FRENCH OPEN DAY 8 PREVIEW

by Karen 

Day 8 of the French Open sees 4 matches from the top half of the draw.   I am going to be going against the grain and call for some humongous upsets in this round.  Here goes

Muguruza v. Parmentier – when the defending champion and World’s No. 1 tells you that if you continue to play like this you will win the tournament and then you go out and take out the World’s No. 1 conqueror in straight sets, you get the benefit of any doubt.  Despite going up against the French wildcard here, I am looking for Muguruza to come out guns blazing and make her way to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. 

Stosur v. Sharapova – Stosur has been under the radar.  She has a  2-13 record against Sharapova.  The thing is that Stosur plays relatively well on this particular surface. Will she be able to bring the same amount of focus and determination against a player who owns her in the way that she brought her best game against a player that she owns in Cibulkova.  I am calling the upset here with Stosur moving forward in 3 tough sets. 

Tomljanovic v. Suarez-Navarro – the youngster pulled what many are calling a huge upset.  On paper yes, but Tomljanovic has always had the firepower.  Her issue is going to be one of remaining steady against Suarez-Navaroo who can stay at the back of the court and rally all day.  I think Tomljanovic pulls out this one, again in 3 sets. 

Bouchard v. Kerber – by my count this will be the match of the day.  Bouchard is on a mission and of all the youngsters remaining in the draw, Bouchard seems to be one of those who is hungry for Grand Slam glory.  She has won her first WTA title on clay and she is looking to add to that trophy case.  Kerber in the meantime is posting her best results this year.  Bouchard will have to remain steady and focused and pull the trigger whenever the opportunity presents itself.  She can’t allow herself to become distracted by Kerber’s retrievign abilities.  I look for Bouchard to take this one in straight sets. 

FRENCH OPEN DAY 7 PREVIEW

by Karen, 

A post even quicker than Day 6 as I am still in the middle of packing … 

Day 7 sees the third round of the bottom half of the draw.  There are some intriguing match ups on this side and it will be interesting to see who makes it to the second week.  As is the norm, Spin’s Picks are in brackets. 

Kvitova v. Kuznetsova (this can either be a long drawn out affair or a blow out) (Kvitova) 
Safarova v. Ivanovic (again, can either be long and drawn out or a blow out) (Safarova)
Stephens v. Makarova (Makarova)
Torro-Flor v. Halep (Halep) 
Glushko v. Errani (how good is Julia Glushko?, I have no idea as I have not seen any of her matches so I am going with (Errani) in this one
Soler-Espinosa v Bertens (Soler-Espinosa)
Petkovic v. Mladenovic (she has been battling all tournament long, why not to the second week (Mladenovic) 


FRENCH OPEN DAY 6 PREVIEW

by Karen 

Very quick post tonight as packing to head off to Jamaica for family reunion and I promise to post lots of pictures from the trip. 

Day 6 sees 8 matches from the top half of the draw. 

Muguruza v Schmiedlova (Muguruza)
Parmentier v Barthel (Barthel)
Cibulkova v Stosur (Stosur) 
Ormachea v Sharapova (Sharapova)
Radwanska v Tomljanovic (Tomljanovic) 
Townsend v Suarez-Navarro (Spin’s Pick for Match of the Day) (Townsend) 
Larsson v. Bouchard (Bouchard) 
Hantuchova v. Kerber (Kerber)  

Odds and Ends

On a personal note, as mentioned above, I will be travelling as of tomorrow (30 May).  I will probably be out of internet range but will try and post while I am away.  If not, I will, for those who rely on it, post my Spin’s Picks for Suicide Pool. 

Continue to enjoy the French Open guys and go Halep. 

