Saturday, June 03, 2017

French Open Day 6: A Tale of Two Cities

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

In Dasha news, the Australian has gone through in the doubles with partner A-Pavs after Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Andrea Petkovic retired after winning the first set 6-2. Nowhere can this BACKSPINNER find the reason behind the retirement, not even on the German's twitter. Any idea Todd? [Ed.Note: MLB came in with some sort of injury after retiring vs. Sharapova in Rome, and it was her this time, as well. Not sure what it is, though.]

Perhaps more by luck than actual brilliance, the two have found themselves in the third round. They are almost certain to face Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua next, in what would be a very Australian feeling clash.

In the men's doubles we have the 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th and 16th seeds left. On Day 6, the 4th seeds Melo/Kubot lost in three. The Bryans [3] lost in straight sets.

But wait because it gets better. The last two seeds left in the bottom half play each other. In the third round. 5th seeds Murray/Soares play 9th seeded Cuevas/Bopanna. On Day 7, 7th seeded Granollers/Dodig face off against the 11th Rojer/Tecau. By the middle Sunday we could have two seeds left. That's mind-blowing.

When it comes to mixed doubles, Todd and I have a sort of loose agreement. He handles most of it and sometimes my two cents gets added in. Now how is it that the defending champions are not seeded, as well as the only other defending slam champions? How is it that two of the few pairs of actual champions do not get rewarded with a seed? It is beyond ridiculous.

In fact, it goes beyond that. The scheduling, the wild cards, the seeding and the treatment of some of the players is ridiculous. The slam, so far from an organization point of view, gets an F-. And it is not any lower because Svetlana Kuznetsova is still in the draw. But she had better be on Chatrier at some point. The drama, the quality, the big names, those have all been really good. The slam is doing well in spite of itself. It needs to improve next year. This FFT guy has been put on the BACKSPIN wall of shame. The wall goes in increments. The further to the right, the more shame. So Guenter Parche goes at one end. Pam Shriver is quite far along, too.

An oldie but still a goodie:

Bernard Giudicelli has been placed upon the wall in a mutual BACKSPIN decision. He'll start on the left, but we're keeping an eye on him. Interestingly, the 'hand incident' from 2003 also features on the wall. It's quite a long wall and every so often Todd and I meet in the rhombus room to discuss it further. I still insist the original Dementieva serve be placed there, alongside the 2007 U.S. Open semi-final between Sveta and Chakvetadze. But I digress...

It was a tale of two cities today. Rafael Nadal made a very good opponent look like, well, me. And Novak Djokovic looked a shadow of his former self. He complained to the line judge, and to the umpire, and he looked brittle. He and Murray both look like even the quarterfinals are a bridge too far. This is not a slam, this is a coronation. And not to jinx it, but if Nadal were to pose in his champions photo next to a former women's singles finalist, who's home country hosts another slam, well, this BACKSPINNER wouldn't be surprised.

...It took Nikoloz Basilashvili 37 minutes to hit his first winner. He would go on to hit four more, to record a 5-34 mark on the winners count. But the thing is he didn't play badly. Yes, Rafa beat him 6-0, 6-1, 6-0. But it did at least last 90 minutes. And he stuck to his game plan. He hit out at the Spaniard. He was aggressive and kept knocking on Rafa's door. Nadal ground him down with sheer defense. Nadal saw him off with dogged determination from the back of the court. The Georgian is a natural shotmaker but was powerless here. Nadal conceded just 36 points during the 'contest'. It is remarkable watching a Nadal match. No other player in history has ever demoralised people in the way he does so regularly. It is Roberto Bautista Agut up next. And that is a challenge. Or as close as we are likely to get.
...It took him over three and a quarter hours to get past the pocket-size Argentine. Novak Djokovic hit 55 unforced errors and was pretty woeful for most of the match, but he won 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. The last two sets he really showed his class, he proved that he still has the guts and the fortitude that the world number one should have. But with 12 breaks and over 110 combined misses in the match, this was not one for the spectators. There is no silver lining, no positive in this for Djokovic. Except, possibly, the embrace at the end of the match. He just looks vulnerable, just looks weak. It also proves that the Denis Istomin loss in Melbourne was not a one off. Two years ago when he beat Rafael Nadal, who was the defending champion, in the quarterfinals in straight sets, Nadal looked done. His career looked to be in its death throes. Now it is the other way around. If Nole does somehow make the semi-final date with Rafa he is going to be embarrassed. The hiring of Andre Agassi smacks of desperation. The former world number one looks panicked, lifeless and there for the taking. His next opponent, Albert Ramos Vinolas would have beaten him today. The Spaniard is more than just a tricky customer, he could be the straw that breaks the world number two's back. Should Novak lose that and Rafa win the tournament he will drop out of the top two. When was the last time that happened?
...What a way to go out on the suicide. Just yesterday we were talking about injury, now this. David Goffin was serving for the first set at 5-4 when this happened.

It is another black mark on this French Open. A top ten player has been taken out of the tournament not by Dominic Thiem or another player, as he was seeded to do, but by a freak accident that could have been easily avoided. Zeballos goes through to the fourth round in his stead, and will face off against Thiem. For Goffin, the tragedy is that he might now lose his whole season. He has been denied by bad luck in his best slam. But how is he going to be able to fully compete at Wimbledon? There are no torn ligaments and none of the bones were broken. So the news is at least somewhat positive. But until further tests come through we really won't know any more.
...Despite the ranking difference, the home crowd and the form, Pouille was defeated in a five set war by improved player of the year candidate Ramos-Vinolas. The Frenchman's flashy shots, big serve and reckless power hit a brick wall. A brick wall in the shape of the Spanish number three. He is a place behind Busta according to the projected rankings. ARV won 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. He broke twice as many [8-4] times and won 43 per cent of his opponent's service points. The rallies were long and grueling and by the 5th set the Frenchie had run out of gas. Roland Garros is one of the hardest slams to win because of how physically fit you have to be. And Pouille just didn't have the legs in the end.
...Meet the new Spanish number two. Some very illustrious players have previously held that distinction. They include Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco. Oh, and David Ferrer. On paper this looks an upset. But, really, it isn't. The Spaniard is the better dirtballer and has more form right now. It would have been one of Dimitrov's better moments had he managed to beat the wily Spaniard. Busta got better as the match wore on, winning it 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. He hit 28 winners in the two hour, twenty minute match and was just metronomic, in true Tommy Robredo fashion. Dimitrov could not break down the wall, or find a way to think his way out of the bind. But can Busta apply that same tactic to Milos Raonic? Can he pile the pressure onto the top ten stalwart? With all the injuries and loss of form that the Canadian has suffered, the odds look good. It feels like the upset is on. Unless Thiem has something to say about it, we are headed for an all-Spanish clash in the semi-finals in the bottom half.
...On a backcourt, promising young gun Jiri Vesely was taken to the woodshed. And we all know what happens there. You get a spanking. In two hours he taught the youngster what 'clay-court specialist' really means. He broke six times on the way to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory. He was 21-20 in the winners department, while his opponent sprayed 40 errors. Agut can always be counted on to 'consistent' his way to the fourth round of a slam. He is like the plot of an action film. No thrills, just a get the job done attitude. He plays Nadal next and, sadly for him, he does not have anywhere near the weaponry to defeat the soon to be ten time champion. But he will get at least 10 games against Nadal. How's that for a bold prediction? Meanwhile, for Vesely, this tournament has been a big positive. Two wins on his worst surface. He will be on the cusp of the top 50 going into his best slam. The French Open has got him into the right place to make a run in London.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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