Our original Write to Roland Garros winner, James LaRosa, is back once again (unfortunately this time he doesn't have an all expenses paid trip to Paris)! James won our writer's contest for Roland Garros last year and did such a great job, he has been our resident blogger for everything tennis. Even though James won't be flown out to experience Paris first hand this year, he will still be blogging about all the action. Check back throughout the tournament blog updates.
| James' First Roland Garros Blog
| James' US Open Blog
| James' Aussie Blog
6/8/08 - 11:52AM PST
Another Slam has come and gone. We laughed, we cried, we drank Chamarre. And now, we hand out the coveted DUNLOP AWARDS
. Dust off your trophy shelves, freaks. Best Match (ATP):
Djokovic/Gulbis and Monfils/Ferrer were both high quality stuff, but shot for shot, nothing inspired more oohs, ahhs and rewinds on the ole TiVo than any match starring Rafael Nadal. And that final? Forget about winning the French, Roger. Worry about Wimbledon. Best Match (WTA):
Ivanovic/Jankovic. Not only was a spot in the final at stake, but also the #1 ranking. Both players fought beautifully and did themselves and women's tennis proud. Worst Match (ATP):
Santoro/Ferrer. What was Fabrice feeling his entire time on court, during which he won a whopping one game? "Powerlessness." I feel you, buddy. Worst Match (WTA):
We had a double bagel in the fourth round but still Petra Cetkovska put up more fight than Svetlana Kuznetsova in her semifinal loss to Dinara Safina. Deflating for all involved. Breakthrough Performance (Male):
Gael Monfils. He stepped up and finally realized his long talked about potential. And gave the French crowd something to allez for. Breakthrough Performance (Female):
Carla Suarez Navarro rose from greater depths, but Dinara Safina rose to higher heights. Safina edges by also being the proud recipient of the Jelena Jankovic Cockroach Award. Ya just couldn't kill her. Breakdown Performance (Male):
David Nalbandian. Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Breakdown Performance (Female):
Serena Williams. Straight sets? Seriously? Best Use of a Microphone:
Rennae Stubbs. She was used sparingly (the woman played dubs and mixed), but when she was on hand, the gloves were off. Always observant, never afraid to get tough. She can comment on my blogs any day. Worst Use of a Microphone:
Akiko Morigami, who told Japanese media that a coach told her to throw her doubles match so partner Aiko Nakamura could play a singles tournament the next week and increase her chances of qualifying for the Olympics. Morigami's since claimed it was all a big misunderstanding and the ITF is investigating, but either way...yuck. Best Dressed:
Maria Sharapova, by default. Who else took any chances at all? Ana, you're not going to catch up to the It Girl if you continue to wear yesterday's goods. Worst Dressed:
The men. Give me something, people. Least Dressed
: Ashley Harkleroad. Oddest Sighting:
Priests in the front row at the Robredo/Coria match. Guillermo flew them in for an exorcism perhaps? Best Quote:
"Kill myself? No, I will have some dinner and maybe get drunk or do something. I don't know. Whatever makes me feel better." Jelena Jankovic, after her semifinal loss. Golden Shame Stick:
Dunlop, who finished 384 (ATP) and 677 (WTA) in the Racquet Bracket. What a hack. But what proof that this French Open was anything but predictable. And there's absolutely no shame in that.
See you on the grass!
______________________________6/7/08 - 11:28AM PST
This is it. Today, one woman will win her very first Grand Slam title. In a French Open final that will not feature Justine Henin. I'm sorry, for me it's a momentous occasion. On hand to celebrate...Justine Henin.
Wow, she really is retired.
My first reaction is, she looks great. My second, what effect will this have on Ana Ivanovic, the woman she so famously terrorized in last year's final? I think she'll be her Pierce Brosnan, inspiring her to show off and do her best. (Oops, sorry to bring up the Brosnan, Justine. I swear it was an accident. Giggle.)
Someone who's not there is Marat Safin. At least not in plain sight. My fantasy is he's hiding somewhere, ready to appear should younger sis Dinara need him. You see, he wants her to stand on her own, but he would never abandon her in her time of need. He's her Pierce Brosnan. (Oops! I did it again.)
I notice something bizarre. Neither woman has a bandage, wrap or tape on of any kind. Could this be two uninjured women in a Grand Slam final? At the French Open, no less! Lengthen that calendar, Larry Scott!
We get our first mention of The Swimming Pool. And bombs.
Play starts, and it's great tennis. Ana's just a step better, but this isn't her first time at the rodeo. Dinara needs to catch up. At 4-2 though, it's already a way better final than last year.
More mention of bombs.
Dinara evens it at 4-all. Tasty. It doesn't last long though, as Ana guts through the first set. And draws first blood in the second.
Any time, Marat.
Newly celebrated Zen Master Dinara slams her racquet. She's baaaaaaack. Another Ana hold and Dinara is trying desperately to get back to her happy place. It's not working. God I wish I spoke Russian. She looks tired, but she manages to hold.
Oh hey, did you know Ana grew up in war torn Belgrade? Bombs!
Mid-set, it's a battle of wills. Ana's pulling out everything. (Was that a split?) Dinara's tested again on serve. Despite a baby that picks a 20-point game to have a crying jag, she manages to hold again. I'm exhausted.
