May 23, 2011

No Signs of Fatigue

Sure, it's nice to be such a great tennis player that you can hang around 'til the end of a tournament, playing in the late rounds week after week. Of course you do run the risk of exhaustion, especially when you enter an event right before a Grand Slam.

But so far the men and women who played this past finals weekend have followed up on their success -- and those that still have their first rounds to play hope their luck also doesn't run out.

Both Brussels champion Caroline Wozniacki and runner-up Shaui Peng began their Paris campaigns today in style. Though taped up from a thigh injury -- one that caused her to take a medical time-out during Saturday's final -- the #1 seed had no trouble dispatching uber-veteran Kimiko Date Krumm. She made just nine errors and kept her opponent to under thirty percent on her return games. After just an hour, Wozniacki had advanced to the second round, proving she has plenty of steam left in her.

Peng was similarly impressive against Austria's Tamira Paszek -- though she needed just a few more minutes to get the win, she was never in trouble, saving all four break chances against her and winning nearly eighty percent of her first serves.

Strasbourg finalist Marion Bartoli struggled a bit more than the other ladies. After retiring from her championship match while trailing by a set and a game, the Frenchwoman found herself in trouble in Paris against the little-known Anna Tatishvili. The Georgian broke the eleventh seed in all of her service games during the first set, running off to a lead in just over half an hour. But ultimately experience prevailed -- Bartoli was able to get her game together and brought the momentum to her side of the court, winning the match 6-1 in the third set.

The woman who claimed the title in Strasbourg, Andrea Petkovic, will begin her Roland Garros campaign tomorrow against up-and-coming Serb Bojana Jovanovski. The two have never met before, but both had nice starts to the year, and ostensibly are better suited to hard courts. But Petko will do her best to back up her highest career ranking and, I expect, should come out on top.

Over in Nice, unseeded Victor Hanescu made a surprising run to the finals, kicking off that campaign with a one-sided defeat of Frenchman Benoit Paire. Ironically, he faced him again in his French Open first round earlier today and was in for a bigger fight this time around. After dropping the second set and rebounding with a breadstick in the third, Hanescu was forced to a tiebreak in the final set, eventually prospering in more than two-and-a-half hours. I'm not sure the result will completely mirror that of last week's event, but at least he's off to a good start.

Nicolas Almagro, who won the Nice title, will open tomorrow against Poland's Lukasz Kubot, a man against whom he's 3-0. I don't suspect he'll have much trouble this time around, either, but hopefully he'll use the match to make a statement on just how much he's contending for this championship.

All four of the men who played singles in the Dusseldorf final will play their openers on Tuesday. Florian Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber, who led the Germans to victory, will face Igor Kunitsyn and Sam Querrey respectively. Mayer, who's never lost to his opponent, should improve his streak, but Kohlschreiber, one-and-one against the American, will have to strike early. Querrey is hanging onto a seed in Paris by the slimmest of margins, and he's more than beatable, so look for the veteran German to force an upset.

The Argentines failed to defend their World Team Cup title over the weekend, so they'll be out for revenge. Juan Ignacio Chela meets young American Tim Smyczek, a man who's lost his only Tour-level clay court match, and should not have too much trouble. But Juan Monaco, ranked #43 in the world, faces a faltering Fernando Verdasco. The Argentine has a convincing 6-2 record against his opponent, so he should bring plenty of confidence into the match and could very well send the seed packing early.

It's a hectic and demanding life these athletes lead, but so far they're proving they have the strength and endurance to keep their campaigns going for at least a little while longer. Of course, not everyone can keep it up forever, but the ones that do will sure make for some exciting matches in the coming weeks.

No comments: