Cheeky bugger. . .Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images via Daylife
Well where to begin? The first very full week of tennis is over at Roland Garros, leaving some unfinished business and some unanswered questions to contend with in the second week.
Okay, fine, let’s just start with Roger Federer. Today’s match vs. 21-year-old David Goffin was a surprise in many ways. It was a surprise that a lucky loser in an adolescent’s body made it all the way to the round of 16. (The first time it’s happened at Roland Garros since 1978.) It was borderline shocking that the unknown Belgian took the first set, and threatened in the second, vs. Roger Federer. And what a surprise when the soft spoken Goffin, who had admitted to not only admiring Roger, but to having posters of him in his room and being too shy to address him when encountering him in the flesh, started showboating for the audience – waving a No. 1 finger and bowing to the crowd. Pas mal, petit frère!
“Very cute. . . now that I’m into the quarters.” JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/GettyImages via Daylife
I was also surprised that the two were interviewed together on court after the match, though the French do enjoy their underdogs. It turned out to be a sweet moment, with Roger putting his paternal instincts to good use. There was even a pat on the head!
You can check out the interview (in French) here. One of the commenters “TheGloriousMuse” posted a translation of some of the segments that my limited French confirms as fairly accurate.
Goffin: It was an extraordinary week. . .The icing on the cake was to play Roger. I can’t hide that I have pictures of Roger around my bedroom.
Then the audience started demanding a kiss (!) The French are so silly.
Goffin: I think he doesn’t want it! (the kiss) I’m very happy to have played here, I enjoyed the moment with Roger, and wish him luck for the rest of the tournament.
Interviewer to RF: Thanks. It’s not easy I imagine for him. He took the first set.
Federer: Yeah it’s not easy, this is his second week here, and the match was difficult, there was wind, David played well, I had difficulties. Well I didn’t know him, now I know him a little more and I will know him better when I’ll kiss him
Interviewer to RF: Now you will talk to him in the locker room, because he didn’t dare to talk to you before.
Roger: You don’t have to be shy with me, I think I’m one of the old number 1s who’s relaxed enough. You can talk with me, plus I speak a little bit of French. . .
Then there was a hug. Awwww. Thank God Roger won. Could you imagine the alternative on court interview?
Embrasse-moi! Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images via Daylife
I know we all have different ways of thinking about Roger’s form – panic mode, realist mode, or enlightened zen mode.
PANIC: Three four set matches in a week? Against a grass court guy like Mahut and two unknowns like Ungur and Goffin? This draw was a gift from the Tennis Gods and Roger wasted it! How many more chances will he possibly get?
ZEN: Cheers to Roger for making his 32nd consecutive quarterfinal in a Major! (Okay, that’s pretty cool.)
REALIST (This is where I’m at right now): He’s not showing the beautiful stuff that got him to the finals, and past Djokovic in the semis, last year. Then again, all that great play earned him was another runner’s up speech.
Roger’s complained after these matches that he has yet to find his game, or his “riddum” as he calls it. He’s blamed his unease on everything from playing well in Madrid, to injuries (in the past or present, I’m not sure) to just general WTF. I agree with those of you who’ve found similarities in his bumpy run to the 2009 finals – sometimes day-to-day form can’t predict final results. Bottom line, it’s too late for speculation or theories at this point – he can’t fake it in the quarters, where he faces either Del Potro or Berdych (their match was suspended on Sunday, with Del Potro up two sets to one.) It’s time to get those dance steps down, Roger. Start tapping those feet.
Roger may take comfort in his rival’s missteps today. Novak Djokovic was really close to losing to Andreas Seppi on Sunday, going down two sets to zero and looking no where near his best. He described his struggle in similar terms to Roger:
“Well, it’s one of those days where you don’t feel just nothing is working, you know, really. My serve was well. But aside that, I could not get into the rhythm, you know. I was fighting, and I think because of the fight I won the match.”
“I’m going to kill myself.” That was Victoria Azarenka’s verbal eye roll in response to a reporter’s question about how she would recover from her straight set loss to Dominika Cibulkova on Sunday. In case anyone didn’t get the molasses thick irony, she added “I’m just going to go onto the practice court and practice again. this tournament is over for me. What’s to recover from?”
Well, quite a lot, actually. Azarenka’s aura as unbeatable No. 1 is gone, as is a great chance at a French Open title (meaning no Serena Williams to get through, and a lot of women she’s beaten often and easily – including current favorite Maria Sharapova – left in the draw.)
Death by a thousand sneers. AP Photo/Christophe Ena via Daylife
The transfer to the second week is reminder at how quickly story lines move on in tennis. Remember when we were lauding the American women for making it through their first rounds? Sloane Stephens lost to Sam Stosur on Sunday, leaving just Varvara Lepchenko to fight on for the U.S.A. Brian Baker is gone, Paul Henri-Mathieu put out of his misery, Virginie Razzano a fond footnote. The carefree days of heartwarming underdogs and lucky losers are over. It’s time to get serious, folks.
Here’s a look at who is still alive and kicking going into the second week:
MEN’S FOURTH ROUND
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is up a break in the fifth set vs. Stanislas Wawrinka – winner to play Djokovic
Juan Martin Del Potro is up two sets to one vs. Tomas Berdych – winner to play Federer
David Ferrer vs. Marcel Granollers
Richard Gasquet vs. Andy Murray
Janko Tipsarevic vs. Nicolas Almagro
Juan Monaco vs. Rafael Nadal
Dominika Cibulkova vs. Sam Stosur
Sara Errani vs. Angelique Kerber
WOMEN’S FOURTH ROUND
Li Na vs. Yaroslava Shvedova
Varvara Lepchenko vs. Petra Kvitova
Arantxa Rus vs. Kaia Kanepi
Klara Zakopalova vs. Maria Sharapova