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Mondays with Bob Greene

 

STARS

(French Open – First Week)

Garbiñe Muguruza beat top-seeded Serena Williams 6-2 6-2

Kristina Mladenovic beat second-seeded Li Na 7-5 3-6 61

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4 5-7 6-2 6-0

Ajla Tomljanovic beat third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 6-4

Ernests Gulbis beat fourth-seeded Roger Federer 6-7 (5) 7-6 (3) 6-2 4-6 6-3

Svetlana Kuznetsova beat fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-7 (3) 6-1 9-7

Eugenie Bouchard beat eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber 6-1 6-2

Martin Klizan beat ninth-seeded Kei Nishikori 7-6 (4) 6-1 6-2

Samantha Stosur beat ninth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 6-4

 

SAYING

“I’m going to go home and work five times as hard to make sure I never lose again.” – Serena Williams, after losing to Garbiñe Muguruza.

“I just couldn’t kind of figure it out.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Ernests Gulbis.

“I think it was the biggest, probably, win of my career.” – Ernests Gulbis.

“I was trying to find my game, trying to find to be aggressive, trying to find anything – and I didn’t. – Stanislas Wawrinka, the Australian Open champion after losing his first-round Roland Garros match.

“Always wanted to play him on clay and see how good he is. He showed me a lesson today.” – Robby Ginepri, after losing to Rafael Nadal 6-0 6-3 6-0.

“I think that tennis is a sport where we should be able to think. This is really truly what I think. It’s physical, it’s mental, there are strategies. Otherwise, you know, it’s just about keeping an eye on the clock.” – Rafael Nadal, complaining that chair umpire Pascal Maria is a stickler for a rule that limits players to 25 seconds before they must serve.

“That’s a surprise for everyone,” – Simona Halep, after it was mentioned that at number four she is the highest seeded player remaining in the women’s singles.

“The performance was great from the start till the end. I came with the exact level of intensity that I was looking for before the start of the match.” – Novak Djokovic, after his easy 6-1 6-4 6-1 fourth-round victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“I really believe in my skills. I believe I can play with the best girls out there.” – Eugenie Bouchard, an 18-year-old Canadian who was still in the running for the Roland Garros women’s singles title when the second week started.

“I’m so happy to be back in the quarterfinals. It’s such a special tournament for me. It’s a big step, but when you get there it will get more difficult. Hopefully I will raise my level.” – Maria Sharapova, after beating Samantha Stosur in a fourth-round match.

“Mentally I have already switched to the grass, to be quite honest. For me, it’s like, ‘OK, clay-court season was fun, but we are moving on.’” – Roger Federer.

“I’ve had ups and downs (since the Australian Open). That’s why I’m saying I am not at the level of (Novak) Djokovic, (Rafael) Nadal, (Roger) Federer, because they have been around for many years and they win everything. I know I’ll have the level. I could defeat them, but it’s different. I need to put the puzzle back together, find solutions, because the pressure is different.” – Stanislas Wawrinka.

“You care. I don’t care. I don’t have to write. … So write whatever you want, whatever you feel. Because for me, the only thing that matters to me is I won today.” – Rafael Nadal, when asked after his first-round match if he or Novak Djokovic was the man to beat at Roland Garros this year.

“After eight times that he has won here, I think he deserves that role.” – Novak Djokovic, when asked if Rafael Nadal was the favorite to win Roland Garros.

“It doesn’t go week by week. I don’t know who’s talking all the time, but Rafa is the favorite, and then Novak, and then the rest. It’s very clear.” – Roger Federer, when asked who should be the favorite to win the men’s singles at Roland Garros.

“You know, my playing memories end at Wimbledon. My last point was the ace on match point. The rest of the hard drive is erased.” – Marion Bartoli, who played three more matches after winning Wimbledon last year and before retiring from tennis.

 

SCENE OF THE FUTURE?

