Google Down the Line!: 2010-05-30

Saturday, June 5, 2010

PHOTO OP: A dream finally realized in Paris

Francesca Schiavone, the 17th seed, played the match of her life when she defeated 7th seed Sam Stosur 6-4, 7-6 (2) to win the Roland Garros ladies' championship - her first major - and become the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam evah. Brava!

The 29-year old's tremendous play was evident in her stats: 65% first serve, 63% won on second serves, 6 aces (compared to 3 for the big-serving Aussie), 26 winners/19 errors and 14 of 15 net approaches. But what you can't see on the stat sheet is the sheer determination, fearlessness and will to win that was beaming in the Italian's game not only in this match but the last few as well. Interestingly, Fran always came in as the underdog but strutted around the court as if she were the favorite and her foes were guests on her court. Fake it 'til you make it - and she did.

She also proved what I tweeted way back in Round 1 when 39-year old Kimiko Date Krumm upset Dinara Safina: Tennis is much more about a clear head and a big heart than anything else. She had those qualities and then some today.

Afterwards the newly crowned champ was asked to describe what this win meant to her:

This is mean that everybody have the chance to be who really you want to be, and to do everything in your life. This is what's happen to me.
And what about the t-shirts her supporters were wearing in her baller box that read 'Schiavone: Nothing is Impossible'?
The true is that I don't know, because they arrived this morning really, always with the car, and I saw them when I finish. So now I don't know. And they are leaving, so I don't think I will know this until two or three days.
As for Sam she was clearly and understandably distraught after losing a golden opportunity to grab her first major and enter tennis history as a Grand Slam singles champ. But she never looked comfortable out there even letting her frustrations come to the surface after being so stoic and "flatline" as Darren Cahill described her on court. And her 'A' game, which flowed so beautifully in the last few round as she glided around the court crushing forehand after forehand, went on walkabout. The Aussie was definitely feeling the moment and weight of being the fave - a role she never played when she upset Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic.

It's a different kind of pressure but one she'll need to embrace if she wants to break through. Luckily for Sam she's 26-years old and entering her prime playing years. She'll have more opportunities and, if she learns from this experience, will no doubt be raising her own championship trophy.

But for now let's celebrate Fran's awesome win!!!

[Photo(s): Getty Images, Reuters, AP]

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Francesca Schiavone wins the 2010 Roland Garros ladies' championship!

A huge congrats to Francesca Schiavone on winning the 2010 Roland Garros ladies' crown over fave Sam Stosur 6-4, 7-6 (2) in an impressive performance. She becomes the first Italian woman ever to win a major.

More coverage to come!

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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Friday, June 4, 2010

It's a Rafa-Sod rematch at Roland Garros and the winner takes all (with Banana Bonus!)

The final four boys left at Roland Garros played their matches today and, thankfully, it wasn't a bust the way the ladies went down.

Rafael Nadal will go for his fifth title in Paris after defeating the surprise semifinalist of the group, Jurgen Melzer, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (8). He played what he described in his presser as his "best match" of the tourney and it showed on the stat sheet: 37 winners/24 errors; 76% on first serve winning 75% of the time; won 69% of the time on second serves; converted 5 of 8 break point chance; and made 13 of 19 net approaches. Yes, the best match by Rafa the entire tourney.

"No sweat off my back. Well, maybe a little."

He was asked to describe the difference between last year and now in his post-match presser:

Q. Is it possible just to give an impression of your game this year here at Roland Garros as opposed to your game at this time last year?

RAFAEL NADAL: Is impossible to compare, because last year I was in the swimming pool in Mallorca. Sure.

Q. Well, maybe your approach to this championship this year as opposed to your approach last year.

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah. Well, I think probably I didn't play today I played well, but before today I didn't play my best Roland Garros if we speak in terms of what I feel on court. But I played my best clay court season before Roland Garros. That's for sure, no? Last year my feeling was I won in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome, but probably is difficult to understand. It was difficult to understand for me too how I won that tournaments because I felt I didn't play well.

So probably was because the dynamic was very positive, very positive since the beginning of the year. I arrived on clay and I won for that reason, but not for tennis, I think. And when I arrived here and I found opponent that push me to the highest level, I wasn't ready to win.

Not a surprise in the least. Rafa was expected to blow through his draw to the final and he's done just that, with out dropping a single set. But that stat could change in the Sunday's men's final when he faces...

"Bathroom break? Pretty please?"

...Robin Soderling in a rematch of their fourth round battle last year which was won by the Swede in a total shockfest and still ranks as Rafa's lone loss on the Parisian clay.

