Tags: french open
By sachs on Jun 1, 2012 | In tennis
The second of the Slams is getting into the business end.
Aleksandra Wozniak and Another Game For Milos have made the third rounds, and Nestor and Myrni are playing their second round match today. If they win (and they're #1 seeds), would it be the first time Canadians have made the third round in three draws of a Slam? Yesterday was the first Maple Syrup Summit: AGFMilos against former Ottawan Jesse Levine. Milos won despite Levine's impeccable training while an Ottawa youth, supposedly inspired by the Gatineau Ninja community.
Wozniak gets world #1 Victoria Azarenka, so she's got a tough ask, but Milos has a very winnable match against Juan Monaco, the 13th seed. On paper Club Monaco is ahead of AGFMilos, but Raonic has shown much higher level competition against the top guys. Monaco is on a roll lately and is a good claycourter, so if Milos wins its a great sign for his progress on his worst surface. Then he should have it easy: Rafa. AGFMilos is Rafa's challenge in his draw, but its kind of a fantasy. Milos challenged Fed on the super fast blue clay of Madrid, but he's a bit shy of Rafa's credibility of red-ability. (like that?)
Rafa has a pretty clear run to the finals: possible semi opponents Andy Murray (weak on clay and struggling with back pain) or David "Baby killer" Ferrer (who plays Washington Generals to Rafa's Harlem Globetrotters on clay).
(sidebar: I frequent this tennis blog, Tennis-X. There's a commenter there named Humble Rafa who plays the part of His ROyal Humbleness King Rafa. Its a funny schtick, complete with personal-for-Rafa nicknames for his rival. His nickname for Novak, for example is the Egg Lover, a reference to Nole's supposedly-brief love affair with a Michael Jackson Oxygen Tube. Murray is Mr. Lady Forehand, which I think is pretty funny)
Fed's obstacle is a quarter match against the very hot Thomas Berdych, who really challenged Fed in the Madrid final. Berdych though, furst has to get by Del Potro. (Fed has this week surpassed Jimmy Connors or most match wins in Slam history.
The one who comes out of all that gets world #1, Novak Djokovic.
There are other exciting players left in the last 32: Richard Gasquet, Tsonga, Simon, Wawrinka, Old Man Tommy Haas. Haas, one of the Last of the New Balls Generation (along with Roddick, Fed, Ferrero and Hewitt) gets RIchard Gasquet tomorrow which should be a great match. The truth is, Novak, Rafa and ROger have lifted themselves far from the pack on clay. It would be a shock to see someone other than 2 of these 3 in the finals, and that will very likely be Novak and Rafa. Not to spoil the fun and reveal the ending, but it would be a huge shock for anything else to happen.
But accidents happen!
1997, a nobody Brazilian with GREAT hair, Gustavo Kuerten, came from nowhere and won the French over one of the greatest rosters ever assembled of clay court champs near the top of their game: Muster, Courier, Chang, Kafelnikov, Brugera, Costa, Rios...
Could Milos be this years Guga?
A legend is born:
A bit of context
We came into the clay season with Djokovic and Federer in the ascendancy, and Rafa eclipsed. But the clay again coursed through Rafa's veins, and he stopped the 7 match losing streak to Novak in Monte Carlo. He lost early on the blue ice of Madrid, as did Novak (allowing champ Federer to briefly retake #2), but then Rafa came away with the trophy, again over Novak, in Rome. Novak had beaten Fed in the semis. So Rafa is again the undisputed master of this domain, and Novak has taken a role of True Challenger that Fed could never credibly take himself. Still, accidents happen!
These three though, have proven they are far above the field. Ferrer is always there on clay, but he just can't beat the Big Three. Berdych, who can be hot and cold, and is weak in the head, is the only really credible dark horse.
Back to the tournament.
On the women's side, the most compelling story coming in must have been Serena mowing through the top women in the last month: Sharapova, Wozniacki, Azarenka. She has won the French onec, in 2002, but she was probably one of the favourites going in. And then she lost to a Frenchwoman I've never heard of in the first round, her first first round loss in a slam in her career.
Left are Azarenka, Sharapova, Kvitova, Wozniaki, Na Li and Gorgeous Goerges. Kuznetsova knocked out Radwanska. I like Kuznetsova.
