Tag Archive | "French Open"

Chance of a Lifetime:  Schiavone Stumps Stosur to Win French Open

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Chance of a Lifetime: Schiavone Stumps Stosur to Win French Open


Nothing is impossible!  This was the phrase on the t-shirt worn by Francesca Schiavone’s family and friends today in the French Open final.  Schiavone proved the axiom by surprising Samantha Stosur 6-4, 7-6 to grab her first career major.  Moreover, Schiavone stenciled her name in history by becoming the first Italian female to prevail at a major.

With eight first serves leading to two love games, Stosur was on a tear to open the first set.  Still, Schiavone had no trouble keeping up, connecting on an ace to level things at 2 all.  Subsequently, with a deep return, Schiavone provoked Stosur into a forehand error for love-30.   However, with her saving grace, the serve, Stosur battled back and capped the game with a forehand down the line winner for 3-2.  Using her all court game, especially the volley, Schiavone stayed in touch with Stosur.  The pivotal point arrived at 4 a piece.  By pushing her rival into three uncomfortable shots which misfired, Schiavone manufactured triple break point.  After Stosur salvaged two, she double faulted on the third to give Schiavone a 5-4 advantage.  By climbing out of love-30 with an ace and forehand crosscourt winner, Schiavone set up a second set point with a backhand volley winner.  When Stosur netted the backhand, Schiavone claimed the first set.

With a deep and low backhand pass, Schiavone caused Stosur to hit the next stroke long.  As a result, the Italian had double break point in third game of the second set.  However, with a three winners and an unreturnable serve, Stosur guarded serve for 2-1.  Then, by punishing second serves, Stosur had her first break point of the day with a forehand up the line winner. Stosur capitalized when Schiavone’s forehand up the line failed.  Promptly, Stosur consolidated with a love game for 4-1.  Following a quick hold, Schiavone produced a backhand return winner crosscourt, a forehand winner and made Stosur err with the backhand to arrive at love-40.  Later, by stabbing at a superb serve, Schiavone got a miscue on a short forehand from Stosur to get back on serve at 3-4.  Despite the mounting pressure, Schiavone remained aggressive and comfortably maintained serve.  Eventually, the set was settled in a tiebreaker.  Schiavone secured a mini-break for 3-2 by tracking Stosur’s dropshot and converting a backhand up the line winner.  The Italian extended her lead to 5-2 with a forehand volley winner and forehand crosscourt winner.  Subsequently, with a crosscourt backhand volley winner, Schiavone obtained a second mini-break and four championship points.  When Stosur’s stroke off the return traveled out of play, Schiavone bagged the second set and the French Open trophy.  Schiavone rejoiced by painting her lips red with a clay kiss, duplicating this jubilant sign she had shown in the quarters and semis.

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Federer and Nadal on Track for Showdown in the Finals

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Federer and Nadal on Track for Showdown in the Finals


The first week of play has come to a conclusion at the French Open.  While Andy Murray, the fourth seed, going out in the fourth round to Tomas Berdych was a shock.  The biggest eye popper was David Ferrer, the ninth seed, a definite threat to Rafael Nadal in the bottom half, being ousted in the third round in three sets by Jurgen Melzer.  With both Roger Federer and Nadal methodically working through their sections, the possibility of a final between these two is very much alive.

Despite stumbling at times, Federer, the defending champion, has pulled through all four matches in straight sets.  Robyn Soderling, the 2009 finalist, has played steady ball.  Soderling had no difficulty with Albert Montanes in the third round nor Marin Cilic in the fourth round.  Now, Soderling faces Federer in the quarterfinals and will get the opportunity to seek revenge for last year’s defeat.  Although Federer has an ATP 12-0 record against him, Soderling prevailed in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi this January.  Therefore, Soderling will not be intimidated.

The French will have to wait for their homegrown champion yet another year.  In the first round, Richard Gasquet went down to Murray in a thrilling five setter. Then, in the second round, Gael Monfils was sent packing in a marathon two day drama.  Lastly, in the fourth round, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was compelled to retire against Mikhail Youzhny due to a back injury.  Youzhny battles Berdych as the other quarterfinalist in the top half of the draw.

In the bottom half, after outlasting Mardy Fish in a five set brawl, Ivan Ljubicic could not withstand another assault from 22 year old Thomaz Bellucci.  Yet, in reaching the fourth round for the first time at a major, Bellucci’s prize is Nadal.