At 3-5, Dinara is suddenly serving to stay in the match. In the commentators booth, it is just bombs away. Bombs bombs bombs. Bombing. Bombs. (bombs!)
After so much struggle mid-set, the match reaches championship point in an instant.
Is she going to do the climb? Yes! No! Such a nice girl, she asks permission. Finally, she gets the go ahead.
Trophy time. Justine comes out to present, to wild applause. Suddenly, clearly, this Justine's moment. Does she have to win everything?
She presents Dinara her runner-up hardware. She then screams "you stole my career you flash in the pan!" At least that was what I fantasized she'd do. I'm two for two (thanks Marat).
Ana claims the Big Prize. Clearly prep means nothing because she had nothing coming into this tournament. But here she stands, beaming, the French Open Champion. And #1 player in the world.
Until Justine decides otherwise.
______________________________6/6/08 - 6:40PM PST
Party people in the house!
I've got an assortment of wines, an assortment of cheeses, and an assortment of people who can somehow attend a wine and cheese party in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Gotta love L.A.
Today is a very special occasion. Men's French Open semifinals. The superfans here are drooling. The nonfans heard there was free booze (thanks Chamarre!).
Up first, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal battle for a spot in the final. And the #2 ranking. (Somewhat anticlimactic given yesterday's battle for #1 amongst the women, but did I mention there's free booze?)
Immediately talk turns to a drinking game. Can you do that with fine wine? Besides which, I'm not sure that's what Chamarre had in mind. Nonfans drink every time the guy with the spiky hair bounces the ball a bunch of times. Uh-oh. Superfans drink every time the guy with the bandana picks a wedgie. They agree. I agree to eat cheese instead. I'm on duty.
First impressions are everything. Novak gets fast admirers. If this were a battle of looks, he'd win hands down. (There are calls for thinning shears though. And some wax.) Unfortunately for Nole, tennis is going to play a part here, and Rafa has been playing lights out the last two weeks. He hasn't dropped a set. Well, Nole has only lost one, so let the games begin.
It's quality stuff from the get go (whether or not the score reflects that - sorry Dunlop). And thanks to Nole and Rafa, there's also plenty of opportunities to sample the product. We start with the Pinot Noir. Spicy. Spicier still, Rafa's time violation. Spicier than that, the warning for ball abuse Nole incurs mere seconds later after yet one more missed opportunity. First set: Nadal.
We crack open the Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruity.
Before we know it, it's 5-1 in the second set. We are drunk. No, NBC just fast forwarded the match. (This would never happen at Tennis Channel.) Oh look, there's Bjorn Borg. Judging by my guests' reactions, Borg's stolen that battle of looks.
And there's Amelie Mauresmo. Tell me she wouldn't want to be here with all this wine. Especially with all the smack the commentators are talking about the state of her career. Ouch. And I'm so filled with Brie I can't swallow.
And there goes the second set. Everyone here is thrilled by Rafa's play. It's truly ridiculous. Imitate that, JOCKovich.
Novak wakes up in the third set, and we dip into the white. Kind of a citrus kick. Nice. The Bendy Serb takes it to a tiebreak. And that's as close to winning a set off Rafa that Nole gets, losing in straights.
You drink to celebrate. You drink to drown your sorrows. Either way, there's a lot of drinking going on. In the middle of the afternoon. It's all very European. (Or is that L.A.)
Federer accomplishes the expected, with just a few hiccups en route to beating Gael Monfils in four. We've got ourselves a third Federer/Nadal French Open final. My superfans and nonfans alike will be back (mostly because I still have Chamarre left).
Unfortunately, I can't speak for a Dunlop.
____________________________________6/5/08- 11:28AM PSTWomen's semifinals.
Forget who's going to be in the final. I have three other nagging questions that will be answered today.
1. Is Svetlana Kuznetsova, the veteran here, capable of stepping into the void left by Justine Henin's retirement?
2. Is Dinara Safina really top quality enough to make a Grand Slam final?
3. Is there or isn't there a Serbian rivalry?
First up, Kuzzy and Dina. Svetlana's spraying errors from the start. Mary Joe Fernandez calls it The Freeze. Your mind's telling you what to do but your body doesn't listen. My mind is telling me to turn this off immediately but my body doesn't listen.
Still, I can't help but wait for two things. Either Safina to collapse like a souffle after two three set match-point-down comebacks. Or for Svetlana to wake up. Either way, not so good for Dinara.
But something shocking happens. Safina wins the first set. She's in the lead for the first time since week one. Can she hold on? Yes she can! Answering my first two questions. Svetlana isn't ready, and Dinara certainly is. (Can you dig it?) I suddenly feel sorry for whoever wins the second semi.
Not that they won't have an incredible consolation prize. Thanks to Kuznetsova's loss, one of these women will walk away not only a French Open finalist, but also the #1 PLAYER IN THE WORLD (you can't hear me but I'm saying it in a big booming voice. Lots of Pomp and Circumstance.).
Here's the deal with their supposed rivalry. Clearly the WTA is desperate for them. But here, I don't see it. Besides the fact that they just have no animosity between them on or off the court, the H2H favors Ana way too much. But maybe they'll get into a fistfight. I can dream.
