TENNIS FRENCH OPEN – The 2014 French Open is finally here! Tennis fans have been waiting with bated breaths because this year’s event, the 47th Championships since the Open Era (1968), promises to be an epic tournament on both the men and women’s sides. Cordell Hackshaw
The 2014 French Open is finally here! Tennis fans have been waiting with bated breaths because this year’s event, the 47th Championships since the Open Era (1968), promises to be an epic tournament on both the men and women’s sides. The draws are loaded and they offer many interesting match ups not only in the first rounds but also in the latter stages of the tournament if seeds hold true to form. The defending champions Rafael Nadal of Spain and Serena Williams of the United States are both here and seeded No1. The world’s number ones have not had a stellar clay court season as they did last year, winning multiple titles at the big tour events. However, they are prodigious talents with both the experience and confidence to put themselves deep in the draws despite the shaky season. Nadal is looking for his 9th overall title in his tenth appearance and 5th in a row here in Paris. The Spaniard’s credentials on clay need no introduction as he is far and away, the greatest clay court player ever. Meanwhile, Williams is going for her 3rd title in Paris. She has never defended the title here making it the only major where she has failed to do so at least once. She has done it at Wimbledon twice (2002/2003 and 2009/2010), Australia (2009/2010) and the US Open (2012/2013). The American might not be the “classic clay court player” but since 2012, she has been showing herself to be quite adept on this surface. Nadal and Williams are also trying to further cement their names in the history books with overall major titles. Winning here will give Nadal his 14th title equally Pete Sampras’s effort and tie him for 2nd on the all-time list. Williams wants to equal fellow Americans Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova to be 4th on the list with 18 singles titles.
Interestingly enough, neither Nadal nor Williams is the overwhelming favourite at this major event. There are several players who see themselves holding up the singles’ trophy at the end of the two weeks. Nadal can expect competition from his “arch nemesis” Novak Djokovic (2) in particular, Stanislas Wawrinka (3), Roger Federer (4), David Ferrer (5), Andy Murray (7) as well as several young players like Milos Raonic (8), Kei Nishikori (9) and Grigor Dimitrov (11). Williams has former champions here Na Li (2), Maria Sharapova (7) and Ana Ivanovic (11) along with Agnieszka Radwanska (3), Simona Halep (4) and Petra Kvitova (5) all looking to take this title away from her. The American has to also deal with her own personal demons which have caused her to self-implode most infamously here in Paris in 2012.
With all that being said, THE DRAWS: In an effort to make things simple, the 128-player draw will be divided into halves and then quarters which will be headed by the top seeds of the sections. These are not predictions but merely possible projections. This is tennis after all. The game is won on the court and not on paper.
Men’s Top Half: Nadal (1)/Wawrinka(3)
Nadal’s Quarter [1/4]: Nadal is likely to face his countryman Ferrer (5) in the quarterfinals but he must get past another compatriot Nicolas Almagro (21) in the 4th Round. Almagro handed Nadal a rare defeat in Barcelona earlier this year. Ferrer might be up against Dimitrov (11) who will be looking to make a major splash here. Tommy Haas (16), oldest man in the draw at 36 as well as one of the youngest, 20-year-old Dominic Thiem of Austria are ones to watch in this section. Thiem who took out Wawrinka in Madrid could face Nadal in the 2nd round.
Wawrinka’s Quarter [2/4]: The 2014 Australian Open champion is looking to be the 1st man since 1992 when Jim Courier did it, to win the first two majors of the year. The Swiss should have a relatively easy time getting to the Round of 16 though Feliciano Lopez (26) might be a bit of a task. Wawrinka could face either Fabio Fognini (14) or homecrowd favourite Gael Monfils (23). Richard Gasquet (12) or Murray (7) could be potential quarterfinals opponent for Wawrinka.
Men Bottom Half: Djokovic (2)/Federer (3)
Federer’s Quarter [3/4]: Federer getting to the finals of majors are no longer foregone conclusions. He has not reached the finals of a major since Wimbledon 2012, his last major victory. In fact, he is now struggling to get to the second week of majors. However, this year, Federer has renewed confidence, strength and a new coach in the form of Stefan Edberg. Things have been going rather well though with the birth of a second set of twins, Federer might be distracted as he lost 2nd round in Rome couple of weeks ago. Nonetheless, Federer will very much like a 2nd French title. He has the unpredictable and enigmatic Tomas Berdych (6) as a possible quarterfinal opponent. There is a possible 4th round clash between the Swiss and Ernests Gulbis (18) of Latvia. An interesting bit of side note: John Isner (10) could possibly face Nicolas Mahut in the 2nd round.
