Hey everyone. From the full disclosure department, I'm back in New York. But we've gotten lots of mail, links and tidbits, so we'll try and do brief baguettes...
Quick and simple question: WTH happened to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez? After she won in Rome, I was telling everyone she was THE player to watch at Roland Garros?--Carlos, New York
• So MJMS plays a terrific spring of clay-court tennis. She beats various elite players and wins the biggest title of her career. She comes to Paris with a top 20 seeding for the first time ever. She is a veteran who's been to the Paris rodeo plenty of times before, so the "awe factor" ought to be minimal. Her draw looks pretty innocuous...
Then she drops her first match. To 97th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova, a doubles specialist from Uzbekistan. In straight sets. What?
The big upset on the men's side? Ernests Gulbis -- fresh off beating Roger Federer and taking a set off of Rafael Nadal earlier this month, tipped by many as a dark-horse semifinalist -- retired before he could be beaten outright by Julien Benneteau.
We've seen plenty of evidence of this in the past, but it's clear that momentum can be an overrated and delicate commodity heading into a Slam. Players like to be in form, having played -- and, better still, having won -- some matches on the surface before the Big Dance. At the same time, the tune-up winners (especially when they're the non-stars) can come in with zero battery power. I suspect the MJMS was simply fried, emotionally and physically, before Roland Garros. And the weight of expectation only worsened her predicament.
I'm writing this before struggling Andy Murray plays red-hot Richard Gasquet in the most anticipated first-round match. Many, including Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -- who himself narrowly avoided being upset in round one -- have tipped Gasquet to win. I wouldn't be surprised if Gasquet, exhausted from winning two straight titles, bearing the onus of an country, either pulls lame or lays an oeuf.
Did your Twitter name change? When I follow the link it tells me the page doesn't exist?--J. Ctrumbore
• I'm now at twitter.com/jon_wertheim in addition to Facebook.
It's a new Sports Illustrated social media thing that I sort of vaguely, kind of understand -- but I'm Tweeting when the urge hits.
Caroline Wozniacki [injured her ankle] at the Family Circle Cup in April. Why in the world has she continued to play each week rather than rest the ankle? On one hand, it is commendable that she tries to play through her pain; on the other, one hates to see such a bright star jeopardize her chances of a deep run at Roland Garros. What gives?--Aaron Dias, Charleston, S.C.
• This is Kerry Wood career management. Lots of points on the table, lots of appearance fees, lots of pressure from lots of sources to remain as visible as possible. Stop me if you've heard this one before. After winning her first match, Wozniacki was asked about her industriousness. She replied: "Well, you know, there are some rules on the WTA Tour, and we have to follow those rules. Maybe it would have been better if I could have taken a few weeks off, but those are the rules, and I did what I had to do."
Did you see Gaston Gaudio lost in the second round of qualies? I thought he had retired??--Victor, Eden Prairie, Minn.
•New rule: All former grand Slam winners deserve a lifelong wild card at the event they win. It's been a long time since Gaudio has been a top-tier player. But, jeez, the guy won the friggin' tournament! It's simply wrong that he has to go through the indignity of qualifying, especially given the number of French no-names who got the automatic in.
No offense, but you are making me crazy with your comments about Nadal's shorts being more appropriate for a Harvard 40th Reunion, etc. I already wrote to you once about this, but plaid shorts are actually what the 2010 graduates of Harvard are likely wearing. You have missed the boat on this one. Take a look at Abercrombie & Fitch's site, or any other brand aimed at youth, and you'll see several pairs of plaid shorts. Nadal's shorts are not only age-appropriate; they are totally in style.--Chris, Chicago
• Yeah. We're calling a moratorium on Nadal's attire. Let's focus on his tennis instead. Same goes for the watch. Though we surrender the last word to our friend Miguel Seabra...
Hi there, colleague!
Regarding the Nadal watch issue: as a specialized tennis & watch journalist (I'm the only one editing a tennis and a watch magazine), my take is you missed the point regarding Nadal's new timepiece and what the sponsorship represents.
For one, Rafa's not paying those $525,000 dollars (of course) and that particular watch is not an expensive exercise of futility; Nadal's intense style of play provides an excellent test to Richard Mille experimental technology (just like Felipe Massa wears a Richard Mille while driving a Formula 1 car under immense trepidation). Secondly, Richard Mille is not a bling brand; it's a highly technical avantgarde watchmaker and that watch is not about the $525,000 price tag at all -- it's about the complex technique & spacelab material! ....The irony: a 'straightforward' character like Rafa endorses a highly complex watch by a ultra-prestigious niche brand (Richard Mille) while 'sophisticated' Roger is sponsored by a worldwide known luxury brand that produces uncomplicated timepieces (Rolex).
He's been practicing with the watch, supposedly he should start playing official matches with it at Roland Garros. But will he? Players and especially champions are creatures of habit...
Where was the seed report for the FO? Tennis takes no vacations. Neither should you.--James Pham, Phnom Penh
• Tell that to my wife. We'll be back with a full seed report before Wimbledon. No more vacations scheduled for a while. As for picks, it's Nadal and ... well, we like this gem from loyal reader Stewbop: "A quick thought about who might be holding the trophies after the third Sunday (still getting used to that). The men's title will probably go to someone from Spain, while the women's title will probably be claimed by someone from ... um ... Earth."
• It looks like another tape-delayed final for the American audience, such as it is. Dewan S. of Cheriton, Va., notes: There is now a group on Facebook devoted to helping change NBC's showing of tape-delayed telecasts.
• Mike Tyson talks tennis.
• More Steffi.
• Andrew of New York City fires off this Roger Federer link.
• Mark Hodgkinson killing it with this Ernests Gulbis piece.
• Alex of Jamaica Plain, Mass.: Not a questions, just a shot -- I thought the following might be worth a mention.
• A clip of all the players doing karaoke -- never expected Henin in the mix.
• On the subject of event volunteers, Alexander of Toronto: "I realize this isn't tennis-related but I volunteer at conventions (pop culture/comics) and those are for-profit events made more so by free labor. However, as a volunteer I have made friends with graphic artists, gotten free sketches, made lots of friends, and probably have more fun than the people who pay to get in. If it wasn't worth it, volunteers wouldn't come back every year and sign up again (which they do in droves)"
We'll be back tomorrow. Enjoy the tennis, everyone!