Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RG.3- Battered, Bruised and Victorious

Tuesday was a day in which several hoped-for Paris contenders, at the very least, threw their hats into the proverbial ring for this Roland Garros' title scrum...

While injury questions were rampant all over the draw heading into this slam, we never really know the true condition of a players until they actually hit the court. Through the first two days, the likes of Garbine Muguruza (neck) looked none the worse for wear, while Kristina Mladenovic (back) wore her injury like a two ton suit of armor through her wild comeback victory over Jennifer Brady. So much so that it's hard to see her as true contender now... at least not until we see her *again.*

Day 3, though, brought a virtual army of previously limping RG soldiers into full view. By the end of the day, all of note had avoided a costly stumble.

Elina Svitolina (groin) did her part, taking out Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4/6-3. It's the Rome champ's sixth straight win, and eleventh in her last twelve matches, and raises the tour-leading victory total to 32 for the four-time '17 title winner.

With QF and Round of 16 results her last two trips to Paris, Roland Garros seems to good place for the Ukrainian's first great slam run to take place. Although, it should be noted that longtime slam dream-crusher Tsvetana Pironkova (QF '16) awaits Svitolina in the 2nd Round. The Bulgarian "upset" Prague winner Mona Barthel today by a love & 4 score. Elina, you've been warned.

While Svitolina began today's play on Lenglen, two-time Madrid winner Simona Halep (ankle) closed it there after her match with Jana Cepelova was moved from Chatrier later in the afternoon. The Romanian took care of the Slovak in sixty-seven minutes, winning 6-2/6-3 and, at least for a little while, made everyone forget the abject disappointment her injury in the Rome final vs. Svitolina created as far as her chances go for this tournament. Saying she's "80%" healed, Halep's optimism at least shoos away a few dark clouds.

Also making good on their Paris appearances were Daria Kasatkina (ankle), who pushed forward to play RG after *her* injury though she'd been assured she'd definitely be ready to go by Wimbledon. She wasn't spectacular vs. Yanina Wickmayer, but her 7-5/6-4 win does end her three-match slam losing streak (after she'd reached the 3rd Round in four consecutive slam MD debuts from 2015-16, followed by back-to-back 1st Round exits).

Next up for the Russian?

Gulp... Marketa Voundrousova, who's been laying waste to everyone and everything in her path in Paris. The 17-year old Biel winner allowed just seven total games through three RG qualifying matches in her maiden appearances in *any* women's matches at a major. Today, with the presence of well-earned raised and interested eyebrows heading into her *official* slam debut, she allowed *one* against Pastry Amandine Hesse.

The results produce possibly the most anticipated match of the 2nd Round, with two NextGen stars and possible future slam contenders facing off on the big stage for the first time. (Or, as Pam Shriver would call it, a battle of no-names who've never won anything anyone cares about.... and neither are named Serena, so who cares?)

Actually, it's not the first time Kasatkina and Vondrosova have met in Paris...

It probably won't the last, either. If we're lucky.

So, it was a good day, with hope still springing eternal for a few more in the immediate future.

...meanwhile, another "upset" took down the second Top 10 woman to fall at this slam, though it's hard to call it an *true* upset.

#109 Hsieh Su-Wei knocked off #7-seeded Johanna Konta 1-6/7-6(2)/6-4 to grab the first Top 10 win of her career. But, really, who was thinking that the Brit was going to do *anything* of note here? Even Jo was probably gazing longingly at her grass and (especially) upcoming hard court schedule. Hsieh, 31, only has nine MD clay court wins to her credit... Konta has just four. Hsieh is now 2-6 at Roland Garros, while Konta is 0-3.

*Someone* had to win, and it was Hsieh. Shrug.

...three qualifiers put up 1st Round wins on Day 3, Vondrousova and the comeback-minded pair of Alison Van Uytvanck (wrist & ankle surgeries in '16) and Petra Martic (a back injury in '16 kept her out from Wimbledon until this spring, and she hadn't posted a MD slam win since the '13 Wimbledon). Van Uytvanck upset Naomi Osaka, who fell in the 1st Round of a major for the first time after opening her slam career with three 3rd Round results last year and a 2nd Rounder in Melbourne in January.

