Check back daily throughout the French Open as our resident blogger, James LaRosa, offers up his humorous and poignant take on the day's action.
Day 7 - 5/29/2010 - 3:48PM PT
Time to give big ups to the players who brought both da noise and da funk to the first week of the Dirty Slam. Raise your glasses, suckas.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: She hasn't even made it through the third round yet and I'm giving her props? For what? For taking the first set off Justine Henin at RG since 2005. Moo.
FABIO FOGNINI: What's French for drama? The Italian was down two sets and a break in his second rounder against Gael Monfils, but he hung around long enough to land at 5-all in the fifth. In total darkness. Sure, he could've closed it out there, which is why when he was still able to seal the deal the next day, the world (and the rest of the field) really took notice. Still, no matter what he does, his eyebrows will always be his crown and glory.
NADIA PETROVA: In almost identical circumstances, Nadia too found herself down and out to a feisty Frenchie, in this case white-hot gold-lame'd Aravane Rezai. She battled back to serve for the match, only to fail and have play suspended. Not known as a closer, Petrova too held her nerve to come out on top. The only difference between her and Fognini is her eyebrows. Though formidable, they aren't nearly as spectacular.
OPPORTUNISTS: While CHANELLE SCHEEPERS & TEIMURAZ GABASHVILI (who??) are ranked a lowly No 131 and 144 in the world respectively, they navigated ridiculously soft draws (apologies to Gisela Dulko and Andy Roddick) to land in the second week. Standing between them and spots in the quarters, a gimpy Elena Dementieva and a very not-Ferrer Jurgen Melzer. Meanwhile, Australian JARMILA GROTH not only had a soft draw, she also had a crippled old lady in her path. And now she's one Shvedova shy of the quarters herself. Whatever deal you made with the devil, I hope it was worth it.
The Last American Standing
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Not sure what impresses me more, how he's rebounded from momentum crushing allergies or his take on Shakira in the RG karaoke booth. Either way, it's nice to see him back.
SAM QUERREY: We want all of our athletes to fight like hell. When they don't, we're disgusted. When they admit to tanking, we want blood. But. We're also sick and tired of all the canned answers to all the canned questions in press conferences. Sam was French fried and had the cojones to admit it. So how about a little credit for (sacre bleu!) honesty?
ROBBY GINEPRI: The definition of fighting like hell, the last American male standing showed what a little grit will do, following up his Querrey spanking by rallying against Potito Starace and then gutting out a five set win over former champ Juan Carlos Ferrero. In a presser when trying to explain an operation he recently had that involved burning some nerves to the brain (don't ask), he was jokingly asked if it was a lobotomy. His reply, "They could have done anything. I wouldn't have known." Whatever it was, I'll have what he's having.
ANDY MURRAY: Contrary to popular chatter, I firmly believe Gasquet lost that match more than Murray won it. But he sure as heck trounced Chela and Baghdatis, and for a guy coming on off a hideous clay court season, I'm thrilled to say well done. THAT is fighting spirit, and seriously encouraging for the grass.
TENNIS CHANNEL: I never do this so you know it's sincere. Strictly as a tennis fan, I couldn't be more impressed with TC's coverage of the French, by far their best effort yet at a major. All live, all so well covered by a great team. Loved Justin Gimelstob's breakdown of Rafael Nadal's clay game, and the profile on Shahar Peer and her visit to Auschwitz with her grandmother was extraordinary. Keep it up guys.
You didn't think it was gonna be all unicorns and lollipops, did you? Tomorrow: Dunlop. And he's packin' a Stick.
Day 6 - 5/28/2010 - 5:28PM PT
"Clean-up on aisle 9!"
After Mother Nature made a stinky out of yesterday, our reward today is seeing nearly every single top player come out and swing a stick for us. Since everyone else is going to write about The Stars and how awesome they are, I'm devoting Day 6 to their poor pathetic victims.
Twitter couldn't help Zeballos
Like Horacio Zeballos of Argentina. He knew he had a tall order going up against a certain 4-time RG champ. What did he do to prepare? He took to his twitter to ask "What does it take to beat Rafa? Leave all comments and options." Now that's some scouting. The best reply came from fellow player Juan Monaco, who replied "big onion! please get a helmet, flak jacket and walks the war ... animal hug and luck." Okay that's a rough google translation but essentially it boils down to "better you than me sucka." To quote Jaws, I think we're gonna need a bigger onion as Zeballos is chomped in straight sets.
