Saturday June 1st, 2013

We are all this ball boy.(Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images) We are all this ball boy. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Random thoughts, observations, links and other goodies from the last few days of the French Open …

 Gael Monfils lost Friday, but he single-handedly kept the first week interesting. Apart from a few first-set struggles from Rafael Nadal, the top seeds and title favorites have all cruised in businesslike fashion. That's good news for the second week, but it's left the first week a bit flat.

• My match of the tournament so far remains the first-round battle between Venus Williams and Urszula Radwanska. That match had so many layers and unexpected twists and turns.

• Rafael Nadal has become more outspoken as he's matured and grown more comfortable with his place in the game. That can range from ranting about the ATP's revamped time-violation rule, as he did at Indian Wells, to lashing out at the French Open organizers for scheduling issues, as he did Friday. I like it when Nadal speaks out. His opinions, strident as they are, are often a great source of discussion and debate.

• That said, which is the better nickname: Diva Rafa, Rafa Fierce or El Divo?

• For some reason, people just can't get Jamie Hampton's name right. Julie Hamilton?

Q&A with Jamie Hampton

• Jack Sock had a very strong tournament despite a second-round loss to Tommy Haas. It wasn't his first-round win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez that impressed me; it was his ability to win three matches on red clay and qualify. That's some good work.

• Lauren Davis might be the most twitchy American player these days. She's already adopted the Isner-esque between-the-legs ball bounce before serves, but now she's introducing some interesting quick-draw moves with her racket before she returns serve.

• Here's a picture of Maria Sharapova and her second-round opponent, Genie Bouchard. Genie's a little taller now.

• Roland Garros should replace its banner graphic with this picture of Gilles Simon:

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 7.04.42 PM

• Mike Dickson of The Daily Mail called Stefanie Voegele a "little cow" after she took a bathroom break against Great Britain's Heather Watson in the first round. (He later apologized.) Funny, I do recall one Mr. Murray taking a bathroom break between the fourth and fifth set of the 2012 U.S. Open final against Novak Djokovic and went on to win the match. I don't even know what they'd call him for that move. Oh, right, a champion. Incidentally, Voegele plays Maria Kirilenko in the third round Saturday.

• Donde esta David Nalbandian? He's back in Argentina welcoming a baby girl, Sossie.

• Never underestimate "the peer effect" when handicapping matches between younger players of a similar age. There may be a gap in their rankings, but the players don't see that. They flash back to junior matches and other results and that's what fuels the confidence or stress level. I remember being shocked when Ryan Harrison beat Milos Raonic at Indian Wells in 2011 in their first career meeting -- until Harrison recalled how familiar he was with Raonic's game because they played in juniors. Consider that 18-year-old Madison Keys' two most surprising losses this year have been to 19-year-old Davis in Miami and 19-year-old Monica Puig this week in Paris. Similarly, Laura Robson, 19, suffered a tough loss to 18-year-old Yulia Putintseva in Dubai and 19-year-old Bouchard in Charleston, S.C. Rankings go out the window when the young ones play each other. There's just too much junior baggage in the way.

• Jelena Jankovic scored a "virtual" double bagel against Garbine Muguruza in the second round. Down 0-3 in the first set, Jankovic reeled off 12 straight games to win 6-3, 6-0.

• With players on both tours succeeding later in their careers, college tennis is becoming an even more attractive option for young players who aren't sure if they want to grind it out as pros at 18. Here's a list of the players in the French Open draw who played college tennis. There are some very good names on that list.

• The caption to the photo below has since been corrected, but can you imagine the firestorm if it actually had been Andy Murray who called other players boring? (h/t @amyfetherolf)

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 5.09.29 PM

• Of the 20 longest rallies at the tournament through Friday, 14 involved a Frenchman. Make of that what you will.

• The fastest serves belong to Jerzy Janowicz at 141 mph and Sabine Lisicki at 121 mph. Janowicz meets Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round Saturday; Lisicki lost to Sara Errani in the third round.

• I've been intentionally ignoring Petra Kvitova (who faces Hampton in the third round Saturday). You can only write, "She's so talented she can win any tournament she enters and so inconsistent she could get double-bageled in the first round by a lucky loser" so many times. Nothing surprises me with her, but she's too good to not be making the quarterfinals or better at any and all tournaments.

• The Andy Murray cottage industry chugs on. Here's a screen grab from The Times in London.

• Sergiy Stakhovsky was fined $2,000 for using his iPhone to take a picture of a disputed ball mark. He says he didn't pull the prank out of anger or spite. He did it because "something just itched in my butt -- it was a spontaneous thing to do." Well, at least that clears it up.

• It doesn't entirely sit well with me that Stakhovsky -- an ATP Player Council member who has been very vocal about the need for increased prize money and a staunch advocate against equal prize money for men and women -- would just burn $2,000 for a laugh. Kind of undermines all the talk about how much the lower-ranked players (Stakhovsky is No. 101) need all the cash they can get.

• While Stakhovsky was fined, Monfils was not for using his smart phone to record the crowd during his second-round match against Ernests Gulbis. I actually don't mind the distinction here. Monfils asked the umpire first and filmed only after he was given permission. The tournament said Monfils would not be fined because he had not violated the ever-amorphous "spirit of the rule," which is true. Stakhovsky just grabbed his phone and went rogue.

• Three German women made the third round, the most since 1996.

• If Marion Bartoli's father has somehow become a coaching security blanket for her, then so be it. But she needs an outside voice, which is why her decision to hire Thomas Drouet as a hitting partner/co-coach is smart. She's 28, and radical change just isn't going to work for her. Bringing on Drouet is at least a small concession.

• Is it time to hit the panic button on Caroline Wozniacki? Yes. Like Bartoli, she needs a new voice in her team that can re-energize her and shake her up a bit. No disrespect to Bojana Jovanovski, but Wozniacki has no business losing to her twice in a month, even on clay.

• Island firsts: Puig of Puerto Rico and Marina Erakovic of New Zealand became the first women from representing their respective countries to reach the third round of the French Open.

• The British media were not impressed by Bethanie Mattek-Sands' upset of No. 6 seed and 2011 French Open champion Li Na.

• Judah Friedlander. Who knew?

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