FRENCH OPEN DAY 5 PREVIEW

by Karen 

Court
Player A
Player B
Spin’s Pick
Chartrier
Jankovic
Nara
Jankovic
Svitolina
Ivanovic
Ivanovic
Lenglen
Riske
Mladenovic
Mladenovic
Kvitova
Erakovic
Kvitova
Court 1
Stephens
Hercog
Stephens
Watson
Halep
Halep
Court 2
Giorgi
Kuznetsova
Giorgi
Nicolescu
Ormachea
Nicolescu
Pfizenmaier
Errani
Errani
Court 3
Pereria
Cirstea
Cirstea
Court 4
Torro-Flor
Rybarikova
Torro-Flor
Court 5
Bertens
Pavlyuchenchova
Pavlyuchenchova
Vandeweghe
Makarova
Makarova
Court 6
Flipkens
Glushko
Flipkens
Safarova
Dellacqua
Safarova
Court 7
Parmentier
Shvedova
Parmentier
Petkovic
Voegele
Petkovic
Spin’s Match to Watch
With the loss of the No. 2 seed from this side of the draw, the highest remaining seed is No. 4 Simona Halep who will take on Heather Watson of Great Britain.  This however is not the Spin’s pick for match to watch.  I think the match between Jankovic and Nara will as they say in tennis parlance be epic.  Jankovic struggled through her match against Sharon Fischman of Canada in round 1 and while she did win the match going away, she has not shown good form as of yet.  Nara has always battled Jankovic tough as she is a steady competitor.  The other match that could be a fierce match is that of Ivanovoic going up against Svitolina.
Odds and Ends
With the loss of Serena Williams from the top half of the draw on Day 4, I started to think about Serena and her failures at the Majors this year.  In both instances where Serena lost she was simply outhit by her opponents.  While many will talk about the tactics employed by her opponents, that is, hitting the ball deep down the middle of the court, I think what I have observed is that Serena seems a step slow in relation to her court coverage.  While she has always been fast around the court, I think sometimes we forget that she is 32 years old.  Inasmuch as people talk about Federer and how he has become a step slow in terms of his game, for whatever reason, no one seems to mention the same issues with Serena.
I also watched Venus’ match this morning and I got the same sense that she was not as quick onto the ball as she used to be.  A lot of times both Sisters were left standing in the middle of the court watching the ball sail by.  It could be that age is finally catching up with the Sisters or it could be that they were both having off days.  However, while Serena recovered in her match against Ivanovic in Rome this year, during the second set of that match she seemed unable to withstand the firepower coming off the racquet of Ivanovic in much the same way she seemed unable to withstand the firepower coming off Muguruza’s racquet.
What surprises me is that I don’t hear commentators mentioning these things.  They are mostly focusing on the tactics being displayed by opponents rather than commenting on how Serena is reacting to the play on court.
I do recall last year during Serna’s wonderful season that she seemed a bit defensive in the way she was playing.  She was not playing attacking tennis as we know she is capable of, and one has to wonder whether in trying to build consistency into her game she has allowed the aggressive game style which was a hallmark of her game to be tempered.  If so, I think many of us, this writer included would prefer the aggressive inconsistent game style that won matches, rather than this tepid consistent style that is allowing opponents overpower and outplay her. 

TAYLOR TOWNSEND – RETRO QUEEN

by Karen 

Taylor Townsend

It is never easy playing a home town favourite.  Just ask anyone who has to play Kim Clijsters anywhere in the world.   Taylor Townsend qualified to play the French Open by virtue of a wild card.  However, this was not just any old wild card where a tournament director or the USTA or some other Federation gifts it to you. She had to earn that wildcard by playing USTA designated tournaments in order to qualify. In her last qualifying match, she had to play both her semis and finals on the same day in both singles and doubles.  She won them both. 

Townsend is most famous for having her support pulled by the USTA because of fitness issues.  It cased a media storm at the US Open a few years ago.  Since then Townsend is being coached by former Fed Cup captain, Zina Garrison.  Townsend’s style of play is a throwback to the era of serve and volley.  She is a lefty with a huge serve and her ground game is spectacular.  

I don’t often recognise when players shots are heavy but today while watching Townsend’s match against Alize Cornet I was struck by how heavy the balls were and how much they were driving Cornet off the baseline and back towards the back fence. Townsend played a really composed match.  In her first round match against Vania King, Townsend came back from 5-1 down in the first set to take the set 7-5 and then reeled off 12 of the next 13 games.  In addition to doing that she hit 52 winners.  In her match today against Cornet, she hit 43 winners.  What struck me though was her net game. On a clay court Townsend came to net 30 times and won 70% of the points when she got there.   Remember folks this is an 18 year old making her Grand Slam debut against one of the fittest players on Tour. 