Over on Lenglen, Victim #2 Julia Goerges is putting up quite a fight. Kind of like the dumb girl in all those Friday the 13th movies puts up a fight, by running through the pitch black woods flailing and tripping over nothing in particular, until the guy with the machete (or weed wacker, or ping pong table – he was very crafty) leaves her a bloody mess. In this case, the weapon of choice is ridiculously-manicured nails, which Goerges will be picking out of her forehead for weeks.
Victim #3, Klara Zakopalova, thought she was safe as her opponent has never seen nail polish a day in her life. What she does see is the nastiest backhand on the women's tour. She also sees what clay looks like from six feet under.
They don't even bother to dig her up, instead trotting out Victim #4, Dominika Cibulkova. You'd think being the '09 semifinalist would make her the heroine of this horror movie, but like Drew Barrymore in Scream, it's a bait and switch as the Slovakian is disemboweled in, er…transparent fashion.
And how about a moment of silence for Victim #5, Julian Reister. (Who?) The German hadn't had a single Tour level win ever, yet he came through qualifying to take out both Feliciano Lopez and Olivier Rochus. What's his reward? A Swiss flag in the heart. Pretty sure I saw it poking out the back of his rib cage.
Victim #6 Kirsten Flipkens can't buy a moment of silence as her killer is screaming with every bludgeoning stroke. Not sure if the Belgian lost or her head was just exploded Scanners-style. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, I will do you the favor of NOT posting an accompanying youtube clip.)
Victim #7, Xavier Malisse, puts himself out of his own misery by retiring down two sets and a break (my favorite point in a match for players to retire – insert sarcasm and rusty blade here).
Sometimes the saddest victims are the ones who manage to crawl away wounded only to be dragged back by their ankles for the death blow. Such was the case with Victims #8, 9 & 10, Kei Nishikori, Mardy Fish and Fernando Gonzalez (the latter also a semifinalist last year). After gaining their first bit of momentum after injury-plagued seasons, they're promptly snatched back into the bushes and gutted by Gumby, Mr. Clean and Tathiana Garbin, respectively.
No one falls harder than Victim #11 John Isner (he's 9'15" after all), but the biggest thud of the day is saved for last as one of the killers becomes the killed. Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, already on her 10th life and it's only the 3rd round, snatches defeat from the jaws of victory and becomes Victim #12. This one calls for a 21 gun salute. Aim them where you wish.
So Day 6 ends as it began, with the need for a massive clean-up. If there's one thing these top players can't do, it's pick up after themselves.
Tomorrow: Two of the baddest chicks on tour have a rumble on Chatrier. Sharapova v. Henin. One thing's for sure, the winner won't leave any bones.
Day 5 - 5/27/2010 - 12:28PM PT
Hello peoples! It is Dunlop here! James is in jail for beating metaphors to death last few days so today I am, how you say, large and in charge.
I know you are dying to know what Dunlop has been doing since the last time we get jiggy together in Australia. Well, life has not been easy. Besides dealing with personality disorder of hack tennis writer, Dunlop also deal with the heartbreak. He falls in love but then gets all the pressure squeezed out of him by monster! She say I love you Dunlop, I cannot live without you Dunlop. Then she say she lose the fire for me, adjust tiny shoulder sleeves and walk out of life forever. Dunlop is devastated! Now he double dates with Dancing With Stars boy ice dancer. We both need girlfriends, someone help!
Lucky for me my Ana plays today. And my Nole and Jelena (the bagra!) So I have big bowl of Milk Duds, I am ready! Wait, it starts to sprinkle the rain. That does the sucking. Okay, Dunlop will, how you say, kill some time by answering quick question sent in to his fancy twitter account (@TheRealDunlop).
From @gvtennisnews: So will your Jelena finally win a slam this fortnight?
Not this time. There is someone who is playing much much better. My Ana! She is back and better than ever. Dunlop has already bought his tuxedo for his victory dance with her. Ajde ajde ajde!
