Tenaciously Tennis

Australian Open 2011 Predictions: ATP Tour

Note: Please see my most recent predictions for the ATP tour’s 2011 Australian Open here.

With just two days until the Australian Open begins, it’s time to predict the finalists with a bracket-by-bracket breakdown. Will a recently ailing Rafael Nadal overcome any physical woes to take his fourth straight major title? Maybe Roger Federer feels the need to get to his first Grand Slam final since his win Down Under last year. Then, there’s the rest of the tour aching for a title. Here goes the potential results of the year’s Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal’s Section:

As the top seed and winner of the 2008 Australian Open, Nadal has proven he can take the title once more, especially with the win at the US Open against Djokovic in September. Nadal has a relatively easy draw as his first match against a seeded player pits him against compatriot Feliciano Lopez, a man he owns in their career head-to-head. That is, if Lopez, who lost to Nadal in straight sets in the fourth round of the US Open, can even make it that far. He’s lost an astounding eight-of-ten matches, since losing to Nadal. Although the seventh-seeded David Ferrer looks formidable with a win over David Nalbandian in the Auckland finals, Nadal hasn’t lost to him since 2007.

The only foreseeable obstacle standing in the number one’s way, therefore, is Nadal’s own health. He lost in a lopsided affair to Nikolai Davydenko in the Doha semifinals, but came back to win the doubles title.

Ones to Watch: John Isner, who helped the United States win the Hopman Cup, could put together some wins to get to the fourth round. He’ll potentially meet Marin Cilic, last year’s semifinalist along the way. The tenth-seeded Youzhny also lurks in the bottom half. Lleyton Hewitt, who made it to the fourth round last year, also appears in the bottom half, but faces Nalbandian first.

Bottom Line: Nadal has a ticket to the quarterfinals.

Robin Soderling’s Section:

Fresh off a title, Soderling is a dangerous fourth-seed. Having never made it past the second round, there may be some doubts. That, however, should change with a pretty comfortable draw until he meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a possible fourth round match.

At the bottom of the section, Murray, last year’s finalist cannot be discounted. He won his last three matches at the Hopman Cup. He’ll be in the fourth round, where he might meet a number of solid-looking players.

Ones to Watch: Besides Tsonga, things look clear for Soderling at the top of this section. Murray’s half, however, seems stronger with 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis and the 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro back after a wrist injury both present. Jurgen Melzer, seeded eleventh, may also put up a strong effort as his semifinal appearance at last year’s French Open and subsequent fourth round finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open illustrated.

Bottom Line: Soderling and Murray should get to the quarterfinals. There, it’s tough to say who will win. Murray edges Soderling with a recent victory at Barclays in their 3-2 career head-to-head. They’ve never played at a major, however, so endurance will also play heavily into the match. In that case, I see Murray advancing to join Nadal.

Novak Djokovic’s Section:

Things get tougher here with a slew of talented players. Djokovic, however, shines through, having won his last five matches between the Hopman Cup and the Davis Cup at the end of last year. His trip to the US Open final against Nadal also proves relevant along with his lone major title at the Australian Open in 2008. His biggest challenges come against Sydney finalist and compatriot Viktor Troicki in the fourth round. Djokovic, however, probably won’t have a problem. He’s defeated Troicki six straight matches in their seven match head-to-head.

Ones to Watch: For sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, a cast of characters could prevent him from getting far in the draw, such as the American Ryan Harrison, the resurgent Richard Gasquet and Kei Nishikori, who now has Brad Gilbert on his team. Nikolai Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco also loom in potential fourth-round matches.

Bottom Line: Djokovic looks like a clear favorite into the fourth round. For Berdych, that’s not the case at all. I’ll go with Davydenko defeating Verdasco as he boasts a 7-1 head-to-head against the ninth-seed.

Roger Federer’s Section:

Federer, like Nadal, won’t have it too hard to get into the second week of the Sunny Slam. He’ll need to beat a number of Americans to do it, but that shouldn’t pose any threat. He owns Andy Roddick (21-2), Sam Querrey (2-0), and Mardy Fish (6-1) in their respective head-to-heads.

