Tag Archives: French Open

Ocho for Rafa. Bravo

11 Jun

Nadal slides to a reverse backhand return to Djokovic.

Raphael Nadal – rarely stretched in his 8th French Open victory.

Raphael Nadal proved once again what we already know. He is the greatest clay court player of this, and probably all generations with a clinical straight sets win over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. And in a rare quirk of ATP computer treachery, the win saw Nadal drop from #4 to #5 on the rankings, while Ferrer moved up from #5 to #4. I won’t go into detail on the need to “defend” points from the previous 12 months – suffice to say Ferrer making the final was an improvement on 2012, whereas Rafa winning the final was the same result for him. It’s hard to improve on perfection – more on that later.

Rafa becomes the first man to win a Slam 8 times – both Roger Federer and Pete Sampras amassed 7 Wimbledon titles – and Roger will still start pretty close to favourite this year at Wimbledon. I’m not sure if Federer, Djokovic or Murray will be able to stop the runaway train that is Raphael Nadal. He is relishing his time back on court following serious knee trouble that plagued him in 2012.

In his victorious post match press conference, Rafa conceded “sure I have doubts, so I work as hard as I can.. that’s why I am back” David Ferrer summed things up. “Rafa was better than me – he has the best mentality I’ve ever seen in my career.  He has everything, no?”

Spare a thought for the rest of the players on the ATP tour with Rafa’s fitting final words – “I will keep practising with the same passion and intensity to bring my tennis to the highest level possible…in tennis, for sure, you can improve and keep improving”. Scary.


* worth reading this earlier post from the PRO on Rafa’s comeback



Serena shines

9 Jun

Serena Williams raises a hand in victory, after a short and snappy 46-minute match in which Italian Sara Errani could only swipe a single game.

French Open champion Serena Williams celebrates with a trademark jig

A somewhat serene Serena Williams snuffed out the early spark from Maria Sharapova to take out her 2nd French Open singles title in Paris. In a dominant serving display, Serena, who loves the big occasion, closed out the match with 3 aces in the last game winning 6/4 6/4. It has been 11 years between celebrations in Paris for Serena, and today’s title takes her Grand Slam singles tally to 16, and kept alive her current career best winning streak of 31 matches.

It could be that Serena Williams knows how to hold a grudge. It has been said before that she has never forgotten losing the 2004 Wimbledon final to the then 17 year old Maria Sharapova. Since then Sharapova has lost 10 straight times to Williams, and despite getting close, doesn’t look likely to turn this around any time soon.

While on court Serena Williams will always play with a ruthless competitiveness, could it be, as she enters the twilight of her career that she is starting to get the bigger picture. Partly due to her relationship with French player maker, Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena addressed the crowd in French and referred to her love of Paris, perhaps she realises a few weeks shy of her 32nd birthday that every moment needs to be savoured. With Serena one thing will always stand out. “I want more…”




Rafa rules. OK

8 Jun

Rafael Nadal whizzed through his quarter final against Stanislas Wawrinka. The Spanish 3rd seed took the win in 3 sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

Rafa was stretched to the limit, but rules Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic almost did what he said he would do, claim victory over Raphael Nadal in the French Open semi final. It took Rafa all of his renowned athleticism, fighting qualities and mental toughness to hold off the belligerent Serb over 4 hours and 37 minutes of roller coaster tennis. The result a 9/7 in the 5th set win in a match that just adds to the back catalogue of classic Nadal / Djokovic  matches. In the other men’s semi David Ferrer, the Spanish ball machine, set up an all Spanish final by thrashing local favourite Jo-Wi Tsonga in straight sets.

While Djokovic licks his wounds and counts an 0-5 win loss record at the French against Rafa, he also rued the lack of support from tournament staff when he asked for the court to be watered as “it was too slippery, it was difficult to change direction, I don’t understand, it was wrong that they didn’t water” – perhaps in a rivalry where it is the smallest of details that can give one player the edge this excuse says more about Djokovic’s state of mind.

As for Rafa – his post match comments leave no doubt, excuses do not enter his thought process. “I lost a match like this in Australia. This one today was for me”. And in a telling philosophical moment he confided to the gathered media – “You need to love the game and appreciate every moment. I have learned to enjoy suffering in these matches”. Uncle Tony would be proud.


PS follow the link to The PRO’s blog on the importance of learning to “suffer” on clay.


French Open semis. The pointy end.

6 Jun

Muscle man

Rafa rips a forehand

With apologies to Roger Federer the men’s semi finals at this year’s French Open line up as most would have expected. And what a tantalising pair of matches these semis will be. The bottom half of the draw pits the bulldog, Spanish ball machine David Ferrer, against raging crowd favourite, the French entertainer – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. And while this will be a great match, it will serve as the curtain raiser to the main event.

