Monday, May 31, 2010

Roland Garros 2010: The Queen of Clay Has Fallen!

Justine Henin falls to the ground in her match against Samantha Stosur at the French Open in Paris

Sam broke Allez Bitch's streak of 24 consecutive wins at Roland Garros (2-6 6-1 6-4). While I thought that Allez Bitch had an excellent chance to win the French Open, I didn't think she was the overwhelming favorite. Tennis is a game of probabilities, and even champions who are supposed to win can lose. She had a couple things against her: a dodgy/inconsistent serve and a draw from hell. Sam was one of those obstacles she had to but could not surmount. All credit to Sam, as she played her game. JuJu praised Sam's game yesterday.

She has beautiful qualities on clay because she plays kind of a man’s tennis. I mean, she has very heavy balls. She is a very powerful girl.

Stosur of Australia reacts during her match against Henin of Belgium during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

The keys to the match, in my opinion, were whether Sam could maintain her nerves when she got ahead. After JuJu handed Sam a service break at 2-1 with a double fault, Sam had the match on her racquet but gifted the break back with two double faults. Sam finally made a crucial hold at 3-4, and then broke JuJu's service game.

How did Sam get the momentum? From what I saw, Sam had a more reliable 2nd serve that would keep her ahead in the points, and Sam's fearhand was doing a better job of dictating play especially out of an inside-out shot to the backhand. In the 3rd set, JuJu kept trying to thread the needle of getting the ball into Sam's weaker BH but refused to go for the BH DTL (or inside-in FH) when Sam was so clearly favoring her FH in ad crosscourt exchanges.

Henin Stosur
Unforced Errors 29 33
Winners 14 26
1st Serve % 56% 54%
Aces 4 2
DF 7 7
1st Serve % Pts Won 32/45 (71%) 29/44 (66%)
2nd Serve % Pts Won 14/29 (48%) 21/30 (70%)
Break Points Won 3/7 (43%) 4/6 (67%)
Net Approaches 6/8 (75%) 15/19 (79%)
Total Receiving Points Won 31/81 (38%) 35/81 (43%)
Total Service Points Won 46/81 (57%) 50/81 (62%)
Total Points Won 77/162 (47%) 85/162 (52%)

From the stats, there is no question that Sam was the better player. Sam was able to use her forehand to get to net more frequently and effectively, and was able to defend her second serve more effectively. Hopefully, this will give JuJu some time to work on her 2nd serve.

Sam will face ReeRee to play for a place in the semis. On clay, Sam has a better chance since it will be harder for ReeRee to overpower her opponents. Sam will have to maintain her nerves against ReeRee's gamesmanship. And she should since she has the firepower to keep up.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Roland Garros 2010: Middle Sunday

Caro wore down Flavs with her usual brand of Golden Retriever tennis (7-6 [4] 6-7 [5] 6-2)

Wozniacki of Denmark celebrates after winning her match against Pennetta of Italy during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

Pennetta of Italy reacts during her match against Wozniacki of Denmark during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

She'll face another Italian: Franny, who frustrated MaKiri by keeping a billion balls in play (6-4 6-4)

Francesca Schiavone

Kirilenko of Russia reacts during her match against Schiavone of Italy during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

JuJu survived Shrieka's ice stare and fireballs to play Sam for a place in the quarters to take the 3rd set after play was suspended last night (6-2 3-6 6-3).

Justine Henin

2010 French Open - Day Eight

BTW, Tigs noticed Masha's new tic. Instead of combing her hair before she serves, she clenches her fist before she receives serve.

Demy had a relatively easy match over Scheepers (6-1 6-3).

Elena Dementieva

Scheepers of South Africa reacts during her match against Dementieva of Russia at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

She'll face Nads who demonstrated improved defence to "upset" Vee (6-4 6-3).

French Open tennis in Paris

2010 French Open - Day Eight

In the battle of big fast guys who are supposed to be the future, Sod handed a beatdown to Cilic (6-4 6-4 6-2).

Soderling of Sweden reacts after winning his match against Cilic of Croatia during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

Cilic of Croatia reacts during a break in his match against Soderling of Sweden during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

Sod will try to get his first official career win over the Greatest Shanker of All Time, who beat his friend and compatriot Wawa (6-3 7-6 [5] 6-2)

French Open tennis in Paris

Big Berd feasted on Muzzard who has not had a great clay court season.

Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic celebrates defeating Andy Murray of Britain at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris

Andy Murray French Open Tennis 2010

He'll face Head Banger who advanced due to the retirement of Jo Willy because of a hip injury.