What? Is still raining? Dunlop answers another one of your questions.
From @tmdefran: Venus, dress, flesh-colored shorts. The question is: ?????
What three things have made my boy ice dancing friend race to his sewing machine for next outfit! He is foaming at the mouth like rabid dog or Aravane Rezai in press conference!
Ooh rain has stopped, time for my Ana! She looks amazing! Oh wow, look how she makes Russian girl cry with every shot. This match is epic, it will be remembered for generations to come. Ana leads 2-0! Uh-oh. Oh. Oh no. No! ANA NO! RUN ANA RUN! SOMEBODY HELP HER, SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING!!!!! WHAT IS FRENCH FOR 911?!?!?
….Dunlop would like to change answer to early question. Jelena will win French Open, Dunlop never has any doubt. Call me bagra! Does anyone need size 3" tuxedo?
Rain again! Mother Nature is crying because Russian girl is big cheater. Time for another question from one of my millions and millions of fans!
From @TylerGreenDC: We know from the North Koreans that Kim Jong II shoots three or four holes-in-one per round of golf. How is he at tennis?
Good question! As Dunlop sees nuclear missile aimed at side of his head, he says fearless leader is tennis GOAT! And GOAT of all countries. And GOAT of snappy dressers.
From @rishegee: I love you, Dunlop.
That is not a question. Some people!
The rain is over. Jelena was beating up on Kanepi girl and now they are in third set battle. No one challenges The Bagra! Jelena buries match point ball in other girl's forehead and waves like princess. What is this? Ana and Jelena fight in pressroom. Not with racquets but with words! Jelena makes fun of Ana's fist pump in Madrid, Ana say sport does not build character, it shows it. Jelena say Ana's fist pump is irritating. They fight like sisters! So much love.
No love in Yankee Doodle Andy Roddick match. He is mad today! Usually he is big bully to young opponents (and umpires!) which is why I do not like his sweaty pink face. But little boy is so excited every point he wins that sweaty pink face scowls! Dunlop laughs and laughs. More rain. Wait no, just more Yankee Doodle sweat. Okay now rain.
Time for another question!
From @kefuoe: BP is looking for ideas to clean the oil spill in the Gulf of Mex. What do you think of my idea to use old tennis balls?
WHAT? You are monster like girl who breaks Dunlop's heart! Genocide is no laughing matter. Just kidding GOAT! Haha. Do not hurt Dunlop.
Rain is over. Yankee Doodle wins. Another pink Yankee Doodle, John Isner, wins. And worst of all, my Nole has to play tomorrow because of stupid rain! Do not worry, Dunlop is Querrey-like professional, he will stay until bitter end.
Oh no! My ex-girlfriend is about to play! I do not want her to see me!
P.S. - Look, my Nole does not leave us empty handed. He and Viktor Troicki do the Gypsy better than Rafa and Shakira!
Day 4 - 5/26/2010 - 5:15PM PT
Venus Williams has been talking a lot about illusion lately. The illusion that she's showing us her business without actually showing us her business. Not sure how successful she thinks she's being. Sure she has the media on their knees, but it's only to point their cameras up at her to get a shot of, er…the angle that sells. And I don't know about you but I'm seeing more than London and France.
Yet as Venus kicks off Day 4 on Chatrier, the true slight of hand reveals itself. She's not only pounding winners from all over the court, she's also (jigga who?) playing some clay court tennis. (Swig.) Turns out The Dress is the illusion. The reality is Venus is quietly playing the tennis of her life. Pretty sneaky sis.
More abracadabra took place on Lenglen as Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made their opponents disappear in a puff of smoke, losing a combined 7 games between them. 7 games is actually how much Sod has lost in total en route to the third round. I'll be honest, I'm a little scared.
A lot scared is Andrea Petkovic, who after playing brilliantly for almost two full sets coughs up four match points to the defending champion. Hocus Pocus, alakazam, they're gone, and so is she. Houdini Kuznetsova makes a great escape. And Petkovic is presumably on 48-hr suicide watch.
Roger Federer gave Alejandro Falla the illusion that he had a chance in this match, playing a tiebreak to decide the first set. Hocus pocus indeed.