Apparently there's been discussion about the top 3 women sniping at each other on the court and in the media. Keep it up girls!
Today's match of the Day: Del Potro/ Cilic or Simon/ Wawrinka. Tomorrow I'd go with Milos/Monaco or Haas/Gasquet. Also today: a BLOCKBUSTER!! of guys you never heard of: Lukasz Kubot, of Poland, against David Goffin of Belgium. Kubot is the headliner here: ranked 49 in the world, I have heard his name in a few mainstream draws before. Goffin on the other hand, I have literally never seen that name. He's ranked 109, which I suspect is a recent rise, and he's here with the best 32 in the world right now. I admit it, I'm a Goffin-Head!
By sachs on May 12, 2011 | In tennis
When I was a kid, I remember there was a Superman clone bad- guy who was going to fight superman. And the cover of the comic said something about What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?
That's one of the toughest questions I've ever grappled with.
Because it came to pass that the man who couldn't lose met on clay against the one and only Clay Monster. Novak had a 30 match win streak on the line, including an Australian Open and the first two hardcourt masters. He'd beaten Federer and Rafa multiple times during the streak. But that was on hard court. This was in Madrid, on clay, in Rafael Nadal's backyard. Not literally his backyard though.
Rafa had established his bona fides as the greatest clay courter in the eyes of most. Better than Borg, Lendl, or any others. He hadn't lost once last season, cleaning up at the 3 Masters Events, French Open. His streak had continued, with a win at the Monte Carlo Masters, which Nole had sat out.
So here was Nole's 2011 undefeated streak on the line against a man who hadn't lost on clay in two years.
The Reign of the Clay Monster is over.
NOvak won more definitively than he had beaten Rafa in the recent Indian Wells and Key Biscayne finals (that makes 3 straight Masters finals between these two- bit of a rivalry?). On the slow clay, the best returner in the game was all over Rafa's serve. Rafa had no answers for Novak. He out Rafa'd Rafa, running, grinding, and waiting for opportunities.
This clip shows the shot, maybe the point of the match. Rafa wins this, but you can see the feel of the relationship.
Then there's this version, with my new guest commentator:
Now, not to forget about some scrub named Federer he is pretty hot on clay right now too. He took apart Soderling in the quarters, and took a set off Rafa in the semis. He played high risk tennis, but was just a tad too inconsistent and lost in a close 3rd set.
So now the last of the clay Masters before Roland Garros. Rome. Again, Fed lands on Rafa's side, and they both face some tough competition. Nole and Murray or on the other side, each with cakewalks (well, maybe not, Nole gets Soderling next round). So Nole, who now has the best start to a season since MacEnroe's 42 win start to 1984, and he looks to pocket another couple before the finals. Fed demolished Tsonga yesterday, and draws Gasquet today, before possibly Berdych Friday, and Rafa Saturday.
If Nole takes this title, we have a new favourite for the French. Even if he falls, this clay season has gotten a lot more interesting, and Nole's case as the true #1 is looking really good.
By sachs on May 28, 2010 | In tennis
We come into this French Open with the tennis world significantly shaken up from where it was just two months ago. Or should I say, set aright?
Because two months ago, Nadal was a massive question mark, and big hitting tall boys named Del Potro and Soderling, plus Davydenko, would surely pose a threat to the diminished Clay Monster, now perhaps a Clay Muppet.
Instead, Nadal swept the pre-French clay season in awesome, in fact, historic fashion. His demolition of the field in Monte Carlo was one of the most comprehensive tournament runs of all time, losing only a handful of games over the entire tournament while serving bagels and breadsticks right through the finals. Meanwhile, both Del Potro and Davydenko withdrew from the French with injuries (Del Potro, sadly, has been lost to us for a year robbing us perhaps of the greatest threat to the Fedal duopoly).. Soderling looked not quite so impressive, losing to Verdasco in one finals and to the decidedly non-threatening Oliver Rochus in another tournament.
Meantime, the all-conquering Fed of 2009 was looking lost ever since the Australian beat down of Andy Murray. He lost early on the hardocurts of February and March and then looked absolutely lost in two tournaments on clay. Murray and Nole, too, looked like they would pose no threat to Nadal with lacklustre play all around. Suddenly, it was Nadal who loomed supreme.
