Things We Learned on Day Six 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, Andrew Burton and Kelly Berka join Lindsay to talk about Friday’s action.


1. Should I get the requisite self promotion out of the way? I have two new Sports on Earth pieces up, one on the refreshing and promising Taylor Townsend (written before she lost today) and the other on how clay has become Maria Sharapova’s best surface. Good? Good. Moving on now.

2. I thought that John Isner had a chance against Tommy Robredo considering that Robredo always struggles against big servers on clay, but I must say that I’m impressed with the way my fellow Greensborian won the 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 affair. Isner has lost so many painful tight matches at majors over the years, and it was great to see him pull off the win against a tricky opponent. He stayed aggressive and didn’t let himself get sucked into (too many) pointless rallies. He’s the first American man to make the R16 at Roland Garros since Ginepri in 2010. Tomorrow, however, Jack Sock and Donald Young will try to join him.

“I’ll be cheering hard for those guys,” he said.

3. I’m going to be honest–after an insane week, today I slept a bit and took care of some life stuff and didn’t watch a whole lot of tennis. I asked my twitter followers what they learned from today, and here are some of the most informative:

4. You guys, I’m just too tired to tackle Ernie. It’s casual, benevolent sexism, which is just as dangerous as the mean-spirited kind. I’m just over it. It’s not cute and it’s not charming and it’s just not okay.


1. I learned that Maria Sharapova is feeling the pressure of being anointed the bookies’ new favorite to win the WTA singles.

Sharapova allowed her opponent, Paula Ormachaea, to win 14 points in a 6-0 first set. But the no 7 seed was able to pull herself together in set 2, in which she conceded just three points. Maybe you could call that a bronze set.

Sharapova is the highest seed left in her half of the draw. She has a 13-2 record against her next opponent, no 19 seed Sam Stosur: the winner of that match will face an unseeded player in the quarter final, either the Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier or Serena’ Williams’ conqueror Garbine Muguruza.

2. The no 2 Swiss player, Roger Federer, has gone deeper than his Davis Cup team mate Stan Wawrinka. But Federer hasn’t shown anything like his best form, and he found himself in a tough scrap with the Russian-Californian veteran, Dimitry Tursunov. A set up, Federer seemed to play the second set tie breaker not to lose, while Tursunov went for the lines and took the set with a down-the-line forehand that did clean the ad sideline.

Early in the third set, though, Tursunov gave hope to all weekend warriors by hitting four double faults in a single game. Federer eventually took one of the resulting break points, and Tursunov left for the locker room with a doctor in tow at the next changeover. When Tursunov came back on court, he’d lost a lot of his explosive movement, and the rest of Federer’s service games were untroubled. Federer was still having trouble converting break points, spurning six in one game in the 4th set. He’ll need to do better in R16 against Ernests Gulbis, who brushed Radek Stepanek aside in straight sets.

3. Mark May 30th 2014 in your diary.

Today was a red letter day for the ATP players I’ve labeled #TheLostBoys. Before Roland Garros 2014, no player born after Juan Martin Del Potro has gained more than 3000 ATP Ranking Points in any 52 week period. And with Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori going out in the first round, things looked bleak for the young guns – or should that be, young water pistols.

But Milos Raonic came back from two sets to one down against Gilles Simon in the last match on Chatrier to win 7-5 in the fifth. Raonic was broken at love serving for the match, but then broke straight back and served out the match on a court lit mainly by the glow of the electronic scoreboards.

So Generation Milos has made a breakthrough!

It was a good win for Raonic against a testing opponent in front of a French crowd cheering on one of their own – but it’s the kind of match he needs to win regularly to challenge for a top five slot. In the next round Raonic will play the winner of Klizan-Granollers, called for bad light just after Granollers took a two sets to one lead by winning a third-set tie break.. If Raonic makes it to the quarter-finals, he’ll likely take on the No.2 seed Novak Djokovic – unless Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can pull off the upset. If that happens, Raonic will at least be prepared to play in front of a partisan French crowd on Chatrier.


