Some assorted thoughts on a day where the reigning French Open champs went in opposite directions...
Ridiculous Rafa: Rafael Nadal's 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 lesson in cruelty over good buddy Juan Monaco was the most jaw-droppingly destructive thing I've seen since aliens vaporized the White House. Monaco isn't some journeyman who was just happy to make the fourth round. The Argentine is ranked 15th in the world with two titles on clay this year and a quarterfinal appearance in Miami. The guy is good, nay, very good on clay. And he won two games against Nadal before Rafa went all, "I don't like it out here, it's cold" and proceeded to win 17 straight games to close the match. Look, we're used to Nadal reducing grown men to tears on clay, but, in honor of the passing of Kathryn Joosten, the woman who played the inestimable Mrs. Langdingham on The West Wing, here are some numbers:
This is the fourth time in eight appearances that Nadal has made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros without dropping a set... The 19 games that Rafa has lost in his first four rounds marks the fewest number of games he's lost in any of his eight Roland Garros campaigns... No player has lost fewer games since Guillermo Vilas in 1982, when he only lost 16... Overall, Nadal has won 18 straight matches at Roland Garros, 30 straight matches on red clay (sorry Madrid, you don't count) with 45 sets in a row.
Next up for Rafa is another clay-court specialist, this time in the form of countryman Nicolas Almagro, who scored a good 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Janko Tipsarevic today. The two Spaniards met in the quarterfinals here in 2010 and it was a relatively tight contest with Rafa winning 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-4. Almagro's an even better player today than he was then, but who are we kidding? Nadal has won all seven of their matchups, with five of those on clay. To think Almagro has a chance against Nadal here is to throw all data out the window.
The French Boobirds descend: If you tried to sit down and chart the
cheering booing tendencies of the French crowd you'd end up with a pretty useless piece of paper. Shivering in the stands at Court Philippe Chatrier while waiting for Andy Murray to take on their own Richard Gasquet, the French crowd grew impatient with the apparently rude display from Maria Sharapova as she was stuck battling with Klara Zakapolova for over three hours. How dare these two ladies take so long to finish their match with Gasquet waiting in the wings! Sharapova eventually won the match 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2, and as she saluted the crowd after the handshake, the boos rained down. Wait, now you're booing her because she won? Because she's taking the time to salute you and thank you for watching? Because you've chipped a tooth on the stale baguettes that they sell on-site? Why? WHY ARE YOU BOOING?
I don't know, maybe booing actually helps keep you warm because the crowd kept it up as Murray took the court to take on Gasquet, and low and behold the Brit was bathed in boos as he walked to his chair. Perfectly hospitable, these Parisians. The funny thing was, Murray loved it. Throughout his match he seemed to revel in being the bad guy, smiling a goofy grin at the crowd when the boos got louder. And after taking clear control of the match in the third and fourth set, Murray picked up a bit of swagger and seemed to revel in shushing the crowd by embarrassing Gasquet. He was cracking forehand return winners at will, throwing in drop and lob combinations, and anticipating everything Gasquet wanted to do with the ball. It's the best Murray's looked since his Australian Open semifinal loss to Djokovic, and he may just have the boobirds to thank for it.
"It’s almost like playing a sort of a football match. And I like football," Murray told reporters afterward. "I enjoyed myself on the court today. It’s the most fun I’ve had on the court in a while, so I wasn’t so sort of shying away from the fact that the crowd wanted me to lose."
And that's the thing about the booing. Sometimes it does nothing more than force a player to dig deep to shut you up. Cheering might have been the better way to go here, especially with Gasquet playing some fine tennis for a set and a half.
Out: A spoiler and a champ: It was always going to be a tough ask for Tomas Berdych, who was saddled with a tough draw in Paris. As expected, despite a top-notch clay season, Berdych is out of the French Open after losing to Juan Martin del Potro in a match that was suspended yesterday for darkness.
Meanwhile, there will be a new French Open women's champion this year, as Li Na suffered a shocking loss to Yaroslava Shvedova, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0. While Li's form definitely dipped after the first set, let's give the credit here to Shvedova, who played a great match and really raised her level. Shvedova, who made the quarterfinals here two years ago, is a talented player who's been derailed by injuries for the last year and a half. After making it through qualifying she's taken advantage of an open draw to earn a shot at Petra Kvitova next. Miscellaneous: New deal? Varvara Lepchenko was sporting a brand new Adidas kit in her straight set loss to Petra Kvitova. She was still wearing the Nike shoes that got her this far, though. No one wants to change shoes mid-tournament... The weather does not look good for the finalsthis weekend.... Jon Wertheim reports that sources with the IOC say Lepchenko's relatively recent naturalization shouldn't affect her Olympic qualification scenario.... ESPN is reporting that Mary Jo Fernandez and Jay Berger will serve as the U.S. tennis Olympic coaches.... Does Marcel Granollers pay people to scrub the internet of videos of his horrible bleating grunt? Forget Azarenka and Sharapova, his grunt will shock you.