Then, Fed as he always does, got his game together just in time for the Slam, reaching the Madrid finals, losing a tightly fought battle to Nadal, their first match in a year.
Going into the French then, my own estimation of the clay court powers goes like this:
David Ferrer (a Fed era (ie aging) Spaniard on a hot streak)
Fernando "Hot Sauce" Verdasco (another aging Spanish Armada member)
Nicholas "Avogadro Number" Almagro (also Spanish Armada(
Except of course, Federer being Federer, we can rejig him into the #2 position, just cause, duh.
As things shook out, Federer has Soderling on his side of the draw, so that threat/opportunity for redemption for Nadal is wiped out. Federer is slated to meet Stan "The Other Swiss" Wawrinka in the 4th round, and Soda Pop in the quarters. Opposite them would be the winner out of Andy Murray, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, and new Dutch sensation Thiemo de Bakker (remember that name!).
In the bottom half, Nadal has clear sailing through to a Verdasco quarterfinal, and the survivor of the Djokovic/Ferrer side of the draw.
Soda Pop has looked awesome so far, with bagels in each of his first two matches. So TMF has a real threat there. Still, I will pick a Fed/Murray semifinal on that side, with Federer making it through. On the other side, I think Ferrer will outlast Djokovic in a terrific match, only to get blown out by Rafa.
What do you know? A FedAl final for the 4th time in 5 French Opens? If Federer makes the finals for his 5th straight time, he will have broken a record he shares with Borg and Nadal. If Nadal wins, he will be 1 closer to Borg's record of 6 FOs.
Ready, set, ALLEZ!
post-script: the disappointment of the tourney is already Ernest Gulbis, the rich, Swedish ho-banging, Latvian party boy who has shown incredible talent and recently seemed to be taking the game seriously enough to break into the elite, beating Fed and stretching Nadal in one of the recent clay events. Sadly, he retired with an injury in his first match, but he is another guy to look out for this year. Hey, with DelPo out and Nole and Murray hitting a brick wall, we are desperate for new blood at the top. Also, Gulbis was arrested for trolling hos in Sweden a few months ago and has wicked bed head.
Classic Vagabond Post Revisited: The Apollinian and Dionysian in Federer-Nadal. And A French Open prediction.
By sachs on May 28, 2010 | In tennis
This post was written one year ago, shortly after Federer defeated Nadal for the Madrid Masters, the last clay court tournament before the French. Hard to believe, but since then the two did not meet for a full year- not at the French, where Nadal was knocked out by an out-of-his-head Robin Soderling; not at Wimbledon where Nadal, the defending champ, bowed out with bad knees; and not for the rest of the year as Nadal failed to record a single win against a top ten player not named Tsonga. During that time, Fed went on to win the French, Wimbledon, Australian Open and lose a 5-setter final at the USO. For much of that time, the blog-talk was all on how Nadal's career would be cut short due to his failing body. Incredibly, just as Federer roared back from his own slump last winter, when all the smart folk spoke of his demise as the demigod of de game, so has Nadal roared back on his clay, sweeping the Rome, Monte Carlo and Madrid Masters tournaments where that fabled rivalry was reignited. In honour of that rivalry renewed then, here is my post last year on what makes Fedal so damn special.....
On the eve of the French Open, the rivalry which has animated the sport for the last four years has flickered back into life where it had seemed to be extinguished. Nadal and Federer have, for years, faced offin the Grand Slam finals as two titans in a battle to repeated through eternity. Titans or... gods?
What exactly has made this rivalry so special? As with no other pair in the history of the game, Nadal and Federer faced each other on the biggest stages, to the exclusion of every other player of their time. That alone explains why so much attention has been paid to their rivalry, but it is not the only reason.
There has always been something more: with Borg/MacEnroe and Sampras/Agassi there was a similar dynamic of major rivals characterized by polar opposite personalities and on-court styles. This is a clue to the importance of the current duo.
It has become trendy of late to engage in revisionist tennis commentary: after Nadal had been characterized as a brute force for so many years, commentators now point out the thought which has gone into creating his game, the ongoing improvements, the tactical adjustments. Nadal is now called a thinker. All this may be true upon in-depth analysis. But let's look again at their games, superficially, and we easily see why they were categorized, typecast even, so quickly: Federer as God, Nadal as Beast.