They take the court newly aware of what's suddenly, fantastically on the line. And Jelena quickly gets to 3-0. She clearly wants it more. Still, I can't help but wait for the same two things I waited for at the beginning of the last match. Jelena's collapse and Ana's awakening (note to self, Ana's Awakening would make a great script title...actually, could whiff of Cinemax After Dark. Strike that.). I add a third thing I'm waiting for: how many times will Jelena wheel out the fainting chair and the orchestra for her injury timeouts when she falls behind?
Unfortunately for Jelena, Ana does come to life, and in a battle of Power vs. Precision, Ana takes the first set. Soon, she's 3 games from the #1 ranking in the second. Jelena takes off her wrap. She's not hearting Roland Garros at the moment.
Suddenly, Jelena's legs start working again, after a gargantuan momentum shift, she snatches the second set. That wrap WAS cursed!
And now we have a match.
The third set is a thing of beauty. This is the match I've been waiting for all tournament. It's aggressive, it's passionate. It's good. Now THIS is a rivalry. (And not a single fainting chair to be found.) Now both women are three games from being top dog.
Jelena breaks, but gets broken right back. One hold later and Jelena is in the worst possible position with her weak serve. Serving to stay in the match. Her Achilles heel on display, Ana breaks and clinches #1. She shrugs and punches Jelena in the face at the net.
No wait, she jumps for joy and they hug. Sorry.
Truly an extraordinary match. Dunlop is both thrilled and devastated at the same time. Much like how I felt after seeing the new Indiana Jones.
All my questions are answered, and now there's only one left. Who will be winning her first Grand Slam this weekend?
Who do you think?
_____________________6/4/08 - 9:32AM PST
6/3/08 - 11:15AM PST
Who's the 6 foot tall screaming Russian chick
That a month ago no one would pick?
Ya damn right.
Who's the head case who stormed Berlin,
Beating Serena and retiring Henin?
Can you dig it?
Who's the girl at the French who just won't quit,
Givin' all the top seeds fits?
You see this Safina is a bad mother-
(Shut your mouth!)
Just ask Dementieva and Sharapova
(We can dig it!)
She's complicated like no other
But no one understands her but her brother
Thanks to random upsets and weak draws, unheralded players shock fans and foes alike by making it into the second week. Flavia Pennetta plays the match of her life and knocks out Venus Williams, clearing the way for a Carla Suarez-Navarro, who herself was kindly dealt Amelie Mauresmo, to bound her way to the quarters. Carla's certainly done her part to get there. And now Top Player Jelena Jankovic must do hers and restore order.
I call this The Clean-Up.
Jelena's not the only one who has order to restore today. Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic... They all have to tidy up after their opponents managed to squirrel past their expected expiration date in the draw. It's a dirty job, murdering the hopes and dreams of those enjoying the most thrilling two weeks of their lives.
It can also be, dare I say, murder on fans. How much fun are blow-outs, really?
But I'm hopeful as play begins. Anything can happen. Especially in conditions like these. Wind, rain. Maybe someone will fall down and break something.
The first thing broken today is Patty Schnyder, who gives Ana absolutely no trouble on Chatrier. Perhaps it was just a birthday present to Rafael Nadal (Feliz Cumpleanos, Toro!), who for the first time in a week and a half didn't have to pass the time with a deck of cards waiting to take the court. He's playing Nicolas Almagro, who, while seeded #19, can't be considered a lark quarterfinalist as he's just ridiculous on clay. Which makes Rafa's dismantling of him even scarier. 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. Now that's a birthday present.
On Lenglen, it's no party for JOCKovich. Ernests Gulbis is proving that, while his draw was filled with more puff pastry than a French bakery (not you Blake, you're a star), he just may have devoured anyone to get to this point. He's giving Novak all sorts of trouble, getting him so riled he slams a ball in anger. Nailing a linesman. (Ooh, he's gonna pay for that. No..?) Djokovic hangs tough and somehow pulls it out in straight sets.
Jelena "I Heart Paris" Jankovic has an easier go of it in a battle of injury versus fatigue, knocking off woozy qualifier Suarez Navarro in straights. I hope Carla's not just a flash in the pan, because she's so freakin' cute I want to stick her on my dashboard.
So the Clean-Up is completed, and by and large it was such an anti-climactic day that there should be a new word for anti-climactic (is there one in the Tennis Addictionary
? Maybe there should be).
But wait, what's this? Allll the way over on Court 6, Kaia "Sunglasses at Night" Kenepi quietly defeats Petra Kvitova in a run so un-televised it would make a doubles player blush. If a fourth round clash never airs, did it ever really happen? We'll find out tomorrow, when Kaia takes on Svetlana Kuznetsova, perhaps the only other player with less airtime.
Unfortunately for both, Safina and Dementieva are on Chatrier , in a match that's anything but Clean-Up. Sorry ladies, see you in the semis.
_________________________________________6/1/08 - 10:52AM PST
The first week of a Slam is for the fan with the short attention span. It's a kaleidoscope of all your favorites thrown together in a big sandbox, and you can skip from match to match watching them get dirty and battle it out for the right to stay and play.
At some vague point over that middle weekend, it becomes less about fun for fan and player alike and more about business. There's suddenly a hell of a lot more at stake. One slip in focus can cost your favorite a ton of glory, a ton of dough and a ton of ranking points.
It's time to pay attention, suckas.