...a day after Kristina Mladenovic's crazy win over Jennifer Brady, three more Pastries got 1st Round wins today. Alize Cornet ('15 4th Rd.) knocked off Timea Babos, while Caroline Garcia made her first play for maybe *actually* having a chance for a second week run that is now greater than that of Mladenovic due to her own improved health (*her* back injury came a while back...just ask the FFT) and better-looking draw.

Garcia has never advanced past the 2nd Round in Paris, and famously talked a few seasons back about her unwillingness to play on Chatrier because of all the pressure involved with the French crowd. That theory *could* be tested in her next match, as it'll be an all-Pastry affair, with the other side of the combo being a big surprise: wild card Chloe Paquet.

The 23-year old made her slam debut on Tuesday and managed to take out Kristyna Pliskova by a 6-7(4)/6-2/6-2 score, becoming the "Last Wild Card Standing" by, well, being the *only* of eight WC's to actually win her 1st Round match in Paris this year. It was surely the biggest moment of Paquet's career... well, until her *next* match. Overall, the world #257 hasn't exactly managed to rise to the occasion too often in her previous "big" moments, going 1-5 in ITF singles finals (the win came in her first in 2014, while her most recent loss was a month ago in a challenger in Pula) and 1-4 in doubles (her win came this January).

...in other "comeback" news, Aga Radwanska returned from a brief injury layoff to hand Fiona Ferro a 6-1/6-1 defeat, while Genie Bouchard (ankle) started slowly but pulled ahead to defeat Risa Ozaki 2-6/6-3/6-2. Still on her way back from offseason wrist surgery, Madison Keys notched her first win of the clay season with a 6-3/6-2 win over Strasbourg semifinalist Ash Barty.

With the three-day run of 1st Round matches complete, some early-event storylines regarding the WTA's national contingents have become clear. The return of the Bannerette depth remains evident, even in the slam in recent years where success has been hard to come by (and without the likes of Serena, and even Sloane, in the draw), as there are more U.S. women (8) in the 2nd Round than from any other nation. With the Hordette NextGen finally providing another wave of talent, Russia comes in with six, as does France after Chloe Paquet became the only of eight wild cards given out for the women's MD to actually manage to advance to the 2nd Round with her win over Kristyna Pliskova, as the FFT narrowly avoided some minors shots being fired across the bow about how at least *one* of those free passes could have been used a tad more wisely.

In all, seven of the twelve women who made it through qualifying also made it through the 1st Round. And even one player who lost in her Q-round attempt, but got in as a lucky loser, did, too.

Of course, there's also the *other* side. No nation managed to go winless with multiple players in the draw at this Roland Garros, but Japan came mighty close. Japanese women were 1-5 in the 1st Round, with a large contingent in the draw nonetheless leaving players named Osaka, Doi, Hibino and, to a less surprising degree, Ozaki and Kato without victories. Kurumi Nara was the only player from Japan to win, and she needed to stage a comeback to do it after 15-year old U.S. wild card Amanda Anisimova served for the match in the 2nd set. But the absence of a big "0" on the nation's record keeps Japan from getting the "Nation of Poor Souls" for this slam. No, that has to go to Germany.

2-5 in the 1st Round, the Germans suffered far bigger losses. #1 Angelique Kerber became the first top seeded woman to ever fall in the 1st Round in Paris, and the first in any major in sixteen years. Julia Goerges came in as a second week dark horse, Mona Barthel won a tour title in Prague a few weeks ago, Andrea Petkovic's results had looked a little better in recent weeks, and Annika Beck reached the 3rd Round in Paris the last two years. But none of them escaped the 1st Round. Who did? Tatjana Maria and Carina Witthoeft, so the potential for threats of lawsuits (good thing Tatjana wasn't on the other side of the net vs. Kiki yesterday) *and* Maria Sharapova's sometimes near-doppelganger survive.

