Monday, May 31, 2010

Maria vs. Justine: The Way Women's Tennis Should Be

When was the last time you were glued to your seat watching a womens tennis match? I can tell you that it had been a long time for me until I witnessed the captivating match that was Justine Henin vs. Maria Sharapova in the third round of the French Open. This battle of the heavyweights wasn't great because it had two former number ones. Sure, there was some great shot making and long baseline rallies too, but what made this match greatest at it's core was the fact that these two women wanted to win more than anything. That is what made this match all the more impressive and beautiful, and the best one of the tournament. Oh, and yes, it really was a third rounder.

It looked like Justine Henin was heading for an easy victory, and she was. But guess who kept an unbreakable will while maintaining her famous fist-pump even after losing the opener 6-2? Maria Sharapova. Her on-court mentality is one of her most exemplary aspects, and it's often overlooked. But when the Russian was pitched against Henin I found myself appreciating this characteristic more and more. Down 4-0 in the first, Maria finally gets on the board. She pumps herself up with a positivity that seemed better suited for someone up a set and a break, trying to close out a match. You would have never been able to tell that if was Maria down a break, 2 to be exact, and that 4-time RG champ Justine Henin was across the net. As Martina Navratilova pointed out, that is a quality to be admired.

I had myself updating my facebook status saying "Sharapova, get it together", and with a volition that is second-to-none, Maria sure did get it together. Yes, in the end Justine, who played beautifully and deserves just as much recognition, prevailed, but in retrospect, it is Sharapova who I'll remember. I think, just maybe, we are close to having the pre-shoulder surgery Maria back, and the 3-time Major champion should only have confidence heading into Wimbledon.

Ladies of the WTA, this is how it's done.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Roland Garros Results: Federer and Soderling Advance, Venus Upset, Henin Ousts Sharapova

An overcast covered the courts of Roland Garros and even the main stadium, Phillipe Chatrier, had plenty of open seats, but anyone who was absent on the the exciting action day 8 brought missed out. On the mens side Tomas Berdych, who has yet to drop a set, continued his brilliant clay-court display by backing up his dominating win over John Isner with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory against 4th seeded Andy Murray. On paper this looks like an upset but with Murray's recent sluggish brand of tennis and Berdych's controlled aggression, the "upset" comes as no surprise. The Czech's quarterfinal opponent will be Mikhail Youzhny, who advanced after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired down 6-2 with a hip injury. The Frenchman struggled with the same hindrance in his 3rd round match, and unfortunately was unable to earn a win for his thousands of disappointed Parisian fans.

The big news on the womens side was Nadia Petrova's defeat of Venus Williams (yes, I predicted this one too) as the Russian had little difficulty overpowering the 2nd seed to reach her 3rd career French open quarterfinal. Following her 6-4, 6-3 win Petrova told the press that her."quarterfinal encounter with compatriot Elena Dementieva will be "like a battle to death." Dementieva had no trouble winning 6-1, 6-3 over South African Channelle Scheepers.

Roger Federer had to go through the trouble of playing a good friend on Sunday, as the Swiss' Round of 16 opponent was Stanislas Wawrinka, but the only difficulty the world number 1 had was the mental side of things, as the defending champ earned a 3-set win, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-2. Federer's quarterfinal match will be against Robin Soderling, playing some of the most solid tennis of anyone in the men's draw, but Fed dismissed any sort of doubt and expressed his confidence (some could call it cockiness).

“I’ve never lost against him [Soderling], so obviously that’s a good record to have. But because of the improvements he’s made, he’s an opponent not to underestimate.” When reminded of the win Soderling, who beat Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, did earn against him (in Abu Dhabi in January), Roger replied, "exhibition play."
Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova entered Center Court on Sunday after sleeping on their match, tied at one set apiece. Henin played masterful tennis in the 1st, winning in 6-2. The Belgian looked like she was headed for a quick win before the Sharapova of old showed her unmatched grit and determination in taking the second 6-3. They played some of the most enthralling tennis of the entire tournament and Henin took the deciding set and the match 6-3. The encounter deserves it own blog post so on to the rest of the matches.

In the 3rd quarter of the women's draw, Francesca Schiavone used her crafty and physical style to wear out Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-4, who struggled to back up her upset win over Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Italian will take on Caroline Wozniacki, who needed 3+ hours to knock out a feisty Flavia Pennetta. AFter winning the first set 7-6 (5), Wozniacki, seeded 3rd, lost her first tiebreak of the entire year, 7-5 to Pennetta. The 14th seed, though, crumbled in the final set, hitting tons of unforced errors while Wozzi played marvelous defense.