Safely through to the quarters, we've got Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nicolas Almagro and Ernests Gulbis on the men's side, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Patty Schnyder and (!) Carla Suarez Navarro on the women's.
Hoping to join them today, top seeds and French trophy coveters Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, along with some other Russians, some Frenchies and the last remaining American in the draw, Robby Ginepri.
Robby takes the court first looking like a super hero with that black tape going up and down his right arm. The more I look at it, the more I actually think it looks cool. He should wear it on both arms. And legs, like Tron. It could be his thing.
Fernando Gonzalez's thing is clearly going from hairy to hairless on alternating tournaments. Or maybe he just waxes for Slams.
It occurs to me that should both Robby and Roger win, they would face each other. And since they now share coach Jose Higueras, I wonder what that dynamic would be. I wonder what that dynamic is now actually. Robby had Jose first until Roger sashayed by. We learn "when they're at the same tournament, he's with Robby." Well that's nice. "When he's not with Fed." Ouch. And that, dear friends, is a lesson in the difference between Roger Federer and everybody else. (Thanks Justin Gimelstob!)
The match is a good one. Given Robby's recent struggles, it's great to see him play to win. Unfortunately, Fernando's actually doing the winning. Three sets later (and one commercial with Billie Jean King hawking NutriSystem - she's lost 35 pounds and she feels GREAT!), the American flag is flying at half mast.
Meanwhile, Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva battle it out on Chatrier. When one of them gets on a run, it is a RUN. Sadly for Vera, Elena gets her run in the third set, and Slamless Wonder Dementieva's through to the quarters.
Maria keeps her focus and grits her way through a first set tiebreak against where-did-she-come-from-all-of-the-sudden Dinara Safina, she blinks and squanders a match point in the second set tiebreaker. Will Maria be one more scalp in Dinara's growing collection (Davenport, Henin, Serena)? Ah-yup. For the cow on ice, the French will continue to be, at least for today, the Slam that got away.
But Roger's still in the race, taking out Julien Benneteau in straights. Is this his year? Is this Elena's year? Or is this Dinara's year?
Don't look away for a second.
_________________________________6/1/08 - 11:57AM PST
Oh my gosh, It is Dunlop again. Yesterday, James throw party for players who do the good job, who show the fighting spirit and win big. He put their names in big bold letters. So nice!
I not so nice.
When I grow up and I do not do what I am supposed to do, they hit me with shame stick. It is how they show they love. Now I show love to the players who did not do what they were supposed to do the first week. Maybe I put their names in, how you say, italics. I think this give it the classy touch. Fabrice Santoro
: You win one game against David Ferrer. You are supposed to be magician. All you can do is make yourself disappear. (Ha!) - 3 whacks with shame stick. Carlos Moya
: Schwank? What is a Schwank? I know it seem like I pick on the old people, but it is only because they are so slow and infirm. - 2 whacks with shame stick. Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea:
You do not win even 1 game! It takes more effort to lift this shame stick than you take lifting racquet. But I will do it. - 3 whacks with shame stick. Nicole Vaidisova,
Shahar Peer and Marion Bartoli: You all lose in first round to big no ones. If you cannot make effort, neither will I. (Who am I kidding. - 3 whacks with shame stick.) David Nalbandian
: You beat King Fed and Nadal again and again at end of last year. You win first two sets against someone named Jeremy Chardy. And you win only five more games? - 4 whacks with shame stick. Amelie Mauresmo:
You lose to who? I would hit you with shame stick but I think you suffer enough. Andy Murray:
You lose in third round to Nicolas Almagro. Which is not so shameful. Still I feel I must hit you. - 5 whacks with shame stick. Anna Chakvetadze:
You get perfect draw and make it to second round only. Good luck with fancy new coach Carlos Rodriguez. I send him shame stick to keep you busy. Serena Williams:
You were supposed to win whole thing. Instead you lose in third round. I need to go get bigger stick.
I will be back, But you players, do not be sad. How else do we learn? Besides, give the thanks it is not the Wimbledon lead pipe of dishonor.
___________________5/31/08 - 11:52AM PST
As I've buried and mourned my Racquet Bracket, I can now openly celebrate the players who brought about my painful demise. And by doing so made the first week of this Slam so spectacular. WAYNE ODESNIK
: There really hasn't been anything sweeter this week than his straight set win over workhorse Guillermo Canas. The good news is he wasn't playing a particularly clay-style of tennis, so his results should (fingers crossed) transfer well to the hard courts. ROBBY GINEPRI
: He'd never won in Paris in five tries. Now he's the first American male to reach the Round of 16 in 7 years. Robby snacked on Donald Young before feasting on Igor Andreev and Florent Serra. And he still looks hungry. KATARINA SREBOTNIK
: Veteran Srebotnik threw everything including the kitchen sink at Serena Williams to get to the 4th round. Has anyone beamed brighter after a win here? But is she crafty enough to outcraft Patty Schnyder? (I'm starting a rumor she's a witch, pass it on.) IVAN LJUBICIC
: Jaws are still being picked up after his match today against Nikolay Davydenko. He was still in the draw? Wait, and he won?! GAEL MONFILS:
He'd be on this list for sheer entertainment value. But by living up to his promise and gutting through a 5-setter against Jurgen Melzer, he's making the home crowd proud....