As far as the "Upset Queens" and "Revelation Ladies" winners for RG, the contenders are becoming clear. The Belgian Waffles will surely grab one of the two honors, with three of four women in the MD advancing, including two via upsets -- Elise Mertens def. Gavrilova, and Alison Van Uytvanck over Osaka -- and another with a win by Kirsten Flipkens. Other highlighted results (so far) in the mix:

France: Oceane Dodin's win over Camila Giorgi, Alize Cornet's over Timea Babos, and Paquet late Day 3 upset of Kr.Pliskova are surely enough to garner the Pastries a nomination (at least).
South America: rising Brazilian Beatriz Haddad lost, but Veronica Cepede Royg (PAR) upset Lucie Safarova, while Mariana Duque (COL) advanced past Irina-Camelia Begu. If both win their 2nd Round matches, we get a very rare all-South American women's match to reach the Round of 16 in Paris.
Africa/Middle East: Turkey's Cagla Buyukakcay followed up her historic 1st Round win in Paris last year with another (def. Lucic-Baroni), and has another chance to become the first Turk to reach a slam 3rd Round. Lucky Loser Ons Jabeur (TUN), a former RG girls champ, is the first Arab woman to record a MD win in a major since 2008.

8 - USA (Bellis, Brengle, Keys, Lepchenko, Mattek-Sands, Rogers, Townsend, V.Williams)
6 - FRA (Cornet, Dodin, Garcia, Mladenovic, Paquet, Parmentier)
6 - RUS (Alexandrova, Kasatkina, Kuznetsova, Makarova, Pavlyuchenkova, Vesnina)
4 - CZE (Kvitova, Ka.Pliskova, Strycova, Vondrousova)
3 - BEL (Flipkens, Mertens, Van Uytvanck)
2-0 - CAN (Abanda/Bouchard)
2-0 - LAT (Ostapenko/Sevastova)
2-0 - POL (Linette/A.Radwanska)

...LIKE ON DAY 3: We're (maybe) never getting rid of Venus easily...


...LIKE ON DAY 3: The Many Hall of Fame Coaches (Past and Present) of Novak Djokovic


...DELAYED DAY 2 LIKE ON DAY 3: Elena GOT A WIN! (Shhhhh... say day it *too* loudly.)

...LIKE ON DAY 3: Another welcome sight...


...THE CONTINUED DE-EVOLUTION OF "THE NEXT ONE" (circa 2014) ON DAY 3: Seriously? I mean, seriously? First time she's ever not had a comment about *anything*, if I'm not mistaken. So I guess you can read into it what you will.

Hmmm, maybe Casey Dellacqua wasn't one of all those players who made a point to "support" Genie a few weeks ago in Madrid.

But to give some measure of benefit of the doubt (not that she's really earned it or would give it to anyone else)...

...and, finally, through one round, Colt13's red clay prediction theory is looking good. Ten of the formula's twelve possible RG champions are still alive...

Suarez Navarro

2012 ROU (1-5 in 1st Rd.; Cadantu double-bageled)
2013 CZE (2-8 in 1st Rd.)
2014 CHN (0-4 in 1st; Sh.Zhang "1st Loss" & #2 Li, AO champ)
2015 USA (4-13 in 1st Rd.; most players in draw)
2016 ITA (Quartet 0-3 in 1st Rd.; Pennetta retired)
2017 GER (2-5 1st Rd.; #1 Kerber out)

2008 Mathilde Johansson/FRA & Olivia Sanchez/FRA (2nd Rd.)
2009 Olivia Rogowska/AUS (2nd Rd.)
2010 Jarmila Groth (Gajdosova/Wolfe)/AUS (4th Rd.)
2011 I.Bremond/FRA, C.Garcia/FRA & P.Parmentier/FRA (2nd Rd.)
2012 C.Feuerstein/FRA, M.Oudin/USA & I.Pavlovic/FRA (2nd Rd.)
2013 Virginie Razzano/FRA (3rd Rd.)
2014 Pauline Parmentier/FRA (4th Rd.)
2015 Virginie Razzano/FRA & Amandine Hesse/FRA (2nd Rd.)
2016 M.Georges/FRA, V.Razzano/FRA & T.Townsend/USA (2nd Rd.)
2017 Chloe Paquet/FRA (in 2nd Rd.)

