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Tenaciously Tennis


Soderling Survives in Three; Pironkova Loses

It was an iffy day for the French Open finalist Robin Soderling and the Wimbledon semifinals Tsvetana Pironkova. While the former needed three sets to win, the later failed to advance.

In Soderling’s case, the 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2 relatively rough win at the SkiStar Swedish Open is understandable. He’s been playing at such a high level these past few weeks. Losing a tie-break isn’t bad form by any standards, it just shows that his opponent, the wild card Andreas Vinciguerra, played well on a big point to close out the set. There’s also the possibility that Soderling was nervous before a home crowd. Whatever the reason, I don’t doubt that Soderling will steamroll in the next few rounds to live up to his high standards and go far in the tournament.

Pironkova, on the other hand, shouldn’t have lost to Jill Craybas of the United States in such a lopsided defeat. After crusing 6-2 in the first set, she lost the next two, 6-2, 6-2, to the veteran. Wow, that’s a lot of “2’s.” Anyway, this isn’t what I expected from her. She needs to focus and bring back the game that allowed her to handily dispatch Venus Williams in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. I’ll be tracking her progress over the US Open Series closely. Hopefully, she doesn’t fail to meet (and exceed) expectations.

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Henin and Nadal Begin with a Bang

Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal, my two picks to win the event, began their French Open campaigns with strong showings. Henin beat Tsvetana Pironkova (try saying that ten times fast), 6-4, 6-3, while Nadal took out Gianni Mina, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. There easy wins portray two players confident on the red dirt, and it will be interesting to see how these two stories develop over the next two weeks.

And, yes, they will both last for all of the two weeks. Henin, despite winning a title in Stuttgart, did not come back to the WTA tour after her retirement simply to win a title in Stuttgart. She’s hungry for much, much more. And while her draw is far from easy (one could make a strong case that it’s the worst in the draw with potential meetings against Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, and Serena Williams before the finals), she knows how to succeed at Roland Garros. Nadal no doubt feels quite the same. He needs to prove that not only is he back in the swing of things, he can swing his way to another Grand Slam title. There’s no reason why these dreams cannot become a reality soon enough.

Besides these two, the Americans were in action today, with wins posted by Andy Roddick in a five-set thriller, Robby Ginepri, who upset compatriot Sam Querrey, veteran Jill Craybas, and Betthanie Mattek-Sands, the winner over another American, Vania King.

While it will be difficult for any of them to make a real run for the title, it’s nice to see each fighting through themselves and making the effort to win on the surface on which Americans are notoriously poor players. Who knows what can happen, really.

Other matches of note: Sharapova won in straight sets and Kimiko Date Krumm (one of, if not, the tournament’s oldest player at age 39) took out last year’s finalist, Dinara Safina in the biggest upset so far.

What a day! And the tournament has only just begun.


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