Roland Garros Day 1: Play.
There’s a Paris that exists in popular imagination as romantic, delicious and artistic. Symbol of good taste.
Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), that is not the Paris that Roland Garros brings out. The sole slam on clay tends to show the other side of this lovely city – the side that stormed the Bastille and chopped off the king’s head.
So it was with trepidation that I turned on my live stream to watch a few WTA first round clashes. The women’s side has been prone to early top seed wipeouts lately, and Sveta and Venus both had potentially tricky first round opponents. Surprisingly, they both made it through with relative ease, taking out Cirstea 63 61 and Nutty Patty 63 63.
For Sveta, the cloud of defending champ voodoo hung over her head as she quickly got down 0-3 with a string of errors. But as she stepped up to the baseline to serve at 0-3, three of her forehands suddenly found themselves within the lines. She held, gave herself a couple of fist pumps and went on to win 12 of the next 13 games.
Probably the most convincing match I’ve seen Sexlana play since the Australian Open, and didn’t she play it just in time?
(Pity about Sori, with a quarterfinal to defend, looks like she’ll be taking a dive down the rankings.)
As for Venus, the good news is her problem lately hasn’t been the early rounds. The bad news is that it tends to be in the semis or the finals where she completely no-shows.
We’ll see what happens in Paris. Do check out her ‘Lady Marmalade’ inspired outfit though. “Voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”
While Sveta and Venus dodged the upset bug, there was no such luck for Vika, who was thoroughly outclassed by Gisela Dulko, 61 62. That Vika should fall to a well-known giant-killer was not surprising. But the score, and the contrast between the hot mess that was Azarenka and the cool cola kid in Dulko didn’t make it pretty for the 10th seed. Dulko played an intelligent match, with just the right mix of guile and consistency to flummox Vika. It was a good time to step up – she’s in a cushy part of the draw.
On the men’s side of things, if Mandy was the Nole of 07, and Delpo was the Mandy of 08, then Cilic is the Delpo of 09 and Ernie is the Cilic of … umm, never mind. Tsonga was supposed to be somebody, I’m just not sure who. In any case, it’s just another ascending scale of non-performance, with a caveat on Del Potro’s injury. And with Roger and Serena winning the Aus Open, and Rafa and Justine in fine form for Roland Garros, 2010 feels a little … well, 2007.
I can live with that.
Day 1 of Roland Garros saw Tsonga taken to 5 sets by Daniel Brands, eventually winning 46 63 62 67 75. An erratic Marin Cilic, at one stage, split sets and went down a break in the third set to Ricardo Mello – a guy who has only won back-to-back tour-level matches once in his career. Cilic eventually prevailed 61 36 63 61, and yet I couldn’t help but remember the Australian Open, where Cilic Peppers persisted erratically, winning tough round after round until bodily fatigue finally wore down an eager heart. Think we’re headed for a repeat? Or worse – an early exit?
With his results lately, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Last week, Rafa and Roger respectably disagreed on whether how much of a player’s clay season performance depends on their performance in the tournaments leading up to Roland Garros, and how much of it depends on what happens in Paris. Gulbis and MJMS rode into Paris on a wave of good publicity after their successes during the European clay circuit. They came looking to cause bangs, but left with nothing but whimpers of pain, as MJ crashed out to Amanmuradova 62 64 and Ernie retired when down to Julien Benneteau 46 26 01 with a hamstring injury.
It’s a shame not to live up to expectations and form, because 3 years from now, I’m not sure how many of us will remember the clay season either of them had.