later than 4:30, then 5:30. Things finally got underway again about two and a half hours after they'd left off.

As it was, the players in the four matches that had been suspended returned and weren't forced to be extended into a second day for a single match. Well, check that... only '15 RG finalist Lucie Safarova and Vitalia Diatchenko (the returned "Serena Williams' U.S. Open 1st Round Victim") were able to finish their match. And because of that now the Russian is "Safarova's Roland Garros 1st Round Victim."

Of course, Safarova is due some good luck.

She had to deal with a bacterial infection that required hospitalization and was followed by a diagnosis of reactive arthritis last year, got off to a late, then 0-5, start in '16 before winning a title in Prague, then a few weeks ago came down with a case of food poisoning. She's in Paris without coach Rob Steckley, who stayed home to deal with family issues.

But all that went out the window today, as she channeled her 2015 RG self vs. Diatchenko. She won the 1st set at love and led in the 2nd when the rains came. Back out on the court late in the afternoon, she cleanly took care of the Russian, sending her out 6-0/6-2. She'll face Golubic in the 2nd Round.

Others weren't so fortunate. Nicole Gibbs/Heather Watson, Cagla Buyukakcay/Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Svetlana Kuznetsova/Yaroslava Shvedova will have to come back for a second try on Monday.

Istanbul champ and RG qualifier Buyukakcay still managed to make her slam MD debut. She's the first Turkish woman to play a 1st Round singles match in a major. In my RG preview I mistakenly had thought that the previous all-time best Turkish player, Ipek Senoglu, had played in a slam MD in the 2000's. She had, but only in doubles. Buyukakcay, perhaps feeling the pressure of the stage and such a moment, failed to convert four set points in the 2nd before the rain, but once play resumed she locked away a tie-break to send things to a deciding 3rd set. She trails Sasnovich 2-1.

Fellow qualifier Ipek Soylu will soon become the SECOND woman from Turkey to play a slam MD singles match.

Meanwhile, Gibbs leads Watson 2-1 in the 3rd, while Kuznetsova, like Kvitova, is playing one of THOSE matches. She dropped the 1st set 6-4 to Kazakh (and former Hordette) Yaroslava Shvedova, only go up 3-0 before the rain. She took the 2nd set 6-1 and led 3-1 in the 3rd before play was suspended for the day.

Who knows what will happen in this match on Monday now. additional Week 20 ITF action that wasn't included in the regular recap, Bulgaria's Isabella Shinikova grabbed her circuit-leading fifth 2016 challenger title with a win over Slovenian Dalili Jakupovic in the $25K in Caserta. The 24-year old, who broke into the Top 200 for the first time this month, will likely be seen more often in tour-level draws soon (she made her WTA MD debut this spring in Katowice, losing to Alize Cornet 2-6/7-6(5)/3-6). She's gone 14-2 in ITF finals since the start of last season, quite an improvement over the 2-9 final record that marked the start of her career.

The 2015 16-and-under Rising Stars winner in Singapore, India's now 17-year old Pranjala Yadlapalli, failed to win a first professional title in the $10K challenger in Sharm El Sheikh, but she reached the singles semifinals, as well as the doubles final (with Thai player Tamachan Momkoonthud, who has serious "favorite name" potential). the GA Trofeo Bonfiglio junior event in Milan, 16-year old Hordette Oleysa Pervushina defeated Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan 6-4/6-0 to take the girls title. The #14-ranked girl, Pervushina is 10-0 on the ITF circuit this season, with two $10K challenger titles. She's won fifteen straight in challenger events, having also claimed her last '15 pro tournament in November, as well. the NCAA Championships, the women's team semifinals for Monday are set. #1-seeded California will face #12 Oklahoma State, while defending champion #6 Vanderbilt goes up against #15 Stanford.

...meanwhile, it's well past high time someone gave the great, trendsetting, WAY ahead of her time Suzanne Lenglen a daily nod during Roland Garros, so I'll be doing it here. Beginning today.

To start off, here's a nice write-up on Lenglen from the Tennis Fixation blog from a few years ago.

...LIKE THE VERY BEST THING FROM DAY 1: The ongoing discussion on Roland Garros Radio between Courtney Nguyen and Gigi Salmon, sometimes between coverage of points and sometimes in replacement of, that started out as a debate on the culinary merits of chicken & waffles but eventually became an in-depth deconstruction of what constitutes and are the differences between "cookies," "biscuits," "shortbread," "dinner rolls" and "crackers" in the U.S. and the U.K. (and elsewhere).

I smell a entirely new tennis/food/language mash-up of a podcast in the future!

