Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘French Open’

I never imagined that my Wimbledon would start with me sitting in a disability tent almost in tears each time I breathed in but that was my entry into the Championships yesterday. You know how I joked about my bag being overpacked? Well that overpacked bag led to me straining my back and then when I bent sharply to pitch my tent that strain turned into a suspected muscle tear. But, like the queuing version of Andy Murray at the French Open, I’m battling on and forever the optimist I’m going to focus on the bonuses this misfortune brought:

– Two American men packed away my tent for me.
– A steward carried my massive bag to the lost luggage.
– I got treated like a celeb as I was ferried from the queue to the AELTC in a buggy and was allowed to rest in the shade whilst the rest of the queue caught up with us.
– Whilst in the shade I met a sweet woman and her kind husband who happened to work for the BBC. Her husband not only gave me lots of media guides for free but also offered to show me around the media centre which was brilliant. In the hour long tour I discovered so many technical tricks of the trade which when combined create the world leading coverage that the Beeb produce; it’s phenomenal how much goes on behind the scenes. Whilst in the press room I also spotted two of my journalistic idols, David Law and Neil Harman which was exciting!

Anyway, on to the important stuff, the tennis. I had a truly wonderful day, I doubt there can be any ticket in sport that offers better value for money than a ground pass to Wimbledon on second Monday. The sheer quality of the players on show was phenomenal, for just £20 I was able to watch Lisicki win convincingly, Kvitova crush Wickmayer, Hutchins/Fleming stage an impressive comeback, Ivanovic/Petkovic lose a close fought three-setter and drop in on some junior matches, plus there was so much more I could have seen. I also completed the obligatory act of sitting on Murray Mount and watching the Centre Court action – something which I think any sports loving Brit should have on their bucket list. Whilst I was fortunate enough to have access to a Court 1 ticket, I could have easily filled my day twice over with the great level of action on the outside courts. It seemed that every time I looked at the multiple scoreboards there was a new comeback or shock emerging on one court or another. I think the best part of the day was the fact that this year’s tournament remains extremely competitive, for both the men and the women; doubles and singles; juniors and seniors. I cannot call it either way.

Some general observations:

– Both Kvitova and Bartoli continue to look exceptionally convincingly; the strength and depth of their shots prevent any of their opponents playing their own game.

– The WTA really need to take a leaf out of the ATP’s book when it comes to marketing their players. Men’s tennis has always attracted more spectators than women’s but it still staggers me how few people could name more than two of the top 10. There were some of female tennis’ biggest stars playing yesterday but the majority of people still do not know them from Eve and therefore struggle to get behind them. Now would be the ideal time to promote the up and coming players because, as yesterday’s performances illustrated, life must go on without the Williams sisters.

– Doubles offers a brilliant opportunity to see some thrilling tennis up close and personal. I watched most of Ivanovic/Petkovic and a little bit of Fleming/Hutchins and I was so close to the court that I was almost in their laps on the changeovers!

– Despite our stiff upper-lip reputation, Brits love nothing more than coming together, having a drink and shouting at a fellow national as if our lives depended on it. The mood on Murray Mount was very jovial and whilst the patriotism dial wasn’t quite at full notch I imagine it will be on Wednesday.

– The match of the day for me had to be Federer v Youzhny. Both of the players dished up some sublime shots and in the second and third sets it could have truly swung either way. Youzhny could have won if it were not for a few key points going against him and Federer’s frequent ‘Come ons’ indicated that he knew he was under pressure. I really felt for the Russian on several occasions when net cords went against him or shots were out by a matter of millimetres. The six time Champion’s artistry showed through in the end though with his grace and unshakeable shot selection making the difference. The World Number 3 also played one of his infamous tweeners which made me very happy too!

Due to my back injury I’m not queuing today (slightly relieved due to all the rain) but fortunately I have managed to get a Centre Court ticket for tomorrow where I’ll get to watch Federer v Tsonga and Murray v Lopez – I’m predicting Federer and Murray will come through but I think both could face stern tests. I’ll report back on all that happens tomorrow evening.

Until then, I hope you are enjoying Wimbledon as much I am.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’ll  admit that as we stand on the bring of the French Open semi-finals I feel like a bit of an idiot, for all my talk of the field being wide open we have ended up with the top four seeds being the last men standing. You know what though, I’m happy to feel like an idiot if it means that we’re treated to three exhilarating tennis matches between the world’s greatest. Friday will see Federer try to break Djokovic’s streak whilst Murray will attempt to dethrone Nadal – what a mouthwatering prospect.

Whilst Djokovic and Federer have sailed effortlessly through their half of the draw (they’ve only dropped one set between them), the Murray / Nadal match-up was seriously in doubt up until 5.30pm today. Whether it was the Spaniard almost being dumped out in the first round by Isner or the sight of Murray screaming in agony after twisting his ankle it would be fair to say their paths to the semis have been a lot more complex. But however different their routes to the penultimate round have been, the world’s top four are all in the semis and the title could easily go to any of them.

Djokovic remains the obvious favourite to take the title, with every match his confidence seems to balloon and his game grows stronger. The only minor bump in an otherwise seamless passage to the semis was the loss of a set to Juan Martin Del Potro but, when you consider what a terrific player JDMP is, to only lose one set against him is impressive. There’s no question that Djokovic is the freshest of the semi-finalists having only played 12 and a half sets due to Fognini  withdrawing from their quarter-final and Hanescu retiring injured in their second round match but I suspect he’d rather have five solid wins under his belt, when you’re on a streak as good as his you do not want to pause. Federer will be by far the greatest challenge that the Serb will have faced at Roland Garros this year and whilst I expect it to be a very close match I think Djokovic will prevail and gain the World Number 1 ranking in the process. If each player maintains their current level of play I am fairly certain that Djokovic will be the Champion on Sunday but I sense that Nadal will raise his game, I’m just not sure whether he will raise it enough.

Federer’s progress to the semi-finals has been utterly odd, not because of the way he has played – his game has been sublime at times – but because there has been so little hype or attention on him. For the most successful grand slam player of all time to only just start being widely acknowledged as a favourite half way through the tournament is surreal. I’ll admit that I had written him off a little bit because his clay court season had been fairly mediocre by his standards and some of the fire in his belly seemed to have been extinguished, but between Rome and Roland Garros he has polished the rough edges and now looks exquisite at times. In his quarter final against Monfils, a match that should have been close, Federer made the Frenchman look completely under-prepared and ill-equipped which sent a message to the remaining competitors that he is taking no prisoners. However well Federer is playing, I do think Djokovic will get the better of him on Friday because his clay game has greater depth and variation than Federer’s and, as a result, he’ll have more answers.

Nadal has done little to convince tennis spectators that he will be biting into the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a sixth time on Sunday. From the moment he stepped onto Philippe Chatrier last Tuesday the top seed has looked uncomfortable and out of sorts; a  world away from his usual clay court demeanour. After his unspectacular victory against Ljubicic in the 4th round he admitted himself that he was not playing well enough to win the title and on that point I don’t think there were many who would disagree. But, in typical Nadal style, he today demonstrated why you can never write him off, especially on clay. A lot of tennis followers (myself included) thought that Soderling could be the Spaniard’s undoing but Nadal overwhelmed the Swede with an onslaught of his trademark stinging ground-strokes and determination. If he can play in a similar manner in the semi-finals, which fall on his birthday, there’s a distinct possibility he will celebrate his 25th by securing a spot in the final. I do question his ability to beat Djokovic or Federer on Sunday though, both of them have been unwaveringly consistent and will punish even the slightest error by the Spaniard. As I keep saying though, you can never write off Nadal.

How Andy Murray is in the semi-final is beyond me; it is testament to his vastly underrated grit, variety and strength that he made it through his third round match let alone to the semis. I have never been Murray’s greatest fan but I’ve always admired him and will argue to the bitter end with anyone who writes him off, and his performance over the last week has reasserted to me why I do so. A tear to a tendon is an awful injury but when it happens mid-match and you have a game that is built around movement most people would call it a day; not Murray though. The Scot not only battled on to win his match against Berrer but he then survived a five-setter against the very handy Troicki and went on to defeat Chela in straight sets. Admittedly Murray has made really hard work of his last few matches, twice falling behind as soon as he steps on court, but he has got through them and looks stronger and more determined as a result.  Having never reached the semis of the French Open before (4th round was his previous best showing) Murray is the underdog of the final four but I can’t help but think he will pull this one out of the bag. If Nadal plays as he has for most of the tournament (poorly by his standards) I really think Murray can defeat him. Over the course of his five victories the Scot has shown some phenomenal passages of play which would put any opponent on the back foot, if he can consolidate these and play consistently like that for three sets I think he could be unstoppable. My real gut feeling is that he will make the final but lose to Djokovic in four sets – a result that he could be extremely proud of. (In my head he will then avenge the defeat in a dramatic five set thriller in the Wimbledon final but that may be slightly skewed by my own personal preferences!)

The women’s competition on the other hand really has thrown up a mixed bag of semi-finalists in Schiavone, Sharapova, Li Na and Bartoli. With an average age of 27 it is one of the oldest final fours there has been in a grand slam and offers some brilliant storylines – defence of a shock title, career Grand Slam, first Asian grand slam winner or the hometown heroine. Whilst they are not the semis I hoped to see (I wanted breakthroughs from the likes of Kvitova and Goerges), I have to admit they are all great ambassadors for the game and have created a lot of drama over the fortnight. I’m erring towards Li Na v Schiavone in the final with Na as the champion, she has been extremely consistent and has the ability to dig deep when she really needs to.

It’s been a really topsy turvy tournament with potential champions being points away from defeat at times (Sharapova, I’m looking at you), new players making a name for themselves and some thrilling comebacks but I think the best is yet to come. So, over to you – who do you think will reign supreme this weekend and has this been one of the most unpredictable French Opens in memory? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Read Full Post »