Djokovic’s Quarter [4/4]: There is no doubt about it that Djokovic wants this title badly and honestly, this is a good year for him to do it. He is the odds on favourite to dethrone Nadal here. His preparations have been excellent and he has beaten Nadal twice this season in emphatic fashion. However, he has a “Swiss problem.” In 2011, the Serbian looked poised to dethrone Nadal as he had beaten him 4 times for the year including twice on clay. Djokovic made it to the semifinals but ran into Federer who handed him his first defeat for the year. Federer is now again in Djokovic’s half. Furthermore, Djokovic has only lost to Swiss players this year; Federer twice and more prominently Wawrinka at this year’s Australian Open. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13) looms in the shadow as a possible Round of 16 foe for Djokovic. There is also a mouthwatering possible Round of 16 match up in this section: Raonic (8) verses Nishikori (9), who is under the tutelage of 1989 French Open champion, Michael Chang. The winner will likely face Djokovic in the quarters.
Women’s Top Half: Williams (1)/Radwanska (3)
Williams’ Quarter [1/4]: There will not be a repeat of last year’s final as both Williams and Sharapova (7) are in the same quarter and slated to meet in the quarterfinals. Williams may in the 3rd round face her older sister Venus Williams (29) who is far from being a threat these days. However, the younger Williams could face Sabine Lisicki (16) who took her out of last year’s Wimbledon. Sharapova could face 2010 French Open finalist Sam Stosur (19) in the 3rd round and possibly Dominika Cibulkova (9) in the Round of 16. There is a dangerous floater in this section in the form of Kaia Kanepi (25) who has made it to the quarters here in Paris twice in 2008 and 2012.
Radwanska’s Quarter [2/4]: Radwanska (3) could be facing Angelique Kerber (8) in the quarterfinals if the seeds hold true to form but the Polish number one has to get passed Spain’s Carla Suarez-Navarro (14) in the 4th round. There is a potentially interesting match in the 3rd round between veteran Flavia Pennetta (12) and rising star Eugenie Bouchard (18). Lurking in this section is the 2010 French Open champion and 2011 finalist Francesca Schiavone.
Women’s Bottom Half: Li (2)/Halep (4)
Halep’s Quarter [3/4] Newly crowned 4th ranked player in the world, Simona Halep will be looking to confirm her new status in the game here in Paris. The Romanian should have an easy time to the quarters as the only player of prominence is Sloane Stephens (15) whose stocks have been quietly declining since her Australian Open semifinal appearance in 2013. Ekaterina Makarova (22) might be a testy opponent for Halep in the 3rd round. Also in this section are 2011 Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova (5) and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic (11) who can potentially meet each other in the 4th round. Last time they played in Miami, Ivanovic lost 12 straight games after taking the opening set. She might want to avenge that horrible loss. Ivanovic will face home crowd favourite Caroline Garcia in the 1st round. 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) is a dangerous floater in this section.
Li’s Quarter [4/4]: 2014 Australian Open champ, Na Li will be looking to collect her 2nd major of the year with a strong showing here. She will have to get passed Andrea Petkovic (28), Caroline Wozniacki (13) and 3-time semifinalist here Jelena Jankovic (6) in the 3rd Round, Round of 16 and quarterfinals respectively. Jankovic could possibly face last year’s semifinalist and finalist in 2012 Sara Errani (10) in the 4th round. It really should be no problem for the 2nd seed Li to move through to the semifinals at the very least as she has shown herself in the past of being a very competent clay court player. However, Li like top seed Williams, has shown in the past to be capable of self-destructing on court.
Richard Gasquet reaches his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Miami 2013
Frenchman Richard Gasquet edged past this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 12 minutes to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal since the 2013 Miami Open.
Gasquet missed six months of action after undergoing groin surgery last January.
The French player set up a semfinal against David Goffin, who reached the semifinal after his Japanese opponent Yoshihito Nishioka withdrew from the match due to illness.
The first set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Bautista Agut hit a backhand wide at 1-2. Gasquet sealed the tie-break when Bautista Agut hit a forehand long.
Bautista Agut earned two breaks of serve in the second set and sealed it, when Gasquet made his third double fault on set point.