Tomorrow, Rafa, Serena, Henin and Djokovic will be on court.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Style Scoop: The Best and Worst Dressed at Roland Garros 2010

Each and every Grand Slam, not only do we get to see thrilling competition at the best venues, but we also see all the top brands showcasing their new designs. Some turn out to be major hits, and some completely miss the mark. Below are the belles of the ball and the faux pas.

Best Dressed: Venus Williams

Not only did Venus Williams miss some of the chicest trends, like lace and corsets, into her 2010 Roland Garros dress, but her EleVen frock also had an edge that isn't normally seen in tennis fashion. And yes, there was some controversy surrounding her skin-colored spandex, but the more drama the better. V got an A this time around.

Most Original:

The WTA's resident fashionista, Maria Sharapova, tends to always perfectly balance tennis and real-life trends into her on-court style, and this year's French is no different. The Russian mixed black with a pretty burgundy-ish color to make an asymmetrical Nike design that, contrasting to some reports that claim the dress looks like the designer ran out of fabric, is trendy and suits Maria just right.

Best Detailing:

Serena Williams' Nike blue and neon green dress is definitely a winner, as the two colors work great together. But that's not the best part. The pleating at the bottom of the world number 1's ensemble is impeccable and takes the dress from boring to beautiful. I do, though, have one minor problem. Don't you guys think it seems much more Aussie Open than French Open?

Best Use of Color:

Jie Zheng makes her debut on Serve and Return;s best dressed list with a top/skirt combo that's fun and pops on the red clay of Paris. Her pleasantly surprising outfit, made by Anta, is a colorful statement-making getup that adds the perfect amount of pizazz to the Chinese's fiery game.

Been There, Done That, Still Cute:

It seems to me that Jelena Jankovic wears the same yellow Anta design each week with the exception of an added ruffle here or an extra pleat there. It's time for the designers over at the Chinese brand to come up with something new and exciting for a personality like JJ. But, despite the DeJa Vu of the Serb's wardrobe, there's no denying it looks pretty good.

Snooze Alarm:

Could Elena Dementieva's teal Yonex garment look any less drab and uninspiring? We've seen it before, and we though it was boring then. Elena, we're still bored.

Worst Dressed:

Hey, I'm all for taking risks, if you can pull it off. And I hate to say it but Aravane Rezai, my dear, you can not pull this look off. There's Metallic and there's lace and there's ruffles and there's puffy sleeves and there's a collar. It's all very overwhelming. If Ms.Rezai wants to get on the list of best dressed, she's gonna have to start appreciating minimalism. Sweety, sometimes less really is more. Much more.

Random Detail Added at the Last Second:

Victoria Azarenka's Nike dress could have been a success if it weren't for the ugly stripes added in, at what looks like last second. The random and grotesque lines give the look an unfinished feel and the Belarusian should have and could have gone without them. Thankfully, Vika and her dress both didn't last very long..

Friday, May 28, 2010

Roland Garros Results: Fed, Rafa, Serena and Venus Win in Straights; Henin and Sharapova to Meet

Ticket holders for Friday at Roland Garros got much more than they bargained for. With rain delays pushing matches back to Day 6, almost every top player was on court today, and the countless 3 and 5 set thrillers provided the drama that rounded out a perfect day of tennis.

On the women's side Serena Williams gave her best clay court performance of the year, crushing Julia Georges 6-1, 6-1 for a spot in the 3rd round, where she'll meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Aleksandra Wozniak gave a brilliant effort in almost defeating en emotional Elena Dementieva, but the Russian's experience proved pivotal in her advancing to the 4th round, 6-7 (2). 6-3, 6-4. Sam Stosur also made an impressive recovery from a set down to Rossana de los Rios to eventually prevail 4-6, 6-1, 6-0. Nadia Petrova and Aravane Rezai's match was suspended late while the two were deadlocked in a suspenseful 3rd set, 7-7. Rezai won the opener in a tiebreak while Petrova took the second 6-4. Caroliner Wozniacki, Flavia Pennetta and Yanina Wickmayer all advanced as well.
On the men's side Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer continued to cruise, with the Spaniard reaching the 3rd round and the Swiss reaching the 4th. Federer will play close friend and countryman Stanislas Wawrinka, while Nadal and Lleyton Hewitt, a 5 set winner, are set to face off tomorrow. Robin Soderling has been the most impressive player so far at this year's French open but on Friday he showed his first sign of vulnerability, dropping a set to 25th seed Albert Montanes, but holding on to win in 4, 6-4, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Nicolas Almagro all advanced in straights while others like Fernando Verdasco and Marin Cilic had much more difficulty, advancing in 4 over Florent Serra and 5 over Leonardo Mayer, respectively.