Ones to Watch: Gael Monfils and Chennai winner Stanislas Wawrinka also appear in Federer’s section.

Bottom Line: This is Federer’s chance to advance to the quarterfinals without dropping a set. Can Andy Roddick fight through, too?

In the Quarterfinals:

With these predictions, we’ll see Nadal facing Ferrer; Soderling against Murray; Davydenko against Djokovic; and Federer versus Roddick.

In the Semifinals:

Here, I see Nadal against Murray and Federer versus Djokovic to emerge as the final four.


Azarenka’s Collapse – What It Means for Tennis

With a fiery personality, a big game, and a desire to win, Victoria Azarenka looked poised to make a deep run at the US Open, if not win it all together. The 10th-seeded Azarenka, however, fell to an opponent other than Gisela Dulko in the major’s second round. She, instead, succumbed to a phantom culprit: the combination of energy-sapping heat, humidity, and — quite probably– a physically debilitating tennis schedule.

Now, the debate about tennis’ long season — from January to November — has been raging for a while now. More recently, John McEnroe expressed some controversial concerns that the women in particular “should be required to be in less events,” garnering criticism from many.

While I believe the comments were demeaning, there’s truth to what he’s saying. I think, however, that it isn’t just the women John McEnroe should have targeted. The men, too, — think (last year’s) Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to name a few — are suffering. Injury shouldn’t be so prevalent on tour, and it certainly shouldn’t get to the point where promising young players collapse on court.

Instead, the season’s schedule needs some trimming. Cut down the required number of events, allow professional play to end sooner, and do what it takes for health and player safety — not fan enjoyment and corporate satisfaction — to reign the WTA and ATP tours. By consolidating the schedule, creating higher energy men and women combined events, and weeding out tournaments that aren’t garnering fan support, everyone benefits.

A lot is being done in the tennis world to solve these problems, I’m not saying there aren’t steps being taken. In fact, in January, Novak Djokovic, Nadal, and Roger Federer stated the desire to curb the Davis Cup, cutting down some weeks from the schedule in the process. Maybe this isn’t the best solution — Davis Cup is a heavily grounded tradition in tennis. The problem is: Since then the topic has been somewhat of an elephant in the room. It shouldn’t take such an extreme case, such as Azarenka’s dramatic retirement, to get the conversation really going with purpose.

Let’s hope the remainder of the US Open — and the rest of the season — survives without this scary manifestation of a harsh (and physically daunting) reality that professional tennis players of both sexes sadly face.

Berdych Beats Federer; Williams Sisters Lose in Doubles

In two of the biggest upsets at an already extraordinary Wimbledon, Roger Federer lost to Tomas Berdych, while Serena and Venus Williams succumbed in doubles to Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina. The quarterfinals were intense in score and emotion, and the doubles loss was equally dramatic. Here are highlights of day nine at Wimbledon.

1. Roger Federer versus Tomas Berdych

He took Federer to five sets over a year ago at the Australian Open, beat him in Miami, and finally did it. Yes, that’s correct, Berdych of the Czech Republic beat the reigning champion, and six time Wimbledon winner, in four sets to advance to his second straight Grand Slam semifinal. At the French Open, Berdych lost to Rafael Nadal in the semis.

But the question is: what happened to Federer? This is his second straight quarterfinal showing, something unheard of from him in the last five years. In his press conferences, he wasn’t very kind to his opponents skill, citing nagging injuries, and sounding bitter the whole way through. Sure, it’s understandable. But from Federer? I, for one, expect more.

Now, do I think this is the end of Federer, as surely most of the commentators are chattering about? No. In fact, I say he gets to at least the semis of the US Open, unless he meets Berdych on the way there. Credit needs to be given to the Czech giant, he played the match of his life, winning over Federer quite easily, despite a second set blip. In the third set? He won 6-1. That is impressive.

