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, Romi Cvitkovic, the editor at Tennis View Magazine, joins Lindsay to share what she learned.
1. Is Donald Young finally on the verge of living up to his potential? It certainly looks that way after the 24-year-old American defeated Feliciano Lopez and pushed GGL to the brink at Roland Garros.
Young has grown up significantly both mentally and physically over the last couple of years, and he has notably increased his power and weight of shot. That he was able to go toe-to-toe with GGL in rallies on the clay says a lot about how far he’s come.
But Young has had flashes of “putting it together” over the last few years, and never been able to keep it going. For his sake, and for ours (he’s a lot of fun to watch), I hope that his upward trajectory continues as he heads to surfaces that better suit his game anyways.
For a couple of good reads on Young, check out Pete Bodo’s piece on his match today, and this fabulous ESPNW article about Young’s close relationship with Taylor Townsend.
2. Sloane Stephens is through to the fourth round again, making it six straight Slams where she’s made the second week, the longest streak on the WTA tour. (I mean, that’s nuts.)
She’ll face Simona Halep on Monday in which is sure to be a much-hyped and heavily-anticipated affair. While Simona has the week-in, week-out success, Sloane has gone deep in majors before. Which will win out? Sloane has some thoughts, that may or may not include some shade.
Q. You have a lot of experience playing late in Grand Slams. Simona, you are playing next, does not. How do you think that experience is going to help you in the next match?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Getting deep into a Grand Slam obviously the competition is obviously going to get tougher. Whoever you’re playing against is going to be a tough match and you have to go out and compete.
For her I think she’s played really, really well like in the smaller tournaments like I haven’t done, and she has a lot of experience with that. I have a lot of experience here.
I think we’re just going to go out there and compete and just see what happens. I know she’s going to give her best, and so am I. That’s all we can ask for.
3. I slept through the Ivanovic/Safarova match, and was shocked to see that Lucie took the match 6-3, 6-3 when I woke up. Upon asking for details about it on twitter, I received numerous tweets with a “duh” tone telling me that it was simply a match-up problem, implying that there was no reason I should be surprised in the least.
But honestly, I don’t care if it’s a match-up problem–in the form she was in this clay season, Ana Ivanovic just has to find a way to win that match. I completely agree with Matt Zemek’s breakdown:
Yet… there are some occasions when a player must lift everything about oneself — talent, concentration, effort, tactics, the works — over a foe who is particularly suited to cause trouble. For players who have never been able to maintain a home in the top 10 for any appreciable length of time, this expectation really doesn’t apply.
Many will surely disagree, but for a former world No. 1 such as Ivanovic — finally felt to be ready to return to the latter stages of a major in many circles when this tournament began — that kind of expectation seems reasonable and, moreover, appropriate. The application of that standard might indeed be harsh. Scratch that — it is harsh.
It’s also deserved.
4. Is it time to start taking Svetlana Kuznetsova seriously at this year’s French Open? Here’s a look at her half of the draw now. Certainly a lot of dangerous players floating around, and a lot of intriguing matches on the way on Monday, but Kuznetsova is the most accomplished player in that group, and the only one to win any major, let alone the French.
No matter what happens, the later stages of tournaments are always much more fun when Sveta is around.
5. A middle finger Fabio? Reeaaallly?????? You should be ashamed. I know the French crowd is awful, but there’s no excuse for that.
Fabio Fognini: Class act. pic.twitter.com/yd27MCaR9N
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) May 31, 2014
6. Grigor was definitely not supposed to crash out in the first round of the French. How do I know? Well, because there are so many profiles of him out this month! I enjoyed this from W magazine.
When he’s not on the court, Dimitrov races motorcycles. He also loves to dance, though these days that’s a rare pleasure. ‘It’s nice to go crazy and sort of get everything out of your system,’ he says. ‘But I’ll tell you something funny: I’ve never tried alcohol. I figure I can create my own buzz. Maria gives me a hard time. She’s like, ‘Share a glass of wine with me.”