Caroline Wozniacki has been able to grin and bear her way to the 4th round despite a painbful ankle injury, defeating Alexanmdra Dulgheru in 2 sets on Friday to advance. In Wozniacki;s quarter lies the dangerous Maria Kirilenko, who ousted last year's champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Kuznetsova is the highest seed in either draw to lose thus far. Francesca Schiavone defeated Li Na and both Yanina Wickmayer and Daniela Hantuchova triumphed, setting up a compelling match between the two of them in the third round.

Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin have not played each other since an Australian Open quarterfinal match that played a large part in Henin's abrupt retirement. In that encounter 2 years ago Sharapova demolished the Belgian, and since then, the two have gone on very different paths in their tennis careers. Both experienced breaks from tennis, one voluntary and one from injury, but the dice landed perfectly, and they are set to meet in the 3rd round of the French open on Saturday. On paper the 12th seeded Russian, who took out Kirsten Flipkens 3 and 3, is supposed to win, but Sharapova will be a heavy underdog against the 4-time RG champ, seeded 22nd.

The best match of the men's tournament thus far featured Ivan Ljubicic and Mardy fish, a pairing unlikely to produce an electrifying encounter. The 14th seeded Ljubicic won the opening set 6-2 but lost his momentum in losing the 2nd and 3rd 7-6 (8) and 6-4. The Indian Wells champion then came back to win the last two sets and the match 6-2 and 10-8. 3rd and 4th seeds Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray both reached the 3rd round with wins on Friday. Djokovic played his best match of the fortnight, beating 18 year old Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 and Murray fought off Marcos Baghdatis to earn a 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 victory. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got much needed crowd support in his 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win against Thiemo de Bakker. as the Frenchman was ostensibly in an incredible amount of pain throughout the 4-setter. Juan Carlos Ferrero also struggled, needing 4 sets to eliminate Pere Riba, while Fernando Gonzalez, 2009 semifinalist, was upset by Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr.

Novak and Troicki Bring the LOLs Recreating Gypsy

Thank God the French Open has a hidden camera in the players' karaoke room. Because without it, we wouldn't have caught Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki poking fun at Rafael Nadal's cameo in Shakira's music video for "Gypsy."

What would tennis be without Nole?

Watch the hilarity above.

Serena and Common Split According to InTouch

Yes, I know this is the same magazine that featured articles on Kristen Stewart being pregnant (false) and Whitney Houston punching Oprah (also false) but this new report could be valid.

InTouch Weekly is reporting that Serena Williams and Common, who expressed interest in starting a family just two weeks ago, have agreed to end their two-year relationship. The gossip publication, which I am embarrassed to say is included in my list of magazine subscriptions, cited a friend of Common's as saying the two "grew apart." Which is understandable, considering the two aren't together all too often. The rapper/actor is out promoting his new flick Just Wright, which is solid (yes, I saw it) while ReRe has shoots with Harper's Bazaar. nail technician school, her school in Kenya, and, oh yeah, tennis.

Williams was absent from Just Wright's premiere on May 4th. And as much as I hope this is untrue, I'm gonna have to put this report in the fact pile.

Serena, how bout you give us some inside info via twitter?

Rezai and Bartoli are Bitch Fighting...French Style!

Most players would rather not clutter their mind with nonsense during a major championship, but Marion Bartoli and Aravane Rezai. France's top two players, are WAY below that. WAY below.

It's pretty evident that the two had a little rivalry growing up in the juniors and that they have yet to move past their childish ways and are bringing them into the Roland Garros press rooms. Yay! More drama for us!

Rezai has been garnering a lot of attention at this year's French after her impressive title in Madrid, and when it was brought up that Bartoli was a jealous of all of the press her compatriot was receiving, Rezai responded with this:

"Marion is a difficult girl. She already attacked me two years ago when I reached the final in Istanbul. 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.

"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."