1.  In the 2014 tennis season, nothing can be taken for granted.  For a Grand Slam that has already seen the dismissals of WTA No. 1 Serena Williams (a straight-sets, second-round loss 2-6, 2-6 at the hands of world No. 35 Garbine Muguruza) and WTA No. 2 Na Li (a three-set, first-round loss 5-7,6-3,1-6 at the hands of world No. 103 Kristina Mladenovic), I should have been ready for another surprising result, but I wasn’t.

When I woke up this morning, I expected to see that WTA No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, after (possibly) three long sets, had pulled off the win with her inimitable Ninja style, against the talented world No. 72 Ajla Tomljanovic.  Instead, I woke to a straight sets loss by Radwanska (4-6,4-6) to the talented 21-year-old Croatian.  It’s the first top-10 scalp for Tomljanovic, and her first time making the fourth round of a major.  I like her attitude:  A healthy dose of respect for her colleagues and a healthy dose of the confidence needed when facing the world No. 3 and a Grand Slam finalist.

“After seeing the two first seeds go out, (I) feel like I can do this too. I grew up with these girls that are beating them… Obviously, you respect everyone, but you don’t fear anyone.”

She next faces world No. 15 Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round, who took out Taylor Townsend in straight sets (2-6,2-6) today.

As for Radwanska?  Her presser can be found here, but I feel that a picture (or, in this case, a screen-cap) paints 1000 words.

2.  Flower Power.  For all of the grief that world No. 6 Tomas Berdych has received over his French Open kit, there might be something to the power of the flower.  The last time we saw Tomas here, in 2013 (not kitted-out in flowers, I’ll add), he suffered a first round, five-set loss to (then) wildcard, Gael Monfils.  Flash-forward to 2014. After today’s third-round, four-set win against world No. 29 Roberto Bautista Agut, you’ll not find me discounting the (possible) power of the flower.  I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous, but if you’re a long-time fan of Tomas’ game like myself, and are versed in all of the hair-pulling, head-shaking, nail-biting and whimpering that accompanies that particular affliction, you’ll grasp at any straw that’s offered to you.  So with that I say: “Carry on, Flower Boy.”

3.  Andy Murray has still not announced his new coach, and the rising crescendo from the Twitter-sphere and journalists alike is something to behold.  I’m not sure why the tennis world is so surprised that it’s taken over two months for him to announce his new coach, but they are. The names being bandied around are the stuff of legend:  John McEnroe, Jonas Bjorkman, Larry Stefanki, Mats Wilander, Bob Brett, and, my two favorites, Martina Navratilova and Amelie Mauresmo.  As for working with a female coach, I adored his response:

I have a great deal of respect for Andy, always have, but his comments and interest throughout the years on WTA players and, more recently, a possible female coach, have shot his stock through the roof, in my eyes.  You’d be hard-pressed to find another ATP’er who is so vocal for the WTA.

But back to this coaching business.  Every morning I wake up and see yet another name thrown onto the coaching pile, and I smile, and I shake my head.  This is the man that takes his sweet time doing everything, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  This is the man who contested three Grand Slam finals before finally grabbing a trophy on that fourth attempt.  As entertained as I am by all of the hand-wringing, I wish we would (collectively) step back, take a deep breath, and be patient with him while he makes this important decision.  We’ll know when we know, you know?

5 Responses

  1. kwando
    kwando May 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm |

    Wow. Good for Milos to finally break 3000 points. Hopefully he’ll be able to make his first GS quarterfinals as well! (Though, he should have an easier time against the winner of Granollers/Klizan than against Simon… But who knows? This French Open has been pretty crazy thus far…)

  2. RZ
    RZ May 30, 2014 at 9:13 pm |

    Flower power might be working for Berdych, but it sure didn’t work for Radwanska.

  3. Shirley Hartt
    Shirley Hartt May 31, 2014 at 2:10 pm |

    As for Raonic playing against Simon, the local favourite in front of a very vocal French crowd, that shows one of the many advantages of playing Davis Cup. He did not seem bothered by the crowd when playing on Chatrier; I imagine he has faced much tougher home crowds when playing away ties at Davis Cup.