7. I thoroughly enjoyed the end of that Murray/Kohlschreiber match as the light was fading and Murray was falling apart and Kohls was rising from the dead and the crowd was going crazy. They’ll resume things tomorrow at 7-7 in the fifth, which considering that Murray was up 3-0 in the fourth set and a break in the fifth set, has to be infuriating for his fans.
Of course, the members of the British press handled the situation with their usual grace.
Murray distracted to serve 2 DF's at 4-2 up & apparently in home straight. Now 4-5 down & facing going into the 5th. FOCUS!!! FOCUS!!!
— Barry Flatman (@Barry_FlatmanST) May 31, 2014
Scrabbling around for my notebook and I realise I'm sitting on it.
— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) May 31, 2014
8. NBC, oh NBC. They took over coverage today at noon EST, and I must say that they did a good job covering the matches that they did cover. The problem? They hardly even mentioned the other matches going on around the grounds, which is just ridiculous. Andrea Petkovic and Kiki Mladenovic were battling on Philippe Chatrier, but you would have never known that match existed. They didn’t even update on the score. They also never cut to Chatrier to show the Gasquet/Verdasco match, although they did at least mention that it existed and announce the score every now and then. Still, look-ins to other third-round matches should be mandatory.
They did do one good thing, however. They stuck with Murray/Kohlschreiber even past their promised coverage window, much to the dismay of collegiate rugby fans everywhere.
Can't watch rugby right now cause of gay ass tennis. This is BS
— Kevin Dunne (@dunnebun29) May 31, 2014
@nbc turn off the French open and put rugby on. I don't want to watch guys play with small balls and moan
— Jon Kelly (@J_Kelly7) May 31, 2014
.@nbc @NBCSports literally no cares about tennis. Put on rugby. Now.
— Patrik Coyle (@PADDYLiTE) May 31, 2014
1. After the women’s top three seeds exited much earlier than expected, No. 11 Ana Ivanovic quickly became one of a handful of title contenders (in addition to Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep). Her twin titles in Auckland and Monterrey already this year, a solid clay season which saw a win over Sharapova, and the experience of having won her maiden title on the clay six years prior did not prove to be enough for the Serb. Showing strong form in her first two rounds – full ballerina twirling fistpump and all – Ivanovic was ousted fairly quietly by Lucie Safarova in just under 90 minutes in the third round.
However, one cannot be down on her too much. Surrounding herself with a Serbian coaching team that understands how to coach her from an emotional standpoint, something her big name coaches could not do, Ivanovic’s magic charm and confidence on court has finally returned this season. Though she didn’t make it to the second week of a Slam, it’s certainly a big step in the right direction from a more mature Ivanovic.
At least now, Safarova can take over for Ivanovic in the twirling fistpump department.
2. As happy as I am that a dedicated tennis channel exists in the US, it is a bit enraging when they choose to show relative blowouts on Chatrier instead of epic matches between seemingly lesser-known players. Case in point, the 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 Rafael Nadal win over Leonardo Mayer was nearly streamed in full. Meanwhile, showmen Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini were enthralled in an exciting five-set match that only saw about five minutes of airtime in the first four sets. Only after the Rafa match finished did they switch to showing this electric match. The players displayed incredible athleticism, acrobatics, comedy and even trash talk. The crowd was cheering and jeering from before the first ball. Yet here I was at home trying to find a dodgy live stream online. A quick check on Twitter showed that European fans experienced similar issues with their coverage too.
I enjoy Tennis Channel commentary for the most part and the channel keeps it fresh with entertaining interviews, but they still haven’t found a happy medium in showcasing the best tennis matchups as opposed to just the more popular or top players.