Sod edged out first time Grand Slam semifinalist Tomas Berdych 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in a battle short on rallies and long on quick points for these two towering ballers. Clearly the fifth seed's experience paid off here in the stretch as did his serving: 63% first serve, 18 aces and a 59% success on second deliveries.

Sod was asked whether his win over Rafa last year gave him an edge and how he would approach this year's final differently than last year's:

Q. (Through French translation) good afternoon, Robin. You defeated Nadal when you played him. He hasn't yet finished. Do you think that you have a psychological edge if you are to play against him in the final?

ROBIN SODERLING: Well, we played many times. He beat me a lot of times, and I beat him a few times. So it was not the last match. You know, we played one or two times after that.
But of course it's always good to have beaten a player before. I know that I can beat him. I showed it. But, again, you know, every match is a new match, and every match is different.

Q. Just going back to last year's experience again, what would you hope to do a little better? Perhaps start better in the final than you did last year? The nerves, you got used to the nerves now, what it's gonna be like now in the locker room beforehand.

ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, of course, I didn't get off to a great start last year, which was really tough for me. But, you know, it's gonna be a long match. It's best of five sets. You can always work your way into any matches in a Grand Slam. Yeah, it's not gonna be easy whoever I play, but I feel pretty confident. I'm playing really good tennis right now, and I will enjoy it for sure.

Oooh, this final is gonna be good for a few reasons:

1) Rafa's not playing Roger Federer, who he owns espesh on clay, but someone who has, and can, beat him here

2) It's revenge, whether the Majorcan Matador wants to admit it or not. I mean, who wouldn't want to get the baller back who gave you the only loss at your fave major in your career so far?

3) The weather. If it's warm and sunny, then advantage Rafa and his topspin balls. If it's cool and heavy, advantage Sod and his power plays.

Game on. Oh wait - here's the BANANA BONUS:

He may have sick skills on the tennis court but I could show Rafa a thing or three about working a banana. Silly boy.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

PHOTO OP: Birthday boy

A big "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" goes out to Rafael Nadal who celebrates his 24th year on Planet Earth.

*confetti + horns*

[Photo(s): Reuters]

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Yeah, there are many things that the woman do that you can shock. Whoo.

- Francesca Schiavone after reaching the Roland Garros final

I'm curious but not THAT curious.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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It's Sam vs. Fran for the ladies' Roland Garros crown!

Okay, ready for my imitation of the Roland Garros ladies' semifinals?


Let's start with the first semi which saw Francesca Schiavone reach her first ever Grand Slam final when Elena Dementieva retired with the recurrence of the left calf injury she sustained during her second round match with the score at 7-6 (3) in favor of Fran.

The pair played their tried-and-true games: the Russian blasted groundies and worked to control the center of the court while the Italian played D until she had a ball she could pummel with heavy topspin. However, the injury was already taking its toll and once Fran took the set Elena called it quits - the first time in 43 major appearances.

Fran was asked about this surge so late in her career:

Q. Okay. Second one: Is why is that success coming so late for you?

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: Why late? I think everybody are different. Could be late for you, could be good for you. I think it's my time now. Maybe before I wasn't ready.
Maybe before I had the chance I didn't catch, so I think now I have just to live and to keep going to work like I did for many years.

Q. What are your chances for the final? You think you can win the final on Saturday?

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: I don't know. I really don't know, but I'm really happy to be here. I will go on the court and I will fight at the best that I will do it, that I can do.
Now is time to relax, and Saturday will be the time to put everything that I work until now.

It was sad to see Elena in tears both because of the pain but also because you know she was very disappointed at losing another opportunity to grab that major. Her chances are dwindling and the draw really did work itself out for someone to finally break through. She will be skipping Eastbourne and is unsure about Wimbledon for now. Tough stuff.

The second semifinal saw the giant-killer Sam Stosur comprehensively destroy Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-2 from every part of the court: serve, return, groundies, defense, etc. It was a remarkable performance from the Aussie who will go in as the heavy fave to capture her first Grand Slam crown.

She made JJ look like an amateur out there with her big game yet calm, quiet demeanor - a silent killer if you will. The Serb never had the opportunity to use her backhand into Sammie's weaker backhand because of the 7th seed's ability to run around and hit her forehand and control points. JJ was left scrambling and hitting off balance - a perfect recipe for unforced errors (22 UEs against only 9 winners.)