At the start of the tournament, Americans with authentic possibilities were likely Andy Roddick, John Isner and Sam Querrey.  The greatest hope was for Isner and Querrey, the latter had prevailed over the former in the finals in Serbia.  With no prior clay court competition, for Roddick, it was going to be an uphill battle to make it deep into the draw.  In the third round, Roddick was outplayed by qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili and went out in straight sets.  Similarly, in the third round, Berdych expedited Isner.  Still, there is a Stars and Stripes bearer into the second week, he is Bobby Ginepri ranked 98th.  After beating Querrey in the first round, Ginepri outfoxed former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third round.  In the fourth round, Ginepri battles Novak Djokovic.  Djokovic has not been performing at his peak, needing four sets in the first round against Evgeny Korolev, had a tough second round match versus Kei Nishikori and another four setter against Victor Hanescu.  If that pattern continues, Ginepri has a good shot at an upset.

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Henin and Serena Homing In On A Quarterfinal Clash

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Henin and Serena Homing In On A Quarterfinal Clash


The sun has set on a the first week at the French Open.  As usual there were upsets, many of them expected.  However, Serena Williams and Justine Henin, two pre-tournament  favorites, have not disappointed.  As such, the much touted quarterfinal encounter between these rivals is one round away.  Here is a synopsis of the main developments of the initial days.

A bunch of big names took a tumble in the bottom section of the draw.  Leading the pack was Svetlana Kuznetsova, the defending champion.  After a miserable tune-up, Kuznetsova looked every bit the champion in the first round.  Moreover, with her back against the wall in the second round, Kuznetsova salvaged four match points against Andrea Petkovic to advance.  But, by the third round, Kuznetsova had utilized all her life lines.  She was taken down in three sets by Maria Kirilenko.

Victoria Azarenka, the 9th seed, has had a tough year.  The 2009 Sony Ericsson champ was schooled by Gisela Dulko, exiting in the first round.  But, in the next round, Dulko was herself stunned by South African qualifier Channelle Scheepers.  Scheepers reached the fourth round where she was stopped by Elena Dementieva.  Another surprise was Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, the winner in Rome, also going out in the first round.

As the newly re-minted number two and a finalist in Madrid, expectations were high that Venus Williams would at least make the semifinals.  In the first three rounds, Venus forged a statement not only with her attire, but with her play by bouncing her adversaries in straight sets.  Yet, in the round of 16, Venus’ game went through a transformation.  Although this was their first meeting on clay, Venus had a  4-0 record against Nadia Petrova.  Still, Petrova, a 2005 semifinalist, pulled off a straight sets victory.  As such, for the fourth consecutive year, Venus was booted prior to the quarterfinals.

A combination of rain and obscurity resulted in a few matches being played over two days. When Aravane Rezai and Petrova resumed their third round with the third set leveled at 7, the French crowd was disenchanted as Petrova walked away with the win.  Later that day, France’s last hope, Marion Bartoli, in the top half of the draw, was eliminated in the fourth round by Shahar Peer.

After fighting through Aleksandra Wozniak in the third round and an easy fourth round win, 2004 finalist Dementieva is unquestionably a contender for the finals.  Caroline Wozniacki, the third seed, is another.  Following two uncomplicated rounds, Wozniacki was severely tested by Alexandra Dulgheru and still captured her third match in straight sets. Then, in the round of 16, warrior Wozniacki bested Flavia Pennetta in a three hour duel to move on to her first quarterfinal in Paris.  Bothered by an ankle injury, as Wozniacki faces scrappy Fransceca Schiavone, who booted Kirilenko, she may need to duplicated her last performance

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Gasquet Capsizes Verdasco to Net Nice Title

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Gasquet Capsizes Verdasco to Net Nice Title


In front of a partisan crowd at the Open de Nice Cote D’Azur, Richard Gasquet upset world number 9 Fernando Verdasco 6-3,5-7,7-6 to win his first ATP title since Mumbai in 2007 and the sixth of his career.

Meeting for the 10th time, the last being Barcelona, Verdasco was going for his sixth consecutive victory over Gasquet.  A titlist in Barcelona and a finalist in Monte-Carlo, Verdasco was unquestionably the favorite.  Still, in carrying the challenger tournament in Bordeaux last week, Gasquet must have felt hopeful.

After a prior love service game, at 2-3, Verdasco gifted Gasquet a double fault giving him break point.  When the Spaniard misfired on a backhand down the line, Gasquet secured the break for 4-2.  Then, with a love game, Gasquet consolidated for 5-2.  After being unable to capitalize on four break points, Gasquet closed out the set by holding serve.