Mikhail Youzhny of Russia gestures after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France had to retire due to injury from their match in Paris

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France winces as he receives medical attention during his match against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in Paris

Friday, May 28, 2010

Roland Garros 2010: Mr. Clean Dances

Mr. Clean hit the shot of the day to bring up match point, in response to an approach shot that Fish just murdered. I wish I could show a video but you know how it is during Slams. Here's what Tigs had to say:

Ljubicic hits his backhand with such a closed face and a flat swing path that you can’t believe the ball can get over the net and down into the court consistently. It does. Ljubicic walks with deliberation between points. He looks a little stiff. But he’s flexible enough to hit a deft backhand crosscourt pass [block] to set up match point. Fish is crushed. Ljubicic breaks into a swivel-hip dance. He looks like he’s rolling an invisible hula-hoop around his waist. He walks to the baseline and ends this two-day epic with an ace. It’s the highlight of the first week so far.

Kudos to Mr. Clean to win 6-2 6-7 (8) 4-6 6-2 10-8.

In other news, Nails capitulated to Franny 4 and 2. Le Sad.

Demmy clawed her way to victory over CanWoz after taking the path of most resistance (6-7 [2] 6-3 6-4).

Unsurprisingly, MaKiri took out Sveta (6-3 2-6 6-4) for the second time in a month (she beat Sveta in Madrid). Sveta will sink to a #18 in the rankings after Roland Garros. The Roland Garros curse is official.

Roland Garros 2010: Karaoke Grades

It's refereshing to learn that Roland Garros has a tradition of getting the players to karaoke.

It ain't fair that Jumping Jo Willy practices "I Got A Feeling" after he wins any of his matches. A

What do you expect from Nole the king of parody? He roped compatriot Troicki to pretend to be Rafa. Of course, it's pretty hard to keep a straight-face through it all. I'm scarred for life. A-

If you've ever wondered about Muzz's masculinity, look no further. Tough to do MJ's high-voice. Go work on your voice in the off-season and you might getting more fans. B

He's probably too busy changing diapers now or his contribution is being kept under wraps. But I found this contribution from TMF from 2007. No grade.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Roland Garros 2010: Fashion Grades (Women)

Nike's golden gal, Shrieka, is going for a more plain vanilla look with mahogany and grey, and has ditched headgear. This is a definite improvement over her dress in Oz, but it doesn't seem to go all that well with her skin. B

Well, we don't get to see much of Vika's kit as she went out early in an epic collapse to Dulko. The stripes on the dress add a nice accent to the solid Aster Pink. Having the same color for the shoe laces seems overdone. All in all: nice without being boring. A-

I certainly hope we get to see more of Nails through Roland Garros. The Cool Mint color for her crew with a Marina Blue accent complements her skin well. I like the different colors for the layers of her skirt. A

Stella McCartney hasn't changed Caro's kit in 150000 years. F

NaturAna has been sporting the orange Adilibria dress for the clay season. Since the tank top in the same line comes in white and black, why can't Adidas pull off the same colors so that she can wear a different colored dress at RG than for the rest of the clay season? Still this one looks great on her. B+

Dani's Adidas tank comes from the same Adilibria line as NaturAna. The pattern they've added is subtle, and has to be seen up close. Keep it up Adidas, and you can keep up with your competitors from Oregon. A.

Allez Bitch has been wearing the same hot pink Adidas crew since Miami. While she's not exactly a fashion maven, it's really not too hard to change the color of one of her two pieces. Why not a white skirt with a pink top? Or a white crew with a pink skirt? B-

Lady Jaja appears to be donning a yellow version of the Anta dress she's been wearing all year. The skirt ruffles add a nice touch to an otherwise boring dress. B

The Marina Blue accented by Electric Green on ReeRee's dress could go well on a lot of different skins. Nike did a great job with the matching bandanna for her. A

Vee's black lace dress pushes the envelope, and prompted cat calls in the stadium. Sexy? Yes. Would any club player be caught dead wearing this on court? Probably not. Call me strait-laced, but I'd rather see this in the bedroom but not on the tennis court. D

In contrast, Sveta dressed like she was going to practice with dark shorts and a hot pink crew. This suits her earthy and tomboyish personality. Props to Fila for departing from the tried-and-true skirt/dress. A

Roland Garros 2010: Fashion Grades (Men)

As any tennis fan knows, every Grand Slam is a chance for the clothing companies to strut their new stuff. (Yeah, I know pics created via with the help of Photo Shop are already out there). So here come fashion grades.