Surprisingly Sammie never showed any signs of mental fatigue or an emotional letdown which you would expect after having defeated Serena Williams + Justine Henin, past champs here and lady ballers with a combined 19 major singles titles between them. She was very workwomanlike and played like she owned Philippe Chatrier Court. Well she did own it today and wiped it clean with JJ.

So what's the biggest difference in the Aussie's game is now versus a few years ago? She told the press:

Oh, I think it's a lot of things. It's not just one aspect. My fitness and strength is something I've been working on for probably a good five years very seriously. That hasn't been an overnight process. And, you know, really understanding my game and how to use it and my strengths and weaknesses and all that, I've got a lot better at understanding everything that I can do over the last few years a lot better.
And then self belief and starting to win big matches. So I think it's a combination of lots of things all coming together.

So it's Sam vs. Fran and their new fangled and apparently effective Babolat black RPM Blast String for the whole damn thing (incidentally, just got my racquet strung with these babies!) I mean, WHO WUDDA THUNK IT? And if you say "me" then you're a liar, except for Van Sias who somehow picked the Italian to make the final in his VANtage Point post.

I raise my glass of sangria to you, sir. Cheers!

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

PHOTO OP: Oh the horror

"I'm having a total nightmare..."

It seems even Novak Djokovic couldn't believe he gave up a 2 set lead in his quarterfinal match against Jurgen Melzer before succumbing to his Austrian foe.

He did show some cracks in his confidence during some earlier matches but this time it all came crashing down. This will be a tough loss to swallow me thinks.

[Photo(s): AFP]

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Stosur stuns Serena, Melzer makes good against Djokovic at Roland Garros

And the upsets continued today at Roland Garros with Sam Stosur shocking top seed Serena Williams 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6 and saving a match point in the quarterfinals two days after knocking off 4-time champ Justine Henin. The Aussie served well, particularly with her kick serve out to ReRe's backhand on the ad side, and moved fluidly allowing her to drive those big forehands to all parts of the court. She hit 30 winners against 24 errors, 6 aces and won 58% of the points when she had to thrown down a second delivery.

She'll face Jelena Jankovic, who defeated Yaroslava Shvedova 7-5, 6-4, for a spot in Saturday's ladies' final.

The seventh seed was asked whether she felt it was her time to break through and win a major:

Q. Do you feel you can win the tournament here?

SAMANTHA STOSUR: Well, yeah. I mean, I think I've got as good a chance as anyone. I'm in the semis now; I played two great matches. Hopefully they're both gonna help me for tomorrow's match.

Q. You've obviously been able to fight it out not only against Justine, but now Serena. How's your belief right now?

SAMANTHA STOSUR: As good as it's ever been. Two great matches back to back for me, which is fantastic. Yeah, it's not over yet. Now I'm in the semis, and I want to definitely try and keep going. I made it to this point last year. If I can try and go another set further, then that would be great.
And what about ReRe's post-match comments? Well, in typical style she gave more credit to her supposed bad play than the Aussie's superior one. Go figure.

What a great moment for Sammie. I think the big question before the match was whether she would be able to come back after defeating Justine, who was the choice of many pundits and fans to take the whole thing, and not be emotionally spent or mentally shaky. I thought she might not be able take this match after being broken when serving for the match in the second set but she stayed calm and played within herself.

Clearly, if Sammie continues to play this brand of tennis she'll make it extremely tough for anyone to stop her.

An even bigger upset occurred when Jurgen Melzer and his wings, who never made it past the third round of any major, edged out 2-time semifinalist Novak Djokovic 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-4 in their quarterfinal match. The Austrian wasted two match points but made good on the third to win in 4 hours and 15 minutes. He'll face the ultimate test when he takes on Rafael Nadal, who beat compatriot Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-4, for a spot in the men's final on Sunday.

Jurgen was typically drop shot happy but was steady balancing 59 winners against 59 errors and hitting 9 aces against 5 double faults. The same can't be said for the Serb who hit 53 winners/62 errors and 4 aces/10 double faults - a sloppy performance down the stretch for the third seed.

The pair shared a sweet MOMA moment at the net after the match:

It's exciting to see Jurgen make a real push here at the tender age of 29-years old. We've grown accustomed to seeing prodigies win the big ones in tennis but this time around the veterans like Jurgen and Francesca Schiavone are finally making waves. And it's about time.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

HE SAID/SHE SAID: Roland Garros Day 10

Q. Two years in a row you beat the title holder. How it feels to be a giant killer?

ROBIN SODERLING: Hey, of course it's nice to beat the world No. 1 two years in a row on the center court. I think both times I play really good tennis. I think it's a great feeling.

