Things We Learned on Day Eight of the 2014 French Open

Throughout the French Open, we’re going to be inviting different people from the tennis community to add to our “Things We Learned” series. Today, Chris Power joins Lindsay to discuss the action on the first day of June. 


1. I have a lot of thoughts on Ernests Gulbis as a person that I am still trying to sort through (hint: I am finding him less entertaining and more overprivileged and grating by the day). However, as a tennis fan, it is fun to have him around later in events because he does have the capability to beat the top guys. We need more of that. So often you see a guy pull off a huge upset, and yet have no faith that he will be able to challenge his next opponent. With Gulbis, at least there’s a chance–you never know which Ernie will show up, of course, but the talent is there.

So, for that reason, I’m happy to see him back into the quarterfinals of the French Open a long six years after his first breakthrough. As an athlete and a tennis player, he’s great to have around, and I hope he stays in the top 20 for years to come. I just hope at a certain point his schtick in press gets old.

Anyways, I’ll just leave these here:

2. Take a bow, Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez-Navarro. Both Spanish women are into the quarterfinals, CSN for the first time since 2008 and Muguruza for the first time in her career.

Muguruza has done a great job backing up her upset win over Serena, with back-to-back straight-set wins over Schmiedlova and Parmentier. She’s only 20 years old, and she might excite me more than her more accomplished peers. She’s cool, composed, versatile, and powerful, and goes into matches with confidence and strategy on her side. I’m excited to see how she matches up against Sharapova–I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a close battle.

Meanwhile, Suarez-Navarro continues her rise. Since she had her first breakthrough to the French Open QFs when she was only 19, it’s easy to forget that she’s still only 25 and very much in the middle of her career. She’s at her career-high ranking of No. 14 right now, and while she does have fourth-round points at Wimbledon and QF points at the U.S. Open to defend, she has a good shot at breaking into the top 10 by the end of the year. Her game is a blast to watch, and I’m glad she’s living up to her potential. She gets Bouchard next–don’t pencil the Canadian into the semifinals just yet.

Oh yeah, and on their off day tomorrow, Muguruza and Suarez Navarro will be trying to advance to the quarterfinals in doubles, too.

3. Isn’t it a blast to watch Maria Sharapova force her way out of matches? With her back against the wall, when given the hint of an opening, she starts hitting harder, picking her spots, playing more aggressively and willing herself to victory. Stosur played the best first set and a half that I’ve seen her play in eons, but she gave Sharapova one glimpse of hope in the middle of the second set, and that was all the Russian needed. Sharapova won the final 9 games of the match.

I hope the first-set Stosur shows up for the U.S. Open series, and I hope that Sharapova keeps fighting. And throwing shade in press.

4. I am wrong a lot, and I will happily admit it. Milos Ranoic has matured so much since joining forces with Ljubicic, and the fact that he just made his maiden major quarterfinal on clay is maddeningly impressive. I honestly didn’t expect him to be the Generation Next member making noise in this Slam.

I hope he shows up in the quarterfinals against Djokovic with the same belief that he carried into their Rome semifinal. Also kudos to Genie for continuing to be solid and making the quarterfinals again. We might as well get used to the newest powerhouse in tennis: Canada.

5. John Isner fell meekly to Berdych in straight sets, and I’m not surprised but I am disappointed because, I mean, I don’t know…make a damn major quarterfinal, already. But anyway, at least Berdych continues to be adorable.

6. Fernando Verdasco is also quietly into the fourth round, where he faces Murray tomorrow. And it’s hard not to give the Spaniard a shot to make the quarterfinals, considering he will be fresher and he’s more comfortable on clay.

This year is just not normal.

7. I cannot even with you, Jo Wilfried Tsonga. I cannot even.

8. The number of singles matches are starting to get to a manageable amount, so it’s time to check in with the doubles draws. The women still have to finish the Round of 16 tomorrow, while the men are already into the quarterfinals. There are no huge upsets so far on the women’s side, with the top two seeds still in action. Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 3.28.35 PM

Meanwhile, the men’s top half of the draw is loaded, while the bottom half is pretty open. How great would it be to have Benny and ERV make the final in France? PRETTY GREAT. Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 3.31.26 PM

9. I wrote about the many ways in which age is catching up to Federer for Bleacher Report.


1. Andy Murray can be clutch –when he’s not clutching himself. Andy’s record in best-of-five was a very respectable 15-6 going into R3 of Roland Garros, so he’s already proven he can tough out those nervy fifth sets. However, as we went into an overnight delay due to bad light at 7-7 final set, we had some new variables to ponder. Andy’s 22nd fifth-set match of his career was the first to go beyond the ‘normal’ set-length of 12 games – he had a couple finish 7-5 in the fifth, including the Verdasco QF at Wimbledon last year on his way to the title, but never longer. So this was brand new territory. Turns out, he can still turn in a mentally solid performance off not enough sleep and the need to hit full speed from a standing start, wrapping up Kohlschreiber 12-10 in the final set, in spite of apparently forgetting to bring his first serve with him.