Now, Federer’s rank is another story. Having lost in the quarterfinals in the last two majors, it’s going to take a big hit. Last year, of course, he won both events. I remember hearing he’s slated to drop to number three in the world. Unheard of for the greatest of all time. If he can have a strong US hard court season leading up to the US Open and defend his title, maybe he has a chance to secure the number two spot again. But these are all big ifs. There are just too many variables and players that can take it to Federer that we’ll need to watch out for the results.

With Berdych in the semifinals, let’s look at the man in his way to make it to the finals.

2. Novak Djokovic versus Yen-Hsun Lu:

In a result reversal from the fourth round, Lu of Chinese Taipei succumbed quickly to a strong Djokovic in three sets. Djokovic looked sharp, and Lu was understandably fatigued from his five set battle with Andy Roddick. Judging by the score, he didn’t have much left in the tank. Will we be seeing more of Lu in the future? We’ll need to see just how his new found confidence takes his game to the next level.

In the Djokovic – Berdych match, both are looking incredibly sharp without a doubt. While Djokovic has the experience in the finals of majors, and the one title to his name at the Austrailian Open, Berdycj won the bigger match. His confidence is at an all time high, especially with his result at the French to back his result at Wimbledon. I’m going to say the upset occurs, and Berdych wins in four sets to make it to his first Grand Slam final.

3. Andy Murray versus Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:

Continuing to roll through the draw, Murray ousted Tsonga in straight sets to advance to the semifinals of his home Grand Slam event. Under the radar for most of the event, he continues to amaze both for his poise and brilliant shot-making. After a disappointing French Open for both players, it’s nice seeing them make it far into Wimbledon.

Murray has always been a personal favorite with his tactically genius counter-punching style. With his improved physique and added aggressiveness, he’s already made it to two Grand Slam finals. Both times he lost to Federer. Without him in the way, Murray’s chances haven’t looked better. Of course, before looking toward the final, we need to examine one last match.

4. Rafael Nadal versus Robin Soderling:

In the second meeting between Nadal and Soderling — the last at the French Open final — Soderling upped his level to take the first set from the 2008 champion. After that, however, Nadal steamrolled through Soderling to advance to the next round. With each major, I see more things I like about Soderling. Hopefully, he goes into the US Open proud of his accomplishments — not discouraged in the least. I believe he’ll hold up a major title one day, it’s just a matter of when.

The match between Murray and Nadal will be a marquee event. Whoever wins the match — and I can’t definitively predict who — will win the title in my opinion.

5. The Williams Sisters versus Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina:

Going for the calendar year Slam in doubles, the Williams sisters rolled through their first batch of matches, looking poised for another doubles victory. That, however, was not the case. Zvonareva and Vesnina played some fantastic doubles to knock out the number one seeds.

What a tough couple days for Venus. I wish her a great hard court season. With her success so far this year, there’s no reason to be discouraged.

6. Endnote:

So, Wimbledon is winding down. Look for Berdych to beat Djokovic in four sets, while the other semifinal is still up in the air. Whatever the final, it’ll be a great way to end such this historic 2010 tournament.

Mega Monday Brings High Drama to Wimbledon

The best day in tennis didn’t fail to surprise. Big names left stunned, great battles were fought, and Wimbledon remains left with a whittled down number of eight men and women. Let’s look at the fourth round action.

The ATP Tour:

  • Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal look solid with both winning in three relatively easy sets to advance to the quarterfinals. It looks like they’re on course for a collision in the finals. Federer took out French Open semifinalist Jurgen Melzer, while Nadal ousted Paul-Henri Mathieu.
  • Up next for the number one and number two? Nadal plays Robin Soderling in a rematch of the French Open. Soderling, who didn’t lose a set until his match today against David Ferrer, needs to muster all his energy to eliminate a revived Nadal in this second week. He isn’t the same player that lost two sets to relative unknowns. He’s in it to win. Federer will next have his hands full with Tomas Berdych, who’s given him trouble in the past. I don’t see that happening here. He’s just too good.
  • But before the two settle themselves into the final, Andy Murray is poised to stand in the way of Nadal. Murray, who has the crowd distinctly on his side, took control against the American Sam Querrey, and continues to play without dropping a set. He won 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will next face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. Tsonga beat a fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau in four sets to continue his run under the radar. I see Murray winning in four.
  • Also looking particularly sharp today was Novak Djokovic. Despite my prediction that he’d lose to Lleyton Hewitt in a major upset, the Serb took the match in four sets, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. He next takes on Yen-Hsun Lu, which brings me to my next point.
  • Yup, that’s right. Andy Roddick, last year’s finalist, is out. Lu took out the defending finalist in five sets with a 9-7 win in the fifth — the match was the second longest of the season trailing only the John Isner – Nicholas Mahut marathon. It’s a sad result for Roddick, who really looked set for another semifinal showing at Wimbledon at the least. Everyone was hoping for him to face off against Federer. But Lu played better tennis in the end, capturing the only break in the match. He becomes the first Asian man in the quarterfinals of a major in 15 years. Congratulations are certainly due.