Federer's game has been called the most beautiful, most perfect of all. His shots are immaculate. Aesthetically, he has no rival. At his best, he is like a painter, each shot adding colour and shape to the portrait which he alone sees all of. It is a game of perfect control, perfect balance. In short, it is an object to behold.
Nadal's game, despite the process which lies underneath creating it, appears as brute power. Primordial power unleashed. Watching Nadal is cathartic. He seems to pour ALL into each shot, as if he is channeling a greater power. It is an unshackling of the human body, each shot a release and explosion. It is orgiastic.
In Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, the philosopher attempts to unlock the secrets of the ancient Greek dramas of Sophocles and Aeschylus. The key to his thesis is the recognition of the integration of opposing artistic forces: the gods Apollo and Dionysus.
Apollo is the "shining light", the symbol of the "plastic" arts, such as sculpting and painting. The Apollinian represents the World as Appearances (i.e. the Grand Illusion, or the Veil of Maya). The gorgeous Olympic gods are manifestations of Appolinian culture. From Apollo, the beauty of order and appearances, and especially of individuation (the illusion that the world is made of discrete, separate objects and individual).
Dionysus is the god of ecstasy. The Dionysian arts, the drumming, dance, and music of the Greek Dionysian festivals, are those which strip away the illusion of the world and reveal the unity between men, and between man and nature. If Apollo is the god of appearance, Dionysus is the god of That Power Which Lies Beneath. The archetypal Dionysian art is music, that which seems to communicate deeper meaning, to touch That Power Which Lies Beneath without our "Real World" as intermediary (as in the plastic arts).
Nietzsche saw, in Greek Tragedy, the union of these two arts: at once individuated and beautiful, in the characters we see on stage, at the same time touching the Truth and underlying unity of the world we live in through the mythic archetypes portrayed, the grand mysteries touched on through the story and the hero's ultimate realization of That Which Lies Beneath, all of which was aided by the very Dionysian music and chorus. To Nietzsche, this was the most powerful possible art, using Apollo to reveal Dionysus and vice versa.
And this is why Federer-Nadal touches us like no other! There, live and on court, we see the two great archetypes engaged in their own dance: with Federer we marvel at beauty and grace, with Nadal we are released through primal force. Their rivalry touches us at a mythic level; they represent basic categories of existence.
So, for the French.
Nadal vs Fed in the finals.
By sachs on Jun 20, 2009 | In tennis
Ulysses at Dusk, Federer Facing '09:
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
And oh yeah, the defending champion and World Number 1 is OUT OF WIMBLEDON. That's Rafa, if you are just coming to the sport due to love of this blog.
PART ONE: The Widening Gyre
The tennis world slowed down from 2004 to 2008. In the past, the tour was a wild and woolly place where new contenders sprang up at each grand slam, and sometimes with great showings at the Masters tournaments.
Then came Fed, and from 2004 to 2008, there were only 2 storylines: First, Would Federer continue his dominance? And then, starting in 2005, would Nadal catch up to Fed? Somehow, the answer to both was yes. Fed maintained, winning multiple Slams each year until '08, all the while Nadal slowly cutting into the awesome lead Fed had created in the rankings. Then it happened in '08, that Fed somehow maintained dominance over the Rest while being caught by Nadal who had a Federeresque year: while Fed finalled in ALL FOUR Grand Slams, winning the U.S. Open, Rafa took an accountants trick: he didn't start '08 in January as the rest of us do, but in the spring clay court season. Not a fiscal '08, but a Nadal '08, reeling off clay Masters titles, demolishing Roger at the French, winning Wimbledon in the Greatest Match Ever Played, Olympic Gold, summer hard court Masters shields (including Toronto, where I watched in person as he demolished still-rising Andy Murray in the quarters) and then a semifinal exit in the semis at the US. The Nadal '08 of course continued in '09 with his January Australian Open title.
So it was.
And in January, as Nadal's '08 was not quite done, the rest of us pondered, after four years, new storylines:
Now, could Nadal maintain dominance? Was Federer's time at the pinnacle done, would retirement follow soon? Could Nole and Murray compete with Nadal, for the top, and would Fed stay in that mix?
Then, another new story. As Nadal's 08 came to a close, with a 5th set breakdown by Federer to allow Nadal the Australian crown, with similar breakdowns against Nole and Murray in other tournaments through February and March, and, as the clay season dawned, we wondered not whether Federer could regain the top spot, but whether he could stay in the top three at all?