...but no more proud than they are of JEREMY CHARDY
, whose path to the Round of 16 was far more surprising. Don't believe me? Ask David Nalbandian. FLAVIA PENNETTA
: My favorite Italian (sorry Franny), Flavia earned that win over Venus Williams by fighting tooth and nail. With the quarterfinals one match away, her next less-experienced opponent could be her reward. Or her punishment... CARLA SUAREZ NAVARRO
: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario's protege made mama proud beating Amelie Mauresmo in round 2. Casey Dellacqua could've been the let down. Instead, it was a straight set win. Is she the benefit of a weak draw, a machete in sneakers, or both? ERNESTS GULBIS
: The babyfaced killah had James Blake throwing tantrums. And he managed to get a set off him. Next up for Gulbis...
: He started the year strong, but looked to slip back into his old ways. Well no joke, he's bulked up and buckled down, taking out Simone Bolelli and Tomas Berdych, a guy who allowed his previous opponent one game. KAIA KANEPI
: Anna Chakvetadze, Anabel Medina Garrigues...Those must be some magical sunglasses, girl. PETRA CETKOVSKA
: I know so little about Cetkovska I could write a book on Suarez Navarro by comparison. I do know that, while Alona Bondarenko on paper is her biggest scalp, her wins over Voskoboeva and Benesova are a lot more impressive. Ana Ivanovic is a tall order though.
So congratulations to you all, may you continue stomping through the draw and making this one unpredictable tournament.
_____________________________________5/30/08 - 12:45PM PST
Editor's Note: James entered his new picks before Venus' loss. There is always next year James.
Alright, I'm angry.
(And not just because I'm being outclassed by a tennis ball and my own comments section, which is proving to be just as entertaining if not more so than the actual blog itself.)
No. I'm angry at Serena Williams.
No. I'm angry ay myself.
Every Slam, I fill out a draw sheet, using my own unique recipe to pick the winners and look like a genius. (Have a pen?) Take 3 parts rank, 2 parts record at the event, 3 parts performance leading up to the event, mix it in a bowl with 4 parts head-to-head, add a pinch of psychological issues for flavor, and voila. Instant Winners.
But this Slam I added what might as well have been bleach to the whole shebang. I call it the Inflated Self-Belief Effect. As an athlete, you've got to have it. And for some, like Serena Williams, you've reeeally got to have it. Especially when your form is shaky. Which Serena's was, going into this event. Don't get me wrong, she had a great ratio of W's to L's coming in. But each match was a struggle. And it didn't get any better here.
I knew Serena labored mightily against Srebotnik in Charlston. My gut said, this is the match, right here. Still, I put my gut in the pantry and dumped a whole box of hype all over my predictions. And now I can't feed them to the dog.
But it's not too late. If there's one thing they teach you at the French Culinary Institute (or was that Rachel Ray), it's that if you make a mistake, just start over. And so, ladies and gentlemen, my new Racquet Bracket! Men's Quarters:
Federer over Wawrinka
Davydenko over Ferrer
Djokovic over Gulbis
Nadal over Almagro Men's Final:
Nadal over Federer Women's Quarters:
Safina over Zvonareva
Kuznetsova over Medina Garrigues
Jankovic over V. Williams
Ivanovic over Schnyder Women's Final
: Ivanovic over Kuznetsova
Incredible. I feel so much better. Don't you? The anger has flooded from my body. I'm back in the race! Come here you, give me a hug.
What? This isn't the French Culinary Institute? It's not even Rachel Ray? Once you fill out your Racquet Bracket, it's yours to choke on?
Ooooh. I am cooked.
_______________________5/29/08 - 11:51 AM PST
Editor's Note: James is away today as his friend Dunlop takes over the blog. Dunlop wanted us to let you know that he is the good looking tennis ball in the header above.
Oh my gosh. I am internet pin-up! The womens, they throw themselves at me, they say I love you Dunlop, you are so smart, I beg you to be my boyfriend. They crazy, like they eat twelve boxes of the Milk Duds!
I say to James, I am too famous to just have sassy comeback to reader comment section. I have important things to say, about tennis matches! He say nothing. Turns out, he see Amelie Mauresmo and Marat Safin on the schedule of playing and take too many valium, now he is a drooling budala. So here I am!
(Last time I was able to come out and play, Amelie was on court. Is she magic key? Ha! I do, how you say, parenthesis thing he do. Inside is my clever thought. This blogging so easy!)
Who is playing first today? ! Jelena! You little bagra, get out here. In her blue dress and running sneakers, she look fierce (I love the Project Runway - make it work! Ha! I did the parenthesis thing again.) She supposed to play big no one named Marina Erakovic, from New Zealand. That is not even a real place. Jelena agree to play with her and they begin. It's easy, easy, easy, Jelena hit the ball, easy. She win win win. Oh my gosh. She need the trainer! I hope she is okay! She must have got so bored she look away, hurt something. She get a massage. Oh phew, she is fine. I am always so scared when she call for the doctor. I would lose all my pressure if something happened to her.
The second set is not so easy. Jelena's opponent is one of the best players in the world, able to take the little bagra to a tiebreak. Down 3 points to 5 with Erakovic serving, Jelena go to change her racquet. Oh my gosh, I hope she has another. Okay good, everything is okay. It was for sure the fault of the racquet because Erakovic doesn't win another point. The bagra wins! Lip gloss for everyone!
