Yay! I’m back from my Spanish holiday just in time for some fabulous French Open semifinals. I didn’t go totally tennis-free during the first week of play. Instead of taking an afternoon siesta in Spain, I watched some live tennis. I discovered that Spanish TV picks up a match and broadcasts it with almost zero interruption. There are ads only between sets, not during changeovers. Which can be great, or painful, depending on which match is on. (Marc Gicquel vs. Albert Montanes anyone?) One of the early round highlights was watching – accompanied by friends, Spanish olives and wine in Barcelona – Rafa come back from 1-5 down in the third set vs. his freakishly good looking countryman, Pablo Andujar.
But now it’s back to life, back to reality and brown bag lunches instead of three courses and a half bottle of cava. But at least we have the perfect French Open semis to look forward to: Murray vs. Nadal and Federer vs. Djokovic (okay, I’m missing Jo-Wilfried “Baby Dino” Tsonga in there, but Murray’s a great option, too.) To make things even more interesting, Nole will be No. 1 in the world if he can beat Roger this time. Given the history of their rivalry and how badly – and vocally – Djokovic has always wanted the top spot, having Fed as the ultimate hurdle makes for a fabulously juicy storyline.
Roger was asked about it quite a bit after he steamrolled Monfils in the quarters:
“It’s not the driving force behind this match. For me the plan is to get into the finals of the French Open. At the end of the day that’s why I entered the French Open. It’s not to stop Novak. I know he has a lot on the line. I’ve been there myself, before, in 2004 when I was going for World No. 1 against Ferrer in the semis of the Australian Open so it’s a similar situation.”
“There’s less at stake for me than for him (Djokovic). He’s go a lot of things going on for him. Sure, I’d love to be again in the Grand Slam final because I haven’t achieved that in a few slams. But it’s nothing major for me as long as I keep giving myself chances and I think I’m playing really well again.”
“I’m just happy I haven’t lost extra energy. That’s why I’m happy I’m in this late stage of the tournament. Everyone was talking about me maybe playing Novak but I wasn’t rattled by the idea that it could happen. I was really concentrated on my path to first get there and see if he makes it there. He did it also quite comfortatbly so I’m obviously looking forward to the big match.”
Fabio Fognini’s withdrawal from the quarters means that Nole’s had four days to prepare for this big match. More time to relax or time to freak out? We’ll see on Friday.
And we thought Andy Murray was only struggling with that ankle injury during his scratchy quarterfinal win over Juan Ignacio Chela today. He revealed his latest malady today via his column at the BBC:
“Since arriving in France, I got hurt the first day in practice, rolled my ankle in the third match, and the latest thing was a trip to the dentist after my match against Chela.
I bit into a baguette the day before and broke one of my teeth, and then I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat, so that meant rushing off to get the tooth fixed after my quarter-final. It’s just been one thing after another but I’ve managed to get through it, and I’m still in the tournament.”
Ouch. And now he gets Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros semis.
Rafa had a scary good win over Robin Soderling in his quarterfinal: 6-4, 6-1, 7-6. Rafa said afterwards that he was feeling and moving better than he has in his previous matches at RG (via Times Colonist):
“I think I was able to move very well, even better today than in any other matches in this tournament. I had the feeling I was really covering the court much better and I was able to run a lot better than the former matches.”
Now onto the ladies. Behold the wacky splendor of this semifinal line-up: Francesca Schiavone vs. Marion Bartoli and Maria Sharapova vs. Li Na.
Yes, broadcasters are missing the names Serena, Venus and Clijsters in there, but I’m just as happy with this motley and appealing crew of oddballs, underdogs, scrappers and fan-favorites. Of course, we do have one household name in the mix, a multi-million dollar tennis icon seeking to complete her career slam while also falling into the oddball, underdog, scrapper and, more than ever, fan-favorite categories.
I think I’m rooting for a Schiavone vs. Sharapova final, though it’s hard not to root for Bartoli and Li after hearing these post-quarters quotes. Happiness is contagious, after all.
“Two days before, I was in quarters so happy already. After I win the match I was thinking: “I could play semi in Roland Garros.” I’ve never thought of that before.”
Marion Bartoli on taking out Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals (via WTA):
“Even when I played the final of Wimbledon, I never felt that excited after a match, to be honest. It was just so many feelings at the same time – the crowd, the wave, they were saying my name. When she (Kuznetsova) missed that forehand, I was just like, ‘My God, I’m in the semifinal of my home Grand Slam. Finally I can play well here.’ It was a big relief.”
The women play their semifinals tomorrow – who are you hoping makes the final?