Q. What about the statistics and now finally winning Federer?

ROBIN SODERLING: Well, of course I didn't think about it that much. As I said, I think even though I lost so many times, I always have a chance to win. I came close a couple of times before, and I really feel like one or two times I actually been a little bit unlucky.

With a little bit of lucky I could have won before. Now I'm here finally with a win, and it's great.

Q. Are you still based in London?


Q. Why did you leave?

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: Eh, daddy, mommy. They say, Come back home. I say, No. They say, Yes. At the end they won.

Q. Who will win next match with Elena Dementieva?

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: Who will win between me and her?

Q. Yes.

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: Io (Me.) (laughter.)
Will be very interesting match. I know her. I think she know me. We grow up a little bit together. We played many tournaments together. I respect her. She's a great athlete. You know how she is, Elena. But will be good match. We are good athletes physically and mentally strong. I think who going to win really the best one Thursday.

Q. Do you think it will be easy or difficult to stay focused for the next match for you?

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: Oh, yes. Always. For me, is always difficult to stay focused. It's difficult. But now that I am focused, I am enjoying more. Now I don't know, because when I am in the court, I can't tell you how will be.

But I look forward. I am curious to know how I can feel Thursday. Very curious. (laughter.)

Q. Your moment of triumph of was so special. Your face was filled with joy. I know it's difficult, but can you try and talk about emotion, the role of emotion and your play, your feeling at that moment?


Q. Hard to put in words, is what I meant to say.

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: Maybe I can tell you in Italian; is more easy.

Q. In Italian is fine.

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: No, that's okay. I think in that moment you remember many things from when you are when you were young. Is special because is your space, is your time, is your opportunity. I felt alone, but with all the love around me is bo. (I don't know.) It's like if I ask you, How did you feel when you married? You say, It's not easy to explain.
Is not enough?

Q. More than enough.

Q. Have you ever played such a big hitter as Soderling today?


Q. Who?

ROGER FEDERER: Del Potro. You've forgotten him because he's injured.

Q. What's the feeling when you have such a powerful ball in your racquet?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, it can be pleasant and unpleasant because you have less to do and you can't play your game, you can't impose your game.

As for me, I'm strong on both sides if I have to attack and if I have to defend and take the speed of the other player. That's why I had such a good record against him. So not too much of a problem for me, but today he played very well. He was impressive.

Q. Am I wrong if I say that you are in semifinal without playing your best tennis?

ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, it's not about, you know, showing your best tennis. It's about winning matches. Once again, in this kind of weather conditions, you really have to, you know, push yourself very hard and, you know, stay positive, try to win no matter what. I think I had some good tennis here and there, but it was difficult.

Q. When I see your serve, you have done a great evolution. The double faults were there, but you are serving much better. Did you do something special or you change the movement or what? Because you're serving great.

ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Thank you. First time I hear this (laughter.) in my whole career. Well, I think with my serve it's all about rhythm. When I'm able to give the right rhythm on the match, it goes well.

I'm really working a lot on my serve. You know, it's not the biggest weapon in my game, but I think I've done a good work. It is a little bit better now, so I'm still I keep working on it, but it's a big advantage when you are feeling more comfortable in your service game. It's just a different attitude when you're playing.

Q. Is there an area of your game that you have worked on specifically this year? Anything that you would pinpoint that's been an improvement for you?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, yeah. I mean, it's gonna be couple of things. The first one, which is not only for this year, that's my movement on the court. You know, because with my tall and everything, my well, big body, it's really tough to move well on the court, and that was the thing what I needs to improve. So far it looks like that it works, and it was a good job made with my coach.

The other thing, of course, I mean, I was kind of guy who just liked to play really aggressive, but sometimes I was maybe too much, you know, just go too much for every shot. Then you just come with the mistakes, and that's not the way of the modern tennis. I still need to play really aggressive but with more control, and, you know, be a little bit patient on the court. That's what it is.

But, yeah, it's gonna be some more other things, but this one I would say it's me.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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PHOTO OP: Kiss the clay

"This won't taste so good later."

Congrats to Francesca Schiavone who became the first Italian lady baller to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in the Open Era when she upset third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-3 at Roland Garros today. She used great variety throughout the match, came to the net with success (making 13 of 16 attempts) and never gave the Dane much pace to work with.

She'll face Elena Dementieva, who beat compatriot Nadia Petrova 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, for a spot in the final.