French ladies Amelie Mauresmo and Alize Cornet are on court at the same time. Both struggle. Alize wins. Amelie loses, to Carla Suarrez Navarro (James is lifting arm. To grab me? Oh, to eat more valium.) Arantxa Sanchez Vicario claps like madwoman. What did Amelie ever do to her?
Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troiki are through in doubles against famous tough team of Kubot and Zovko. You cannot beat Serbia, even in the Rock Paper Scissors!
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are playing at same time. It is so boring that the sky rips open and rain pours out, ending play everywhere. Except on Court 2. Elena Dementieva must be magical. But if she so magical, why does it take rain on every other court for her to be on TV?
The rain ends and Federer comes back to stink up the joint and lose the first set. Ha! He say mono, I say duo. Of Novak (my Nole!) and Janko hopscotching all over him in Australia. He finally beats Montanes by accident. Nadal makes it a quick match. He knows he needs to save up energy for semifinal showdown.
On Court 8, Mario Ancic wins again. Now HE had mono. Not baby mono. He look like big Karate Kid. Where is Mr. Miyagi to do the Wax On?
Tamira Paszek retires from her doubles match. She too got Serbian Whammy in Australia. She hasn't gotten up since.
Marat Safin lose to Nikolay Davydenko and James falls into coma. I must go take him to hospital for, how you say, the stomach pump. (But I will be back. Ha! More parenthesis!)
________________________5/28/08- 12:02PM PST
Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?
Teenager Evgeniya Rodina's never played a Grand Slam main draw match before. She's never played a top 20 player. Evgeniya, meet Maria Sharapova.
To no one's surprise (I'm guessing even Evgeniya's), Maria wins the first set with ease. But two things conspire to make the second set trickier for the top seed. Ridiculous wind. And Kid's Day. Drawing strength from Maria's wind-blown errors and Punky Power from the stands, Evgeniya takes the second set. And she's not looking back.
Over on Court 11, teen Madison Brengle is down a set against fashion icon Bethanie Mattek, who's dazzling in a black over the shoulder number that will surely leave one crazy tan line (if Bethanie's not worth live streaming
, I don't know who is). Madison evens at two. It's a kiddie revolt!
Back on Chatrier, the wind is swirling the dirt so hard Maria looks like Pig Pen. No #1 seed has lost in the first round of the French in 40 years, and I'm smelling a Radwanska upset here. But then luck intervenes. Two net cords at deuce at 6-all in the third and the point goes to Maria. She capitalizes on her first break point of the set and then serves it out.
Youth crashes on Court 11 as well as Shoulder Tan triumphs.
Nadal finally gets to play his first round match (bad luck!), playing a feisty, baby faced Thomaz Bellucci. It's a grinder of a first set, until Bellucci double faults on set point. (good luck!)
Not 15 seconds later, Jean-Rene Lisnard double faults to give Marat Safin match point. He wins! I am one happy kid.
So far I'm the only one. Bellucci's out. Young lovers Lucie Safarova and Tomas Berdych are both bounced (lucky they have each other). Meanwhile, Donald Young was able to take it to a third set, but he's struggling in the third. His shots are still a little too immature. Not to mention he just looks like a boy compared to Manly Man Robby Ginepri. (Though when it comes to playing, Donald reminds me more of Patty Schnyder than anyone. Either way, that's a lot of hair to compete with.) But his true offense on this jinxed day very well may be his name. It doesn't pay to be Young today.
Suddenly, something miraculous happens. On Chatrier, 30-year-old Frenchman Arnaud Clement is taking on fellow countryman and whippersnapper Gael Monfils. Grandpa is break point down and serving to stay in the match. Suddenly, luck and youth play nice together, and Clement double faults. Youth is finally served. And I need a Twinkie.
Do you feel lucky? Enter the Tennis Channel's Passport to Paris contest
. If fate can shine down on me and those darn Cokers (do you still think of me the way I think of you?), there's no reason it can't shine down on you.
The best part - it's closed to minors.
___________________________________5/27/08 - 11:22AM PST
During Amelie Mauresmo and Marat Safin's walk onto the court, they feel it. The quickening heart rates. The clenching jaws. The churning in their stomachs knowing their once golden reputations are so severely on the line.
I'm talking, of course, of their fans.
Unabashedly I admit, I'm still very much one of both. Even though lately, anytime they take the court, I feel what my Italian aunts and uncles not-so-affectionately refer to as 'agita.' Tums in hand, I sit to watch the opening match in Chatrier, where Mauresmo is taking on Olga (still love the name) Savchuk.
Some background. Amelie's been struggling with random injuries and confidence issues since she hoisted that spangly diamond racquet in Antwerp last February (note to self: get one of those too). She's still managed beat Olga twice this year. That's meaningless, as this is Roland Garros. Amelie no likey the Roland Garros. Maybe, just maybe though, the 2-time Grand Slam champion realizes she has absolutely nothing to lose and can just relax and hit the ball.
Nerves are on full display as it's breaks aplenty.
|Dunlop has an admirer! Meet "Jadal," sent in by "Live in NYC/Sleep in NJ." |
She wears too much make-up and has crazy eyes. Just his type!
She manages to hold on and take the first set, but her rust shows in the second. Rust plus rain = chaos.
