No point in hiding it, I failed to deliver a round-up yesterday for reasons which I will not bore you all with now.
Paris has certainly been anything but boring these past two days! The clay has proven adept once more at punishing the established names left right and centre.
On Monday I mentioned how, in the wake of 3rd seed Wawrinka’s exit, the women’s side of things had mostly gone with the form book. Tuesday soon provided some equilibrium as Li Natumbled out to the tricky Mladenovic.
The Frenchwoman – with Serbian ancestry – is a lot better than her current ranking suggests, but still this was a real shock. Okay so the 2nd seed has always proved frustratingly inconsistent, not least here at Roland Garros where that maiden major in 2011 has been followed with fourth, second and now first round exits.
The Chinese was erring on the side of dismissive in the post-match interview: no, no-one does expect the number two in the world to win every match but her legion of fans will expect more focus in a year that was supposed to be a hum-dinger after that masterful Melbourne win.
In a day full of exemplary contests on paper, all delivered in their own way and the shocks kept coming. The likeable and now sadly waning Karlovic stunned Dimitrov in three,. Both players have had form on the clay in recent weeks but the Bulgarian was as fancied as anyone to make real waves here – like Li – after enjoying success Down Under.
The last big name to fall was less of a surprise, poor Caroline Wozniacki has this year been slowly but surely improving things on-court. But after her personal life took another nosedive things were always going to be tough this week. As with Li’s conqueror; in Yanina Wickmayer, such is her quality that there is little shame in the loss.
Other notable fixtures of the day saw Richard Gasquet, now sadly in his twilight produce a fine display against a man threatening to ape the Frenchman’s knack of not delivering, Bernard Tomic. The Australian continues to be both sublime and shoddy match to match.
Elsewhere, Caroline Garcia who is of course in form couldn’t find her game against former champ Ivanovic, shame.
There were commanding wins for Simona Halep, David Ferrer, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sloane Stephens, Philip Kohlschreiberand Juan Monaco whilst others had to fight, namely Sara Errani, Anastasia Pavluychenkova, Kirsten Flipkens and most notably Jelena Jankovic.
The Brits did well as both Heather Watsonand Muzza came through tough early tests, the latter dropping a set.
On a bad day for veterans (Date-Krumm and Hewitt both bowing out) it was Michael Llodra’s turn to bid Au Revoir, at least to his home-town tournament. The Frenchman – playing his final singles match here before retiring from the tour at the end of the season – was presented with a trophy for his achievements and services to French tennis. He will join forces with Mahut again for another stab at the doubles where the pair were beaten finalists last year at the mercy of the Bryans.
Day four would manage the impossible and out do its predecessor for drama, the
epitome of which revolved around two infamous tennis siblings, so often bathed in a winning light come the majors.
In a moment of true tennis history the Williams sisters; first Venus and then less than an hour later defending champion Serena had both exited the tournament. The fact that the two were scheduled to meet in the next round simply added to the irony of it all.
Venus fared better against an admittedly less illustrious opponent in Anna Schmiedlova, taking the first set before collapsing somewhat as her opponent played fearlessly at a top twenty level.
In Muguruza, Williams Jr’s task was always the harder of the two – the Spaniard had an excellent January slaying seed upon seed en route to the fourth round in Melbourne – but Serena still should have won through.
At best, it was a major off day, at worst – taking the 2014 season into account – it could represent the beginning of the end. In reality though it should merely be a blip in a year that has yet to kick into gear. Who knows, maybe Serena will have a ‘Federer 2013’ season and then come back invigorated in 2015.
Maria Sharapova et al will be rubbing her hands with glee – the Russian herself surviving a scare against one-time starlet Pironkova before finding her A-game and prevailing in straight sets.
Amongst les filles there were also straight set wins for Daniela Hantuchova, Agnieska Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Domi Cibulkova and the impressive Sam Stosur who looks the most comfortable of this half of the draw.
There were some ding-dong big name three setters too as Genie Bouchard won a ‘battle of the babes’ against the slowly returning Julia Goerges and Johanna Larsson continued her impressive run ousting Flavia Pennetta.
Alas, poor Alize Cornet did a Mauresmo and tanked in front of the French faithful to the 205-ranked Taylor Townsend in a bruising affair.
The men stuck to normality as Federer and Djokovic looked mighty impressive against decent opposition as Simon, Cillic, Isner, Berdych, Robredo, Raonic and Tsonga all proceeded too with little fuss.
A couple of epic encounters saw Radek Stepanek outlast Mikhail Youzhny in a typically gruelling veteran contest whilst the locals spent much of the morning transfixed by young Laurent Lokoli – making his debut on the senior tour – ultimately fall to American journeyman Steve Johnson in a five setter carried over from day three.
Heroes of Day 3 and 4 – Ivo Karlovic and Garbine Muguruza
Kenny de Schepper
Day 3 and 4 seeds to fall