Friday, 30 June 2017

Watson starring in Eastbourne

The semi finals in Eastbourne and Antalya have been decided and some surprises have certainly happened on the way.

Heather Watson, unseeded and ranked 126 in the world, has delighted her Guernsey home town with wins over Dominika Cibulkova (4), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (14) and Barbora Strycova (who had destroyed 11th seed Garbine Muguruza 6-1 6-0 in the second round)

Watson will face Caroline Wozniacki (6) who knocked over second seed Simona Halep after dropping the first set in their quarter final. The decider was disappointingly one sided after what had been a closely fought battle for two sets.
Halep could only manage to win three points from her 15 serves in set three.

The other semi final matches another Brit, Johanna Konta (7) against Karolina Pliskova (3).  
Konta has played some great tennis, defeating French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko and world number one Angie Kerber en route to the Pliskova battle.
Pliskova, for her part, avoided a second round seed, and easily slipped into a quarter final with Sveta Kuznetsova.
After losing a tie break first set in which she wasted four set points, Pliskova settled and cruised to a three set victory.

The men's draw has been interesting, Novak Djokovic appearing in a lead up tournament to Wimbledon for the first time since 2010.
It's another change in a year which has not gone the Serbs way.

Djokovic has won his two matches and made the semi final where he will take on unseeded Daniil Medvedev, the conquerer of 4th seed Steve Johnson in the quarters.  Daniil had already kicked out another American, 5th seed Sam Querrey, in the opening round.

The second semi features two French men - 2nd seed Gael Monfils and 7th seed Richard Gasquet.  Gasquet beat Monfils in the first round in Halle only last week so revenge will be on the Monfils mind.
Gasquet completed a poor day for America by dismissing 3rd seed John Isner, while Bernard Tomic competed well in a first set tie break before being torched 6-0 by Monfils in set two.

In Antalya, Turkey, all the semi finalists are unseeded.  In fact only one seed - Fernando Verdasco (3) - made it to the quarters.

Marcos Baghdatis (ranked 79) will play Yuichi Sugita (66)
Adrian Mannarino (62) will play Andreas Seppi (102)

This was a tournament all set up for Dominic Thiem, the world number 8 and only player in the draw ranked in the top 30.
However he bowed out in his first match to Indian Ramkumar Ramanathan, ranked 222. 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Federer takes 9th Halle crown

In the week before Wimbledon, some of the players are practicing through tournament play, while others are choosing just practice.
Meanwhile others outside the main draw are already on the courts in qualifying, hoping to survive that tournament within a tournament.

Last week, Petra Kvitova stamped her return with a title win at Birmingham, although Aah Barty gave her a scare, winning the first set.  Unfortunately Petra suffered an abdominal strain which forced her withdrawal from this week's Eastbourne event but hopefully it will be ok for Wimbledon.

Kvitova moves up four spots to 12 in the rankings while Barty sails up 23 places to a career high of 54.  I said top 50 was coming soon for the talented Aussie.

Also in England, at Queens Club, unseeded Feliciano Lopez in his second successive final, went one better than Stuttgart, taking out the final against fourth seed Marin Cilic.
Lopez moves up seven places to 25 in the world.

The Halle final was a lesson for young gun Alexander Zverev as Roger Federer sounded a warning for those thinking of Wimbledon success.
Federer won his ninth Halle crown, losing just four games to the talented German.

In Mallorca it was success for Anastasija Sevastova, her first grass court title coming in three sets over Julia Goerges.
Sevastova remains at 19 in the rankings but Goerges bounces back into the top 50, up nine spots to 45.

This week there are WTA and ATP events at Eastbourne, and an ATP tournament in Antalya, Turkey.

So far, we have seen the fourth straight first round exit for Dominika Cibulkova, this time at the hands of Heather Watson.  Cibulkova was defending champion at Eastbourne so the defeat was extra hard to take. 
For a top ten player 2017 has been ordinary for Dominika, with only a 50% winning record.

The only other seed to fall so far in Eastbourne, male or female, has been Daria Gavrilova (16) to Lara Arruabarrena after winning the opening set.

Already in Antalya Borna Coric (7) and Viktor Troicki (6) have lost opening matches to Adrian Mannarino and Carlos Berlocq respectively.
The top four seeds have been given first round byes.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Federer v Zverev - Halle final

After dropping her opening set  against a threatening sixth seed Garbine Muguruza, unseeded Australian Ash Barty unleashed her several grass court weapons to deny the Spaniard's attempt to reach the Birmingham final.

The variety of Barty's game has earned her a place alongside seventh seed Petra Kvitova who was carving up her opponent mercilessly, winning the first five games against Lucie Safarova, before taking the first set 6-1.
Safarova retired after losing her first serve in set two, not wanting to worsen a leg injury before Wimbledon.

The contest will be a huge test for Barty, but she has done much this year and her Muguruza victory is her first over a top twenty player.
Kvitova meanwhile is improving her odds for Wimbledon each day.