I’ll update this post with the women’s results tomorrow.

Day Three Results Rundown

Day three proved to be filled with upsets and sharp play from the top tier of the current tennis all-stars. Here’s a brief summary of noteworthy results.

The WTA:

  • Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and Maria Sharapova all record easy victories in their first round matches.
  • Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka advance with their 6-3, 6-3 wins. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova only needs one more again to beat Iveta Benesova.
  • French Open finalist Sam Stosur joins Francesca Schiavone in defeat after straight sets loss to Kaia Kanepi.
  • Na Li and Jie Zheng make it to round two in straight sets.
  • Petra Kvitova, a player I have my eye on, takes out Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-2.
  • American Vania King set to play decisive match against Daniela Hantuchova tomorrow.
  • Serena and Venus Williams team up to continue their doubles major title string up success. They’re shooting for five in a row.

The ATP:

  • Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Sam Querrey, and Robin Soderling advance in three sets.
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga comes back strong in first match after retiring at the French Open.
  • Seeds Nicholas Almagro, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marcos Baghdatis fall, while unseeded American James Blake continues to struggle. Fabio Fognini upset Fernando Verdasco, too.
  • John Isner’s match is held at two sets apiece against Nicholas Mahut.

Wimbledon Predictions – The ATP Tour

Roger Federer’s loss to Lleyton Hewitt last week and a tough draw for Rafael Nadal signify a tough time for the two previous champions. Can both overcome the tough challenge that lays ahead of them? I think so. Let’s take a systematic look at the draw and crack this year’s Wimbledon code.

The First Quarter:

Notables – Roger Federer (1), Tommy Robredo (30), Feliciano Lopez (22), Jurgen Melzer (16), Tomas Berdych (12), Stanislas Wawrinka (20), Victor Hanescu (31), Nikolai Davydenko (7)

In this section, the obvious person to pull through is Federer, the five time champion. I see him advancing to the fourth round without much trouble. Once there, however, I see a tough test against Tomas Berdych in the future. Also noteworthy, Lopez of Spain, who beat Nadal a couple weeks ago. While Federer didn’t play too sharply against Hewitt in his pre-Wimbledon warm-up, it’s a different story in a Grand Slam. Watch Davydenko, whose been having a tough year so far, falter before the fourth round.

The Final Four: Federer faces Lopez, and Berdych handily defeats an ailing Davydenko.

The Second Quarter:

NotablesNovak Djokovic (3), Taylor Dent, Albert Montanes (28), Gael Monfils (21), Lleyton Hewitt (15), Marin Cilic (11), Mardy Fish, Ivan Ljubicic (17), Philipp Kohlschreiber (29), Andy Roddick (5)

This is a difficult part of the draw for Roddick, the guy I’m rooting for. He’s had some poor results this past few months, including a basically non-existent clay court season. Yes, he made it to the third round, which is as good as a showing as any for the top male American, but his third showing at Queens Club was his worst ever. Hopefully, this 2009 Wimbledon finalist can recall the drive and belief that took him to a fifth set against Federer last year. That match his to win. I see Roddick making it to the fourth round without losing a set. There’s no one to do any damage to his exceptional serving game and strong baseline rallying capabilities. The rest these past few months might also help. If anything, he’s fresh. It’s all up to the Roddick serve. Once he makes it there, I see a tough match against Marin Cilic in his future. He should, however, pull through.