In the most anticipated match of the tournament and a replay of last year’s final, world #1 Novak Djokovic takes on 7 time French Open champion, and current #4 Raphael Nadal. Both are in blistering form. Nadal is coming good, as he said in his courtside interview after demolishing Stan Wawrinka “very, very good” at just the right time.

After a long layoff with serious doubts being raised about the durability of Rafa’s knees, the King of Clay is well and truly looking to hold onto that crown. It is a stat that we all know, but almost incomprehensible to think about – Rafa has lost only once at Roland Garros – that’s 57 wins, one loss. He owns the place and must feel bullet proof everytime he steps onto Philippe Chatrier Court.

Nadal and Djokovic have met 34 times with Rafa holding a 19-15 edge and a 12-3 clay court edge – while this seems a solid case for Rafa – recent form is in Novak’s favour. Of the past 16 matches Novak has an 11-5 edge and more importantly they have split the last 6 clay court matches 3-3, and it was Djokovic who won their last meeting on the surface 1 month ago in straight sets.

Djokovic loves the big occasion – and there will be none bigger. He has beaten Rafa in every slam but this one (even if it took 5 hours and 53 minutes to do it in the epic 2012 Australian Open final) and hasn’t shied away from the fact that this is the tournament he has set himself for this year. With all of that on board, The PRO is making a bold prediction and going with the head – and not the heart – Djokovic in 4 sets.

The PRO.

Scream-fest # 13. It’s Vika v. Maria

6 Jun

Azarenka v. Sharapova

Bring your ear plugs as Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka go head to head in the semi final.

In a battle of former WTA #1’s, Russia’s self proclaimed “cow on ice” and current world #2 Maria Sharapova, will take on Belarus world #3 Victoria Azarenka. The shriek-o-meter will also be on hand as these two are serial offenders when it comes to making a racket.

Azarenka leads the head to head battle 7-5, Sharapova leads the claycourt part of that equation 2-0. This looms as a titanic battle between two stars of the WTA tour. The PRO thinks this time it will be Vika in 3 sets – partly based on Azarenka’s self assessment when she said in her last post match press conference “while she wasn’t married to clay, we are moving in together”.

In the other women’s French Open semi final world #1 Serena Williams takes on Italian clay court specialist world #5 Sara Errani. What better way for the WTA to celebrate its 40th anniversary than to have these two matches interspersed with a ceremony on Roland Garros’s famed centre court featuring a cavalcade of great female tennis players from the past 40 years.


Fed Express sent packing

5 Jun

One of a multitude of winners that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fired down in his straight-sets win over 2009 champion Roger Federer on Tuesday.Not this year...No hard feelingsPacking up

A rampant Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sent Swiss superstar Roger Federer on his way at the French Open

With the crowd chanting Jo-Wee Jo-Wee, French #1 and tournament 6th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga moved one step closer to a French fairy tale with a demolition job on none other than 17 time Grand Slam champion, Roger Federer. It was one way traffic as Tsonga served with great accuracy, moved like the athlete he is, and generally controlled the tempo of the match against his good friend.

Tsonga was good today – so good in fact that Federer, as always generous in praise for his opponent following a defeat said that “Jo-Willy played great today – he was better than me in all areas of play”.  Tsonga’s Aussie coach Roger Rasheed could not be happier with the passion and intensity his charge is showing and there is a growing sense that Rasheed may just get Tsonga to realise his Grand Slam dream.

The win puts Tsonga through to the semi finals for the first time at Roland Garros where he will meet Spanish ball machine David Ferrer.


Tommy – more than a pinball wizard

4 Jun

Super serve                        4 down!
Tommy Haas the victor. 35 and going strong

Thirty five year years young, Germany’s Tommy Haas showed that old guys rule when he blasted his way into the French Open 1/4 finals today with a thumping win over Mikhail Youzhny. Haas has been a clay court revelation in 2013, especially for a player with a self confessed preference for hardcourt. He won his 14th ATP title earlier this year on the clay at Munich and has risen to a ranking of #13.

Haas is a survivor. He has had to endure multiple shoulder, elbow and hip surgeries over the years, and has seen his ranking plummet to the 370’s as recently as 2011. By winning his 4th round match today in Paris, Tommy Haas has the distinction of achieving the full set of career Grand Slam 1/4 finals. A fitting record for a genuine stalwart of the game. In fact Haas’s longevity makes sense when in a recent interview he conceded he “didn’t know what he would do when and if he stopped playing”, and that “tennis is all I know”.

Lucky wristband?Bullseye!

Haas has broken a couple of quirky statistics here – it took him the most number of match points ever to close out the match against big John Isner – not surprising that record is against Isner with his booming serve. Haas is the oldest 1/4 finalist since Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open, and was quoted at his post match press conference to be “really proud to make the 1/4’s here for the first time”. In a fitting comment he said “he is smarter in how he trains, how he eats and how he recovers” – who said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.