The Mallorca final will be fought out between second seed Anastasija Sevastova and unseeded Julia Goerges.  Sevastova was too strong for Caroline Garcia and Goerges continued her consistent serving to dismiss Catherine Bellis for the loss of only two games.  Bellis had a fine tournament but could win only 12 points from her 38 serves in the semi.

The old and new are set to battle in Halle, the final featuring Roger Federer for the 11th time and home countryman, fourth seed Alexander Zverev.  Federer had more trouble than expected with Karen Khackanov, but still won in straight sets 6-4 7-6.
Zverev struggled further, dropping the opener to Richard Gasquet before settling and running out the match with 32 points from 35 first serves.

The Queens Club final should be a thriller.  
Feliciano Lopez was a finalist last week in Stuttgart and has made a second successive final, this one in London, unseeded and knocking out Wawrinka, Berdych and in the semi final Dimitrov on the way.

The next task for Lopez is to beat 4th seed Marin Cilic who dropped his first set in the tournament en route to defeating Gilles Muller in their semi final.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Safarova outlasts Gavrilova

Some excellent quarter finals played throughout Europe - others a little disappointing.
The highlight, no doubt was the Birmingham three hour battle between Lucie Safarova and Daria Gavrilova.

Safarova saved match points against Cibulkova just to survive the first round and again was under pressure from Gavrilova, down a set and match points in a third set decider.

In a blinder of a match Gavrilova grabbed the opening set in a tie breaker, only to be taken apart early in set two, broken twice.  Gavrilova managed to gather one of the breaks back but Safarova broke again and fully deserved to win the set and level the match.

The decider went with serve until the sixth game where Gavrilova broke, and held the advantage until 5-3.  On the Safarova serve two match points were saved and eventually the game was saved for the Czech player.

Serving for the match Gavrilova wasted another match point and was further exasperated when Safarova broke back for 5-5.
A tie break was appropriately the decider and Gavrilova was in control and had two serves at 5 points to 4 to win the match.  Safarova had other ideas and won both of the points off the Aussie serve, then the first point on hers to take the match and earn a semi final appointment with her Czech compatriot Petra Kvitova.

Kvitova played exemplary tennis to oust fifth seed Kiki Mladenovic.  Only back from injury a short time, the grass is looking wonderful for the seventh seed and remarkably Petra is a big chance of not just winning Birmingham, but snatching a third Wimbledon title.

The other semi will feature sixth seed Garbine Muguruza against unseeded Ash Barty.
Both won their quarter finals following retirements through injury from their opponents.
Muguruza had just levelled her match with Coco Vandeweghe 4-6 6-4, but during the second set Coco fell, hurting her ankle, and she couldn't continue in the decider.

Muguruza was impressive nonetheless, 22 winners against 11 unforced errors.

Barty was dominant in the first seven games of her match with Camilla Giorgi, but the Italian was forced to withdraw due to injury at 2-5.

In Halle top seed Federer will play unseeded Karen Khackanov in one semi, while the home country will be represented in the other semi by fourth seed Alexander Zverev.  Zverev's opponent will be Richard Gasquet.

Queens Club semis:

Gilles Muller v Marin Cilic (4)
Grigor Dimitrov (6) v Feliciano Lopez 

Lopez has included Wawrinka and Berdych in his victories to reach the semis. 

Mallorca semis:

Julia Goerges v Catherine Bellis
Caroline Garcia (3) v Anastasija Sevastova (2)

First semi final for teenager Bellis in a WTA tournament.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Barty comeback on track

Quarter finals have been reached in the latest tournaments on the ATP and WTA tours.

Queens Club has lost Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and is left with just three seeds in the final eight.  Of those remaining neither of the Australians is included.  After outstanding wins over Murray and Raonic, Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis were both unable to repeat their efforts, losing to Sam Querrey and Daniil Medvedev respectively.

Querrey will meet Gilles Muller in one quarter final. 
The others are:
Marin Cilic (4) v Donald Young
Grigor Dimitrov (6) v Daniil Medvedev 
Tomas Berdych (7) v Feliciano Lopez

Halle has been a gold mine for Roger Federer over the years, winning the tournament eight times from ten final appearances.
He has made the quarter finals this year, putting his Stuttgart disappointment behind him, and will play dangerous German Florian Mayer with a German crowd sympathetic to Federer but supporting their home country player.

The other matches in the last eight are:
Karen Khachanov v Andrey Rublev 
Roberto Bautista Agut (7) v Alexander Zverev (4)
Richard Gasquet v Robin Haase

Surprise exits were made by Dominic Thiem (2), Albert Ramos-Vinolas (5) and Lucas Pouille (6).  Kei Nishikori (3) was unlucky to lose through injury and Gael Monfils (4) was beaten by countryman Gasquet, always a tough contest.