Now how quickly things have changed!
With Nadal's French Open exit, Federer's clay crown at long last, and decidedly-not-number-one showings from Nole and Murray, we are already onto a new set of storylines. Think of it: the tour was a settled place from 04-08. 08 Saw Nadal replace Federer in the dominator role, but not much else changed. Now in 09, things have happened fast:
*Nadal was an all-conquering force, until he was not, and now we wonder if he ever will be again. Chatter over the last weeks has been whether his knee injury was for real, or whether Rafa was simply emotionally battered by his wild ride and French devastation. Now the truth is known. The Wimbledon champion has withdrawn to heal.
*Just weeks ago, Fed was a spent force, a conquered hero, ready to retire with new bride and babe on the way. But like Ulysses, this hero refused to sail meekly into the night:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
*Murray and Nole were crown princes, the Top Four was a sacrosanct circle admitting no other pretenders as contenders. Now, the gates lie open and there is no such neat distinction between these two and the field.
Part Two: The French and Wimbledon
I go along with the group-mind on what the French means for Federer: a last monkey off his back, I believe Federer will be as strong mentally as ever.
What no one seems to be paying attention to, though, is his actual tennis. Tennis is not Vulcan chess. It does require some body. And Fed's has returned. We saw it first in Madrid with his easy championship over a beaten-down Nadal, and it was confirmed in Paris. While Federer may never regain quite the form of '04-'07, the inconsistent, safe-hitting, second-serving Federer of '08 is gone. In the Paris finals, Federer made it through a second set tiebreak hitting only aces. Federer is drop-shotting, going for lines, attacking the net. This is the Federer he needs to be to beat Nadal at his peak.
But will we ever again see Nadal at his peak? I wrote after Madrid that Nadal no longer looked invulnerable. Like a dictatorship that opens a slight window of freedom for its people, this crack of light is all it takes for a starved mob to crash through. After 5 years in darkness, the ATP mob is ready to party. Robin Soderling showed it in Paris. Now, going into Wimbledon, Nadal faces yet more serious problems. Chronic knee tendonitis threatens not just his title defense (and thus the Number One ranking), but his career. How sad for tennis would it be if Nadal could never regain that form? If the epic Nadal-Fed finals were indeed in the past, as many thought, but it was FED who carried on?
Nole meanwhile has shown that his semifinal loss to Nadal in Madrid still weighs on him. If he can't recover mentally from that one match, top players will feast on him.
Murray had a strong showing at the French, and a win at the Queen's grass court tune-up event. He is telling everyone who listens that he can win Wimbledon, and perhaps he can, but, even if Nole looks weak, there are many other contenders looking strong: Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Roddick are knocking on the Big Four's door. Old warriors Haas and Safin, whose careers have never lived up to their potential due to injuries of the body and mind, now remind us of what was once seen in them. Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga threaten, and of course, we all want to know if RObin Soderling can continue his awesome new form. All of these players bear close watching in the two weeks to come.
Nadal is out, Nole is questionable, and Murray is surrounded by other barking dogs. But Federer, like the Dude, abides.
This we know. The rest we guess.
In the draw, Roddick has espcaped Federer's half. I expect a very strong showing from him. On grass, he is more than capable of taking down Nole and Murray.
We are set for Roddick/Murray in one semi, and Fed/Djoker in the other, if Nole should make it that far.
I will predict a Fed/Roddick third final, a third triumph, 6th Wimbledon and 15th Slam for Roger.
As for the women: Due to vicious seeding, Venus Williams, defending champion and 5 time Wimbledon winner, is in the 3rd hole. Serena, 2 time Wimbledon champ, is #2. French Open choker, 0 SLam winner, Dinara Safina is #1.
BUT, Venus and Serena are on opposite halves! My prediction: Venus over Dinara in one semis, and someone other than Serena representing the other half.
Some early matches to look out for:
Santoro vs Kiefer, a first round battle of aging wizards. Should be great fun.
Second round: del Potro vs Hewitt
Andy Murray vs Ernests Gulbis
A third aging wiz, Ferrero vs the winner of Santoro/Kiefer
Dr. Ivo vs Canuck Frankie Dancevic
Let's go enjoy some grass!