I loved her reaction after the big win - all smiles with a kiss to the clay. Perfection.

P.S. Welcome to the Top 10 Fran!

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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Soderling upsets Federer, snaps 12-match losing streak to Swiss

Robin Soderling gained revenge for his loss in the Roland Garros final last year in a HUGE way when he out-hit and out-played defending champion Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in their quarterfinal match today. The Swede took control of points with big serves, almost bigger returns and blazing groundies that took the 16-time Grand Slammer out of his game.

The Swede notched his first win over the top seed in 13 attempts and ended Fed's ridiculous record of 23 straight Grand Slam semifinal appearances. Sod also became the first baller to defeat the title holder in consecutive years since Mats Wilander defeated Yannick Noah in 1984 and Ivan Lendl in 1985; he upset Rafael Nadal, who was the 4-time defending champ, in the fourth round last year.

As for Fed he could lose his No.1 ranking if Rafa wins the title on Sunday.

Sod was asked about finally snapping the losing streak to the Swiss in his post-match presser:

Q. Once Vitas Gerulaitis said nobody can beat Gerulaitis 17 times in a row. What about you? And is this a better satisfaction than to beat Nadal, the same thing? What is the difference? Are you more confident now than you were maybe one year ago?

ROBIN SODERLING: Well, it's a tough question. You know, I think they're both big wins, of course. They were both No. 1s. They're different players, and I'm really happy that I showed that I can beat them both.

But again, you know, I don't think about it that much. Of course I lost a lot of times, so it's a great feeling to finally end that streak.

But still, you know, I don't think about who I beat. You know, what matters is that I won and that I won quarterfinals in a Grand Slam and I get the opportunity to play semifinals in two days, which is great.
Sod will next face Tomas Berdych who crushed Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.

Great win for the Swede. He basically hit Fed off the court with his ferocious power once he got going. I bet he wishes he played this way in the men's final last year.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda I suppose...

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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Monday, May 31, 2010

Stosur stops Henin, Almagro outplays Verdasco in Roland Garros fourth round

This time Sam Stosur made good against Justine Henin and picked a huge moment to do it.

The Aussie lost a three set tussle to the 7-time Grand Slammer in Stuttgart recently but kept herself calm and composed down the stretch of the pair's fourth round match at Roland Garros today shocking the 4-time champ 2-6, 6-1, 6-4. Her high-kicking second serve made a big difference in the match; she won 70% of the points when she had to throw in a second delivery compared to 48% for the Belgian. Sammie will face an arguably tougher test when she battles an in-form Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.

It seems from all outward appearances that Sammie's game is tailor-made for the clay: the exquisite kick serve, the big forehand she can hit either inside out or in with powerful spin and world-class skills at the net to close out points. Add to that her new-found patience and consistency and she'll be a tough road block on ReRe's path to a 13th major title - and the second leg of the Calendar Slam.

As for Justine she clearly needs more time and matches to find the form that took her to 7 Grand Slam titles. Even on her best surface the cracks in her game, particularly the serve, came to the fore. Plus, where did all of her variety go? Bring it back.

Nicolas Almagro caused another upset, though not quite as monumental, when he took out compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in their fourth round match. Nando had been on a tear during the lead up tourneys winning at Barcelona, making the finals at Monte Carlo + Nice and the semifinals in Rome. But Nico played aggressively throughout hitting 40 winners compared to Nando's 22, making 20 of 24 net approaches and converting 6 of 12 break chances.

Great win for Nico but he'll face the biggest test of 'em all if he wants to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal: Rafael Nadal. May the Force (and some luck) be with you young Almagro.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

PHOTO OP: Gimme an 'O'!

"This hurts so good."

It's not quite the "O" face he displayed in Oz but fourth-seeded Andy Murray still unleashed his pie hole during his 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 loss to Tomas Berdych, the 15th seed, in the fourth round of Roland Garros today. And although it goes down as an upset we all know who has the more proficient skills on the slippery stuff and it ain't the Brit baller.

So, didn't Mama Judy teach Muzz anything about making these kinds of faces? Fine, let me then.

Lesson #1: Your face could freeze that way.

Lesson #2: Something could fly in and get stuck. Like a tennis ball.

Lesson #3: If you've got this kind of talent, make sure you use it. Lots. Like I do.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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She has beautiful qualities on clay because she plays kind of a man's tennis. I mean, she has very heavy balls.

- Justine Henin discussing Sam Stosur's game after finally defeating Maria Sharapova

Sounds like my kinda girl.

[Photo(s): Getty Images]

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