Aravane Rezai sawed someone in half today. Not her opponent Angelique Kerber (though she did walk off the court in two pieces), but compatriot Marion Bartoli, who she sliced and diced in her post-match presser. Among the bon mots: "Marion is a difficult girl." "She attacked me many times in the press." "I don't have the same education as the one she has. I think I have respect for players." She may have burned a photograph of Marion in effigy as she spoke, I can't be sure. One thing's for certain, I greatly look forward to their next match. And there ain't no illusion about that.
Night falls and Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini are made to play tennis in total darkness. Now you see the ball, now you don't. Now you see my patience, now you don't. If I could saw the guy who made this decision in half, I would. How does this make any sense? Day 4 starts as it ends, with the illusion of seeing business. Play is finally suspended at 5-all in the fifth, and Patrick McEnroe sums it (and the day) up best: “One of the most amazing sights that I could barely see.”
Tomorrow: Rafa returns to the scene of the crime, last match up on Chatrier.
Q&A WITH MARION BARTOLI
The Quarter of Death may hold Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Sam Stosur and Maria Sharapova, but it also holds French No 1 Marion Bartoli. I caught up with Marion (sadly before all this Rezai business) to ask her why fans should hop aboard the Marion Train.
Trying to change the business
Why should people root for you?
Marion: (smiles) I'm a Wimbledon finalist and I've got a fun game. I play two hands on both sides which is quite unusual. I'm a fighter. I always fight when I'm on the court. I give 100%.
You're a little more off the radar than a player with your ranking and scalp count (she's beaten, among others, Venus, Henin and Davenport). Do you feel like you get the proper attention from the media?
Do you know what? That's really not what I'm looking for, honestly. I'm not looking at that and worried about it. I'm just going on my daily basis and do my job. If I'm getting to the semifinal or the final, then I will get the attention. I'm not really worried outside of the court. I'm just trying to be myself and try to get some good results and take care of my business, which is tennis.
Sometimes business can be harsh. In Australia, when talking about not having a sponsor, you wondered if maybe it was because you weren't "blonde enough, tall enough or thin enough."
Yeah, you know, it's funny, because sometimes there are some players who are lower ranked than me and get the endorsements and some players who get the same ranking or even higher than me and don't get any endorsements as well. It's kind of a weird business. Maybe the company, they target some players that they're looking for. They don't really care about results, they care more about some specifics. I would love to get involved in marketing after my career and really look to go in business and take care of some players. Really I would love to do that, because I think sometimes the people who are working for those brands aren't really tennis players and don't really understand what it's all about.
So you'd want to go into that business and correct it?
Yeah I think so. I think it would be a great idea.
You heard it here first folks. Marion Bartoli, a champion for the underdog. Cheer her on tomorrow as she takes on fellow Frenchie Olivia Sanchez on Lenglen.
Day 3 - 5/25/2010 - 1:15PM PT
Have you ever gone back to an old lover? Of course you haven't, once you make up your mind, it stays made up dammit. But some of us aren’t as strong as you okay? Some of us wax nostaligic. Some of us miss that old feeling and wonder, will it be different this time? Have they really changed? Alright, some of us just want a little action. Add Justine Henin to the list of double dippers. She thought she was done with Roland. He treated her wonderfully but the "fire" was no longer there so she decided to go volunteer at a leper colony instead. Or something. Well she's back today, hoping Roland will welcome her with open arms. Would he?
He Loves Me, He Love Me Not
Oh yeah. Like a lapdog, Roland licks greedily at her clay-covered feet, applauding each and every winner. They clearly have some refamiliarizing to do, their moves together a little rusty, but by the end she's beaming. And all the other trollops he's dabbled with in her absence are suddenly starting to sweat.
Like poor poor Dinara Safina. Her reunion with Roland after nearly sealing the deal with him last year couldn't be going worse. He was happy to see her, initially. But then they started squabbling. She started mistrusting their love. And 39-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm is seizing on it like a geriatric assassin. Grandma carves a KDK on Dinara's forehead and sends her packing. Roland promises to write to Dinara. But she knows otherwise.