The Final Four: Hewitt looks to be a difficult opponent with his win against Federer. I say he dismantles Djokovic. In the bottom half, Roddick proves to be too much for Cilic.

The Third Quarter:

Notables – Fernando Verdasco (8), Julien Benneteau (32), Nicholas Almagro (19), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10), Juan Carlos Ferrero (14), Sam Querrey (18), Gilles Simon (26), Andy Murray (4)

Out of this slew of players, the only one that I feel holds a chance at victory is Sam Querrey, which is surprising given his lackluster Grand Slam performances in the past. With his best performance coming in the fourth round of the 2008 US Open, and only making it to the second round at Wimbledon last year, he has a lot to prove. Regardless, his career high ranking and win over compatriot Mardy Fish in the finals of Queens Club shows he’s ready to do well on grass. With three titles to his name already this year, I see at least a quarterfinal run for the giant American. It won’t be easy with Murray as a potential fourth round opponent, but I like his chances. A lot.

The Final Four: Tsonga surprises Verdasco in five close sets in the top half. In the bottom section, Querrey gives everything to take out Britain’s hope Murray in another five set blockbuster to make his first quarterfinal showing in a Grand Slam.

The Fourth Quarter:

Notables – Robin Soderling (7), Robby Ginepri, Thomaz Bellucci (25), Marcos Baghdatis (24), David Ferrer (9), Mikhail Youzhny (13), John Isner (23), Philipp Petzschner (33), James Blake, Rafael Nadal (2)

Notice Nadal’s section as probably one of, if not the, most difficult in all four sections. I think he needs to watch out for John Isner big time. There’s no saying how Isner will play on a given day. But if he’s at his best, and his baseline game mirrors his wicked serve, the American can take out anyone, even Nadal. I’m not saying that’s probable, but it’s a slim possibility. On the top section, Soderling has a difficult match afainst Ginepri to go through. Other than that, it should be an easy time to make it to the fourth round. There, I see him facing Marcos Baghatis.

The Final Four: Soderling defeats Baghdatis in three sets, and Nadal faces a test against Isner in four.

Second Week Predictions:

  • Federer fends off Berdych
  • Roddick stops Hewitt’s string of grass wins in three
  • Querrey, assuming he plays the match of his life against Murray, faces a pumped up Tsonga. Querrey wins in five for a second straight top ten victory.
  • Nadal notches another win against the Swedish Soderling in a three set repeat of the French Open final.

In the semifinals, I don’t see Roddick repeating the excellent play against Federer. I think he’ll bow out in four sets, much to my chagrin. As for Querrey (or Murray with a serious asterisk), Nadal’s too much to handle in a Grand Slam semifinal. Get ready for much-needed Federer – Nadal final. We’ll leave that prediction for another day — it’s just too close to decide in my mind.

For the men’s official draw, look here.

Venus, Murray, Tsonga and Sharapova Sink in Curious Clay Defeats

In a surprising sweep of the top players, all contenders to win the event, Venus Williams, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Maria Sharapova’s play was halted in the fourth round of the French Open yesterday. The losses provide a shaky insight into the player’s confidence levels on clay and leave big question marks as to their form for the future Slams this year. Let’s examine the demise of each player.

Williams’ Loss to Nadia Petrova:

After a strong clay showing this season, many, including myself, looked towards the older Williams sister as a real contender at Roland Garros this year. In her first few rounds, she was dominating play with a powerful groundstroke game and good hands at the net. While her serving was slightly off, no one saw Petrova taking her out, especially not in straight sets. She lost 6-4, 6-3. About the loss, she said: “I’m obviously disappointed…I feel like I had a day where I wanted to hit the ball cross-court and it went down the line. It just wasn’t a good day.”

The Associated Press article further reports, “Petrova has been a nemesis for the Williams family lately—she beat Serena in the third round at Madrid less than three weeks ago.”