Tennis is more than just a sport in certain matches. In Monfils-Fognini, it’s all about personality and jaw-dropping moments. The fifth set alone warrants it’s own point here for the death-defying shots by Monfils (“I’m about to die. I’m collapsing,” he said after taking an early break that set.) You could go all year and not catch a match as exciting, stupefying and completely enthralling as when these two play each other. Next year, it may just be easier to book a last-minute flight and catch the action live. Who is with me?
You know playing 5 sets was always a part of La Monf's plan. Carry on…..
— Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) May 31, 2014
"I'm about to die. Oh f***. I feel like I'm dying. S***." — Monfils after going 1-0 in 5th.
— Romi Cvitkovic (@RomiCvitkovic) May 31, 2014
It's like the script for this match was crowdsourced from tennis fans and then co-directed by Brett Ratner and Michael Bay.
— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) May 31, 2014
Gael chilling in the shade, sipping his sports drink, crowd chanting his name. Fognini nearly breaks a ball boy's shin with a thrown racket.
— Bette Marston (@ehm1989) May 31, 2014
"I love soap opera tennis. This is great!!" — Jim Courier
— Ashley B (@tennissmash) May 31, 2014
Can someone explain this Monfils/Fognini match to me? I'm actually here and I don't understand it. Am I high?
— James LaRosa (@JamesLaRosa) May 31, 2014
Fognini gets a point penalty for throwing racket (previously warned for profanity). Brings doctor to court. Hopefully a psychiatrist. #RG14
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 31, 2014
Monfils breaks for 4-2, asks the crowd: "TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?"
— Ricky Dimon (@RD_Tennistalk) May 31, 2014
That's all! @Gael_Monfils soars into the 4R with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 win over #Fognini. #RG14 pic.twitter.com/iDt1u6B5HS
— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) May 31, 2014
3. A tale of two Americans: Jack Sock and Donald Young. After Sock was handed a first round win when Nicolas Almagro retired five games in, Sock had a clear shot to have his best run in a Slam to date: a potential fourth round encounter with Rafa. However, a somewhat surprising upset by world No. 83 Dusan Lajovic in straight sets today once again brought up holes in Sock’s still evolving game. Lajovic dictated play and was more aggressive, forcing Sock on the run more than he’s used to. The 21-year-old continues to improve his fitness and with more experience, he’ll need to find a way to capitalize on these opportunities in the future.
Meanwhile, Donald Young came out of left field defeating No. 26 seed Feliciano Lopez in the second round and taking clay court player Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to an intense five sets today. Down two sets, Young unexpectedly stormed back taking the third set 6-2 before winning the fourth set tiebreaker with grit. The same firepower and energy that helped him in his win over Lopez has now propelled him back into American men’s tennis relevance. Once thought of as a “has-been,” Young is quickly morphing into a dangerous floater.
Great commentary. I totally agree with you about the lopsided TV coverage of blowout matches and boring matches with supposedly popular players. I don’t care that Isner is American, he is not exciting to watch. Just cut in on the tiebreaks. Nadal blowouts are also not that exciting.
I was itching to see that Monfils-Fognini match as well. Glad we at least got to see the end.
And what about doubles? Am I the only one who enjoys doubles? Can barely get the scores!
Thanks for your analysis! Always interesting and entertaining.
I don’t want to get my hopes too high but . . . I am beyond excited about Kuznetsova’s prospects. Sure, she’s prone to complete mental collapses at very odd times, and she doesn’t have many Russians to beat up on (I bet you knew this but I don’t know if you really considered it: the only Russian woman to beat a non-Russian woman in a major final is Sharapova. I mean, sure, there are only two others in this great generation of Russian players to win majors, but still) but she’s still probably the best pure athlete in women’s tennis in the last decade and I always thought she’d have a considerably more successful career. Only Serena Williams and Justine Henin strike me as fundamentally better tennis players than Kuznetsova. That said, I think every player left in the draw is someone I root for pretty regularly and so I’m bound to have disappointments enough. But the mere idea of a Kuznetsova-Jankovic semi? Be still my heart!
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