Townsend did herself proud today with the way how she composed herself after being up a set and 4-1, she would lose the next 5 games to lose that set.  In the third set she raced out to a 5-1 lead but was then pegged back to 5-4 after Cornet saved 4 match points.  Townsend closed her mind and eventually served out the match to put herself into the third round.   


GARBINE MUGURUZA – QUEEN FOR A DAY

by Karen 

Garbine Muguruza

I think she deserves her own post.   

Garbine Muguruza, ranked No. 35 but played like she was ranked No.1 steamrolled the World’s No. 1 and defending French Open champion Serena Williams in straight sets today.  It is a score that no one, not even Serena or Garbine herself saw coming.   I, along with many others felt that if Serena could just get her act together this match would be one of the all time greatest comebacks in women’s tennis history that feature Serena Williams.  However, today was not the World’s No. 1 day. 

Muguruza played composed attacking tennis.  She never allowed Serena to settle into the match.  After opening the match with a comfortable hold of serve, Serena would see 5 straight games won by her opponent.  It was a wonderful display of deep hitting.  Muguruza had a game plan and credit to her for sticking to that game plan.  She took away the angles that Serena loves to use and she hit hard and deep to Serena’s feet.  Serena’s main weapon her serve was absent today and when she was able to get it into play she was winning a little over 50% of the points on her first serve and less than 30% on her second serve. 

It is a result that has without a doubt shaken up the top half of the women’s draw.   Some will say that it now gives Sharapova a clear walk to the final.  I don’t think so. 

The  loss of No. 2 Li Na in the bottom half of the draw has cleared the way somewhat for players like Simona Halep. The French Open has for sometime been churning out Grand Slam champions on a random basis on the women’s side.  Could this year be the year when we have a new Grand Slam champion and from the group born in the 1990s?  

WTA FRENCH OPEN DAY 4 PREVIEW

by Karen 

Court
Player A
Player B
Spin’s Pick
Chartrier
Schmiedlova
Williams (V)
Williams (V)
Pironkova
Sharapova
Sharapova
Lenglen
Williams (S)
Muguruza
Williams (S)
Cornet
Townsend
Cornet
Court 1
Hantuchova
Feuerstein
Feuerstein
Radwanska
Pliskova
Radwanska (maybe an upset)
Court 2
Lepchenko
Kerber
Kerber
Meusberger
Stosur
Stosur
Court 3
Cibulkova
Paszek
Cibulkova
Barthel
Lisicki
Barthel
Court 5
Bacsinszky
Suarez-Navarro
Suarez-Navarro
Tomljanovic
Vesnina
Tomljanovic
Court 6
Pennetta
Larsson
Pennetta
Nicolescu
Ormachea
Nicolescu
Court 7
Georges
Bouchard
Bouchard
Parmentier
Shvedova
Parmentier
Spin’s Match to Watch
Some really great matches await us in the top half of the draw.  There are rumblings that the defending champion, Serena Williams could face a bit of a battle and some are even calling the upset in this round.  I like Muguruza and think that she has the game to trouble the top players, but this is not the top player who will have trouble with her game.  Muguruza played the elder Williams quite tough in Auckland earlier this year but at the end of the day experience won out and the same thing will happen here once again.  The younger Williams will prevail in straight sets.
The match that may just be intriguing though is the match between Julia Georges who seems to be on a bit of an upswing after having some extremely poor results that have seen her rankings hover in the 100 region.   Bouchard is confident after coming off her first WTA title and it will be interesting to see whether her good form will continue into this round.  Bouchard was clinical in her match against Peer in the first round and while Peer’s best days are now behind her, it will be interesting to see how Bouchard does against an opponent with some amount of weapons to withstand her game.
Ace’s Match to Watch
Varvara Lepchenko vs Angelique Kerber
In a match I thought would have been a three set battle, Lepchenko defeated Petra Cetkovska in two routine sets showing us why she likes to play on clay. Kerber won a straight forward match against Katarzyna Piter in the first round but coming to the French Open, she did not win a match on clay until last week in Nurnberg. With the events happening in the first 3 days, Kerber may join the list of upsets if she does not lift her game.
Odds and Ends
Li Na was the first top seed on the women’s side to exit Roland Garros.  Li lost in 3 sets to local Krista Mladenovic.  It was a wonderful display of all court tennis by Mladenovic, who became quite emotional after her win.   As has been pointed out before, Li has not been playing great tennis over the past few months and while there has been no word as to whether she is carrying an injury, it would seem as if there is something not quite right with her at this time. It could also be as she said that she had no idea what to do and did not follow the game plan that was set out for her.  Who knows.  It could also be that Li is just being her typical inconsistent self and if that is the reason, we are perhaps making much ado about nothing.
Madison Keys came back from being 1-5 down against Sara Errani in the first set, only to lose that set, but lost the match after taking the second set 6-3.  I did not see the match but Errani winning 6-1 in the third tells me that Keys maybe ran out of gas.