I like the Bluegrass color of Federer's shirt and bandanna. The stripes on the sleeve do add a tasteful departure from his mostly classical/conservative kits. I have to give some credit to Nike for trying something different with a fade on his shoes. A club player could be comfortable buying this. B+

Rafa has always had the edgier designs from Nike. Last year, by decking him in polos, Nike attempted to make Rafa's kits more grown up. This year they've put him in crews and restored some the edginess. They're playing a delicate balance between edgy and grown up. This one succeeds. A.

A ball kid was asked to step in to play. The orange on Tsonga is the only variation of the same cut and style of every crew that Adidas has done the last few years. Ok, they've added a black or white line. Otherwise, total bore. C

Nothing really new here as Nando has been wearing this blue kit with diagonol stripes the entire clay court season. It's nice of Adidas to try a different pattern, but can't they do something different for a Slam? B-

Adidas, didn't you sign Muzz to a $5 million/year deal? Muzz may be ugly, and folks might want to punch out his teeth, but can a change of colors be that hard? Epic fail for not changing his kit since January. F

The fadeaway from white to blue on the Djoker's polo suits his flamboyant personality. Sergio Tachini has done the stripes across the chest since forever.
I see it working for certain kinds of guys. B+

ARod's Lacoste kit follows the tired theme of navy with white. (BTW, I wonder if ARod changed to a platform stance for his serve). This time we get stripes, and delete the tri-colored stripe on the collar. It's blah! C

Friday, May 21, 2010

Roland Garros 2010 Prognostications

The peak of the professional tennis season begins in Paris with the Grand Slam of the clay court season, Roland Garros. If Oz is the happy Slam, Roland Garros could be called the dirty Slam. And it's not just for la terre battue. Because clay slows the ball down, consistency, point construction and movement matter so much more. This can be mentally and physically taxing, demanding heart from competitors who want to succeed in the City of Lights.

Tournament Site: here

Draws: men's singles and women's singles


1st Quarter: Fed the defending champ and world #1 leads this quarter. The big question is whether he can beat Rafa on clay to defend his title? While he's beaten Rafa twice on clay (Madrid 2009 and Hamburg 2007), he's never done it at Rafa's roost, Roland Garros. As was obvious from last year, this was one of the most emotional victories in his career. He may look as cool as a cucumber on court, but underneath that cool is a cauldron of emotions and a lot of heart. Not only that, Fed's head to head record is 7-14 against Nadal. If there's any knock against Fed being the GOAT, it's his losing record against Nadal. Regardless of the validity of that knock, Fed has some tough competition in his quarter: Sod who beat Nadal twice last year, Cilic who had a great run in Oz but hasn't done well since and LeMonf who is always dangerous on clay. I don't expect any of these fellows to give Fed trouble. The dangerous people are the lurkers: Gulbis who has broken out this season with great results in Rome and Madrid, Wawa who is playing on his best surface and Montanes who beat Fed in Estoril. Look for Gulbis and Fed to meet in the quarters but Fed to triumph in the end, because it's a Grand Slam dammit.

Lurkers: Montanes, Wawa, Gulbis

Semifinalist: Fed

2nd Quarter: Muzz has looked out of sorts on clay for most of the season, and is defending QF points from last year. You know expectations on him are low when the "Murray can win Wimbly" hype has already begun. He faces a tough matchup right away with the talented (but mercurial) Reeshard. Other seeds in his quarter are Big Berd, Jo Willy, Misha, TRob, Tree and Bags. This quarter is real crapshoot. Almost everyone is a dark horse and almost everyone is a favorite. I'd be surprised to see Muzz make it through. I guess Jo Willy and BigBerd will meet in the quarters with Jo Willy doing his dance to make his country proud.

Lurkers: Almost everyone except Muzz

Semifinalist: Jo Willy

3rd Quarter: The Djoker is at a career crossroads. he has undoubtedly struggled this clay season especially with allergies, and parted ways with Todd Martin in Miami. Is he mentally tough enough to find a way to win when he's stressed out (e.g. his serve leaving him, his allergies acting up, crowds booing him, etc.)? On the other side of this quarter is ARod playing his first clay court event of the season. No one expects anything out of ARod as his serve, his biggest weapon, gets muted on clay. Head Samurai, another big serving American, could actually do pretty well considering that he's made the finals of Houston and won the Serbian open. The safe money is for Mosquito and Ferru who have done outstanding on clay to meet with Ferru pulling through.

Lurkers: Head Samurai, Pico, Melzer

Semifinalist: Ferru

4th Quarter: The way the clay court season has developed, Le Coupe des Mousquetaires is Rafa's trophy to bite, by any sane account. By winning Madrid last week, he has earned 18 Master's 1000 wins, exceeding Agassi's total and won three consecutive Master's for the first time. Most importantly, he is injury-free (no tape on the knees), and better-rested (Barcelona went off his schedule). Despite this, Rafa denies that he's the favorite.