The face of women’s tennis changed dramatically on the Parisian red clay of Roland Garros. In a week like no other in Grand Slam tournament history, four of the top five women in the world rankings were sent off to prepare for their grass-court campaigns, having been ousted from the year’s second major event. Gone were top-ranked Serena Williams, number two Li Na, number three Agnieszka Radwanska and number five Petra Kvitova. Also eliminated before the second Monday of the two-week tournament were eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber and ninth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova.

The first three rounds included the ousters of former French Open champions Serena Williams (2013 and 2002), Li Na (2011), Francesca Schiavone (2009) and Ana Ivanovic (2008), as well as former world number ones Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki.

The new faces going into the second week include 18-year-old Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, 20-year-old Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, 21-year-old Sloan Stephens of the United States and 22-year-old Simona Halep of Romania. The veterans are led by Maria Sharapova, who won Roland Garros two years ago, former number one Jelena Jankovic and 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. But only one will be standing when the red dust settles on Saturday.

The men’s seeds were also thinned in the first eight days of play, just not nearly as much as the women. But missing are Switzerland top two players – Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka, who was seeded third at Roland Garros this year, and 17-time major winner Roger Federer. Also gone was ninth-seeded Ken Nishikori of Japan, who played in Paris despite an injured hip.

With the losses of Wawrinka and Li Na, it was the first time in history that both the men’s and women’s Grand Slam singles championships lost in the first round of the next major. And it was the first time since tennis turned professional in 1968 that the top three seeds in the women’s draw have failed to qualify for the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament.

 

SERENA VS. VENUS KAYOED

This year’s draw could have resulted in the Williams sisters meeting each other in the third round, bringing back memories. In 2002, the two met in the final at Roland Garros, with Serena winding up with the bigger trophy. This year, however, neither reached the third round. “I felt like this was a match that I was most likely going to win,” Venus said. “I’m sure – I don’t know how Serena felt, but I’m sure she feels like that every time she goes on the court. So I think our expectation was to play in the next round.” Instead, it was their conquerors – Garbiñe Muguruza beat Serena, 19-year-old Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia ousted Venus – who met in the third round with Muguruza winning 6-2 6-4. “I think she played really well and she played really smart,” Serena said of Muguruza. Asked about her 2014 campaign so far, Serena said: “My first few months I don’t think have been great at all. I haven’t gotten past the fourth round of a Grand Slam this year. I have a couple words to describe it, but I think that would be really inappropriate so I’m going to leave it at that.”

 

STREAK ENDS

One by one, Roger Federer’s incredible records are coming to an end. His streak of nine consecutive quarterfinals at the French Open was ended by Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, who pounded out a 6-7 (5) 7-6 (3) 6-2 4-6 6-3 victory over the fourth-seeded Swiss. It was Federer’s earliest exit from Roland Garros since he was beaten in the third round by Gustavo Kuerten in 2004. Since then, Federer had reached the quarterfinals in a record 36 consecutive major tournaments, a streak that ended at Wimbledon last year when he was ousted in the second round. The Swiss master also has Grand Slam tournament streaks of 10 consecutive finals and 23 straight semifinals. Even Gulbis was humbled by his victory over the 32-year-old Federer. “I’m sorry I had to win,” Gulbis told the crowd following the match. “I know all of you like Roger.”

 

SAY BYE-BYE

With the top two players, Serena Williams and Li Na, sitting on the sidelines, the road to the Roland Garros women’s singles title appeared to be wide open for the tournament’s number three seed, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. But those earlier upsets proved to be the boost the 21-year-old Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia needed. “After seeing the two first seeds go out, you kind of feel you can do this too,” Tomljanovic said after knocking off Radwanska 6-4 6-4. “I grew up with these girls who are beating them. I went into the stadium for the first time, and she (Radwanska) kind of feels like home there, because she’s been there a lot more than I have. I went out there and inside I really thought I could win. I think that showed and it is why I won.”

