The Honorable Fourth Round
May 29, 2010 -- Advancing to the fourth round of a major is a craving shared by all tour players. By reaching the second week, they have proclaimed their intention and determination. They stand one round from the quarterfinals, an achievement that reverberates in the short-term press, the competition, and tennis history.
Unfortunately for all but one American male left in the draw, the windy cool day was a gray reminder of their lack of skill and luck in the City of Lights.
Sixth-seed Andy Roddick had no answers for the Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili, who is ranked #114 in the world. The moist court conditions dovetailed neatly with Gabashvili's tennis skills and experience.
"I was outplayed from the first ball," Roddick said after his match. "Today he definitely had time to take big swings. His swings are big enough to where he can create length even when it is heavy [conditions]."
Roddick compared his opponent's swing to that of Robin Soderling. They get length on the court. Their balls are somewhat flatter, travel faster and penetrate, throwing off the much sought after rhythm enjoyed by hard-court enthusiasts, of which Roddick is one.
Roddick will now go to London and prepare for the grass-court season, what there is of it... about three weeks. Last year at Wimbledon, he lost an extremely close final to Roger Federer where one break of serve in the 29th game of the fifth set opened the door for Federer to win the title for the sixth time along with his 16th slam title.
Doubles stars Bob and Mike Bryan were upset in the second round of the Men's Doubles competition today, ending their hopes of surpassing Mark Woodforde's and Todd Woodbridge's record of 61 career titles. The Bryans tied the Aussie doubles team by defeating Nestor/Zimonic in Madrid earlier this month. To earn their 62nd title at a major would have been a cherry-topped accomplishment. They won The French Open last in 2003.
If you were a heavy better on the game, you never ever would have put money down on Robby Ginepri to first take out his buddy Sam Querrey, then Italian clay court specialist Potito Starace, and finally the French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. But that's what the American did. He's into the round of sixteen as the only unseeded player in the draw.
Ginepri is ranked 98, a spot he won't see for some weeks due to his surge at Roland Garros. He was in trouble of falling well into the 100s if he did poorly in Paris, which would have forced him to qualify for Wimbledon and perhaps hard-court events this summer.
Novak Djokovic is the odds-on favorite in Ginepri's quarter, which was where Roddick started the tournament. If the Serbian beats Ginepri, he will either face Gabashvili or Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer who advanced today to his first fourth round at a major.
Djokovic seems to have a clear shot at a berth in the semifinals. However, when emotional elements enter in play, sensible and probable outcomes are cast to the wind. Ginepri's story is heartfelt -- he is the improbable last American standing. Gabashvili has been around the tour for years -- one other into the fourth round of the French. And, Meltzer's lefty, attacking game and 2010 clay-court season record are basis enough to garner sympathy from viewers.
Although Jo-Wilfred Tsonga remains alive and well on the men's side as a French title hopeful, French fans will have to wait for another year to pin their hopes on a woman champion because Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai lost to veteran Nadia Petrova early today. These women couldn't sleep well last night given they had ended yesterday at 5-games all in the third. Petrova broke through for the victory when she held serve. There had been eleven breaks of serve in the third set, which shows the benefits of holding.
The loss was a disappointment for Rezai, but her positive attitude will certainly be helpful as she moves through the months ahead.
"I've made considerable progress this year, a leap forward, I think," Rezai began. "I want to move forward. I have so much to prove, and to learn. This is it. It's happiness, only happiness and positive. I have everything to win."
One of the bigger shocks in the women's draw is Jarmila Groth. She not only has earned her rights to the round of sixteen, she's done it as a wildcard entry. She is one of two wildcards from Australia, Carsten Ball being the other. Groth defeated another Australian today, Anastasia Rodionova, in three hard-fought sets.
Groth trounced a tired and injured Kimiko Date-Krumm in the second round, after she upset Dinara Safina in the first to become the oldest woman -- 39 -- to ever beat a top ten player. Safina was the runner-up in the 2009 women's championships at Roland Garros. Her poor results this spring, after having the best of her career in 2009, will adversely affect her ranking come Monday to the point where she may fall out of the top 20.
Sunday signals the start of week two at The 2010 French Open. Calm nerves, honed tennis skills, and solid support groups will be essential items for the week to come. Can Federer repeat with Nadal looming? Will Serena record her second championship in Paris since her first in 2002? So many questions. So much time to ponder.