This is what you have to write in your articles and you are free to say whatever you believe. I won't say it because I don't like this tag and I don't think I am either.

I am very happy with what has happened up to now, I've got back to my best level and that's the important thing.

I was the favorite before (at the French Open) and I've lost, and then other times I've won.

Who knows what will happen in a week and a half or two weeks, there is more than one contender, there are many contenders.

For Rafa, it's part of his makeup to take things one match, one set and one point at a time. No one does this better on the planet than him. That's what mentally tough champions do. Still, leaving that aside and looking at the probabilities, he has every reason to be very confident in his chances. At this stage, everyone else (Nando, Gonzo, Ljubs) is contending to challenge Rafa much less beat him.

Lurkers: Nico, Kohli

Semifinalist: Rafa

Semifinals: Rafa d. Ferru, Fed d. Jo Willy

Finals: Rafa d. Fed


1st Quarter: ReeRee has only won in Paris once (2002). Her struggles on clay are well documented. Fortunately the tennis gods hath smiled on her half of the quarter by giving her folks she can handle in: Mono, Shahar and Pavs. Her toughest competition lies in the other half: Masha, Sam, JZ and Allez Bitch. Masha's game has been off the last year and half (for more than just her serve), and expect her to slip like a cow on ice. JZ made the semis of Warsaw this week, but is not exactly known for being more than ball machine. The media is hyping up Sam to do good things on clay, because she's won a clay court event (Charleston), made the finals of another (Stuttgart) and made the semis here last year. While it's hard not to like a woman who hits a heavy forehand and kick serve, Allez Bitch seemed to figure out Sam toward the end of their match in Stuttgart. Allez Bitch's ownership of Roland Garros bears repeating: she's won it four times, she's won 35 consecutive sets there, she hasn't lost a match in Paris since 2004, she has an alley named after her, etc. Put shortly, she has every reason to feel that Roland Garros is her "private garden". While I don't agree with Bozo very often (his florid writing seems to mask his failure to do the hard work of actually understanding the game), clay slows the ball down enough for Henin's nimble feet to get herself into position to produce a dazzling array of shots unmatched by her WTA peers. If JuJu can tame her propensity to go for the reckless dazzling shot to play one more setup shot, Roland Garros is hers to win.

Lurkers: JZ, Shahar

Semifinalist: Allez Bitch

2nd Quarter: Lady JaJa has had a revival this year: winning Indian Wells and making the finals in Rome. She has a relatively easy quarter compared to ReeRee's and Allez Bitch's. On the other half of her quarter is Wicky who is coming back from elbow surgery. On the other half of her quarter is Agi who doesn't have any big weapons and Baby Hippo who is still trying to find her form after having back problems.

Lurker: NaturAna

Semifinalist: Lady JaJa

3rd Quarter: Can Caro the Bad Pusher make a deep run on clay? Is her ankle too banged up that she can't retrieve every ball bashed to her weaker forehand wing? In her half of the quarter are defensive baseliners like herself such as Pens, Dulgheru and Safarova. So fortunately for her, Caro's main problem until the quarters will be her ankle.

Most of the seeded ball bashers are in the other half of her quarter: Nails who donated her Madrid quarterfinal match to Peer and Sveta whose W-L record on clay this year is an outstanding 1-3. Both of these two can pull off Hekyll and Jyde acts: stunningly inconsistent one moment and then unbeatable shotmaking the next. Unfortunately Sveta's chances of defending Roland Garros don't look good as she faces MaKiri in the 3rd round who owns her. If Nails can make it the quarters, she has a great chance of beating someone like Caro.

Lurker: MaKiri

Semifinalist: Nails

4th Quarter: Vee's problems are like her little sister's. This is not her best Slam and not her best surface. Her powerful strokes are muted by the surface. At times her forehand and her serve disappear because she tends to jerk her head around on those strokes. When those go south on her, she tends to hit harder hoping the ball will go in, instead of employing some strategy to construct points (her coach's critique not mine). But despite those problems, Vee is mentally tougher (and more stubborn) than the rest of her competition. LenaD seems to have disappeared mentally for the clay court season. Hopefully she can get her act together in Paris. Vika has been struggling with a leg injury (and/or might be too preoccupied with her love life). This quarter has proven surprise winners in Golden Nugget (Madrid) and Maria Ho (Rome).

Lurkers: Golden Nugget, Maria Ho

Semifinalist: Vee

Semifinals: Nails d. Vee, Allez Bitch d. Lady JaJa

Finals: Allez Bitch d. Nails