May 29, 2009

On the Other Hand...

A few days ago I commented on some of the players that have been having a hard time of things in Paris -- taking five sets what they no doubt wish they could do in three. Maria Sharapova, for instance, hasn't won any of her three matches in straight sense.

But there are some players that seem to be having an easy time on the red clay -- some doing much better than most critics gave them credit for.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, of course, has been rolling. Though he allowed his first set of the tournament to get as close as 7-5, he hasn't dropped one set and took out former #1 and two-time titlist Lleyton Hewitt in three easy sets. Countryman and potential quarterfinal opponent Fernando Verdasco has also not dropped a set, though he did play two tiebreaks against Nicolas Almagro earlier today.

Even more impressive is women's top seed Dinara Safina, who coasted to her fourth straight fourth round at the French with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. In her first week of play she's only lost four games total. Her opponent (and conqueror) in last year's final, Ana Ivanovic, who was largely dismissed as a threat this year, has also had a clear road after her opening set tiebreak -- she won her next two matches by dropping only five games herself.

Then of course there's Agnes Szavay who today pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament so far. The thirty-first ranked Hungarian began the year with a handful of first round losses, but had more recently notched wins over Ivanovic in Miami and Victoria Azarenka in Madrid. Though she needed nearly two hours to advance past Italian Corinna Dentoni in the first round at Roland Garros, her next match against Elena Vesnina took half that time. And then today she simply devastated third seed Venus Williams, bageling her in the first set and earning her first fourth round in Paris.

Victor Hanescu delivered the other big blow at the French Open so far this fortnight. After a first round match against Steve Darcis which went to three straight tiebreaks followed by three 7-5 sets versus veteran Mikhail Youzhny, he must have wanted a break and might have been disappointed to face seventh seed Gilles Simon today. But Simon has been struggling recently, losing all three of his matches last week in Dusseldorf and making early exits at the four clay court tournaments he's played this year. In his shortest match in Paris, Victor had a relatively easy time getting past Gilles, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Of course with the comparatively easier rounds behind them, all these players are going to have to work that much harded to keep up their successes -- whether they've gotten here by stunning upsets or by continued dominance. But suddenly there's a new crop of players to keep your eyes on.

And you know I'll be watching!

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