  4. Joshua
    Joshua May 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm |

    About Gulbis: did I like his comments? Obviously not. But, we don’t serve women athletes (or any kind of women, for that matter) by pretending that there aren’t differences between men and and women and there are a couple of contextual things here that I think do matter in what he said and which I don’t think we can reasonably say are untrue.

    1. Being a professional tennis player is a hard life. It just is. The constant travel, the potential years of loss upon loss, the crummy tournaments, the inability to have friendships with anyone you aren’t paying to travel with you, the kinks it throws in your love life, etc. Surely it would be easier for Gulbis’s sisters, who are extremely rich, but the fact is this is a tough lifestyle. Am I convinced it’s harder on women than on men? Definitely not (other than the dating part: male tennis players often have girlfriends who seem to have no job other than following their boyfriends around the world and this dynamic, while not nonexistent, is rare for female tennis players unless their husband is also their coach), but in this specific context he’s talking about his sisters. It’s hardly uncommon for people who have chosen a particularly profession to discourage their relatives and children from undertaking it. Actresses frequently talk about wanting to protect their children from rejection and the darker side of fame, for instance. Generalizing this to “women” instead of specifically to his sisters is sort of gross, but the basic sentiment is easily understandable.

    2. The kids part. Obviously, not all women are at all interested in kids. And Latvian culture may be wildly different than American culture in this regard, but large numbers of women in the United States do wait until they are in their late 20s or older to start having children. But it’s still manifestly obvious that children pose a different scale of problem to a female athlete than a male one. Unless she adopts a child, a female athlete either has to wait until she retires to pursue pregnancy (and retirement age for players is growing ever older) or they have to be willing to sacrifice at least a year of their career (even if a player manages a 20 year career, which is a stretch, that’s 5% of her career) to the project. Few players who choose the latter route can say this was GOOD for their careers (Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters being the only two I can think of who were at least as good or better after returning to the game)and does it place certain pressures — pressures of time and responsibility and desire — on women that are felt far less severely than for men. There’s a certain amount of talk about how “becoming a father” would affect Federer’s career and I’m not disagreeing about such things — it gives him something else to think and care about beyond tennis, even if it’s his age more than anything that has led to his decline — but it’s undeniable that this process was easier on him than it would’ve been on Mirka, if she were still a player. He was able to continue to play throughout her pregnancies and return more or less immediately after she gave birth. When the children are too young to travel, they can stay home with their mother (and if the children are breastfeeding, the flip-flop of this gender arrangement is impossible.) If Federer were a woman, there’s absolutely no way she’d be the mother of four in the first place, much less still playing. Whether we entirely like it or not, biological reality does make certain elements of life planning more thorny and difficult for women than for men, because women have to make much more difficult decisions loaded with more profound levels of sacrifice than due their male counterparts.

  5. Aaditya
    Aaditya May 31, 2014 at 8:20 pm |

    Criticising Gulbis is the most conservative approach when asked about opinions on his speech. People taking this approach neither want to understand Gulbis’s perspective nor do they want to trouble themselves when they can clearly take the safe side.
    I completely agree with Joshua here: Gulbis made those comments regarding his sisters and with keeping his on-tour experiences in mind. He is being protective because even being rich he understands the year round tennis calendar is very tough. His comments are similar to a parent who doesn’t want their children to follow their career path because they know how difficult it was and want them to have an easier life.

    His statements about women need to have family and kids at 27, I doubt he meant that women should stop playing after 27. He was clearly stating the disparity between male and female atheletes. Look at Federer, 4 kids and he has the record for most consecutive grandslam appearances. Even the birth of his new twins just caused him to miss only one week of tennis. Atheletes have to make sacrifices to succed but among those male atheletes don’t have to include starting a family. For female atheletes if you wanna start a family that’s at least a 6-8 months break from the game.
    We can all call Gulbis a sexist and feel proud of ourselves but truth remains that female atheletes do have to put having a family on the shelf until they feel they can make a successful comeback like Klisters.
    Having a family may not be everything a female athelete may want, but at the end of the day it’s a luxury a male athelete can enjoy without a break.

Comments are closed.