Saturday May 28th, 2016

PARIS – We’ve had rain; we've had (mild) upsets. We’ve had cramp-gate; we’ve had lots of zebras. But it’s the absences at the 2016 that loom larger. No Roger Federer, who is convalescing his bad back, resting up for the grass. No Maria Sharapova, who awaits the disposition in her anti-doping hearing. And most shockingly: no Rafael Nadal who—after two dazzling matches—withdrew Friday with a left wrist injury.

Storylines remain. Can Novak Djokovic win that elusive first French Open— thereby euthanizing the trite phrase “elusive first French Open”? Can Serena Williams hit on 21 (majors) and get to 22, which would tie her Steffi Graf? Can a player, male or female, score a titanic upset and prevent either of the No. 1’s from fulfilling their seeding? Tune in next week.  Meanwhile at the turn, here are some midterm grades….

A

The No. 1s

Tennis
Serena fends off inspired effort from Mladenovic to advance on Day 7

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams advance with little complication. Which is nothing new. This is Serena’s 63rd career major and she’s advanced to third round 60 times. Djokovic hasn’t lost before the quarterfinals at a major since 2009.

Venus Williams

A few weeks from turning 36, Venus is playing turn-back-the-clock tennis, moving with grace, slugging with power and winning the point freighted with the most pressure.

Shelby Rogers

The last player automatically into the main draw makes the most of it, winning three matches— including a 6–0, 6–7, 6–0 defeat of Petra Kvitova— to reach the middle weekend.

Dominic Thiem

Tennis
Watch: Insane French Open point has both players rallying from ground

Playing as well as advertised, the Austrian is into week two, most notably winning a Youth-Is-Served match against Sascha Zverev.

Richard Gasquet

Never mind the style points. Remember when this guy was cowed by the home crowds? Through three rounds, Gasquet has breezed, failing to drop a set and silencing Nick Kyrgios.

Virginia and Stanford

Your 2016 his and hers NCAA tennis champs.

B+

Andy Murray

Dropped four sets in his first two matches, looking something other than sharp and comfortable; but he survived and advanced.

Naomi Osaka

Teenager missed a ripe opportunity to beat Simona Halep in the third round, but what a talent. Motto: half-Japanese, half-Haitian…100% player to watch going forward.

B

Close-but-not-quite-Czechs

Tennis
John McEnroe to help coach Milos Raonic at Wimbledon

Lukas Rosol had a 2-0 sets lead on defending champ Stan Wawrinka. Radek Stepanek had the same on No. 2 Andy Murray. Neither Czech could cash in.

Alize Cornet

Theatrical Frechwoman advanced to third round and thrilled the home crowd (and the homme crowd) in the process. But her seeking medical assistance on five consecutive changeovers violated the spirit of the rules, if not the letter. Then she bows out to Venus Williams on Saturday.

Genie Bouchard

Good for her for speaking so openly about her eating disorder. Her tennis continues to mystify. Played well in her first round and was leading 4–1 against No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky. Then Bouchard somehow lost 10 straight games.


FASHION AT THE 2016 FRENCH OPEN

C

Injuries

Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro were among those missing from the field. The snake-bitten Victoria Azarenka was among those unable to complete her first match. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled up with a groin injury. Then Friday’s bombshell: Rafael Nadal had to withdraw. Instead of bickering about whether the Olympics should result in ATP points or the nuances of the cramping protocol, how about a meaningful investigation into what can be done to make a non-contact sport less taxing on the body?

Angelique Kerber

Tennis
Murray wins, Rogers shocks Kvitova, Nadal withdraws on Day 6 in Paris

Still struggling with the elevated expectations that come from winning a major, Kerber her first Grand Slam match after her Australian triumph, falling in three sets to streaky Kiki Bertens.

The sons and daughters of Steve Harvey

The French planned a retirement ceremony for Francesca Schiavone after her first round loss to Kiki Mladenovic. Which would have been nice, if only Schiavone were retiring. As she put it at her press conference: “Roland Garros announced my retirement, but I didn't…So you can stand up, all of you, and go back to work in the office, because I didn't say that."

Zebra-wear

1991 called. Zubaz wants it clothes back.

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