And then it was war. After Bartoli reached the 2nd round she was asked if the media storm surrounding Rezai, despite Bartoli's higher ranking, bugger her. And the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up said,"I don't give a damn," later adding, "When I played semis in Miami, I had the impression that nobody cares. Nobody notices. You can manage the way you want. I don't care. I try and play well and win matches."

Then the 13th seed was asked about her ambitions and conspicuously threw a punch at Rezai with her response. "There is no ambition, you know. The player who had ambition is the player you mentioned before."

Yep, no amBITCHin whatsoever. Keep it up ladies. RG needs to be spiced up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Roland Garros Results: Federer, Kuznetsova and Venus Advance, Rain Halts Play in Monfils/Fognini Thriller

Sorry I didn't do results yesterday...once again, I'm loaded with work. And Rafa won, but I'm sure you knew that.

Rain put a damper on the 4th day of play at Roland Garros but among those who were lucky enough to squeeze their matches in early was Venus Williams, who was first on Chatrier, earning a win over Araxta Parra Santonja, 6-2, 6-4. Venus was joined in the third round by Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 3rd, who beat Tathiana Garbin 3 and 1. Nadia Petrova and Aravane Rezai both won, setting up what is sure to be an exciting third round clash between the two of them. Lucie Safarova was upset by Polona Hercog 6-1, 6-2.

Ale-Alejando Falla *plugging gaga* served for the opening set against Roger Federer but lost it in a tiebreak, and was unable to keep up his strong level of play in the 2nd in 3rd, falling 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4. Robin Soderling has been rather under-the-radar at this year's French open but he's easily playing the best tennis of anyone, surrendering just 2 games in a dominating win over Taylor Dent. Marin Cilic, a possible round of 16 opponent for Soderling, defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 while Stanislas Wawrinka, also in the first quarter of the draw, easily ousted Andreas Beck in straights.

Last year's champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, was down a set to Andrea Petkovic before mounting a comeback to prevail 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. A fellow Russian of Kuzzie's, Maria Kirilenko, reached the 3rd round with a 6-3, 6-3 victory and Gisela Dulko, who upset Victoria Azarenka in round 1, was defeated by Channelle Scheepers 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. 14th seed Flavia Pennetta was up 6-1, 5-1 on Roberta Vinci before rain suspended the match until tomorrow, and Dominika Cibulkova, 2009 semifinalist, won 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Gael Monfils looked to be headed for a routine win over Fabio Fognini before the Frenchman squandered a 2-set lead, allowing the match to go to a deciding 5th set. Fognini started complaining about the lack of light early in the 5th, while Monfils was persistent in staying on court. The umpire sided with Monfils, and the match continued until 5-5, when even spectators began to have difficulty seeing. Andy Murray was leading 6-2, 3-3 before his match with Juan Ignacio Chela was also put off until Thursday. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga advanced 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 along with Tomas Berdych, Mikhail Youzhny and Albert Montanes.

French Open Organizers Couldn't Care Less About the French

For a country that has been longing for a major champion for so, so long, you would think. think that the French open committee would oblige to their players requests to better the country's chances of winning a big one. But you'd be wrong.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crushed his countryman Josselin Ouanna on Wednesday, 6-0, 6-1, 6-4, but he was less than thrilled by the scheduling of his first and second round matches, and lashed out at the organizers of the year's second slam at his presser.

"Frankly, I was a bit disappointed because I was playing on a Sunday,” said Tsonga. “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. Today, we’re in France. I’m French. I’m the French No. 1. I would have thought it was legitimate for me to be listened to."

He added, "If you look at (Andy) Murray, if he decides on a day or a time schedule at Wimbledon, nobody is going to impose anything on him. For (Roger) Federer, in his country it’s the same. And in the U.S., I suppose it’s the same thing for the best American players. I think that Lleyton (Hewitt) probably plays in the sun during the Australian Open because he loves the sun and other opponents don’t like the sun."

Yes, maybe Jo-WIlly could have said the "I'm the French No. 1" part better, but he's got a point. Richard Gasquet, also from France, lost in 5 sets to Andy Murray in the first round and also complained about the tournament committee giving him the short end of the stick. Perhaps they'll realize their wrongdoings when Tsonga is too worn out to make a big run.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Roland Garros Results; Murray Fights off Gasquet, Serena, Federer and Djokovic Advance

Serena Williams kicked off her Roland Garros campaign pretty solidly on Monday, knocking off Stefanie Voegele 7-6 (2), 6-2. The number one seed was joined in the next round by a wobbly Carolina Wozniacki, who despite a serious ankle injury was able to quickly defeat Alla Kurdyatseva. 11th seeded Li Na, 8th seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and Lucia Safarova all advanced to round 2 with straight set wins, while Alona Bondarenko and Francesca Schiavone had to fight their way through 3 setters to earn their spot in the next round.