Not for the lady on Court 1 however. Dark horse Svetlana Kuznetsova is merciless in her straight-set win over Aiko Nakamura. She seems to have harnessed her nerves with no more little Belgians to fear on the clay. It doesn't help me, as now Marat Safin is up next and I have both of my head cases to chew nails over.
Or do I? Down comes the rain. And it keeps falling, prolonging my anxiety. Or my misery, I'm not sure yet.
Hours later, Amelie is suddenly back on the court and playing. She was either hurled out there my organizers or she raced out there out of kindness to me. Nope, she loses the second set. She wasn't thinking of me at all. Marat loses the first set in a tiebreak.
What did I ever do to them?
Amelie perks up. She had nine double faults in the first two sets, and zero in the third as she gives the crowd (and me) something to cheer for. Over eight hours after the first ball was served, she makes it through the first round, in a match I think she needed badly. Not just for the win, but to remind herself she knows how to hit the ball. Can I exhale going into round two? Of course not. This is Amelie Mauresmo.
Not to mention Marat is still out there. He's taken the second set with ease.
Suddenly, the rain falls, and my anxiety is prolonged yet again. This time overnight. Cruelty, you say! But I say act of mercy.
My nerves are shot. And my nails need time to grow back. Update: Looky here! Dunlop is #3 in the ATP Racquet Bracket. He's a genius.
_______________________________________________5/26/08 - 10:52AM PST
So I'm getting a little heat about my picks for the French Open. Do I really want Rafa and Serena to win the whole thing this year? Isn't Dunlop devastated that I left Jelena by the side of the road like some lip glossed piece of garbage? (Editor's Note: For more information on James' viewing partner Dunlop, read his Australian Open Blog here.)
I'll answer the latter first and say he's locked himself in the closet after throwing a huge hissy fit and he refuses to come out until I publicly apologize for my betrayal of the little "bagra," whatever that is. I'll answer the former and say no, who I predict to win and who I want to win are two different things. And today's matches offer up a whole host of examples of the difference.
Up first on Chatrier, Tommy Robredo takes on Guillermo Coria. And I'm shocked when I realize...I'm rooting for Coria. Not because he looks like he wants to steal me gold, but because his story is straight from a movie.
The fan in me remembers not loving him or his attitude on the court when he was a force to be reckoned with thirty years ago. But the screenwriter in me remembers how this tournament slipped through his fingers so dramatically. How his serve slipped through a chasm to the center of the earth, and his ranking slipped into the octuple digits. He's fought his way back, playing Challengers and getting himself back to #140 in the Race. Could he use his entry into this FO to rewrite history and write himself a killer Hollywood Ending?
He starts strong, but Robredo is stronger. Or Guillermo just never had to play 5-set Challengers. He runs out of steam (but not double faults, which continue to flow) and he's bounced. Today, Coria went straight to DVD.
Meanwhile, Jelena is doing splits all over Lenglen. Suzanne would be proud. Dunlop sure is, as he spends the next 30 minutes trying to figure out how to do one with no legs. Jelena's through, and I'm glad. Dunlop sees we're on the same page again and we make peace.
We also agree on what a Schwank (is that an insult?) Richard Gasquet is for withdrawing. Whatever. Another Lucky Loser is slapped in his place. (The draw is so full of them, can it be counted as luck anymore?) I don't have time to mull as there's a barnburner on Court 6. American Wayne Odesnik is taking it to That Other Guillermo, Canas. 7-6, 7-6...7-6! Americans are just POURING into the second round.
(Speaking of pouring, that sky doesn't look too good...)
Poor Sam Querrey isn't having the same luck, battling hard but in vain against King Fed. Mulling sentimental favorites, something suddenly occurs me: I'm not rooting for Fed. Not because I love Sam, but because I'm a little irritated by Roger lately. He seems more and more persnickety since he was the runner up in my search for a new favorite ATP-er. Whereas once I pumped my fists for every French Open rally he won, each taking him one point closer to winning that elusive FO trophy. Now, I feel shut out of his quest, as if he's going it alone, and when he drops to the ground, hair flailing, I don't know if I'll feel a part of it. I hope I do.
Not that my new #1 is earning much more of my goodwill. Novak Djokovic has been on his own persnickety train to nowhere lately, retiring from losing matches, talking smack about how Roger hasn't seemed the same since he beat him in Australia (I might say he hasn't looked the same since Janko Tipsarevic took him to five sets, but okay Nole, it's all about you).
Dunlop is eyeing me. Put down the knife! I'm still rooting for Novak. But I can't help but think back to Marat Safin, and realize how great it would be were he to hoist that trophy... Uh-oh, cue Natalie Imbruglia, cuz I am Torn.
One player I'm not torn about, my #1 sentimental fave at this French Open. Elena Dementieva. She isn't someone I particularly root for in general, but I can't imagine anyone else in either draw who's suffered so much, who's come so close, who's had to overcome so much for so long (Coria, take note). In talking about the best player to have never won a Slam, there's much focus on the Serbs, but come on. If Elena could pull out a win (and that's a big if: see my Racquet Bracket), Kleenex may just go out of business.
Back on Court 10, in another American shocker, John Isner is rolling. Until Juan Ignacio Chela wakes up and begins to turn the tide. John looks exhausted. Suddenly, the sky opens up and down comes the rain.
