Things We Learned on Day 10 of the French Open

Amy:

1. The Roland Garros website called Jo-Wilfried Tsonga “chunky.” Er … okay. (h/t Jonathan Scott)

“There was no sign of a slowdown from the chunky Frenchman.”

2. Good news on Andy Murray! I hope he keeps tweeting when he returns to the tour.

3. Agnieszka Radwanska is sad.

4. I’ve complained about the FFT banning Roland Garros videos from YouTube. It looks like I’m not the only one having issues.

5. I was unable to watch a lot of the tennis today, but a Federer slam quarterfinal loss always means there will be a new onslaught of analysts questioning if he’s “done,” and a fresh wave of assertions that he should retire. Make it stop. The guy has won enough stuff to do whatever the hell he wants as far as his career is concerned. He’s not what he once was, and that’s not even close to being breaking news. (I hate it when anyone says that any athlete should retire. It’s not a decision for the public to make, end of story. Pretty sure nobody likes to be told that they should retire if they’re not ready to do so, or even if they are.)

6. This is a sweet article about Bernard Tomic’s younger sister Sara, who is a talented junior tennis player. She talked about her family situation following her father’s apparent assault of Bernie’s hitting partner:

Australian tennis junior Sara Tomic says she’s in awe of the mental strength shown by her big brother Bernard during a tough time for the family. The 15-year-old has always idolised her 20-year-old sibling and, like him, aspires to be world No.1 in the future. She says the way Bernard has remained focused since their father, and his coach, John was charged with assault is typical of his mental resolve.

“My brother, he’s the type of guy that if something happens, he’s always straight on to business,” Sara Tomic told AAP. “He hasn’t been sad or anything. I think mentally he’s incredible and I idolise his mentality.”

Juan José:

1. In my eyes, the unspoken theme of both high-profile matches today (Serena-Kuznetsova and Federer-Tsonga) was how two proud champions were trying to hang on against superior firepower, when they were clearly hampered physically. I marveled as Svetlana Kuznetsova not only went toe-to-toe with Serena Williams, but held a break lead in the deciding third set (if we recall, she also had multiple break points to go up a double-break in that set) despite not having anything close to a first serve.

Think about it: someone was trying to beat Serena Williams without a first serve. Sounds like mission impossible, right? Well, Kuznetsova provided a masterful lesson on how to defend a weak delivery: her post-serve footwork was sublime. Even though Serena got most of those “first serves” back in play deep (I collected data for a Return of Serve Analysis post – stay tuned), Kuznetsova was incredible from the baseline. She had Serena on the brink of despair, and if she had hit that dropper correctly (or down the line instead of cross-court) at 2-0 in the third set, I might be writing about what a huge upset she pulled. Alas, the Russian who wears the sky on court mentioned in her post-match presser about how she’s been dealing with an abdominal problem recently. Thank you Svetlana for confirming what was crystal clear for those watching.

Then you had Roger Federer. I tweeted during the second set of his loss to Jo-Willy Tsonga that if you had seen how his Indian Wells and Rome runs ended, today’s quarterfinal had to look quite familiar. Both in the California desert and in the Eternal City, Federer seemed to be having issues with his back, which threw off the rest of his game. He admitted to those issues in California, but denied them vigorously in Rome and again today. I’ll simply state that in my eyes he was the same man who struggled through his last two matches at each of the aforementioned Masters 1000 events. And I don’t think I’m alone here:

The main point: this shouldn’t be surprising: Roger will be 32 in a few months, and more than that, he’s accumulated a gazillion miles on the tennis court: today was his 1105th match.

2. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga might make good on a fantastic opportunity to reach a Slam final (and heck, win it). Jo played a near-flawless match against Federer, overpowering him from almost every part of the court. I thought his reaction at the end evidenced what he, unlike a lot of people, could see: he got a crack at a diminished Federer, and he executed the (difficult – again, ask Stan Wawrinka) task of putting a champion of that caliber away.

Jo says that he wants to join the Big Four. Winning matches like these will surely help his case. Also, I thought he showed remarkable composure throughout, and performed a swift exorcism of last year’s quarterfinal match (more on that in Linz’ section). It had to feel good to get some redemption from that painful defeat.