Simona Halep was clinical in her first match today, destroying Kleybanova in straight sets.  It was a master class performance by the No. 4 seed.  Pavlyenchkova got out of her own way long enough to register a win against Date-Krumm after being bagelled in the second set.   One can only hope that she can improve from here on in as her side of the draw has opened up quite nicely for a good run. 

WTA FRENCH OPEN DAY 3 PREVIEW

by Karen 



Court
Player A
Player B
Spin’s Pick
Chartrier
Kleybanova
Halep
Halep
Garcia
Ivanovic
Ivanovic (but will be tight)
Lenglen
Li
Mladenovic
Li
Keys
Errani
Keys
Court 1
Stephens
Peng
Peng
Safarova
Minnella
Safarova
Court 2
Date-Krumm
Pavlyuchenkova
Pavlyuchenkova 
Wozniacki
Wickmayer
Wozniacki (if healthy, if not Wickmayer in straights)
Court 3
Shapatava
Kuznetsova
Kuznetsova (if healthy)
Court 4
Jovanovski
Giorgi
Giorgi
Candela
Pfizenmaier
Pfizenmaier
Melzer
Vandeweghe
Vandeweghe (Melzer just coming back from injury and not doing too well)
Court 5
Pereira
Kumkhum
Pereira
Dellaqua
Dominquez-Lino
Dellaqua (should be able to hit through the top spin)
Court 6
Watson
Strycova
Watson
Koulakova
Torro-Flor
Torro-Flor
Court 7
Jankovic (to be continued)
Fichman
Jankovic
Flipkens
Kovinic
Flipkens
Rogers
Makarova
Makarova
Court 8
Wozniak
Cirstea
Wozniak
Rybarikova
Radwanska (Ursula)
Radwanska
Court 10
Riskie
Lucic-Baroni
Lucic-Baroni
Hercog
Cepelova
Hercog
Court 14
Cadantu
Bertens
Bertens
Soler-Espinosa
Scheepers
Scheepers
Court 16
Svitolina
Martic
Svitolina
Vekic
Glushko
Vekic (toss up)
Spin’s Match to Watch
We have had some amount of carry over from Day 2 into Day 3, my pick for the match to watch between Stephens and Peng will hold true. 
Odds and Ends
I am at work so I did not get to see the dramatic come back by Taylor Townsend against Vania King.  I watched it unfold via scoreboard and I am very happy about the results.   Coming back from 5-1 down in the first set to reel off 12 of the next 13 games in her Grand Slam debut must have felt pretty good for Taylor. Doing it against a player as tough as Vania King is even more remarkable.  Well done Taylor and here’s hoping that she continues to fight for every point.  Someone tweeted that she hit 52 winners today in pretty slow conditions.  I had to go and get the match stats for myself and I have included the link here.  That is a pretty amazing stat indeed.  
Petra Kvitova showed up to play today taking out Diyas in straight sets.  The first set was a bit of a struggle but Kvitova maintained her concentration throughout and was able to break Diyas at will. 
Fashion Focus
The Spin does not really take much interest in fashion seeing that everything that I own is black or shades of black, but I was a bit taken aback when none other than Pam Shriver made Maria Sharapova best dressed at this year’s French Open.  Sharapova is wearing Pepto Bismol pink with orange biker shorts.  Let that combination digest for a moment.  Venus Williams on the other hand is in my view best dressed for this whole tournament in her Aurora by ElevenbyVenus dress.  It fits well, and makes Venus’ amazingly sculpted body look even more amazing sculpted. 
This year’s fashion choices do not have much imagination to them and that is one of the reasons why I think Venus’ collection outdoes Nike, Adidas and LaCoste.  It is innovative and different. 