Sometimes we leave an ex not because we want to, but because we have to. Rafael Nadal said au revoir to Rolanda when his knees couldn't support their big love. But a little physical therapy goes a long way, and now Rafa's back to wrest his lady love from another man. He even dressed up, wearing a $500G watch (to go with his oversized wristbands. I'm sorry, I've got love for all my watch-wearing peeps but…no). First Rafa has to take out Gianni Mina, a mini-Monfils. I've also got love for Gael, if there's a player I don't need a Mini-Me of, it's him (though this Mina kid is borderline-Olsen twin adorable). Rolanda doesn't need a mini-Monfils either and Rafa scores. And without busting out his best moves. Gotta save something for the wedding night, right?
Incidentally, how do you make a $500G watch disappear? Take off your shirt. I move on to another match as clearly Rafa and Rolanda are about to have some reunion sexytime.
Rolanda hasn't been a gentle lover to Andy Roddick, yet she throws him some pity love as A-Rod grinds out a grueling five-set win. It's his first clay win all year, and like a good boy he's clearly appreciative. Also appreciative, Maria Sharapova, who snags her first win at a major in 2010. Roland has enough love to go around.
Major lover's quarrel on Court 2 though as Sam Querrey is upset by fellow Yank Robby Ginepri. The quarrel's not between them, but between Sam and Roland in the pressroom as he informs the world he just wasn't feeling it today. Actually, what he says is "When I lost that second set tiebreaker and got broken in the first game, I was done. I wanted to be off the court." He cops to tanking some points, immediately quits doubles (swig) and hops the first flight to Cali.
After such a ruthlessly swift break-up, Sam's going to have to bring a Costco-sized heart box of chocolates next year if he wants this tournament to take him back. Maybe organize his Samurai into some kind of Busby Berkeley dance number. If there's one thing we learned today, if you come correct, Roland is a generous lover. But if you fake it, if you don't trust him, if you sass him in any way, he will rip your heart out and feed it to his dogs.
Tomorrow: The Eighth and Ninth Wonders of the World: Federer and Venus's see-though dress.
Day 2 - 5/24/2010 - 1:51PM PT
When the French Open draw came out, I questioned on twitter if God was a Rafa fan, given his main competition for the title, Roger Federer, got saddled in his quarter with two guys who beat the Swiss on clay this year (Montanes & Gulbis) along with the only guy who beat Rafa at RG ever (Sodersomething).
To which @whatasneeze replied "Muzz gets Gasquet first round and you still think there's a god?
Needless to say, the subject is up for debate. So with Roger and Murray/Gasquet on the menu today, I'm keeping my eye out for signs of a Higher Power. If there is a God, I'm breaking the news right here in my French Open blog. (I may also try to trap him in one of those ectoplasm containment unit things, Ghostbusters-style – there's money to be made here people).
Caroline Wozniacki kicks things off on Chatrier, and I'm watching closely. She rolled her ankle a month ago and has somehow found the strength to play on. And on, and on and on. That's got to be divine intervention, right? And she wins in straight sets! God 1, No God 0. Wait, in her post match presser, the Great Dane (doesn't every girl want to be nicknamed after a dog breed by the press?) says the WTA tour required her to play on. So unless the WTA is God (which some would have us believe), we're back to love and love.
One step closer to immortality
Federer is up next (a man who many believe is God). Any thought that a higher power grooves more to Rafa went out the window yesterday with the smiting of Gulbis, who I pegged as Roger's QF opponent. It now looks to be Sodersomething, and with a gnarly 0 and 12 against Fed, the Good Lord appears to want the Swiss No 1 to not only extend his major semi streak, but in doing so break the all-time weeks at No 1 record owned by Pete Sampras. Fed gets one step closer to immortality (Godliness, if you will) and thumps an opponent who was gone too quickly for me to catch his name. I think he was blond.
As Americans are handed one crushing defeat after the next (Michael Yani loses a 71-game match carried over from yesterday, Melanie Oudin's belief is suffocated when Anabel Medina Garrigues holds a pillow over its face until it stops wriggling), I lose faith. Until Taylor Dent manages to not only win his first match at Roland Garros ever, but do it in style, hammering a 149-mph serve to break the French Open serve speed record. Praise!