...DAYDREAM FROM DAY 1: The possibility of "military maneuvers" should Genie's Army ever meet up with Sori's Army on the battlefield.

...LIKE FROM DAY 1: Amelie proving that sometimes it's just about the coaching, and that moments don't last forever.

Of course, NOW she's free to take a fellow Pastry more fully under her wing. Kiki...? Caroline...? Someone please step up.

...LIKE FROM DAY 1: Chakvetadze sightings!

...LIKE FROM DAY 1: Madison Keys channeling her inner Sharapovian Instagrammer:

They don't love you like I love you #bonjourparis

A photo posted by Madison Keys (@madisonkeys) on

...and, finally, it's time to announce an addition to the Backspin Awards lineup for Roland Garros. A certain favorite around here will be having her (most recent) big day soon.

So with Justine Henin Day (her birthday) coming up on June 1st, I'll not only once again be converting many of the usual Backspin logos and such to Justine-related images on that day but I'll also be awarding a "La Petit Taureau Trophy" to the player on Day 11 who best exemplifies the grit, fight and clay court feel (and maybe even "other" things, who knows -- remember "the wave" vs. Serena?) that the diminutive Belgian did while winning four titles in Paris over a five-year stretch from 2003-07.

So, to be continued...


A video posted by Daria Gavrilova (@daria_gav) on

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)
2013 Sara Errani/ITA (def. Rus/NED)
2014 Aga Radwanska/POL (def. Sh.Zhang/CHN)
2015 Teliana Pereira/BRA (def. Ferro/FRA)
2016 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS (def. Sorribes Tormo/ESP)

Sue Barker = 1974 Jr.; 1976 Women's
Jennifer Capriati = 1989 Jr.; 2001 Women's
Justine Henin = 1997 Jr.; 2003, '05-'07 Women's
Mima Jausovec = 1973 Jr.; 1977 Women's
Hana Mandlikova = 1978 Jr.; 1981 Women's
[others results of note]
Renata Tomanova - 1972 Jr. Champ; 1976 Women's RU
Natasha Zvereva - 1987 Jr. Champ; 1988 Women's RU
Martina Hingis - 1993-94 Jr. Champ; 1997,99 Women's RU
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 2001 Jr. RU; 2009 Women's Champ
Simona Halep - 2008 Jr. Champ; 2014 Women's RU

*FRENCH WOMEN IN RG ROUND OF 16 - since 1997*
1997 Mary Pierce
1998 Sandrine Testud
1999 Julie Halard-Decugis
2000 Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce
2001 Sandrine Testud
2002 Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce
2003 Amelie Mauresmo
2004 Amelie Mauresmo
2005 Mary Pierce
2006 Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Marion Bartoli
2008 -
2009 Virginie Razzano, Aravane Rezai
2010 -
2011 Marion Bartoli
2012 -
2013 -
2014 Pauline Parmentier
2015 Alize Cornet

TOP QUALIFIER: Viktoriya Golubic/SUI
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Lucie Hradecka/CZE d. Grace Min/USA 6-7(4)/6-1/11-9 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST VICTORY: #24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS (def. Sorribes Tormo/ESP
LAST PASTRY STANDING: Day 1 wins: none
IT "??": xx
ZOMBIE QUEEN (TBA at QF): Nominee: #10 Kvitova (1st Rd.-Kovinic served for match at 5-4, two pts. from win)

Artist: Paul Thurlby (2013)

All for Day 1. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

chakvetadze looks great! i didn't even recognize her!

Sun May 22, 07:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

So Muguruza wins the 2014 Williams invitational. She and Kvitova have already had their Kerber moments, and Muguruza probably has to do it at the French this year. Why? Forget winning it, but there hasn't been a non Williams that has reached the Wimbledon final in back to back years since Davenport in 1999-2000.

Schmiedlova showed flashes. I see her pulling a Jankovic and righting the ship. Similarity is that Jankovic's(10 L) ranking went from 23-38, with losses to 2 top 20 and 3 top 50. Schmeidlova(12 L) went from 29-38 with losses to 2 top 20(Muguruza twice) and 4 top 50.

Mon May 23, 11:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Even with the loss, this was at least the first time in her fourteen WTA matches this season (and only second of 17 w/ FC) in which AKS actually won the 1st set of a match.

Low bar, but still.

Mon May 23, 11:34:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Have you thought of why they have bad weather in Paris? No - well Miss Sunshine is missing - that's why :)

Mon May 23, 03:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


Mon May 23, 05:38:00 PM EDT  

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