May 29, 2010

A Perfect Run

A week into this year's French Open, and some things have happened as you might have predicted -- neither last year's champ Roger Federer nor the King of Clay Rafael Nadal has dropped a set in their first three matches. But a couple less obvious players have been progressing through the bracket just as flawlessly and certainly hope to continue their own runs.

Stanislas Wawrinka is probably the least surprising of that second tier. The world #24 won a title early this clay court season in Casablanca and had been ranked in the top ten just two years ago. He also beat Robin Soderling in the third round of Rome, so you know he's got game -- but maybe you didn't realize just how much. True, he's had a fairly easy road so far -- his first round opponent, Jan Hajek, is ranked #75 and Andreas Beck, whom he met in the second, is seventy-four. His biggest threat would have been Gael Monfils, but a little-known Italian took care of the hometown favorite for him. But Wawrinka will face his compatriot and friend Federer in the round of sixteen, so something tells me his clear scorecard may soon get a blemish or two.

Beating Roger isn't an insurmountable task, though, as Miami finalist Tomas Berdych certainly knows. And the fifteenth seed at Roland Garros is trying to parlay his early season luck into his best career showing in Paris. He's been perfect so far, too, this week, even having an easy time with John Isner, one of the best hopes the U.S. had for a deep run. And though he faces Andy Murray next, he might have the best chance of staying untarnished -- this is hardly Murray's best surface and if the Czech can get momentum on his side, he might be able to pull off the upset.

Russia's Teymuraz Gabashvili has already had to pull off the upset of his career to make the fourth round. On Saturday morning he defeated Andy Roddick in a surprisingly easy three sets, taking less than two hours to do so. And if it wasn't enough, sending home the highest ranked player on the men's side so far, the world #114 had to fight through three qualifying rounds just to make the main draw. By the way, he didn't lose a set in the quallies, either.

Of course, things are only going to get harder from here -- to get any further Teymuraz will have to beat Jurgen Melzer who just defeated a much tougher clay-court player in David Ferrer earlier today. But stranger things have certainly happened before.

And if nothing else, all these guys with their relatively low-drama, short-duration matches, should at least be strong enough to put up a fight!

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