Good effort in unknown territory so late in his career.

2. Federer’s best days on clay, in case we didn’t realize it, are over.

I feel like it’s time to take Roger Federer out of the list of contenders for the big titles on clay once and for all. He made the Monte-Carlo final only to lose to Stan Wawrinka, previous pretty much his bunny, and then a loss to Jeremy Chardy in Rome and Ernests Gulbis in Paris …

It was never his most congenial surface, even taking the Nadal factor into account, and it feels like the extra demands on his movement, speed and recovery, not to mention the pressure on that backhand wing from the lively bounce, are now just too much for him to overcome consistently. Too many players are now able to hit him out of position and finish the point off. Whatever chances Roger has to add to his formidable slam tally, they are strongest away from the terre-battue.
Roger’s already over it too, so there’s that.

3. Bouchard is making the most of her moment. In all honesty, Eugenie Bouchard hasn’t had to do a huge amount to make it to the QFs in Paris. Wins over Peer, Goerges, and Larsson are what we really should be expecting from a player who plans to set up camp in the top 10, as the young Canadian clearly does. The win over Kerber, No. 8-seeded German, looks on paper extremely impressive, especially the 6-1, 6-2 scoreline. That’s a bit flattering, though. Bouchard played a very strong match but she was met with minimal resistance from the other side of the court. Kerber was having a terrible day, and rarely managed to look engaged or involved in the match. Still, Bouchard’s consistency on the big stage in 2014 should be applauded. It’s a rare thing.

The QF against Carla Suarez-Navarro should be a fascinating one. The Spaniard plays like a clay-courter of old, heavy on the spin and depth, prepared to grind all day. It’s a different sort of game to that which most players see nowadays. If Bouchard is going to make the most of this draw and make the SFs, she’s going to have to show how adaptable her game is to the variety that Carla will offer her.

4. For all the talk of 32 seeds hurting the game, RG shows we can still get the upsets early.

The theory goes that 32 seeds protects the top seeds too much and that as a result the early rounds are ever more dull. So we should go back to 16 seeds and then the seeds have to deal with many more dangerous floaters, guaranteeing a better Week 1.

This may be true sometimes, but Roland Garros 2014 has served up numerous upsets before R4, including of Serena Williams, Li Na, Aga Radwanska, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, and others who are supposedly over-insulated.

On top of that, a number of matches we have seen, such as Kuznetsova-Kvitova, Stosur-Sharapova, are, if anything, occurring too early in the draw for their actual billing.

This is a problem which would only be exacerbated if we returned to 16 seeds. The danger of demanding tough matches and early upsets is you can end up with a Week 2 card that looks very thin of established quality. Generally speaking, we want the best players in the world squaring off against each other in the QFs, SFs, and Finals of Grand Slams? Don’t we?

3 Responses

  1. Moo Tennis
    Moo Tennis June 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm |

    As always, a great round-up of the day. Suarez Navarro has really flown under the radar this week but she has had a terrific clay court season. As well as Bouchard played today against Kerber, I think CSN might edge that quarter-final.

    Overall, this has been a fun RG, particularly on the womens side. There have been some great matches and the next generation are really starting to make their mark on the big stage. I’m even more excited about the next, next generation with the likes of Bencic and Townsend.

  2. jess stein
    jess stein June 2, 2014 at 7:59 am |

    Ha, this is new. People gets put-off by Gulbis’ privilege background? Oh, they should also mention that not only opera, he accompanied his mother on stage at Latvian Oscar-type Ceremony, his family also has a country house in addition to city house, what else… ??

    As a big fan of Ernests, he (or his family) hardly shares any private details of how rich they are or act like one.

    You may dislike him for his forehand, his antics on court, his big mouth (and the list goes on) but for his family background and his personal tastes in music and literatures, really?

  3. Shirley Hartt
    Shirley Hartt June 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm |

    Regarding Milos Raonic, Rod Laver, wise in all things tennis, spoke last fall about how impressed he was with Raonic. He said he thought Raonic “has improved out of sight since he got a new coach and a new-found game. He’s going to be tough to beat. In two or three years he’s going to be a force among the very top players.”

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