Star-studded day at Roland Garros
PARIS -- The best day in tennis, invariably, is Big Monday at Wimbledon. After the traditional middle Sunday off, the All England Club presents all 16 of the fourth-round matches, men and women.
After two days of rain backed up the schedule -- we will refrain from a commentary about the binding qualities of the local fromage -- there was a reward for patience and perseverance: Fabulous French Friday at Roland Garros.
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There were 10 Grand Slam singles champions in action and eight former No. 1s. The five top-ranked men and six of seven on the women's side played second- and third-round matches.
"Wow," analyst Mary Carillo said several hours before the matches began. "That's not too shabby. That changes my whole attitude going in."
By and large, the stars behaved like stars. Serena Williams, playing as though her hair was on fire, waxed Julia Goerges, a pleasant 21-year-old from Bad Oldesloe, Germany, in 55 minutes. She won nine consecutive games at one point and made a total of four unforced errors.
It was such a compelling contest that only one question in her news conference was match-specific. At one point, she was asked what the key to a good manicure was.
"Proper cuticles," Serena said, without hesitation. "Not cutting them, but just pushing them back."
The next question, however, was about tennis.
"No," Serena said, "I'm not answering questions about tennis today."
Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova (despite the slight) both won their matches to set up a tasty third-round encounter.
No. 4 seed Andy Murray played another up-and-down match. After using nine of the maximum 10 sets in the first two rounds, Murray went four against Marcos Baghdatis. The curious thing? The Scotsman got bageled in the third set before closing it out, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the last Frenchman in the draw, lost the first set in a tiebreaker to Thiemo De Bakker but rallied to win 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4. Andy Novak Djokovic tagged Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
He lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov, a 21-year-old from Ukraine making his Grand Slam singles debut. It was Dolgopolov's first-ever win over a top-20 player and represented the first time he has won back-to-back matches at the ATP level.
3 Things I KNOW I think
1. Spain reigns on clay: This, as they say on television, just in. There are five Spaniards left in the bottom half of the draw after three rounds, and all of them are seeded: No. 2 Rafael Nadal, No. 7 Fernando Verdasco, No. 9 David Ferrer, No. 16 Juan Carlos Ferrero and No. 19 Nicolas Almagro. Every one of them is favored to advance to the fourth round.
2. Don't discount Sam Stosur: All eyes in her quarter of the draw are on Saturday's Henin-Sharapova match, but the powerful Australian could await in the fourth round if she takes care of business against Anastasia Pivovarova. Stosur could also ruin the highly anticipated Henin-Serena Williams quarterfinal match.
3. These guys are human: Admittedly it was only half past 11 in the morning, but Novak Djokovic actually missed an overhead in his match with Kei Nishikori in the Court 1 Bullring. I saw it with my own eyes. Djokovic was in position to slam, elevated and -- whiffed. He probably lost the ball in the sun, but it was a nice moment for someone who done that a few times at the summer club. Likewise, Roger Federer had a relatively easy backhand drop shot lined up against Julian Reister -- and misjudged it so badly it didn't even reach the net.
No longer ugly Americans
Roger Federer saw this American Avalanche coming.
"I think they've announced themselves now properly," Federer said of John Isner and Sam Querrey before the French Open began. "It's nice seeing Americans do well. It's a huge market in tennis, after all. It shows they are all-around players, not just on hard courts, which I think is something that is often forgotten."
As prescient as the world No. 1 was, he couldn't have seen this coming when Querrey crashed out after the first round.
The United States has five players into the third round, the best total in 16 years. They all have a reasonable chance of advancing to the second week, a rare event for a non-Williams sister.
Americans have now won 16 singles matches here at Roland Garros, four more than the entire total a year ago. Although it isn't terribly surprising that Venus and Serena Williams and Andy Roddick are all 2-0, you could have gotten long odds against Robby Ginepri.
He had lost seven of eight ATP matches -- including the last seven in a row -- before he arrived in Paris. And most of those losses were to guys with names like Lukas Lacko, Ricardas Berankis and Horacio Zeballos.
Yet, the 27-year-old from Kennesaw, Ga., kept it going with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Italian Potito Starace. He's doubles his 2010 win total and now will face 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero for a possible fourth-round match against Novak Djokovic.
"Didn't really have too many expectations coming into this event," Ginepri said. "Usually, that's when good things happen, when you least expect it."
Ginepri, who is ranked No. 98, lost in the first round at Miami and then decided to downsize his ambition. He played a Challenger in Tallahassee, Fla., and won four matches before losing in the final. And though he lost in the first round of the nearby Bordeaux Challenger, he got two more matches in as a late substitute in the World Team Championships in Germany.
At 27, he's five years removed form his best career year, when he reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open and rose to No. 15 in the world.
"Anybody can play at any given time if their mind is into it," Ginepri said. "Obviously mine is right now."
Tampa's Mardy Fish very nearly joined Ginepri in the third round.
Fish was up two sets to one against Croatian Ivan Ljubicic, but fell in a dramatic fifth set 6-2, 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 in a match continued from the day before. On the bright side, it produced the signature celebration of the tournament:
A 30-love in final game, Ljubicic hit a drop shot, Fish countered with a good volley. Ljubicic made a terrific backhand stab on the half-volley for a crosscourt winner. Afterward, the Croatian produced a novel celebration: He did an exaggerated hula-hoop motion -- without the hula-hoop.
John Isner, who had already won two matches here, looked tired losing to Tomas Berdych, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.
Before the event, ESPN.com solicited predictions from readers on the number of U.S. wins. The average turned out to be approximately 17.5. That number could be obliterated; congratulations if you were one of those optimists who saw something in the low 20s.
U.S. mettle count: 16
Day 6 American win total: 2
Overall record: 16-17
United States singles winsVenus Williams (3)
Andy Roddick (2)
Serena Williams (2)
Robby Ginepri (2)
John Isner (2)
Mardy Fish (1)
Jill Craybas (1)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (1)
Varvara Lepchenko (1)
Taylor Dent (1)Note: Bold-faced players have been eliminated
Au revoir, Sebastien
Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, his body no longer able to withstand the rigors of professional tennis, has retired.
"I have knee aches and I need to go through surgery," he said. "My shoulder, it doesn't really hurt, but it's not solid enough. I wanted to play doubles with Richard [Gasquet], but then he had a backache as well.
"Seems logical to stop."
Grosjean once rose as high as No. 4, in 2002, and reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and Roland Garros. He's now listed at No. 549. He helped France to the 2001 Davis Cup title.
"I wish I could have won one of the Grand Slams," he said. "Unfortunately, I didn't manage. So, no regrets. Had people told me I would be in the top five at the beginning of my career, I wouldn't have believed it."
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