On the men's side the defending champion stepped out onto the same court that solidified him as the G.O.A.T just under a year ago, and he definitely impressed, crushing Peter Luczak 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. In Federer's quarter is Gael Monfils and Stanislas Wawrinka, both of whom advanced, Monfils in 4 sets and Wawrinka in straights. 2009 Roland Garros semifinalist Fernando Gonzalez fought off Thiago Alves in 4 sets while Spaniard Nicolas Almagro won a thriller, 6-4 in the 5th. Big servers Ivan Ljubicic, Tomas Berdych, John Isner and Taylor Dent all defeated their respective opponents in straight sets (Dent hit a 149 mph serve, a French Open record).

Jelena Jankovic continued her impressive Spring, having little trouble in defeating Alicia Molik. Elena Dementieva also looked primed for a serious run, conceding just 3 games against Petra Martic. In Dementieva's quarter is fellow Russian Alisa Kleybanova, who also won an easy 2-setter. Agnieszka Radwanksa, seeded 8th, won 6-0, 7-5 over Elena Baltacha and Sam Stosur, 7th, beat Simona Halep 5 and 1.

It was no secret that Andy Murray's struggles have been more than just a mid-season slump, but the Scot's determination (or perhaps it was his opponent's lack of endurance) was on display in his thrilling comeback 5-set win against Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Monday. A popular pick to send Murray home early, Gasquet jumped out to a 2-set lead 6-4, 7-6 (5) before falling apart and allowing the 4th seed to run away with the final 4 sets, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. Novak Djokovic also struggled in reaching the 2nd round, beating Evgueni Korolev 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Seeded Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez were ousted by in straights respectively by Viktor Troicki and Julian Reister. American Mardy Fish joined countrymen Dent and Isner in proving wrong the assumptions about the US men on clay, mounting a comeback from 2 sets to 1 down to triumph.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Venus and her Booty are All About Illusion

Recently, Venus Williams hasn't been one to shy away from showing her booty to tennis fans around the world. Well, not exactly her booty, but those flesh-colored skivvies she's been sporting underneath her EleVen corseted dresses. The whole clay-court season V went with a red ruffled spaghetti strap outfit with black underlays, but for Roland Garros Williams is sporting a lacy black dress of the same silhouette, this time with the details in red. And there is no question that in her first round win against Patyy Schnyder the world number 2's sexy ensemble had the last word.

And of course, the "illusion" spandex shown above are back. I swear to God that If I didn't know what was really covering up her Britney I would have thought she was mooning the world.

Roland Garros Results: Tsonga Wins a Thriller, Soderling, Venus and Kuzzie Roll, Gulbis Retires

Is there anything better than waking up to a cup of coffee and day 1 of Grand Slam action? I'd say no.

Roland Garros kicked off on Sunday and tennis' top stars wasted no time bringing the drama and the domination. Robin Soderling picked up where he left off at the 'o9 French Open, putting on a perfect display of offense and defense in crushing Laurent Recouderc 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. Other quick and easy winners included 29th seeded Albert Motanes, 11th seed Mikhail Youzhny and Alejandro Falla. Marin Cilic gave a solid performance in defeating Ricardo Mello in 4 sets, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

The men's side lacked any big upsets on day 1 but the dark horses in the ladies' draw got started ousting the top women right away. Gisela Dulko kicked off the party by absolutely thwarting Victoria Azarenka, who looked like a physical and emotional wreck. With the 6-1, 6-2 win Dulko advances to the second round of the French Open for the 6th straight year. Svetlana Kuznetsova has had an unsteady year thus far and was thought of as prone to a 1st-round upset at the hands of Sorana Cirstea, but after a slow start, the 6th seed and defending champ got back on track to earn an easy win, 6-3, 6-1. Madrid champ Aravane Rezai validated the 15 beside her name with a dominating performance against Heidi El Tabakh, surrendering just 2 games. Agnes Szavay, Dominika Cibulkova and Nadia Petrova all moved on without difficulty.