Subsequent to Verdasco arriving at 40-0 with three successive winners, Gasquet connected on a couple of winners for deuce.  Yet, on his fifth game point, Verdasco provoked an error from Gasquet to inch ahead 2-1.   Next, after erasing two game points by Gasquet, Verdasco forced his rival to dump a backhand volley into the net for his first break point.  By firing a forehand up the line winner, Verdasco broke for 3-1.  However, with a backhand mistake off a long rally and a double fault, Verdasco handed Gasquet double break point.  When Verdasco’s backhand sailed long, Gasquet was back in the set.  Promptly, with a love game, Gasquet squared the set at 3 all.  Later, Gasquet struck a backhand winner behind Verdasco for double break point. After a net court salvaged the first break point,  Verdasco flubbed a forehand off another net court to give Gasquet the break and a 5-4 advantage.  But serving for the match, Gasquet made three unforced errors in a row and was broken at love.  Following an easy hold for 6-5, Verdasco hit four sequential winners to take the set.

Verdasco guarded serve at love to start the third set.  When Gasquet double faulted, his counterpart had double break point.  As the Frenchman’s backhand crosscourt flew long, Verdasco took a 2-0 lead.  On cruise control, Verdasco ended a love game with an ace to extend the difference to 3-0.  At this point, Gasquet requested a time out to have a left knee/hamstring injury addressed.  When Gasquet returned, with three forehand winners and an ace, he stopped a run of six straight games by Verdasco.  But, with another easy game, Verdasco maintained serve for 4-1.  Conversely, Gasquet wiped out two break points, before holding serve with a forehand winner for 2-4.  Next, Gasquet induced four blunders from Verdasco to break at love. Unfortunately, despite a game point, Gasquet went on to surrender his serve.  Serving for the championship, Verdasco committed four back to back forehand mistakes to allow Gasquet back in the match.  Soon, with a massive second serve at 40-30, Gasquet tied the set at 5 all.  After a crosscourt forehand winner put Verdasco ahead 6-5, despite struggling, Gasquet maintained serve thereby sending the decisive set into a tiebreaker.

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Preview of the Men’s French Open Draw 2010

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Preview of the Men’s French Open Draw 2010


On Sunday, the 2010 French Open gets underway.  Before the first ball is struck at Roland Garros, here’s a taste of how the proceedings may unravel on the gentlemen’s side.

Since 2006, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had made it a habit of contesting for the trophy on the final Sunday. Last year, Robin Soderling interrupted that cycle by ousting Nadal in the fourth round.  After descending a wee bit in the rankings, with a record three Masters clay court titles, Nadal returned to his familiar spot at number two this week.  Therefore, this sets up the possibility of a final featuring defending champion Federer and his old nemesis Nadal.

By far, Nadal has been the best clay court player this season.  As such, it’s almost a given penciling his name as a finalist.  In examining the draw, Nadal, the top seed in the bottom section, appears to have a green line through the round of 16.  In the quarterfinals, the Spaniard could see slight resistance from fellow countrymen Fernando Versdasco and Nicolas Almagro.  The latter in particular competed well against Nadal in Madrid.  Still, Nadal should pull through.

Also in the bottom half are Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic, potential semifinal adversaries for Nadal.  Last year, Roddick had a career best showing in Paris by reaching the round of 16.  In the first round, Roddick takes on veteran Jarkko Nieminen, then, a possible third round match with Juan Monaco.  Hence, the American may say his goodbyes to Paris early. Assuming Roddick advances to the quarters, he could face the second best performer on clay this year, David Ferrer.  Considering that Roddick has not competed since the Sony Ericsson Open and with clay being his least successful surface, it hard to imagine Roddick progressing to the second week.

Despite a clay title and two other finals, Djokovic went down in the third round in 2009.  This year, Djokovic withdrew early in Serbia and his best result was the semifinals in Monte-Carlo. Consequently, for Djokovic, resting may be a blessing.  On the other hand, it could be a curse, not allowing the Serb to be clay fit.  With former French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero potentially as a third round opponent and Ferrer in the quarterfinals, the third seed could have his hands full before getting a crack at Nadal.

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open

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Serena and Venus Head the Field at 2010 French Open


Today, the French Open draw was revealed.  Because Serena and Venus Williams are the top two seeds, the possibility of an all Williams final exists. However, with Justine Henin, a four time champion, a potential quarterfinal rival for Serena and Venus perhaps seeing Aravane Rezai or Nadia Petrova in the round of 16, the list of spoilers is extensive.  Here’s a snapshot of the likely key match-ups which may eventually determine the victor.