3. Speaking of another player having a fantastic opportunity to make a slam final, David Ferrer has simply demolished everyone who has dared to stand in his way. Yes, he hasn’t faced the toughest opposition, but Ferrer wasted no time in disposing of everyone he’s faced so far: he’s yet to drop a set, and has delivered six breadsticks.

Even better, his chief tormentor went down to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, so that trip to his maiden slam final looks as promising as ever. Who will want to miss that semi? Two guys fighting it out for such a huge prize. I can’t wait.

4. I’m definitely the kiss of death of this year’s Rolly G. Tomas Berdych and Li Na were the early recipients of my ill-fortune, and Federer, a man who I picked to make the final without losing a set, won’t even make the semis. If you recall, yesterday I talked up the chances of Jerzy Janowicz and Tomasz Bednarek: today they lost in three sets to Zeballos and Cuevas.

During our Roland Garros preview Podcast, I picked Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal to win the title. Fans of either should be very, very wary. My powers seem to be in full display.

5. As you know, this last slot is where I rant about shoddy TV coverage of our dear sport in the US of A. I really want to retire this section and write about something else, but the Tennis Channel gives me no choice but to use this platform to point out (and record for posterity’s sake) their disastrous blunder today:

During the first set of the blockbuster quarterfinal between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (which you couldn’t watch anywhere else legally – no streams were available), the channel that only people crazy enough to pay extra for it as part of a specialty sports tier committed two relatively small infractions of common decency when showing a big match: in two Federer service games the network failed to show the first point of the game. Why? Because they were either showing commercials, or some unnecessary graphic. This is a bad habit from ESPN, but at least they do it to show commercials (meaning, $$$). Anyway, I was mildly annoyed at this, but let it slide.

Then things got ridiculous.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga broke to take the first set, and we went to commercial. But instead of jumping straight back into the action on Chatrier (after all, a huge upset was brewing), the Tennis Channel decided to show us their studio talking heads (Brett Haber, Jon Wertheim, and Rennae Stubbs). And what were they talking about? The Serena-Kuznetsova match. THAT THEY SHOWED EARLIER. The pointless blabbering went on and on, and we missed two entire games of the Federer-Tsonga match (we also saw a taped point of the Ferrer-Robredo match, which was well on its way to being a rout).

What happened in those two games of the match on Philippe Chatrier? Jo held, and Federer got broken. Nothing important, right?

Then, to make matters worse, the network repeated the offense in the third set. Federer got broken again. Nobody saw it. This time it was a sadder display of ineptitude, as the network showed a ton of commercials … for shows produced by said network. So no $$$.

This is the absolute pits. NBC, ESPN and CBS have all committed similar crimes. But why on Earth would the Channel, which I assume was conceived as the lone refuge of US tennis fans (who again, pay extra to get it), follow suit and disrespect a Grand Slam quarterfinal in that way? I have no idea.

This inexplicably inept coverage made me angry enough to want to unsubscribe to said “Tennis” Channel. Until my wife mentioned that if we do, we’d get rid of the B1G Ten network. Which is a no-no in this household.

Lindsay:

1. Don’t look now, but the ladies are stealing the show. I’ve been saying for years that the men tennis players and fans of solely men’s tennis needed to be careful about constantly bashing on women’s tennis for things like parity and short matches, because neither of those are constants.

Well, things are starting to turn around. The women played two incredibly engaging and high-quality quarterfinals today, while the men did not. At all.

I’m not saying this to put down the men. There were reasons. Robredo was rightly pooped, and Tsonga and Ferrer are on fire. I’m fine with that. I’m excited for the Ferrer/Tsonga semifinal. However, I do think it’s worth out pointing out the ridiculousness of knocking a product when it’s down, when you actually benefit from the product being good.

The women carried entertainment today, and they would have carried the headlines too if it weren’t for the Federer loss. The Serena/Kuznetsova match had every storyline in the book. It was a topsy-turvy, brash, powerful affair. Errani/Radwanska was one of the most engaging straight-set battles I have ever seen, cat-and-mouse tennis at its very best.

