The big upset that wasn’t: defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova lost on Friday to Maria Kirilenko: 3-6, 6-2, 4-6. Sveta sounded about as surprised by the result as the rest of us were:
Q. Obviously you must be very disappointed. How does it feel to lose your title here?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I have it from last year. I mean, it was very hard, anyway, to defend with tennis I have been playing this season. You know, I take it as a lose, and I have to move on. I have to grow and to improve, you know. I didn’t come here with my best game, but I gave my all. I fighted all I could, and it happens. So it’s okay.
Okay, then. Roger Federer, who took out qualifier and Federer fan Julian Reister in straight sets, was a little more fired up when asked about defending his title:
Q. Nadal won three tournaments. Now you are together in Roland Garros. You won the last year. Do you think that you’re able to win also this year?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes, I do. (laughter.) You want me to explain, or are you happy? You want me to explain? I won last year, so I think I can do it again. (laughter.)
Fernando Verdasco, who needed four sets to get past Florent Serra on Friday, also showed some ‘tude in his post-match presser. I love this answer about Nole’s Shakira impersonation:
Q. I don’t know if you saw this video, a video concerning karaoke here in Roland Garros which is a parody of Shakira and Nadal.
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Oh, yes. I heard about it. I don’t know why. Why do you always ask me to answer these questions about these things? Yes, the karaoke. We did one last year, as well.
Novak always wants to be the funniest, the star, but he loves this. He loves being a showman. He likes it. So you should ask Rafa if he enjoyed this imitation or not. But to tell you the truth, I don’t really know how Rafa took this, but I know Rafa. I don’t think he really very much liked the video. But anyway, who knows? Maybe he enjoyed it.
One thing’s for certain – Nole enjoyed it quite a bit! He said it even helped him beat Kei Nishikori on Friday:
Q. How much did you enjoy your karaoke with your buddy? I was wondering who came up with that idea to sing like a gypsy?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Gypsy. Oh, my God. I’ve seen it. My brother sent me. I’ve seen it last night, or it was this morning before the match. It make me relax a little bit. You know, I was nervous before the match, and then I was laughing unbelievable for two minutes.
What we have done? It’s just crazy. Sometimes I’m not aware of the things that I’m doing. I think you have to ask Troicki, as well, my partner in that video. We are very proud. I haven’t spoken to Nadal still what he thinks about it. I think he would be proud of my performance of Shakira. I really put a lot of energy and effort into that. I’ve tried to, you know, impress my partner who was sitting on the chair and playing a little guitar. I was shaking whatever I had in there. Yeah, it was fun.
In case you were wondering where Nole learned Shakira’s moves:
Q. I just want to know, what do you need to do after a long match on the clay to take care of your body? I mean, maybe with your physio or…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I prefer woman, but unfortunately I have to stay with physio (laughter) for two hours.
Rafael Nadal wasn’t asked about Nole’s impression after taking out Argentine Horacio Zeballos on Friday, but he was asked about one of the big controversies the tournament – should the French Open move to a bigger spot? Love his answer:
Q. Would you like Roland Garros to stay here?
RAFAEL NADAL: As I said before, I think that Roland Garros has a long standing history, which is here. I think that Roland Garros should remain here, because here we can breathe the history of tennis within these walls. It’s very important, whereas if we move elsewhere, maybe the site is going to be bigger, we’re going to lose part of our soul.
Stanislas Wawrinka will be Roger Federer’s Round of 16 opponent. I wonder what’s worse – getting the World No. One and defending champ in your section of the draw or having to answer so many questions about your more famous countryman in the press conferences? (Stan admitted that answering Roger questions was “part of his job”) Here’s a nice answer from Stan the Man:
Q. Considering the duel for Sunday, there is a very special person, Severin Luthi, he’s Roger’s coach and he was your captain in the Davis Cup. You’ve had some great moments with him in Spain. How do you consider his position, because he knows you really well?
STANISLAS WAWRINKA: Well, it’s not easy for him since he coaches the Swiss No. 1 player and he’s also the captain in the Davis Cup. He knows this could have happened. It’s part of his job. It’s not very easy for him, but he’s only doing his job.
Now, I don’t think it will be a disadvantage. We’ve known each other for so long with Rog. We know each other so well. I don’t think it’s going to make any difference, the fact that his coach knows me so well. We’ve trained together so many times in the last few years, and we know each other so well. We know each other by heart, practically.
On the men’s side, I’m also looking forward to Andy Murray vs. Tomas Berdych in the Round of 16. With Fernando Gonzalez going out to Oleksandr Dolgopolov on Friday, Berdych is my new under-the-radar pick. He continued to cruise through the draw on Friday with an easy straight set victory over John Isner. Or should I be picking Murray? He’s already battled past Gasquet, Chela and now Baghdatis. The guy’s motivated. One other Round of 16 is set: Robin Soderling vs. Marin Cilic. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is suffering from some kind of stress-induced muscle pain (never a good thing), awaits the winner of Youzhny vs. Troicki (Youzhny leads).
With Sharapova taking out Flipkens and Henin beating Zakopalova, both in straights on Friday, the Tennis Gods have granted us our Sharapova vs. Henin third round! The two players have a long and complicated history. Henin leads the head-to-head 6-3, but was bageled the last time they played in the 2008 Australian Open quarterfinals, in front of an over-zealous Papa Yuri.
They also played what many considered to be the best women’s match of 2007 a few months earlier, in the finals of the Year End Championships. Henin won that match, but it turned out to be the beginning of the end of what she now calls her “first career.”
Henin was asked about all this on Friday:
Q. The last time you played in ’08 during the Australian Open, it was not good memories. There was a lot of tension. Her father was in the stands and was quite angry. Is this something that you can’t really accept even today?
JUSTINE HENIN: No, not really, because it’s a new page now for me, frankly. And by the way, I have an incredible memory, as you know, and there are many matches of the past that I’ve forgotten, because it’s a new page for me. I see things totally differently today. And as far as Sharapova is concerned, there’s no special tension in the light of what happened that day. It was not the best day of my career, but I’ve had so many beautiful days against her. I’d like to think about those and remember those.
What’s going to happen is tomorrow. This is the most important thing. I think we’re going to start from scratch more or less, so it’s a very important third round. Maybe that’s when I really enter the tournament, if I can go through to the third round. I like these types of challenges. This type of challenge I like. And you have to think big and play big in some circumstances. I’m totally aware of this.
Maria – like the rest of us – is excited for a re-match:
“I look forward to it. Like I said, I’ve had really tough losses against her [Henin] here, but in many of those matches, I learned so much. You know, and wins against her. We’ve had some good quality matches and a few not so good. But hopefully this one will be a good quality one.”
Four Round of 16 matches are nearly set on the women’s side: Venus will play the winner of Rezai vs. Petrova in the Round of 16 (that one’s tied 7-7 in the third), Dementieva plays Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa (ranked 131 in the world), Flavia Pennetta plays Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Kirilenko plays Francesca Schiavone. Besides Henin vs. Sharapova, we’re looking at great third rounds between Peer and Bartoli, Hantuchova and Wickmayer and Alona Bondarenko and Jelena Jankovic.