 

STUMBLE BY STAN

He is the reigning Australian Open champion, a player who has posted victories over the top two players in the world this year. But the brilliant playmaking that has taken Stanislas Wawrinka to number three in the world was missing when he took to the court for his first-round match at Roland Garros. Two hours and 23 minutes later, Wawrinka had fallen to unheralded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-4 5-7 6-2 6-0. Wawrinka became the highest seeded man to lose in the opening round at Roland Garros since third-seeded Andy Roddick lost to Igor Andreev in 2007. He also was the first Australian Open champion to lose in the first round of the subsequent Roland Garros since Petr Korda in 1998. Before the year’s second Grand Slam tournament began its two-week run, Wawrinka had been tabbed as possibly the first man to win the Australian Open and French Open back-to-back since Jim Courier in 1992. Instead, it was Wawrinka who self-destructed, making 62 unforced errors to just 28 for his opponent. “Now it’s a different picture for my career,” Wawrinka said. “I need to put the puzzle back together, but differently than in the past, because now, after winning a Grand Slam, a Masters 1000, being number 3 in the world, everything is different, and I still didn’t find all the pieces.”

 

SEESAW RESULTS

Li Na has a somewhat strange relationship with Roland Garros. It seems to be all or nothing. The Chinese star showed almost no clay-court prowess until she won the French Open in 2011, her first Grand Slam tournament title. Since then, however, she’s been backsliding in the only major tournament played on clay. She was ousted in the fourth round in 2012 when she was attempting to defend her title, then was upset in the second round last year. This year, Li Na was ousted in the first round by Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 3-6 6-1. “I think doesn’t matter who plays today against me, I always lose the match today, because I don’t think she was put a lot of pressure from me,” Li said. “I think today just I gave it away for the match.” It was a career-best victory for the 21-year-old Mladenovic, whose ground strokes were consistently deep, keeping her opponent pinned behind the baseline. “I just tried to believe in myself and working really hard every day just to achieve and believe where she is and try one day to be up there,” Mladenovic said. “I had to be really calm and take my chances and being mentally strong … it was such a nice feeling to have such a big win here in front of my crowd.”

 

STANDING TOGETHER

The upsets weren’t limited to the singles draw in the first week at Roland Garros. French wildcards Julie Coin and Pauline Parmentier knocked off the defending women’s doubles champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-3 5-7 6-3. In their two previous French Opens, Parmentier and Coin had never gone beyond the second round. Their win over the third-seeded team of Makarova and Vesnina put the French pair into the third round.

 

SINGLES FINALE

Michaël Llodra’s singles career ended at Roland Garros. The Frenchman lost to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-2 7-6 (4) 7-6 (3). The 34-year-old reached the doubles final on the red clay at Paris a year ago with countryman Nicolas Mahut, and is still in this year’s doubles draw. He’s also playing mixed doubles at Roland Garros. But Mahut has announced that this will be his final year on the ATP World Tour, singles or doubles. “It’s not like I’m stopping after Roland Garros,” Llodra said. “I decided to play until the end of the year, so I didn’t think I’d feel a lot in terms of my emotions. But then people saw my emotion on the court, I probably am one of the most Parisian of all the French; I was here when I was five years old. At the beginning, of course, probably not to come and watch tennis, but to make paper airplanes on center court. And then I started as a junior, and then my first senior match. Then an incredible number of matches where it turned around and the tremendous pleasure shared with the crowd and the family.” His first main-draw match at Roland Garros was in 1999 against two-time champion Sergi Bruguera of Spain.

 

STRANGE FLAG

When Victor Estrella Burgos took to the court in his first-round match at Roland Garros, he became the first player from the Dominican Republic in more than a half-center to compete in a Grand Slam tennis tournament – and only the second to do so. The only other Dominican to compete in the main draw of a major was Manuel Morales, who lost in the first round of the 1956 French Open. “This day, I’ll remember. I’m never going to forget,” Estrella Burgos said of this year’s tournament. “When I get into the court I almost want to cry for the first time. There are so many people from the Dominican who come to see me.” In March, Estrella Burgos, who plays mostly on the lower-level Challenger tour, became the first Dominican to break into the top 100 of the ATP rankings. He turned pro in 2002, then stopped playing to work as a coach. After resuming his career, he considered retiring after injuring his right elbow two years ago. His first Grand Slam tournament appearance ended in a 6-1 6-4 6-7 (6) 6-4 loss to Jerzy Janowicz of Poland.

 

SURFACE SWITCH

Stanislas Wawrinka wants to atone for his surprising loss on the red clay of Roland Garros. But he’s seeking his atonement on the grass courts of The Queen’s Club in London. After his brief stint in Paris, Wawrinka accepted a wild-card entry into the Aegon Championships, a grass-court warm-up event for Wimbledon. The Australian Open champion, Wawrinka joins a field in the London tournament that includes Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Grigor Dimitrov and four-time winner Lleyton Hewitt. “I love London,” Wawrinka said. “I love the atmosphere, it is an important tournament with a lot of history, and playing at The Queen’s club gives me the best possible chance to become comfortable on grass.”

 

SHARING A SEAT

Like all tennis professionals, when he’s on the court during a match Novak Djokovic is unrelenting in trying to beat his opponent. But when rain suspended play in his match against Joao Sousa, Djokovic sat down while a ball boy stood over him with an umbrella. Djokovic had the young man join him on the bench, then held the umbrella over them both while the young man held the Serb’s racquet. When play resumed, the two shook hands and Djokovic went to the baseline while his most recent companion returned to ball boy duties.

 

SICK BAY

Kei Nishikori probably shouldn’t have even tried to play Roland Garros this season. After all, he had suffered a hip injury in the Madrid Open final two weeks ago. He underwent treatment in Florida before flying back to Europe for the year’s second Grand Slam tournament. His movement was visibly hampered in his 7-6 (4) 6-1 6-2 first-round loss to Slovak Martin Klizan. “I’m actually happy to finish the match,” Nishikori said. “I was really disappointed that my performance was – I mean, not very bad, but it wasn’t a perfect match for me today. And I didn’t have much practice. So I knew this is going to be happen.” The first Japanese man to be ranked in the top 10 in the world, Nishikori had appeared to be a strong challenger for this year’s Roland Garros title. After all, he won his first clay-court title last month, the Barcelona Open, and reached the Madrid Open final by defeating David Ferrer in the semifinals. In the title match he led Rafael Nadal by a set and a break, 6-2 4-2, before retiring with the injury. It wasn’t the first time injuries have derailed Nishikori’s career. He had right elbow surgery in 2009 and an abdominal injury forced him to skip Roland Garros in 2012. “It’s tough for me, but I guess this is my tennis life, you know,” he said. “I have to take care of my body and injury will come again, for sure. So I have to mentally be ready. I have to do whatever I can do to get healthy.”

 

SOLACE, PERHAPS?

Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki found a way to forget about their quick exits from the French Open. The two players – Williams the current number one and Wozniacki a former number one – flew from Paris to Miami, Florida, USA, where they attended Game 6 of the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference playoffs. The Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 117-92 to return to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year. After the game, Wozniacki posted a photo of her and Williams posing with the Heat’s Greg Oden.

 

SURFING

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com

Prostejov: www.czech-open.cz

Marseille: www.tennisclubmarseille.fr

Halle: www.gerryweber-open.de

London: www.lta.org.uk

Birmingham: http://www.lta.org.uk/

Caltanissetta: www.atpcaltanissetta.com/

 

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

MEN

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)

$145,242 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay

 

WOMEN

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)

$100,000 Open Féminin de Marseille, Marseille, France, clay

 

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

MEN

$968,182 Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, grass

$968,182 Aegon Championships, London, Great Britain, grass

$145,021 Caltanissetta, Italy, clay

 

WOMEN

$644,900 Aegon Classic, Birmingham, Great Britain, grass

 

Ernests Gulbis and Roger Federer

Ernests Gulbis and Roger Federer



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About Admin
Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (http://www.tennishistorybook.com/).

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