Saturday, June 7, 2014

FRENCH OPEN 2014: Nadal and Djokovic set-up classic final


There may have been a few up-and-comers who tried to knock on the door these two weeks in Paris but the final will once again be a classic between two players who have won a combined 12 of the last 16 Grand Slams – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Played in the warmest and sunniest conditions of the fortnight, yesterday’s semi-finals lacked excitement and spark but they also revealed the gulf in class between the world’s top-two and the rest of the field at Roland Garros.

It’s only fair that the French Open final is what will separate the two, with the No1 ranking going to the one who runs away with the Coupe des Mousquetaires tomorrow.

Nadal, who could become the first man in history to win five consecutive titles in Paris, gave a close to flawless performance against seventh-seeded Andy Murray, beating the Scot 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and 40 minutes.

The Spaniard converted all six break points he created, faced none himself, and dropped only four points on his first serve throughout the match.

His coach and uncle, Toni, said it was his one of his nephew’s “best matches ever at Roland Garros”. A big statement considering Nadal has won 65 matches here with the loss of only one.

The Mallorcan machine was surprised at the way he played earlier in the quarter-finals saying he had been impeccable in practice and it seemed that translated into his vicious form against Murray yesterday.

“I said the other day that I was practicing better than a long time ago, so that's why the result today, no?” said Nadal, who has now won an ATP-best 40 matches in 2014.

“Today I played better than Andy. Andy made a few mistakes, especially on his return, whereas I made very few mistakes.

“I played quite well. So these are facts. I succeeded in developing my strategy. As for Andy's strategy, he didn't manage to implement it.

“He's a player I do admire quite a lot. He's a player I like. He is a player who is just recovering from an injury, and he's had very good results.”


Djokovic advanced to his second final in Paris earlier in the day, outclassing a nervous Ernests Gulbis 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in a match where the world No2 had to overcome major fatigue bouts in the last two sets.

“Midway through the third set I started to feel physically fatigued, and you could feel that,” confessed Djokovic.

“The important thing for me is that I realise what's going on. It's nothing serious. I'm going to have now two days of recovery and get ready for the final.”

Although Gulbis was the first to get a look at break points in the third game of the match, it was Djokovic who drew first blood, edging ahead for a 3-2 lead when his Latvian opponent overcooked his forehand.

The six-time major champion took the opening set on his third set point, after overruling the umpire on his previous set point, to give Gulbis a point.

The second set saw only one break point chance created, and it was in Djokovic’s favour, who broke in the eighth game before serving out the set for a two-set lead.

Gulbis hadn’t been able to convert any of the five break points he had earlier in the match, but he finally broke through on his sixth chance, to lead 5-3 and run away with the third set.

As the fourth set went into its final stages, both players were visibly tired and Djokovic looked particularly drowsy during the changeovers, but he dug deep to break in the eighth game and sealed the win with a volley at the net.

Looking ahead to his final, Djokovic was asked whether he was surprised by how easily Nadal dismissed Murray.

The Serb said: “I'm not too surprised, because we all know how good Nadal is on this court. He's been elevating his game as the tournament progresses, and he's starting to feel at his best when he needs to. It's not the first time that that happens in his case. That's Nadal, and Roland Garros.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

FRENCH OPEN 2014: Halep survives the carnage to reach fourth round, Kvitova and Ivanovic crash out


Simona Halep survived the high seeds carnage that took place in the first week of the French Open as she stormed into the fourth round dropping just 11 games in her first three matches.

The fourth-seeded Romanian crushed Spaniard Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-3, 6-0 yesterday to make the second week in Paris for the first time and explains how she feels great to enjoy success on the same stage where she won Roland Garros as a junior in 2008.

“It's not a surprise, because I'm more confident now in myself, and I feel the ball really good here in French Open. I love this tournament. I love to be here. I'm enjoying the moment now. It's my best of my career, and I have to be happy on court and to fight for my chance,” said an elated Halep.

The 22-year-old is the highest seed standing in the draw following the shock exits of Serena Williams, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska and she admits she’s feeling some pressure.

“The first three seeded, they lost. That's a surprise for everyone. Is not easy to be the first seeded now during the tournament. But I try just to keep out from me the pressure and just to play every match, because here the Grand Slam every match is difficult.

“So is not easy to say that I will play semifinals or finals. I just take day by day and match by match.” 

Next for her is Sloane Stephens, the American No15 seed who has now made the second week in six consecutive Slams – a record streak amongst active WTA players.

Over the last two years, Stephens is 21-5 in Grand Slam matches and is 32-29 everywhere else. The 21-year-old said she has no explanation on why she performs better in the majors.

The match of the day saw two former Grand Slam champions battle it out as Svetlana Kuznetsova outlasted fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-7(3), 6-1, 9-7 in three hours and 13 minutes.

Kuznetsova capitalised on 65 unforced errors from Kvitova, who needed treatment to her upper thigh in the second and third sets. The powerful lefty twice failed to serve for the match, and saved more than one match point before eventually succumbing to Kuznetsova.

“I think I ran twice more than Petra out there today,” said Kuznetsova, a champion in Paris in 2009.

“I knew I was going out there, and I was going to give everything I could and run every mile, every metre I could, and put as many balls back, be aggressive, try to be aggressive. Because if you watch the match, Petra was inside the court and I was next to the fans. But I just tried.”

Up next for Kuznetsova is another Czech lefty in the form of Lucie Safarova who took out 2008 and 11th-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-3.

Later in the day, Germany’s Andrea Petkovic advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2011, with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, and said she felt rewarded for sticking to her comeback after a slew of injuries.

“One year ago I wanted to stop with tennis because I was awful. I'm here in the fourth round, which is kind of nice. I'm just happy I stuck with my comeback, and I kept trying,” said Petkovic, who revealed she is struggling with a stomach virus.

Jelena Jankovic and Sara Errani both won to set-up a last 16 clash against each other.