Gasquet broke serve with a volley in the third game of the decisive set. The French player went up a double break to race out to 4-1 lead. He saved two break points to hold his serve at deuce before serving out the third set on his first match point.
“I know how tough it was to come back. I know the moments I had at the start of the year, so I just wanted to enjoy, to fight. It is not easy to come back after six months out, but I am here. I am in semis tomorrow”,said Gasquet.
Danil Medvedev cruises past Jan-Lennard Struff to set up an all Russian quarter final against Andrey Rublev
Ninth seed Danil Medvedev cruised past Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-1 in 66 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Medvedev committed just 12 unforced errors and won 18 of Struff’s 25 second serve points.
Medvedev broke twice in the second and eighth games to win the first set 6-2. The young Russian player got two consecutive breaks in the second and fourth games to race out to a 4-0 lead and held his service game at deuce after saving a break point in the fifth game. Struff held his serve to get his first game on the scoreboard, but Medvedev sealed the win on his first match point. The Russian player has improved his head-to-head record to 3-0 againt Struff.
Medvedev has won 11 of his past 13 matches during the North American hard-court season. He has a solid 41-16 record this season. He finished runner in two consecutive finals to Nick Kyrgios at Washington and to Rafael Nadal in Montreal. In the quarter final the Russian star will face his compatriot Andrey Rublev, who upset Roger Federer 6-3 6-4.
Recent Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut cruised past Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1 6-2 in just under an hour setting up a quarter final against Richard Gasquet, who beat Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.
Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka beat Australian player Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-4 in 83 minutes with one break in each set. Nishioka rallied from 4-6 down in the tie-break of the first set to edge Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 in 1 hour and 37 minutes.
“It was a great match and I got better as it went on. I am feeling sharp. I am feeling great now and I am looking forward to the quarter finals of a Masters 1000. I have nothing to lose”, said Goffin.
Roger Federer Crashes Out Of Cincinnati Masters
The seven-time champion has suffered a blow to his preparations for the US Open.
World No.3 Roger Federer has been knocked out of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati after falling in straight sets to Russia’s Andrey Rublev.
The 20-time grand slam champion struggled to find his range as he was overwhelmed by his fearless opponent during the 6-3, 6-4, loss. Despite the huge disparity in experience between the two, 21-year-old Rublev managed to dominate the majority of rallies with the help of some heavy hitting. Producing 17 winners to six unforced errors, compared to Federer’s tally of 19 and 20.
“I respect him a lot, I respect all the top players a lot, but today when I was going to court I was going there to win.” Rublev said during an interview with Amazon Prime.
“I was not going (to the match) to enjoy. I was going to fight, try to win and do my best.”
Rublev’s shock win saw the underdog outdo the Swiss maestro in almost every area of the match. Winning the most first serves (85% to 63%), second serves (57% to 63) and a bigger majority of points at the net (5/6 to 7/19). Breaking him twice in the opening set and once in the second. The Russian, who is 70th in the world, is the lowest ranked player to defeat Federer on the tour since Thanassi Kokkinakis at the 2018 Miami Open.
The loss leaves a mark on Federer’s impressive record in Cincinnati, which he has won a record seven times. It is the first time he has failed to reach the quarter-final stage since losing to Ivo Karlovic in the third round back in 2008.
“He was playing well. I was maybe struggling especially on the offensive, because overall I didn’t think I was feeling the ball badly.” Federer reflected during his press conference. “It’s just, you know, sort of fast-court conditions and when you sometimes then can’t rely on that serve to go or on the one-two punch, which I didn’t think was excellent today from my side, you need an opponent that maybe lets you get by some tougher moments, but he didn’t do that.”
“He was super clean. Defense, offense, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere. So it was tough for me, but excellent match by him. I was impressed.”
Rublev now has a meeting with compatriot Daniil Medvedev in what will be his first quarter-final at Masters level. Medvedev has reached the final of tournaments in Washington and at the Rogers Cup since Wimbledon. He is yet to drop a set this week and brushed aside Jan-Lennard Struff 6-2, 6-1, in his third round match.
“It’s going to be an interesting match for Russia.” Rublev previewed. “It will be a tough match for me because the way he plays. Nobody likes to play him.”
“I lost to him in a Challenger a few years ago, so it’s going to be interesting tomorrow.” He added.
The latest victory is only Rublev’s second over a top five player in his career. His first was against Dominic Thiem at the German Open last month.
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