The Serena Williams vs. Sam Stosur quarterfinal pushed the limits on Wednesday, with Serena fighting from a set and a break down but finding herself unable to convert a match point. Stosur won the match: 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6. It was a pleasure to watch Sam Stosur’s big serve, heavy forehand and wicked slice match up with Serena’s all around powerful game. Sam will want to put that break game she played at 6-all in the third set into a time capsule. If this had been a men’s match, I imagine John McEnroe repeating once every couple of sets: “This is a battle of two heavyweights out there.” Of course, it doesn’t sound quite the same when you’re talking about the women.
Some funny from Serena:
Q. You obviously saw her in Australia. Is there any difference in her level or how she competed? You’re obviously one of if not “the” best competitors on the tour. How did you sense her level of competition there?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, she’s at interesting competition level. I think, um yeah, I just think she definitely was a good competer competitor. Don’t write that. (laughter.) Please don’t write that. (Laughter.)
With Stosur playing Jelena Jankovic (J.J. took out unseeded Yaroslava Shvedova in straights) in one semi and Elena Dementieva meeting spin-mistress Francesca Schiavone in the other, we’ll have a first-time Major champion at the end of the weekend. Will any of these (relative) tour veterans ever have a better chance for greatness? More important, who do you think deserves to win a Big One?
And I know we all just expect this of her at this point, but it’s pretty impressive that Serena went back on the court on Wednesday afternoon to play – and win- her doubles semifinal with Venus. They fought back from a 1-3 hole in the third set to take out Liezel Huber and Anabel Medina Garrigues: 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Not only are they into the finals (vs. Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik), the Williams sisters are also guaranteed the No. 1 ranking in doubles for the first time in their careers. That’s some consolation prize, right?
Wow, what’s going on with the men’s draw? Nadal, Melzer, Soderling and Berdych – it’s like the French Open turned into an ATP 500 and nobody bothered to mention it.
I jest. Rafa, of course is the King of Clay, Soderling is last year’s finalist and this year’s Federer-killer, Berdych is a rising (again) star and Jurgen Melzer once dated French Open Champ, Anastasia Myskina.
Speaking of Jurgen’s girlfriends. . .
Q. Forgive me if you’ve been asked this before, but the charm around your neck, what is that?
JURGEN MELZER: It’s a Mickey Mouse with a soccer ball. My girlfriend has the other, Minnie Mouse. (laughter.)
According to Wikipedia he’s now with Croatian-Austrian swimmer Mirna Jukić.
Melzer played the match of his life against Novak Djokovic on Wednesday, coming back from two sets and a break (!) down to finally win the match 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in over 4 hours. Before this tournament, the 29-year-old had never been past the 3rd round of any Major. How’d he do it? Don’t ask me, I have yet to find more than a few minutes of television coverage on my DVR (yet Stosur vs. Serena and Roger vs. Soderling are running on a continuous loop.) Good thing Melzer’s around to fill us in:
Q. 6 3, 6 2, 2 0, and then what happened?
JURGEN MELZER: Well, I changed the match. Well, the only thing I told myself, It’s my first quarterfinals in my life in a Grand Slam. Just don’t go away. Just don’t make it easy for him. Fight as much as you can, and I was I wasn’t playing so bad. I just missed a lot of easy shots when I had the chance and the opportunity to finish the point.
And after that, I mean, I got back in, and at 2 All in the third it was an open match. I think I got a little under the skin after the third set. I should win the fourth set probably earlier than I actually did, and then the fifth was just a battle.
But really, what’s happening with Novak Djokovic? Another Major another head-scratching loss.
He doesn’t really know, either. . .
Q. I know it’s very difficult to feel positive on a day like this, Novak, but another Grand Slam is quickly around the corner. Do you think that’s a good thing you, that you have a big, big tournament to concentrate on straightaway?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, I don’t know what I’m thinking in this moment, because disappointment after the match that I was supposed to win. So I’m not thinking about Wimbledon in this moment. Tomorrow is a new day, so I guess this is not the first time I have this feeling. I will have to overcome it in order to get ready.
And this was interesting:
Q. During the last two sets we saw you very often looking across the net at your opponent and shaking your head. Can you tell us what you were thinking about in those moments?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No.
Q. Were you wondering about how your opponent was playing?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I said I don’t want to speak about it. Next question, please.
Anyone a mind reader?
In Wednesday’s other men’s quarter, Rafael Nadal overcame a “terrible” start to win a tight 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory vs. countryman Nicolas Almagro. After the match, Rafa answered all of our questions.
How he plans to celebrate his 24th birthday on Thursday. . .and later:
Q. Are you going to celebrate your birthday tomorrow? Because, well, at least this year you’re here. Last year you went home and relaxed. But this year you have time.
RAFAEL NADAL: I gonna celebrate during the day, not during the night, I think. I gonna have time at Mallorca to celebrate the birthday during the night (laughter.)
What he was thinking while watching Soderling vs. Federer on Tuesday:
Q. When you’re watching Roger last night, are you hoping maybe he will win because he’s No. 1, you’re No. 2, you’re very close, you’re the best players so you like the best players to win? Or are you hoping maybe he doesn’t win because maybe it makes it easier for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, the true is I always love to see the best players win, because I know that the loses for the best players are harder than for the rest.
For example, I sure if I lost today against Nicolas was much harder for me than for him if he lose today. Sure, for everybody is hard to lose, no?
But, well, if I have to say seriously what I prefer to play against, for me, I not thinking this way. We think about the ranking. Sure is better if Roger lost, no? But, you know, I always say the same. I believe if you are No. 1 or you are not No. 1, you can’t be all the time thinking about No. 1.
We will see the end of the season what has happened.
On the possibility of taking back the No. 1 ranking:
Q. You’re in semifinals. That’s obviously very important for you. I do realize you’re not thinking about the final and being No. 1.
RAFAEL NADAL: It’s not I’m not thinking about it. That’s the way it is.
My objective is to make it to the final, and then if I come out No. 1, fine. But, you know, it’s a long year, and it’s probably not Roland Garros that’s going to decide it.
And in the “who knew?” department, Nicolas Almagro is quite expressive, even off the court.
Q. How would you evaluate the situation?
NICOLAS ALMAGRO: Well, my evaluation of this situation? Well, the situation is here in Paris, and what I can say after the match is that I feel good. I played a good match. My arms feel good. My legs, as well. I have two arms, two legs.
No, I’m kidding, of course. But frankly, no, it’s terrible. Really, it is terrible.
Q. I was looking at you, and I saw that sometimes you were really furious, very angry. Did you think until the very last moment that the match could have changed totally?
NICOLAS ALMAGRO: Well, as I said yesterday, had I not believed in my tennis I would have taken the first plane yesterday with my suitcase, and I wouldn’t have spent I would have spent a few hours. I would be with my fiancée, my mother, and my nieces. I would be enjoying a barbecue at home.
But I believe in my tennis. I believe in my game. He won. This is it. When he won the very last point, the only thing I had to do is congratulate him and continue on the same tracks.
Roger Federer, the World No. 1 for now, was greeted with a standing ovation when he walked into the ITF Champions Dinner honoring Guga Kuerten on Wednesday night. Roger was in good spirits, telling the crowd (via ESPN):
“I get standing ovations from people thinking they’ll never see me again,” Federer said, then added, “I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed tennis more. … I had to tell the press something, so I said I’d play through the 2012 Olympics. I want to play more if my body allows it.”
Ranking points come and go, but Roger and Guga will never lose that No. 1 glow:
Photo by FFT via www.rolandgarros.com