As soon as all the women have made their debut, I guess I will do a fashion focus column.  

FRENCH OPEN DAY 2 PREVIEW

by Karen 

Day 1 of the French Open has not gone very well for the Spin team.  Our matches to watch did not live up to expectations.  Ace’s Lepchenko v Cetkovska was late in the day and was a blow out by Lepchenko coupled with numerous unforced errors by Cetkovska and Karen’s match to watch (Min v Muguruza) ended up being on a non-televised court.  

The Spin team also suffered some red faces as our picks to win all suffered losses, and to add the icing to the cherry, Karen got kicked out of Suicide Pool.  All in all a pretty crappy day for the team.  However, we go onwards into battle for Day 2.  The Spin’s team picks are in brackets.  

Court Phillipe Chartrier          
Pervak v Sharapova (Sharapova)
Cornet v Barty (Barty) 
Court Lenglen
Cibulkova v Razzano (Cibulkova)
Kvitova v Diyas (Kvitova but will be tight) 
Court 1 
Jankovic v Fischman (Jankovic)
Stephens v Peng (Stephens but will be a struggle) 
Court 2 
Puig v Stosur (Stosur, experience will tell here) 
Shapatava v Kuznetsova (Kuznetsova) 
Court 3
Petkovic v. Doi (Petkovic)
Court 4 
Ormachea v. Oprandi (Oprandi)
Erakovic v Kichenok (Erakovic)
Court 5
Knapp v Barthel (A tough one but I am going with Barthel)
Peer v Bouchard (Bouchard) 
Pereria v Kumkhum (Pereria – I liked what I saw from the Brazilian in Fed Cup) 
Court 6 
Ferro v Lisicki (It is not grass but it is the first round … Lisicki)
Johansson v Pliskova (Pliskova)
Court 7 
Parmentier v. Vinci (Vinci) 
Tatishvilli v Nara (Nara)
Court 8
Paszek v Uytvanck (I swear Paszek had retired.  Uytvanck)
Larcher de Brito v Georges (Georges) 
Court 9 
Bacsinzky v Zanevska (Bascinzky) 
Court 10 
Hercog v Cepelova (Hercog)
Court 14 
Jovanovski v Giorgi (Giorgi) 
Court 16
McHale v Vesnina (McHale) 
Townsend v King (Townsend) 
Court 17 
Pennetta v. Mayr-Achleitner (Pennetta, if she is 100%)
Friedsam v Voegele (Voegele)
Wozniak v Cirstea (Wozniak) 

Spin’s Match to Watch

I am picking the Stephens v. Peng match and I am calling the upset here.  Stephens usually puts her best foot forward at the Slams.  However, of late, she has not even done that.  Peng pushed Serena in her match in Madrid before falling in straight sets.  She has improved her serve and she is playing much better on the clay.  She also looks to be injury free.  I think Peng will use her ability to move the ball around the court and create angles to take away Stephen’s propensity to use defence.  This one will perhaps be a 3 setter.  