TOP QUALIFIER: Marketa Vondrousova/CZE
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Quirine Lemoine/NED def. Arantxa Rus/NED 2-6/7-6(3)/6-3 (down 6-2/5-3, saved 2 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): xx
FIRST VICTORY: #15 Petra Kvitova/CZE (def. Boserup/USA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Roberta Vinci/ITA (1st Rd.-lost to Puig/PUR)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Germany (2-5 in 1st Round; Kerber first #1 out so early)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: Abanda, Errani, Hogenkamp, Martic, Mattek-Sands, Van Uytvanck, Vondrousova (LL win: Jabeur)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Chloe Paquet/FRA (in 2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: 1st Rd. wins: Cornet, Dodin, Garcia, Mladenovic, Paquet, Parmentier
IT "??": xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Nominees: Kvitova, Errani, Martic
CRASH & BURN: #1 Angelique Kerber/GER (first #1-ranked woman to lost RG 1st Rd.; first at any slam since '01)
ZOMBIE QUEEN (TBA at QF): Nominees: Mladenovic (1st Rd.- down 3-0 in 3rd to Brady); Jabeur (lucky loser, in 2nd Rd.)
Légion de Lenglen HONOREE: x
LA PETIT TAUREAU TROPHY: TBA June 1 (Justine Henin Day)

Artist: Paul Thurlby

All for Day 3. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

When Pironkova--who actually seemed to have retired from her champion-killing career--suddenly renews it on clay: well, that's scary. She is forever the BWOM.

Tue May 30, 05:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Konta just needs more matches on clay. Showed flashes, but also had some bad patches.

Stat of the Day-41- Number of years since a woman from Great Britain has won the French Open.

That would be 1976 winner Sue Barker, who would have fit into today's WTA just fine. You see, Barker did not go back to back, mainly because she didn't play the French in 1977, similar our times now, where we possibly may have a 5 year streak of at least one slam without a defending champion. Bartoli(13W), Li(14AO) and Pennetta(15USO) are already official. Next month, S.Williams(16W) does, and probably(17AO) happens too.

Barker was one of only 3 Brits in the field in 1976, no Wade, but Glynis Coles and Michelle Tyler were the others. Unfortunately, in this 64 player field, all 3 ended up in the same section, with Tyler losing to Marsikova and Coles losing to Simionescu. As fate would have it, Barker then beat both on the way to the SF, then finished up by beating the 1978 champ Ruzici, then Renata Tomanova from Czechoslovakia to win the title.

A short detour about Mariana Simionescu. The Brits should probably send her Christmas cards every year as she not only went down to Barker in 76, but Wade at Wimbledon in 1977. The 1974 Jr Girls runner up to Mima Jausovec at Wimbledon, she had a somewhat nondescript career, but was also known for being the longtime girlfriend, then wife of Bjorn Borg.

Since Barker, the three longest runs came as the field were changing. In a 64 player fiels, Sue Mappin reached the 3rd rd, when the field expanded to 96, Virginia Wade reached the 4th.

In 1983, the field expanded to 128 for the first time. And unseeded Jo Durie became Durie, the American Slayer. Started off with Candy Reynolds, then Alycia Moulton. Then she met her first seed in #5 Pam Shriver, then followed that up by beating #12 Kathy Rinaldi. Next came #4 Tracy Austin. Unfortunately for Durie, the two Americans left(Jaeger/Evert) were on the other side of the draw. So her run was stopped at the SF, by Mima Jausovec.

Tue May 30, 07:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Jo will get those extra matches. Next spring. :)

(As with most of her career, it'll just take time to improve... she's already made initial progress.)

If Sharapova can go from a "cow on ice" to a RG champion, everyone should have hope.

Barker, Ruzici, Wade, Shriver, Austin, Rinaldi... we still see so many of the players from that era. Makes you wonder which of today's stars and "everyday" players will stick around the sport for decades after they stop playing.

Tue May 30, 08:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

And if the Pironkova is stirring, does that mean that The R-... no, the name can't be spoken.

Tue May 30, 08:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Is the Vania/Shvedova partnership over again? Or is someone injured? I remember reading an article recently saying that they were going to partner up again but they're not together in the draw at RG.

Wed May 31, 09:48:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

King has some sort of injury (I can't remember off the top of my head what it was -- foot or ankle), so hopefully they'll be back together soon. Slava won't likely be w/ Sania much longer.

Vania is currently living the "exciting life of rehab."

Wed May 31, 09:56:00 AM EDT  
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