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May 30, 2009

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2009 French Open
Roland Garros - Paris, France - May 30, 2009
Editorial by Jane Voigt.

 

Jane Voigt Photo
Jane Voigt

Draw Opens as Djokovic Falls In Three
 
May 30, 2009 -- Many bet that Novak Djokovic would make his way to the French Open semifinals, at least. Some stuck out their necks, saying he could win the title. He almost toasted Rafael Nadal in the semifinals in Madrid two weeks ago, which fueled these predictions. But today, the #4 seed lost to Philip Kohlschreiber the #29 seed 64 64 64, throwing a monkey wrench in the men's draw and sending pundits back to the drawing board.
 
Djokovic looked lackluster from moment one in the match. His head hung low as he walked from one side of the court to the other. He showed none of the resolve so apparent in prior matches this year. His loss today will be difficult for the Serbian to stomach, having been in the semifinals of The French Open in 2007 and 2008.
 
"I'm obviously disappointed a lot with the way I was performing today," Novak said in his post-match press conference. "More or less I lost the match. What is disappointing was that I couldn't find the rhythm throughout the whole match."
 
As the match progressed Djokovic showed signs of mounting a comeback. In the second set, Kohlschreiber served for the set at 5-2. Up 40-love, Djokovic came to life and won the game. But, he didn't continue to improve, losing the set in the next game. The Serb went up a break in the third, too, but couldn't hold on to the advantage.
 
"I was trying not to be frustrated with a lot of unforced errors," Djokovic added. "I tried to be positive and just wait for the chances. He didn't give me a lot of chances. I played too passive, and he played really solid from all the strokes.
 
In his three sets, Djokovic committed 38 unforced errors while only scoring 27 winners, a lopsided stat. His percentage of first serves in was a respectable 64% and he won 66% of those points. However, he only won 36% of points when he received, which is low for someone hoping to first beat Kohlschreiber, let along advance to the round of sixteen at The French Open.
 
"It was my movement on the return that was difficult to control, to be honest," Novak said. "I wasn't moving toward [the ball] and just trying to find the comfort zone. Didn't really work out. My legs were really stuck."
 
With Djokovic out, the door opens for others to advance. The top seed in that quarter is Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, seeded #5. He plays Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga next. Tommy Robredo plays Kohlschreiber. France will certainly come out en force Monday as their hopes rise for a possible homegrown Grand Slam star. Given how the athletic Tsonga has played so far, their expectations may very well be headed in the right direction.
 
Gael Monfils also scored a victory today over Jurgen Melzer 62 46 63 61. Monfils thrilled French fans with his magnificent defensive game and athleticism. Long will be remembered his body three feet off the court and parallel to it, as he flew for a ball which he hit then dropped in for a winner. It had the crowd on their feet for minutes of resounding applaud.
 
Roger Federer took four sets to advance to next week's competition, too. With windy conditions and the Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu playing well, Federer had to step up his game in the second set to level the match one-game all. Both men posted positive winners to unforced errors ratios; and, both men served well. However, Roger's more aggressive nature gave him an edge. He approached the net successfully, winning 68% of those points. And, as usual, when he got in his first serve he won 82% of those points.
 
Federer will meet Tommy Haas in the round of sixteen. Haas pulled off an exciting win over France's Jeremy Chardy in four sets. Chardy was one of three French men players to go out today, along with Mathieu and Marc Gicquel who lost to Andy Roddick.
 
Roddick's results this year at Roland Garros are his best to date. He has never advanced to the second week in Paris and is happy to have reached a personal goal. His run here has been impressive. He hasn't dropped one set. Neither has Rafael Nadal.
 
Ten years ago in Paris, Michael Change shocked the tennis world when he defeated Stefan Edberg in five tough sets to become the youngest player, and American, ever to win a major.
 
Speaking of Americans... it's true that Roddick is the only American male left in the singles draw while on the women's side Serena Williams is the only remaining woman in that singles draw. However, Bob and Mike Bryan remain strong as the second seeded team in men's doubles. In women's doubles, Lisa Raymond stays alive with her partner Kveta Peschke, Bethany Mattek-Sands is up and running with Nadia Petrova (they won the title this year at the Family Circle Cup), Liezel Huber remains the #1 seed with her long-time partner Cara Black, and Venus Williams still has an opportunity to win another major doubles title with her sister Serena.
 
Count up the Americans in Paris, as we look at week two, and the sum is eight. So the next time you read or hear about how poorly Americans perform on the red clay in Paris, take a look beyond the singles draws. The singles titles remain the most prestigious titles at a major; however, they are not the only titles being pursued at this French Open.
 
Earlier Columns from this Event:
 
May 29, 2009 French Open Coverage: What's Up With All That Noise!
May 28, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Shifting Clay of Roland Garros
May 27, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Heart of a Champion
May 26, 2009 French Open Coverage: American Women in Paris
May 25, 2009 French Open Coverage: Sharapova Fights On, Nadal and Federer Cruise
May 24, 2009 French Open Coverage: Bienvenue au Paris
 

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