After months of being a spectator, Serena rejoined the tour in Rome where she reached the semifinals. Despite an early exit in singles in Madrid,  Serena got reacquainted with the surface by prevailing in doubles along with Venus.  Serena’s first obstacle would come in the form of Marion Bartoli in the round of 16 since she would play a denizen. Still, Serena’s biggest hindrance lies in the quarters.  Serena lost to Henin, the eventual champion, in 2003 and 2007.  On the other hand, that match may not materialize as Henin could battle Maria Sharapova in the third round.  Samantha Stosur, a semifinalist in 2009 and the titlist in Charleston this year, is another potential tough quarterfinal opponent for Serena.

Following Serena, Jelena Jankovic is the next highest seed in the top half of the draw.  With players such as Dinara Safina, Yanina Wickmayer and Vera Zvonareva returning from injury on Jankovic’s side of the draw, she should have an uneven full path to the quarters.  Agnieszka Radwanska or Ana Ivanovic could be Jankovic’s quarterfinal adversary.  Since her glorious days at Roland Garros in 2008, Ivanovic has slipped.  For the first time in months, Ivanovic showed true signs of life with a semifinal posting in Rome.  Perhaps it will take Paris to completely get Ivanovic out of her slump.

Venus Williams and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova flank the bottom half of the draw.  So far this year, Kuznetsova’s results have been mediocre. Consequently, for Kuznetsova, it is safe to deduce that a replay of 2009 is a long shot.  In the first round, Kuznetsova faces a difficult opponent, Sorana Cirstea.  Should she move on, Maria Kirilenko could upset her in the third round.  Li Na and Francesca Schiavone could trouble Kuznetsova in the round of 16.  Moreover, legitimate stumbling blocks in the quarters for Kuznetsova include Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova, Alexandra Dulgheru and Caroline Wozniacki.

On the other hand, Wozniacki, the third seed, has been hampered by an ankle injury since Charleston.  For that reason, Wozniacki has failed to make an impact after winning in Ponte Vedra Beach.  In the third round, Wozniacki may see Dulgheru and Pennetta or Safarova in the fourth round. Considering the caliber of those rivals, it’s doubtful that Wozniacki has lasting power.

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Quelle Surprise: Rezai Ambushes Venus in Madrid Final

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Quelle Surprise: Rezai Ambushes Venus in Madrid Final


For the second consecutive week, an unseeded player rules at a premier clay event.  In the finals of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai stunned world number three Venus Williams.  Rezai prevailed 6-2, 7-5 over Williams to capture the grandest title of her blooming career.

After breezing through her initial game, at 1 all, Venus made an error on game point leading to deuce.  Later, by sending a forehand out of play, Venus gave Rezai a second break point.  When Williams netted a backhand, Rezai took a 2-1 lead.  Subsequent to a double fault, Rezai provoked four straight miscues from Williams and consolidated for 3-1.  Then, with Venus serving at 2-4, she produced her second double fault of the game to hand Aravane double break point.  With a crosscourt forehand return winner, Rezai extended her lead to 5-2.  Thereafter, with a love game, Rezai grabbed the first set.

The previous set, Rezai won 100% of her first serve points.  If Williams intended to turn this match around, she would need the Frenchwoman to cool off.  After Venus held, in a game that included a double fault, Rezai had a backhand go long permitting Williams her initial break chance of the match.  With an ace, the Frenchwoman erased that deficit.  By converting a forehand crosscourt winner, Williams had a fourth break point opportunity.  Venus cashed in when Aravane’s backhand crosscourt misfired.  However, the next game, a lack of first serves allowed Rezai to break back.  Subsequently, a backhand up the winner handed Venus another break point.  Williams took a 3-1 edge when Rezai’s forehand traveled long.

Despite dealing with a break point, Williams consolidated for 4-1.  Soon, Venus had two chances to get a double break lead, yet, Rezai hung tough to keep the margin to one break.  Serving at 2-5, with an error, Rezai gifted Williams her first set point. Once more, the Frenchwoman goaded the miscues from her opponent to remain in the set. With a string of mistakes by Venus, Aravane manufactured two break points and by connecting on a forehand down the line winner got back on serve at 4-5.  Following, Rezai wiped out five additional set points by Williams to level things at 5 all.  That ultimate game proved a back breaker for Williams.  After a backhand pass winner by Rezai, Williams made two backhand errors to face 0-40.  With another backhand miscue by Venus, Rezai secured a 6-5 advantage.  As the backhand continued to leak, Rezai obtained double championship point.  Finally, by provoking a forehand mistake by Williams, Rezai pocketed the trophy.

