Tag Archives: Roland Garros

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.

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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.

The PRO

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.

The PRO

Wow-rinka. Stan you are the man

4 Jun

Defeated

Richard Gasquet – dreams of a French Open 1/4 final bite the Roland Garros dust.

In one of those epic 4 and a half hour 5 set contests, Swiss #2 and French Open 9th seed, Stanislas Wawrinka defeated hometown hero, 7th seed Richard Gasquet 6/7 4/6 6/4 7/5 8/6. Wawrinka, often described by legendary tennis critic John McEnroe as “having the best one-handed backhand in the game” was looking down the barrel as Richard Gasquet, with arguably as sweet a backhand swing and a partisan Parisian crowd egging him on, almost stole the match in straight sets.

Wawrinka is having a watershed year and is now back to his previous career high ranking of ATP #9. The catalyst for this could well have been the heartbreaking 5 hour “war” with Novak Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open – where Stan the Man won everything but the match, going down 12-10 in a gruelling 5th set. Gone are the days of Wawrinka surrendering meekly, and after treatment for a thigh strain he steadied to take the next 2 sets and the ascendency into the 5th. Gasquet would be the one on the mat as trainers tried to pump some life back into the Frenchman’s legs. Wawrinka prevailed 8-6 in the deciding set.

And what looms next for Stan the Man – a 1/4 final against Raphael Nadal – who must have been relishing the spectacle of his potential next opponent locked in a physically taxing “epic” – and Rafa also safe in the knowledge of a 19 and 0 win-loss aggregate in his favour against the pair of them.

The PRO

Roger dodges a bullet

3 Jun

Perfect poise

17 time Grand Slam singles champion kept his eye on the prize – just, against Gilles Simon winning in 5 sets.

In perhaps a sign of where things are at for the Fed express, it took Roger Federer the best part of 5 sets to shake off a determined 15th seed, Frenchman Gilles Simon at Roland Garros. Simon looked to be in control with a 2 sets to 1 lead and with Federer seemingly unable to hurt Simon or penetrate his defence. For Simon, who has hovered around the top 10 for many years but cannot take the big scalps, it was another case of close – but no cigar.

Federer’s win brought up more milestones. His 900th ATP tour win, and puts him in his 36th consecutive Grand Slam 1/4 final where he will try to end the run of another Frenchman and crowd favourite; Jo-Wi Tsonga. At his press conference following the match Federer was asked of the significance of the milestone. “I think I will look on 36 1/4 finals and say it was incredible because it wasn’t just 1 week or 1 year. I had to fight..”

No hard feelings

Victor + vanquished

Further underlining the point of players maturing later on the ATP tour, Federer joins fellow 31 year olds Tommy Robredo and David Ferrer in the 1/4’s, with either 35 year old Tommy Haas or young buck, 30 year old Mikhail Youzhny set to join them tomorrow.

Federer also gave some timely advice for all of us: “I’m happy I found a way, and was able to tidy up my play. I stayed calm under pressure.” Touche Roger.

The PRO

 

 

 

 

 

Remember me!

2 Jun

Franchesca Schiavonie - Strausburg 2012

In a typical gutsy, tenacious and gritty performance, Italy’s Francesca Schiavone rolled back the clock to happier days at Roland Garros with a 3rd round 6/2 6/1 win over French #1, the quirky Marion Bartoli.

Bartoli never looked comfortable against the evergreen 32 year old from Milan. Despite a 2 year downward spiral with her ranking slipping below 50 from a career high #4, Schiavone is much respected for her fighting qualities, steely determination and varied game – all qualities that brought Sam Stosur undone to give Schiavone her maiden Slam victory in the 2010 French Open final. Schiavone has a long way to go to repeat that act – and the next step could be the most difficult, a 4th round match up with Viktoria Azarenka.

Respect is something that is earned – One thing you cannot do – count Schiavone out.

The PRO

ITALY’S GOT TALENT…but will they make it to the top?

20 Sep

 ATP Challenger final, Harbour Club, Milano

Three Fed Cup victories since 2006, Francesca Schiavone’s 2011 French Open title and Sara Errani’s runner up effort this year on the Roland Garros clay illustrate the strength of Italian tennis. And with 3 women into the round of 16 at Wimbledon and 6 men in the ATP top 100, Australian High Performance coach and tennis writer, Jamie Parrott ventured to Italy to find out what is driving the rise in Italian tennis and how far it can go?

Look out for the full article in the October edition of the Australian Tennis Magazine… and later next month on this blog.