The pressure Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has to deal with at the French Open is nearly insurmountable, as an entire country is banking on the 7th seed to bring home a major to his homeland, but winning before his greatest critics has been anything but easy for Jo-Willy. And the first day at RG was no different, as Tsonga was pushed to 5 sets against Daniel Brands. After dropping the first set, Tsonga looked to be sailing to victory, winning the next 2 and earning a break in the 4th, but Brands mounted a comeback to push the match a 5th where Tsonga's serve pulled him through 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 7-5. Ernests Gulbis also had high expectations, but went the opposite rout of Tsonga, abruptly retiring against Julien Benneteau down 6-4, 6-2, 1-0. 32nd seeded Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated Rainer Schuettler 7-5, 6-4, 6-2.

Venus Williams dressed to impress this year at the French, and impress she did, easily beating Patty Schnyder on Sunday to reach round 2. Flavia Pennetta made quick work of Anna Keothavong, while Maria Kirilenko edged out Karolina Sprem in 2 tough sets. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez was a popular pick to make a lot of noise at the year's 2nd slam after her win in Rome, but the Spaniard proved her impressive clay-court Spring was an aberration, as she crashed out against Akgul Amanmuradova 6-2, 6-4.

Oh, and I didn't want to mention this, but my semifinal pick in the 3rd quarter, Elena Vesnina, lost. I sincerely hope that none of you took my advice in your brackets

Look Who Came to Their Senses? Dinara!

Dinara Safina and Zeljko Krajan, her coach, who is often credited with the Russian's rise to the top of the women's game, have always had an interesting relationship. A relationship that mostly consisted of (from what we saw) Dinara flashing a look of desperation towards Krajan and him, well, usually giving some sort of scary/angry/abusive snarling glance back. That's probably why everyone thought that Dinara needed to get out of that pairing ASAP, and finally, she has come to her senses and parted ways with Krajan.

Russia's Sport Express is reporting that they split recently and Safina will work with Gaston Etlis during the French Open.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roland Garros Women's Predictions

Serena and Venus Williams enter Roland Garros ranked 1 and 2, respectively, for the first time in 7 years, but that doesn't mean they are the top two favorites. Serena can never be counted out at a major, because when she wants it she goes and gets it, but it's no mystery that the American struggles mightily on the red dirt. In her illustrious career she has only won the French once, while Venus has never won it. Older sis has the best record of any woman on tour this year, at 26-4, but those four losses have been strange. Blowouts at the hands of Jelena Jankovic and Kim Clijsters, and unforced error-filled disasters against Aravane Rezai and Li Na. Justine Henin is probably the most-picked 22nd seed in Major history, while Svetlana Kuznetsova, the defending champ, could repeat or get double-bageled in round one. once again with the ladies, it's anyone's guess.

1st Quarter

So much for being the top seed, right? Serena's quarter is LOADED. Serena's chances are already greatly diminished on clay, but with a stacked quarter to get through, the tennis gods were not on ReRe's side at the draw ceremony. Here lies Justine Henin, 4-time FO winner, Sam Stosur, 2009 semifinalist, playing incredibly well this year and Maria Sharapova, 2009 quarterfinalist. Henin has obviously proved herself as the best clay-courter in women;s tennis, but she's had to win ugly a lot this year, and with motivation on her side, Sam Stosur could very well defeat the Belgian in their potential 4th round match. Of course, Henin will have to get by Sharapova, who won in Strasbourg this week, but that doesn't seem to be much of an issue. Serena will have her hands full with Shahar Peer, seeded 18th, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a big hitting Russian that could give Williams trouble. Here's your first surprise of the women's draw.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Sharapova vs. Henin

Quarterfinals: Stosur def. Williams

2nd Quarter

Jelena Jankovic headlines a tricky 2nd section that won't be easy to conquer. Agnieszka Radwanksa is a surprise 8th seed followed by Dinara Safina, who's comeback from back surgery hasn't gone as planned, causing the Russian to fall out of the top 8, to number 9. Vera Zvonareva, Alisa Kleybanova and Yanina Wickmayer all pose serious threats to make a deep run. Jankovic enters Roland Garros having had a solid clay-court campaign, reaching the finals in Rome, beating both Williams; along the way. Radwanska has been off the radar and isn't playing well enough to make any noise, and the same goes for two-time runner-up Safina. Zvonareva was impressive in Charleston, while Kleybanova can outhit anyone when she's hot. WIckmayer is tricky to figure out, but was trounced by Jankovic in Rome. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 Roland Garros champion, also lies in the 2nd section, and impressed in Rome, but she's not ready to be a contender again. It's evident that JJ will have a difficult time reaching the semis, but she won't have to see Radwanska, Safina, Zvonareva or Kleybanova till the quarters, and once she's on a roll she's hard to stop.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Kleybanova vs. Ivanovic