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Stosur Smashes Zvonareva In Charleston Final

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Stosur Smashes Zvonareva In Charleston Final


By virtue of prevailing in their last four meetings, Samantha Stosur, the 4th  seed and world 11th, was favored to win over Vera Zvonareva seeded 7th and ranked 22nd  in the Family Circle Cup final.  However, Stosur’s 1-6 record in finals left plenty of room for pause.  With ten titles under her belt including one this year, Zvonareva had experience on her side.  Still, Stosur obliterated her prior performances from her mind and crushed Zvonareva 6-0,6-3 to become the first Aussie to conquer Charleston.

With three straight winners, Stosur opened with a love hold.  Following a forehand error by Zvonareva, Stosur had break point.  The Aussie captured the break with an overhead winner.  Then, by culminating another love game with her sixth winner, Stosur took a 3-0 lead.  Following three consecutive errors by Zvonareva, Stosur broke again.  Later, with another forehand winner, Stosur stretched her lead to 5-0.  With two forehand winners and a double fault donation by Zvonareva, Stosur arrived at double set point.  As a result of an error by Zvonareva, Stosur secured d the set.

In her previous matches, Zvonareva had not relinquished a set.  Considering a competitive encounter in Indian Wells last month despite Stosur being triumphant, it seemed a matter of time before Zvonareva struck back and Stosur cooled down. Yet, with a few more winners, Stosur readily held to start the second set.  Then, with a backhand down the line winner, Stosur obtained triple break point.  By converting a forehand down the line winner, Stosur claimed the break.  Subsequently, with an ace to close out a love game, Stosur sprinted to a 3-0 lead.  After two Stosur forehand winners and a double fault, Zvonareva stared at double break point.  Unable to bottle her frustration any longer, Zvonareva erupted by wrecking a racket.  Thereafter, the Russian won the next four point for 1-3.  Momentarily, Zvonareva appeared to have found the antidote to Stosur’s hot hand.  After holding for 2-4, because of a double fault and two forehand mistakes by Stosur, Zvonareva had double break point.  When Stosur sliced a backhand out of play, the players were back on serve.  Undaunted, Stosur resumed her relentless attack.  In forcing a miscue from her rival, Stosur fabricated double break point.  The Aussie followed that up with a forehand down the line winner for 5-3.  Quickly, with a forehand crosscourt winner, Stosur set up triple championship point.  Stosur guaranteed the trophy with a forehand crosscourt winner.

The Family Circle Cup, a WTA premier event, is the second and biggest title of Stosur’s career.  Last season in reaching the semifinals at the French Open, Stosur revealed she is a legitimate competitor on clay.  Even though those at the head of the class when it comes to favorites at the majors, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams were absent from this event; through this victory, Stosur demonstrates she will be a mighty contender this clay season as she climbs back into the top ten.

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Quarterfinal Headliners at the 2010 SEO:  Henin, Wozniacki, Clijsters and Nadal

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Quarterfinal Headliners at the 2010 SEO: Henin, Wozniacki, Clijsters and Nadal


The remaining two women singles semifinal slots will be assigned today at the Sony Ericsson Open.  In addition, the men get their singles quarterfinal round under way.

Following women quarterfinal doubles action, Justine Henin and Caroline Wozniacki kick off the afternoon on stadium court.  For Wozniacki, this is her initial encounter with the four time French Open, two time U.S Open and 2004 Australian Open champion.  Afterwards, Andy Roddick battles Nicolas Almagro.  Likewise, it’s the first meeting for these guys.  Because the surface is hardcourt and not clay where Almagro has won his five ATP titles, Roddick has the advantage considering his superb results lately. Subsequently, Mike and Bob Bryan face Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski in the quarterfinals.

The women’s night session has Samantha Stosur and Kim Clijsters.  Although Clijsters has a 2-0 record versus Stosur,  their ultimate collision was in Miami in 2007.  A victory by Henin and Clijsters will result in an all Belgian semifinal in the bottom half of the draw.

The evening ends with the match featuring Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The only time Tsonga defeated Nadal was in the quarters of the 2008 Australian Open.  Since then, they have played three hotly contested matches.  With Tsonga performing well in Miami, this should be a great battle.

In addition, the grandstand focuses on male doubles with the team of Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez as well as Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes to name a few.

