Get all of Jon Wertheim’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
PARIS – Thoughts on a sunny Wednesday in Paris on Day 4 of the French Open.
• The weather was balmy and pleasant today; and so was the draw. Not much in the upset department. But—for the second time in two days—Andy Murray came close to a shocking loss. The second seed needed five sets to close out 37-year-old Radek Stepanek on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Murray needed the full five sets to dispatch 22-year-old wild card, Mathias Bourgue, who had one prior Grand Slam win to his record. And that was earlier this week. The good news: Murray is fashioning escape hatches and surviving, as champions do. The less good news: for a contender, you'd rather not spend 10 sets and 7-plus hours on the court just to reach round three.
• Three recent Grand Slam finalists were in action on Wednesday and each breezed through. Lucie Safarova, defending finalist points, has played four sets so far and dropped six games. She won 6-2, 6-2 against Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. Simona Halep, the sixth seed who nearly won this event in 2014, played composed and beat Zarina Diyas in straight sets. Spain's Garbine Muguruza—like Nadal, she is seeded fourth—is playing at what she considers her home tournament and cruised over French wild card Myrtille Georges.
• Everyone's favorite Japanese-Haitian, Naomi Osaka, advanced with an impressive win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Osaka, who doesn't turn 19 until October, is great fun and is (quickly) learning how to play. Definitely a player to watch as she takes on Halep in the next round.
• Here's hoping there might be a doubles final between Venus/Serena Williams and Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza. The latter are going for their fourth straight major, a Santina Slam we're calling it. The Williams sisters are...the Williams sisters. Both teams advanced today. For the Williams sisters, it was their first win as a team since 2014. Here's a stat: the sisters are 13-0 in Grand Slam finals.
Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at email@example.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.
Jon, Murray just finished up another come from behind win against Stepanek to stay alive at Roland Garros. Since the 2008 Wimbledon event, Murray has dropped the first two sets in Grand Slam matches to players not named Federer, Djokovic and Nadal on 11 occasions. Eight out of the 11 times, he's managed to come back and win. Quite the accomplishment from him!
—Rohit Sudarshan, Washington D.C.
• Here's a stat: over the last five years, Murray is undefeated in five-set matches against players not named Djokovic. Simply for the sake of the tennis plot, it would be nice if he made some inroads against the world No. 1. Yet both of his majors—and his semifinal match at the Olympics—came against...Djokovic.
The after shot noises coming from Teliana Pereira?! It sounds like it goes until her opponent hits the ball!
• I say we cut her some slack. But you'll likely hear the soundtrack on Thursday. She's Serena's next opponent.
Cutting off Lepchenko's questioner, like some tournament flunky usually does at tennis press conferences. They say something like "only tennis questions" when the question (e.g., about doping) is absolutely tennis-related. This was exactly how it should have played out. The reporter got to ask the question, and Lepchenko, an adult, was able to choose whether to answer or not answer.
—Ian, Miami, Fla.
• That's always been a pet peeve. "Tennis questions only please" sounds awfully disingenuous. For one, non-tennis topics often dominate these sessions—at both the players' and media's preference. But also, as Ian notes, "tennis" means more than backhands and forehands. Whether an alleged positive drug test caused you to miss months of tournaments is, by any definition, a tennis question. You might even argue it's the essence of a tennis question. I don't envy Lepchenko and she was put in an unwinnable situation. But just as she had a right to decline to respond, the interrogators had a right to inquire. Asked and answered, as we say.
It still drives me nuts watching an empty Centre Court on TV. Even when a Frenchwoman is playing. I know the fans don't account for much of the revenue that the tournament generates but when a challenger event in Fargo has more people than a major, it's bad optics for the sport.
—Neil Grammer, Toronto
• To quote the great Ted Robinson, "The French like lunch." There were probably 35,000 fans on the grounds today. There were courts upon courts with no available seating (he says having stood to watch Ivo Karlovic polish off Jordan Thompson.) But the fat cats with the prime real estate seats are off eating canapes in the sponsor tents. So to the viewer at home, there are crowds fit for a convertible. This is not solely a tennis problem. But it ain't a good look. Especially when it so belies the reality about attendance and interest.
Why, oh why, are the chair umpires not enforcing the time rule? In the fifth set of the Murray-Stepanek match, Murray was frequently exceeding the allotted time of 20 seconds. Clay court matches are long enough without having to put up with those delays. And isn't it time for the ATP and the ITF to agree on the time? It makes no sense for the men to have 20 seconds at Grand Slams when they are playing best of five but 25 seconds at ATP events that are best of three. Perhaps that disconnect makes the umpires reluctant to call time violations.
—Barbara Beck, Rochester, M.N.
• My favorite stat from Tuesday: Nadal—not someone known for speedy play—needed 80 minutes win his match. Murray needed 85 minutes to play a set and three games against Radek Stepanek.