Frenchman Richard Gasquet, through that blessed backhand, gets up two sets to love on a somehow still smiling Andy Murray (swig). What a way for Richie to return to home soil after being banned from RG last year. Oh but wait. He's getting tired. Gasquet comes in hot off a ten match win streak – and a leg injury from Nice. And now we're forced to watch the better guy on the day fade for three sets. He is a vengeful God.
Or is he simply an Andy Murray fan? And then, after a day of searching, I've got my answer. Whether or not there's a God depends entirely on which player you support.
Tomorrow: RAFA! There is a God.
More proof of a higher power, Roland Garros karaoke is back. Feast your souls on Murray, Tsonga and Soderling:
Follow me at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa. Or become a fan of LaRosa's Sweet Spot on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/pages/LaRosas-Sweet-Spot/123565537658545?filter=3 Or both! God would want that.
Day 1 - 5/22/2010 - 1:52PT
Bonjour and welcome to the 2010 French Open. I bet you thought that drinking game I offered up this week in the Sweet Spot designed to keep us all sober was just an excuse to take nasty swipes at people. Well duh. But I'm also following it closely over the next 15 days. You see, while all the tennis brainiacs and evil/tennis-sponsoring gambling sites are crowning Rafael Nadal and Justine Henin King and Queen of the Dirt Prom, this clay court season has been defined by a single word: HUH? How else do you describe the struggles of defending champs Svetlana Kuznetsova and (initially) Roger Federer, the rise from the proverbial ashes of Richard Gasquet, Ana Ivanovic and Ernests Gulbis (though in Ernests' case, it may have been actual ashes, you never know with that kid), and the injuries that have depleted draws to where nearly entire first rounds of tournaments were contested by BYE?
A weeks worth of quotes retired.
So needless to say, while I'm feeling pretty smug about my near-foolproof drinking game, I also have a bottle of cough syrup nearby in case of emergency.
The action kicks off on Chatrier with defending champ Kuznetsova taking on '09 quarterfinalist Sorana Cirstea. I'm tempted to crack open the cough syrup just to get through this one. Or break the bottle over my head given how Sveta comes out of the gates. But somehow, the Russian not only corrects the ship, she chews up the Romanian in her propellers. Don't Call Me Kuzzy is looking good. And with that, my foolproof drinking game takes a hit. Swig.
Victoria Azarenka comes through for me, imploding against giant killer Gisela Dulko on schedule. When Serena crawled out of a coffin against her in Melbourne, she clearly shoved the Belarussian into it and buried her twelve feet deep. Victoria's been trying to claw her way out since but has so far succeeded only in clawing off her own face.
Also coming through for me, the need for x-rays and MRIs as Rome champ Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez manages to hurt her back in her warm-up. Hateful luck for a serious contender, and combined with Azarenka's exit, their already ridiculously weak quarter in a ridiculously weak half is softer than brie left in the summer sun. Sorta smells the same too.
Next up, Ernests Gulbis v. Julien Benneteau. Gulbis has been on fire lately, both on court (hi Rog) and in the press room (hi Marat). So imagine my shock, horror and profane sadness (profane because I'm swearing) as he retires down two sets with a hamstring injury. And there goes my prediction for at least week's worth of killer quotes from the Latvian. Swig.
Anna Chakvetadze restores order with a loss to Angelique Kerber (despite having served for the match in the second). Until all hell breaks lose when Venus Williams takes the court. No, she doesn't wreck my drinking game by playing a single clay court point in her straight sets win over Patty Schnyder, she comes out wearing, somehow, her most revealing outfit yet. Literally, it’s see-through. And let me just say this: it's pure awesomeness. Other players really need to hop on board the EleVen train. Patty Schnyder in that? Come on. Kuznetsova? Henin? Choo choo! Screw the "Betty White to host SNL" facebook group, bring on "Francesca Schiavone in EleVen!"
Clearly I'm buzzed.
Thank god Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulls through in five sets and offers up, as predicted, those cheeks you want to pinch. At least I think it's Jo-Wilfried. Could be Mary Carillo as I'm now completely out of cough syrup.
Up tomorrow, Federer, Serena, Murray/Gasquet and a box of wine. It's gonna be a long two weeks.