Quarterfinals: Jankovic def. Kleybanova

3rd Quarter

There isn't really a nice way to put this. The 3rd quarter of the women's draw sucks. Sure, the 2009 French Open winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova, is here, but Kuzzie is so sporadic it's anyone's guess what she could do. And Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 3rd, comes in with zero confidence, with just 3 wins in her last 4 tournaments and a serious ankle injury. While Kuznetsova is underplayed, Wozniacki is overplayed, and it's coming back to hurt her. Obviously, one person from this section is going to reach the semis, but none have the current form needed to do it. So it's safe to go out on a limb and pick someone out of a hat. Fine, you wouldn't be too smart to go with Misaki Doi of Japan, but perhaps Elena Vesnina, a powerful Russian with years of experience on her side, wouldn't be too far of a limb? She'll have to get by Wozzi, Kuzzie, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone, Lucie Safarova and Flavia Pennetta, and that's no easy task, but there isn't a safe choice.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Polona Hercog vs. Safarova

Quarterfinals: Vesnina def. Safarova

4th Quarter

Like her sister, Venus got the short end of the stick with the extremely deep draw she'll have to get through. Elena Dementieva isn't playing her best tennis right now, but as a former French Open finalist and the best groundstroker in women's tennis, she'll always have a chance. Victoria Azarenka, Aravane Rezai, winner in Madrid, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, winner in Rome, and Nadia Petrova all have the game to knock off Venus or Elena. Rezai did it just last week with her straight set win over Williams and Martinez Sanchez's crafty serve and volley game sets her apart from hers peers. Azarenka reached the quarters here last year and Petrova is a one-time semifinalist. Venus could meet Petrova in the 3rd round, while Azarenka and Sanchez are slated to face in that same round for a shot at Dementieva. Whoever comes out of this section triumphant, one thing is assured: It'll be quite the thriller.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Martinez Sanchez vs Azarenka

Quarterfinals: Dementieva def. Petrova

Semifinals: Jankovic def. Stosur, Dementieva def. Vesnina

The two best women on tour that have yet to win a major will square off in the final that is guarenteed to be exciting. Both have reached a major final and lost, and a Grand Slam crown is long overdue for both. But more for Dementieva. Time for the WTA's resident screacher to lose that "best to never win a major" title.

Finals: Dementieva def. Jankovic

Roland Garros Men's Predictions

This year we enter Roland Garros with one question. How easily will Rafael Nadal triumph? Sure, it's quite unfair to completely disregard the world number 1 and resident G.O.A.T, Roger Federer, but the Swiss has been very shaky and Rafa, well, he's been anything but. Nadal isn't entering this year's French Open playing as well as he did in 2008, but one must have the experience, confidence and talent to derail the Spaniard this year, as he's been so far ahead of the pack. Many of this year's possible "Soderlings" have 2 of those 3, but without the whole package, no one is coming between Nadal and his 5th French title.

1st Quarter

Of course, Roger Federer sits atop the draw, like he always has. He comes into Roland Garros not having won a tournament since the Aussie Open, and he hasn't gone winless between the year's first two slams in 7 years. That being said, the Swiss was able to eliminate the erratic shanks from his game in Madrid that were ever-so-present in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome. The man he beat in last year's final, Robin Soderling, lies in Fed's quarter, but he hasn't been very impressive either. And Le Sod doesn't have an soft draw either, as he could possibly meet clay-court specialist Albert Montanes in the 3rd round, where I would give the edge to Montanes. Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis, who has already contested three 3-setters with Federer this year (winning 1 of them) all are possible quarterfinal opponents for Federer, who needs to get past the quick and crafty Gael Monfils and countryman Stanislas Wawrinka to reach that stage. Despite a rough path, Federer is the clear favorite to reach a 24th consecutive GS semifinal, and expect him to do it without too much difficulty.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Gulbis vs. Cilic