Going into Wimbledon, we should see a much more confident and comfortable Venus just like in years past. In the past,  she’s been able to put her French Open losses aside. Look to see her make it to the semifinals or better in the next few weeks.

Murray’s Loss to Tomas Berdych and Tsonga’s Retirement:

These two losses were huge disappointments for different reasons. Murray, who’s been having difficulties with his confidence since his three set drubbing at the hands of Roger Federer, could’ve taken it to Berdych, who’s never been past the fourth round of the French. However, he was destined for a different fate, losing 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.  It’s a good showing for the number fifteen seed, and he’ll next face a winnable match against Mikhail Youzhny, the winner over Tsonga.

Speaking of Tsonga, the last remaining Frenchman was forced to retire against the Russian after losing the first set. It’s a sad fact that he’s been so plagued with injuries during his tennis career. In fact, there’s a chance that Tsonga might not be able to play at Wimbledon due to the extent of the hip problem, according to a recent Associated Press article.

Sharapova’s Loss to Justine Henin:

This defeat was surprising for a different reason, for the ailing Sharapova to put up a good fight against Henin, considered a heavy favorite for the title, is promising. Sharapova lost 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and should take the good showing as a sign of confidence when she begins the grass court season, where she had a great deal of success in the past.

These losses do a number of things for the draw. First, Venus’ defeat opens the draw up for Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva in the bottom half. Look for Wozniacki to take advantage and make it to her second Grand Slam final. With Venus out, my eyes are on Serena to find her hands full with Justine Henin in the quarterfinals and Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals. If she overcomes those tough players, I believe the title is hers.

On the ATP tour, the draw has opened even further for the success of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to meet once again.

Two of the Last Men Standing – An Unlikely Pair

With the final sixteen decided, only one man is left for both the United States and France. While unseeded Robby Ginepri now represents the US, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stands for his country. Tsonga’s latest win also means he’s the last Frenchman standing, period. The US is fairing slightly better, however, with Serena and Venus Williams joining Ginepri in the fourth round.

The latest casualties for the US include some of the biggest names: Andy Roddick and Mike and Bob Bryan. Roddick, according to an Associated Press article, “lost to Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Roddick threw rackets and argued with the umpire, but the fits of temper failed to produce a turnaround against an opponent ranked 114th.” To be honest, this poor showing on the clay was to be expected. Roddick did not play before coming to Paris, and it is not surprising in the least that he’d fall so soon.

On Tsonga’s side, losses by Marion Bartoli and Aravane Rezai have left him alone. With Gael Monfils exiting the day before, he has the weight of his country to deal with in the coming rounds.

Predictions: I see Ginepri falling in three sets to Novak Djokovic in the next round. Ginepri has done well to make it this far, but his play during the two sets he lost against Juan Carlos Ferrero was unsettling. After playing exceptionally for the first half of the match, the American looked unstoppable. However, he quickly lost his accuracy, and it went to a fifth. He won’t have that sort of mental lapse of luxury against the world’s number three, who is a good clay court player in his own right.

As for Tsonga, I call him getting past Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in four and finding a tough match against Andy Murray later on.

Bartoli and Tsonga Succeed in Separate Ways; Rezai Anxiously Rests

There’s a lot going on for the French players at Roland Garros this year: epic matches, angry words, problems with officials. A lot of this conflict, however, is being resolved.

Marion Bartoli in her own form of conflict resolution took the higher road in her recent media debate with compatrio Aravane Rezai with the following statements:

“I think it’s really important to stay with what I said. I said it’s obvious Rezai had some really great results in the past few weeks,” said Bartoli. “I think there is nothing negative that I said about her or game or whatever.

“I have no animosity against Aravane. It’s good we have as many French players. If others, Alize, could come back, that would be a driving factor for me. I take it as a motivating factor. It helps me focus, practice, and try and improve every day. I think that’s the most important.

“I have absolutely no animosity whatsoever against Aravane, and I’m delighted she won Madrid. The further she goes, the happier I am.”