Odds and Ends

Tennis Channel has managed to annoy everyone with their coverage.  I don’t live in the US, but I get my tennis via Dish Network. I pay a lot of money for this to happen and I am appalled really at the Shylock type behaviour of Tennis Channel.  From the complaints that I am seeing, even if you have Tennis Channel as part of your cable package (and I understand you have to pay extra for it), in order to watch live streaming of what Tennis Channel is carrying, you have to pay to watch these live streams.  This is highway robbery and not the way for a monopoly to behave.  

Frankly speaking Tennis Channel could offer better value for money if they ditched some of the talking heads that they have on set, as well as stop spending money on Destination Tennis and making all these Best of 5 nonsense that no tennis fan worth their salt is even interested in.  Who cares who is the hottest coach around?  I know as a tennis fan, I could care less.  

I doubt if tennis fans need 4 people in a studio analysing a match that for all intents and purposes the result is already known.  

FRENCH OPEN DAY 1 PREVIEW – WTA

As promised in our previous post, Master Ace and I will be providing day to day coverage of this year’s French Open, right from our living rooms (where else?).  For those of us who follow us on Twitter and read our words we will be helping you out in Suicide Pool by giving you choices of who we think will win each day’s match.  Have no idea which match to watch?  Tired of the same old faces on ESPN, ESPN2 and Tennis Channel.  We will provide suggestions on matches that you need to watch if only to discover someone new and interesting for whom to cheer. 

Remember, Serena, Maria, Ana, Jelena etc will not be around forever.  If you don’t get on the bandwagon now, when will you.  So without further ado, here is the OOP for tomorrow’s matches.  

Court Phillipe Chartrier 
Radwanska v Zhang (Radwanska)
Williams (S) v Lim (Williams)

Court Suzanne Lenglen
Bencic v Williams (V) (Bencic)
Piter v Kerber (Kerber)

Court 1 
Hantuchova v Jaksic (Jaksic)
Hesse v Meusberger (Meusberger)

Court 2 
Feuerstein v Govortsova (Feuerstein)
Kirilenko v Larsson (Larsson)

Court 3 
Kanepi v Niculescu (Kanepi)
Tomljanovic v Schiavone (Schiavone)

Court 6 
Schmiedlova v Zheng (Zheng)
Beygelzimer v Suarez-Navarro (Navarro)

Court 7 
Beck v Pironkova (Beck)
Cetkovska v Lepchenko (Lepchenko)

Court 17 
Min v Muguruza (Muguruza)
Shvedova v Davis (Davis) 

Spin’s Match to Watch

I know everyone will be picking the match between Belinda Bencic and Venus Williams.  It will be a celebration of youth v experience.  Bencic, one of this blog’s favourite players to watch has been doing incredibly well especially during the clay season.  She made the semis of Charleston and comported herself quite well in Madrid in a losing effort against Serena Williams.  Venus, after putting on a wonderful display reminiscent of her 1999 run to her lone Rome title against Annika Beck in Rome, lost in the next round to Carla Suarez-Navarro, a result that really did not surprise anyone.  I am a bit amazed that there are rumours that the Sisters will be playing doubles at this year’s French Open, but I will have to see it to believe it. 

The Spin’s match to watch will be qualifier Grace Min going up against Spain’s own Garbine Muguruza.  Muguruza started the year off exceptionally well, winning her first title in Hobart and going on to push Venus Williams in a losing effort in Auckland.  Since then her results have tailed off.  Grace Min is the lone American to make it through the qualifying rounds at this year’s French Open.  She is a counter puncher and it will be interesting to see her game plan against Muguruza who hits a big ball.  Both women are extremely competitive so there will be lots of in your face points as the match goes on.  This one will be a thriller and it will be a really good time to take a look at the woman who could face Serena Williams in the second round of this year’s French Open. 

Ace’s Match to Watch

Petra Cetkovska vs Varvara Lepchenko
When healthy, Cetkovska can be a solid player and can cause major upsets in a tournament. She snapped Na Li’s unbeaten streak in Doha. Lepchenko is a very solid player on clay where she defeated Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani during Fed Cup play in 2013. She has not had the results so far in 2014. In their last meeting, Cetkovska won a three setter in Charleston and I think Cetkovska gets the win setting her up with a chance to make a run to the second week.