Here is today’s full schedule :

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31

STADIUM start 11:00 am
Y Chan (TPE) / J Zheng (CHN) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA

Not Before 1:00 PM
[WC] J Henin (BEL) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA

Not Before 3:00 PM
[6] A Roddick (USA) vs [33] N Almagro (ESP) – ATP
[8] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs [2] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 PM
[9] S Stosur (AUS) vs [14] K Clijsters (BEL) – WTA

Not Before 9:00 PM
[8] J Tsonga (FRA) vs [4] R Nadal (ESP) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
[3] L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs B Becker (GER) / M Kohlmann (GER) – ATP

Not Before 6:00 PM
N Almagro (ESP) / T Robredo (ESP) vs F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) – After appropriate rest


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Federer’s Take On First Round Win and More

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Federer’s Take On First Round Win and More


Following his second round victory over Nicolas Lapentti at the Sony Ericsson Open, Roger Federer held a post match interview.  Here are the world number one’s comments to the questions specifically posed by MiamiTennisNews.com.

Q.  Your forehand at the beginning of the match seemed a little bit off.  What were the conditions out there?  It seemed a little cold and breezy.

FEDERER:  Yeah, conditions  I thought the ball was flying quite a bit actually, which I was sort of surprised about that, because in the practices I thought it was always very sort of humid and it was hard to get something out of the ball.  All of a sudden I was trying to generate pace on the ball and the thing would fly off my racquet like I couldn’t believe.  So I had to play a bit more safe and not go for the lines as much.  All of a sudden the court becomes this big, you know.  It’s tricky, but I tried a few different things on the return as well.  But when you start doing that, that also makes you a bit unsure.  And I think today I came through because I served very well.  I had a good start into basically all my service games.  I always knew I was going to have a couple of chances at least on the return games.  I was able to have a good record on breakpoint conversions, and I think that’s what won me the match today.

Q.  With some of the top seeds out, Djokovic and Murray, does it feel good to get your first match out?

FEDERER:  Sure, worries me as well being the top seed, seeing high seeds fall out of the tournament.  You know, I haven’t even started playing yet, and there’s two, you know, big names out of the tournament already. It’s a bit worrying at times.  But then again, I’m worried on my own work.  I’m relieved I’m through the first round, anyway.  I’ve got a feeling and a sense of how it plays out there in a match situation when the stadium is full.  Crowds were amazing today.  For first round and to have a sort of a sellout crowd and a record day, it’s nice to be part of it.

Q.  Speaking of the French Open, there has been talk about renovation of the venue because it’s somewhat sub-par compared to the other Majors.  Do you feel that’s the case?  What would you like to see changed there?

FEDERER:  Um, I’ve only heard bits and pieces, so I’m not entirely sure what they’re talking about.  For the venue to move takes a lot, so I think it’s not going to happen maybe in my lifetime, when I’m still playing.  But I definitely think there’s always things you could do better, you know.  I mean, it’s super crowded, especially the first week or so, down in the players’ area and Suzanne Lenglen on the other side.  That’s not really an option for me, who spends most time at Chatrier.  I think they could definitely improve their site a little bit.  But then again, you’re working with a small space.  I think all the tournaments are trying extremely hard to keep not only just the players happy, but also fans and media and everyone.  So it’s not always as easy as it seems, you know.  But I think it’s always very important for the tournament to try [its] best for the players, because we speak to the press.  If we’re extremely happy, we’re going to speak extremely well about the tournament.  I think that’s one of the reasons I guess they’re always looking for ways to improve, as well.

Q.  You’re going to be returning as the defending champion at Roland Garros.  Is there a different feeling that you’re going to have walking in as the defending champion as opposed to the past where you were only a finalist?

FEDERER:  Very different, yeah.  Finally less pressure, even though I’m defending champion.  I have to defend 2,000 points, and defend the Coupe des Mousquetaires.  It’s not something that’s so simple.  I know that.  I love those kind of challenges, you know.  I’m happy I have that kind of pressure.  But I think it’s probably going to be one of the first times at the French Open I’m going to walk in the grounds smiling thinking, you know, what?  I’ve already won this tournament.  It’s fine.
But I will try everything I possibly can to defend again.  The last few years I did feel a lot of pressure from myself, because I based a lot in the preparation already since like maybe December, February.  And then April again in the buildups, everything was based upon, you know, being as fit as I could be at the French Open.  So this time around I don’t have to do that, because I’ve already won the French.  Now I can just concentrate on playing tennis and enjoying the venue, which has not always been the case for me in the past.

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