Quarterfinals: Federer def. Cilic

2nd Quarter

I'll be honest- I have no effing clue who is going to win this section. It's by far the weakest of the four, with Andy Murray, playing pretty craptasticly as of late, leading the way. Right behind the Scot, is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who tends to suffer from the infamous "Frenchies at the French" disease, a syndrome Parisians tend to be infected with around May, when playing in front of their home crowd in Roland Garros. In other words, he can't handle the pressure or expectations placed on him by his country. Mikhail Youzhny, Tomas Berdych, John Isner and Tommy Robredo also lie in the 2nd quarter, and I would figure that one of them would be the semifinalist. Youzhny is a headcase, Isner is an American 9that should say it all) and Robredo is a grand-slam punching bag. Berdych, though, has the experience and the game to make a big run. Look for the Czech to cause an upset or two and reach a long overdue Major semifinal.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Murray vs. Richard Gasquet

Quarterfinals: Berdych def. Tsonga

3rd Quarter

Novak Djokovic has been quite the mystery this year. Like Murray, he has all the talent in the world and top-notch results to prove it but a major case of choking (or what Nole would call it: allergies) have put a damper on the Serb's 2010. Poor results all Spring, which tends to be a thriving time of the year for the world number 3, have weakened Djoko's confidence and he isn't playing like a possible contender. Andy Roddick is the 2nd highest seed here, but the American has yet to play a clay-court match in 2010. not ideal circumstances for a solid Roland Garros campaign. The obvious choice would be David Ferrer, and as much as I would love to be a contrarian, everything points in the Spaniard's favor. Ferrer's clay-court run this Spring has been phenomenal, reaching the semis in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, and the finals in Rome. Juan Carlos Ferrero and Sam Querrey are the next two highest seeds and could possibly meet in the 3rd round, both having had success on the clay.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Ferrero vs. Querrey

Quarterfinals: Ferrer def. Ferrero

Rafael Nadal has to like the looks of his section this year. Beating Fernando Verdasco has been comically easy for Rafa this year, and you'd have to be insane to think that Fernando Gonzalez and Ivan Ljubicic pose any sort of threat to the Spaniard's clay-court dominance. Nicolas Almagro gave Rafa all he had in the Madrid semis, but over 3 out of 5 sets any menace Almagro previously provided is gone. I'd be surprised if Nadal lost much more than 10 games en route to the semis.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Lleyton Hewitt vs. Jeremy Chardy

Semifinals: Federer def. Berdych, Nadal def. Ferrer

Here we go again. Federer and Nadal. Expect something along the lines of the 2008 final, but just not as harsh. Win number 5 for El Matador.

Finals. Nadal def. Federer

Friday, May 21, 2010

Roland Garros Draws Revealed

Time really hasn't been on my side in terms of this whole blogging thing, so sorry for the brief absence. Tomorrow I will post predictions/previews and what not, but for now I'll give you all the links to the Roland Garros draws, revealed this morning.

Obviously, the question is 'can anyone stop Rafa?' and the answer to that is probably no. If you think someone can derail the Spaniard you are probably just saying it to be cool and whatever because no one else really has much of a shot, if any.

And the women's side lacks any sort of stability whatsoever, like always, so it's anyones game. Even Ana Ivanovic's.

Take a gander and tell me what you think.

Click HERE for the men's draw and HERE for the ladies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Del Potro Will Be Unable to Defend USO Title

Juan Martin del Potro's depressing season just got a whole lot more abject, as the Argentine, who has undergone wrist surgery, will be unable to play in September's US Open, where he is the defending champion.

"If all goes well, I'd return after the U.S. Open," said JMDP, according to Reuters. "The tournament is and always will be very special for me, all my life but I don't want to rush things."

DelPo is targeting a return to the tour at the Paris Masters in November but only God knows how far his ranking will have dropped by then. All those Roland Garros points, and of course, the points from his win in New York. I could go on but then I'd make myself and probably you all miserable, so let's just hope the world number 5 recovers faster than expected.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nalbandian pulls out of RG With Hamstring Injury

David Nalbandian has been hampered with all sorts of injuries for the last year, and despite a return to the tour a few months ago, things have gone downhill again, as the Argentine has now withdrawn from next week's French Open with a left hamstring injury. Nalbandian announced his withdrawal via his website and is hoping to be healthy again by Wimbledon.

The hamstring issue has been bothering Nalbandian since early April but a late 2009 hip surgery and many other injuries have made seeing a glimpse of the former world number 3 on court very scarce.

Hurry up and get healthy, David!