Seems even Mother Nature plays favorites.Question of the Day:
Who are your sentimental favorites?
5/25/08 - 12:42PM EST
I thought I had life figured out. And by life I mean this French Open. Racquet Bracket ruined it all.
As I filled out the form and made my picks for who I was sure had this tournament in the bag, I realized, you know, a draw has a lot to do with it. I had Rafael Nadal and Jelena Jankovic hoisting the trophy. Until I went round by round, match-up by match-up. Jelena wouldn't be happy with the result.
Originally, I didn't even think Svetlana Kuznetsova would make it to week two. Thanks to another killer draw, I had her in the final four, where, if she made it that far, I couldn't see her losing to Maria Sharapova. So bam, Svets is in the final. (Surprise!)
Enter Jelena and Serena Williams, my semi picks from the bottom half of the draw. Despite my Jelena vibes, could I see her taking Serena out? When it comes to imaginary Racquet Bracket points, I couldn't be doe-eyed. I had to go with the only woman in the entire draw who knows what the trophy feels like in her dirty sweaty little hands.
Given Svetlana's record in finals, I couldn't see her winning against anyone. Certainly not Serena. So suddenly I had a new champion.
(Don't worry, Rafa - you're safe.)
With my expectations all askew, the tournament begins.
The draw didn't just mess with me. It's playing games with everyone. In the kick-off match, Ana Ivanovic is handed the same first round opponent as last year in Sofia Arvidsson. Struggling Nicole Vaidisova is handed her good buddy, fellow countrywoman and (P.S.) insanely in-form Iveta Benesova. (Surprise!) Red hot claycourter Denis Gremelmyr is handed red hot everything Novak Djokovic (pronounced JOCK-avich now, thank you). And Frenchmen Paul-Henri Mathieu is handed the task of retiring 3-time French Open champ Gustavo Kuerten.
Ana handles her business (and even manages a double kiss at the net with Arvidsson - God I love those). Nicole's not so lucky, losing the first set in a tiebreak. Martina Navratilova suggests Nicole change out of that hot black outfit. Yeah, that'll help. After a painful second set, she's bounced. (Surprise?)
JOCK-avich loses the first set while James Blake is through in straights, making him the first American man to make it to the second round since 2006. Suddenly this tournament is a funhouse.
Novak pulls it out, clearing the way for Mathieu v. Kuerten. I'm expecting a slaughter. Which becomes a snuff film when Tennis Channel decides to air it. (Clearly Tennis Channel shares my optimism.) As Guga fights the good fight, the French crowd has no idea who to cheer for. He makes a mini-match of it, able to go out with his head held high. Minus the failed drop-shot on match point down (at least it wasn't a double fault?). He gets an awesome clear pseudo-trophy thing that's filled with all the different layers of a Roland Garros clay court. I immediately plot how to get one for myself.
The day's coverage ends with the most glaring example of dashed expectations and the (un)luck of the draw. Coming back from surgery that derailed some of the best momentum of her life, which included inspired Fed Cup play, Ashley Harkleroad is taking on my new Racquet Bracket champ, Serena Williams. What Ashley lacks in power, she makes up for in tenacity and downright flashes of brilliance. Brilliance isn't all she's flashing. Dick Enberg announces Ashley's got a Playboy spread on the way. (Pebbles!) Serena doesn't need any more of Ashley that she's getting on the court, but she manages to take the first set. (Did Dick Enberg just call Serena Bootylicious?)
After a score that hardly represents the match, Serena wins. More importantly, I've learned a few things. Draws matter. You can change the pronunciation of your name at any time. Dick Enberg reads Playboy for the articles. And, at the French Open, anything can happen.
And that's what keeps us watching.
_______________________Roland Garros from LA
It was a simpler time. Martina Hingis and Radek Stepanek strolled hand in hand through the Paris Hilton lobby. Justine Henin was strolling over Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic toward her fourth French Open title. And I was trolling the grounds in vain for someone, anyone, to take the pain of Lindsay Davenport's retirement away...
What a difference a year makes. Martina's gone. Lindsay's #16 in the Race. And with Justine Henin retired, the whole of the WTA is leaping on that French Open trophy like a hundred bridesmaids at a clay-covered wedding.
Rafael Nadal's still the one to beat on the men's side, but he's got stiffer competition this year in the forms of an increasingly desperate (read: vicious) Roger Federer and a certain Serbian by the name of Novak Djokovic. Nadal's not only trying to protect his spotless FO record (21-0), he's also trying to hang on to his #2 ranking. Pressure!
While the times they have a-changed, one thing remains the same. Me. I'm back, to give you your daily dose of the who, what, where, when, how and why of the dirtiest Slam in tennis. And I won't be doing it alone. I'll have a very special, very fuzzy, very yellow (and mildy gender-confused) guest star who has a lot to say himself.
As for who's taking home the crowns this year, I have my own ideas who'll pull it off. And who won't. I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and try my luck at my very first Racquet Bracket. Try and beat me
, you might even win a prize. I'll give you a clue on my picks. Rhymes with Jadal and Nankovic.
Coverage starts Sunday (with live streaming that allows you to hop all over Roland Garros without fighting those pesky crowds). My big mouth immediately following.
See you then.