French Open Day 7: Varvara Lepchenko making Slam run of her career

Saturday June 2nd, 2012

New U.S. citizen Varvara Lepchenko is into the fourth round of the French Open, her best showing at a Slam. (Getty Images)

Some assorted thoughts from Day 7 of the French Open ...

Varvara Lepchenko keeps going: The American's run continues after upsetting another seed, this time last year's finalist Francesca Schiavone, winning 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 to make the Round of 16 at a Slam for the first time in her career. Here's the quick story on Lepchenko: The 25-year-old was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and fled the country with her family 10 years ago when she was granted political asylum in the United States. Through the kindness of strangers, Lepchenko ended up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, after befriending a woman who arranged housing for players at lower-level tournaments in the area. The woman offered Lepchenko and her family a place to stay until Lepchenko was able to make more money to rent an apartment. That kind of hospitality and kindness from Americans throughout her career convinced her she wanted to become a naturalized citizen, which she did just last September. Since then, her results have come and she's even found herself chasing the last Olympic spot. How much would it mean for her to be able to represent her newly adopted country? So much that she refuses to think about it. "I’m like, 'Jeez, everybody now is going to ask me this question'.  So I was like running away from the people.  Like I don’t want to think about it."

Lepchenko's win means there are two American women in the Round of 16. Who would have guessed those two women would be her and Sloane Stephens?

Kaia Kanepi avoids an epic choke: Kaia Kanepi's penchant for making things very difficult for herself when trying to close a match took an epic turn today as she tried to pull off the upset over former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Kanepi was up 6-1, 5-1, with a match point and incredibly dropped the second set in a tiebreaker. She recovered impressively to build a 5-1 lead in the third set before once again, she struggled to serve out the match. Her legs were barely moving, she double-faulted on game points, and she could barely get a ball into the court. Finally, on an unforced error from Wozniacki, Kanepi sealed the upset, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 and she looked more embarrassed than relieved when it was finally over.

Lost in all the hype over Kanepi is the fact that Wozniacki continues her downward trend. Her last three Slam results: semifinals, quarterfinals, and now the third round. She was cranky through the entire match, arguing with the umpire and looking like a woman who knew she didn't have it today and couldn't figure out why.

Now for the tennis: The first week of a Slam is almost always about the stories. You run around (or click around as it were for those of us not in Paris) trying to see as much as you can, discover new players or new narratives, and you want to be there when a player has his or her career moment. It's a week where the top players generally tend to take a backseat. After all, what's the fun of watching Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal beat up on a journeyman, when a player you've never heard of is on an outer-court upsetting a seed for the biggest win of his career? But the first week is now over and some of the players who gave us the best moments -- Virginie Razzano, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Brian Baker -- are gone. Generally speaking, it's the familiar faces into the Round of 16 and it's time to start focusing on the tennis.

Maria Sharapova's not going to blow this. Is she?: With Caroline Wozniacki's early exit, the opening up of Sharapova's draw is complete. She'll get Klara Zakapalova in the next round and either Aranxta Rus or Kaia Kanepi in the quarterfinals. Everyone said Sharapova might need some luck to bag her fourth major title. So far, she's getting it.

Apology accepted: You gotta love Mikhail Youzhny. After getting absolutely blitzed by David Ferrer -- he lost the first eight games of the match -- Youzhny felt the need to apologize to the crowd. So he wrote "SORRI" into the clay after finally winning a game.

"There was a lot of people. That's why I write 'sorry.' Because I can't show them a nice game," Youzhny said. "The way we played in the beginning, it was not really interesting for people."

(Getty Images)

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