These statements are heroic. They present a mature tennis player, who wants nothing more than her compatriot to succeed. This in many ways sheds a new light on the often misunderstood Bartoli and should endear her to more fans in the future. I know it worked for me.

Tsonga, too, has succeeded in his own way. His: being the last Frenchman standing on the ATP tour with his recent win over Thiemo De Bakker 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4. Yet again, Tsonga has played a difficult match. But for him to keep continuing to win is to be applauded. We’ll see how far he can go with the weight of France on his shoulders.

Rezai, too, has her own battle to fight. This time being tied at 7-all in the third set of her match against Russia’s Nadia Petrova before play was stopped. It’s a difficult place to stop, no doubt. Maybe she can take a few pointers from Gael Monfils, who was in the same situation just days ago. However, Rezai might want to try winning, contrary to her compatriot’s result. While she’s at it, it’d be a good idea to send some good press along to Bartoli, whose words were sincere and apologetic.

Things Get Heated On and Off the Red Clay of Roland Garros

With players verbally attacking one another, others quitting, upsets occurring, and poor decisions being made by French Open officials, this year’s event at Roland Garros proves to be highly dramatic. Who’s involved in the fray so far? We have Marion Bartoli and Aravane Rezai engaged in some bad blood over media coverage, American Sam Querrey feeling discouraged after a first round loss to veteran Robby Ginepri and pulling out of the doubles event, and the curious cases of the French throwing the French under the bus. Yup, that’s right. Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, and Gael Monfils were forced to play (or made to stop playing) to both players’ chagrin. What a tournament, and it’s still only the first week!

Let’s take a look at each case.

1. The Case of the Verbal French Cat Fight:

Rezai openly said that Bartoli is jealous of the spotlight being given to her, despite her lower ranking. “Marion is a difficult girl. She already attacked me two years ago when I reached the final in Istanbul,” said Rezai. “If she has a problem with me, I don’t know, because I did nothing. That’s a bit of a shame, but that’s her education. I mean, she attacked me many times in the press. She reportedly said:

“I don’t have the same education as the one she has. I think I have respect for players. I do what I have to do. I get on with many people. But with Marion, it’s very difficult. She has difficulties getting included with the other girls.”

Well, Bartoli has every right to get angry in my opinion. She’s the one to have made it to a Grand Slam final, she’s ranked higher, has the experience, etc. But the fact of the matter is she simply doesn’t have the “it” factor. Without that, she’ll be pushed aside by the up-and-comers. She’s different, she’s no younger, beautiful teenager. She uses two hands on both sides and a highly unorthodox father. Her destiny is, and will probably remain, relative anonymity. In the meantime, let the cat fight ensue. It’s interesting stuff.

2. Querrey’s Poor Attitude

Contrasted to the first French fiasco is an American’s problem, not with anyone else but himself. Querrey, after losing to Ginepri, pulled out of the double’s event, too. Basically, just when things were looking up for American men’s tennis, just when there seemed to be someone else to count on besides Andy Roddick, we’ve taken another step back. Sure, we have the giant John Isner, but only one guy isn’t enough. Querrey needs to find himself again and fast. For the sake of his career and the country’s tennis future.

3. French Men Fried

A final example of the drama intensifying the clay Slam is the poor treatment of French players Tsonga, Monfils, and Gasquet. Both Tsonga and Gasquet wanted to started later, but to no avail. Instead, they were forced to play under difficult physical conditions.

Tsonga said in a recent statement: “Frankly, I was a bit disappointed because I was playing on a Sunday. I had asked not to play on a Sunday, absolutely, because I had practiced in such a way that I thought I wanted to play on a Monday or Tuesday, to be totally fit. But they imposed it on me.”

While Tsonga won in five, Gasquet lost in five. Maybe not the best idea? Monfils, too, has problems of his own. According to an Associated Press article, “Local favorite…Monfils of France survived three match points in a thrilling second round match against Fabio Fognini that was suspended because of darkness at the French Open on Wednesday.” Regardless of whether or not Monfils wanted to keep playing, it just shows that the French might not be filling at home at their own tournament. Maybe a move to another venue would be better after all….

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