At the end of the day we’re all in this together. Tennis benefits when the men and women are good. I wish we could just all band together and get along, and that the tennis universe hadn’t turned into an us vs. them battlefield. Because nobody wins when we insult tennis, male or female.

Everything balances out in the end, what goes around comes around, etc.

2. I’m not sure we’ve made enough of the story of Sara Errani, who has gone from a shocker of a French Open finalist to a legitimate top 5 player. Yes, I know, she doesn’t have much of a shot against Serena or Vika or Masha. Not many women do. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve a huge amount of respect for turning her career around and then backing it up.

She pretty much played a flawless tennis match today, and it was so great to see.

3. I wrote some of my thoughts on Federer for Bleacher Report today. If you don’t want to read it–and I understand if you don’t–my basic thoughts are that he’s at the point where he’s definitely having bad days more frequently, and he can’t fight through those bad days like he used to. This is normal. He’s not a machine. He is in decline.

However, he obviously still cares about tennis a lot, and on his good days he’s one of the best in the world. So to tell him he has to retire because he’s not winning enough for you or because days like today are hard on you as a fan is ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous to imply that he doesn’t care because he has a bad day. I honestly find it more degrading to insult his passion than his talent.

Fed is still dangerous. Fed is not as consistently dangerous as he used to be. His quarterfinal streak at majors is still intact. One day it probably won’t be. Everyone calm down.

(And yes, I am going to be writing tennis for Bleacher Report throughout the summer. And yes, I will still be writing for The Changeover. If you happen to have any other questions or subtweets you can always email me.)

4. YOU GUYS I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT JO-WILFRIED TSONGA. HOLY CRAP HE PLAYED AWESOME TENNIS TODAY. OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.

Phew, okay, I just had to get that out. I feel better now.

Today went a long way towards exorcising demons from FOUR MATCH POINTS last year and reminding me why I still love old Jo Willy. (h/t Fed)

Now I’m going to be in the fetal position until the semifinal, thankyouverymuch.

5. Even in a loss, Svetlana Kuznetsova made an impact today, which is why we need her.

6. Everyone else in the world has already said it, but man–that was a humongous win for Serena Williams today.

3 Responses

  1. Ophelia
    Ophelia June 5, 2013 at 2:05 am |

    I’m not going to lie: Ferrer/Tsonga was my dream semifinal for the men’s bottom half, not because I don’t like Federer but because the expected Federer-Ferrer semi would have had no suspense or tension whatsoever attached to it. The cynical will say that this semi’s winner will be ultimately doomed to be the sacrifical lamb in the final, but I say that no matter who wins here, at least one long-standing demon will be exorcized: either Ferrer FINALLY makes a Slam final, or Tsonga becomes the first French RG finalist in what feels like forever. That’s well-worth watching for.

    Now, all Djokovic and Nadal need to do is to win their matches tomorrow, and I’ll have *two* dream semis to look forward to!

  2. rafaisthebest
    rafaisthebest June 5, 2013 at 3:17 am |

    Lindsay, have you been watching the RG matches? There were virtually no crowds at the women’s matches right up to the Errani match yesterday, save for those featuring Serena!

    I am a woman and a feminist but it’s time to be honest: it’s the men that draw the crowds at Slams. People are not stupid. They get served Wawrinka/Gasquet, Tommy Rob/La Monf and the WTA serves what? And why can’t the women play best of 5 sets at Slams? And can they get rid of on-court coaching while they are considering that………

    Really, this is 2013, any chance women can get with the programme and stop wanting to be treated like affirmative action trolls?

    Getting tiring, tbh……..

    1. Max
      Max June 5, 2013 at 11:57 am |

      Your post isn’t relevant to the subject plus
      The WTA had much more tension than what the ATP offered yesterday.

      It’s true the women had “bad” crowds but they’re always scheduled first thing in the morning or late at night. Very few men could draw a crowd at such a time, bar the Frenchies and the Big Four.

      Highlighting the WTA doesn’t make you a “feminist”, it makes you a WTA fan. That’s all.

      The WTA had Venus-Radwanska and Kuznetsova-Serena.

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