In Birmingham, injured top seed Angie Kerber pulled out before the event began and the next three seeds lost either in the opening or second round.
Elina Svitolina (2) bowed out to unseeded Italian Camilla Giorgi in a three set second round struggle, Dominika Cibulkova (3) had already disappeared in her first match against Lucie Safarova, and British hope Johanna Konta (4) was comprehensively thrashed by American Coco Vandeweghe in round two.

Quarter finals as a result will see:
Lucie Safarova v Daria Gavrilova (9)
Kristina Mladenovic (5) v Petra Kvitova (7)
Garbine Muguruza (6) v Coco Vandeweghe 
Ashleigh Barty v Camila Giorgi 

Barty dismissed eighth seed Barbora Strycova in three sets and is playing some fine tennis on all surfaces in her comeback to tennis.  Her ranking should be top fifty before too long with this progression.

Vika Azarenka's return to tennis lasted just the two matches in Mallorca after teenage Croatian Ana Konjuh continued her good grass court form, winning in straight sets.
This created a quarter final match up with second seed Anastasija Sevastova after the Latvian prevailed over Varvara Lepchenko in a three set contest.

Other matches in the final eight:
Julia Goerges v Sabine Lisicki (all German encounter)
Catherine Bellis v Kristyna Pliskova 
Roberta Vinci v the winner of Jana Cepelova v Caroline Garcia (3)

Cepelova and Garcia were at a set apiece and 2-2 in the decider when play was stopped due to bad light.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Top 3 seeds out of Queens R1

Following last week's grass court tournaments in the Netherlands, Germany and London, further events this week are being held in Halle, Queens Club, Mallorca and Birmingham.

Winners last week were Gilles Muller who beat Ivo Karlovic in two tie break sets in s-Hertogenbosch.  Also in s-Hertogenbosch, Anett Kontaveit secured her first WTA title, winning in straight sets over Natalia Vikhlyantseva.

In Nottingham, Johanna Konta was upset by unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic, after winning the first set.  It was the first grass court title for the 20 year old and only her second title overall, her first coming in Malaysia in 2014.

Stuttgart was the scene for fourth seed Lucas Pouille to pull off victory in the final against Feliciano Lopez after dropping the opening set.

Upsets have been the order in Queens Club, London where the top three seeds have exited in the first round.
Aussies Jordan Thompson and Thanasi Kokkinakis have taken care of top seed Andy Murray and third seed Milos Raonic respectively, while Feliciano Lopez has continued his fine form by knocking of second seed Stan Wawrinka.
All these were in straight sets.

Different story in Halle, with Federer, Thiem, Nishikori and Zverev all safely through to the second round.

Birmingham has seen Dominika Cibulkova's run of bad form continue, the third seed losing another first round encounter, this time to a dangerous opponent Lucie Safarova.
Other first round losers of note were last week's Nottingham champ Donna Vekic and Ricoh Open finalist Natalia Vikhlyantseva.
Good to see Petra Kvitova playing and winning.
Big names such as Svitolina and Muguruza are first round winners.

In Mallorca a great sign was the return of Vika Azarenka to competitive tennis following the birth of her baby.
Currently Vika is a set all against Japan's Risa Ozaki but will be in better shape come Wimbledon.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Konta finding grass form

Finals have been decided in all the lead up tournaments to Wimbledon and the some of the grass court specialists have prevailed.

In the Netherlands, s-Hertogenbosch has hosted the Ricoh Open for the men and women.  The top four seeds in the ATP event were the semi finalists, but the truth of the draw fell over when top seed Marin Cilic lost to fellow Croatian and third seed Ivo Karlovic, two tie breaks the clincher. 

Second seed Alexander Zverev also lost to the lesser ranked Luxemburger Gilles Muller in straight sets.

The women's final will be an unseeded affair with Russia's 20 year old Natalia Vikhlyantseva killing off 19 year old fifth seed Ana Konjuh's chances 6-3 7-5.
The future is looking good with these two young players results in 2017.

Vikhlyantseva will play Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the final after Anett survived a three set two hour struggle against Lesia Tsurenko. A middle set tie break won seven points to zero by Tsurenko sent a scare up Kontaveit but she steadied to win the decider 6-2.

Stuttgart's final will be contested between unseeded Feliciano Lopez, who ousted another Zverev - Mischa - in three tight sets 6-7 7-6 7-5, and fourth seed Lucas Pouille, who won against compatriot Benoit Paire in straight sets.

Johanna Konta is running into form and a final in Nottingham is promising for her Wimbledon hopes.  Her semi final victory came against Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2 7-5.
Croatia's Donna Vekic took almost three hours to upset fifth seed Lucie Safarova 7-6 3-6 7-6 and the 20 year old will test the top seed in the final. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Haas upsets Federer in Stuttgart

In the lead up to Wimbledon a number of grass court tournaments are in progress.
s-Hertogenbosch is hosting both WTA and ATP events, while Stuttgart is holding an ATP event and Nottingham a WTA draw.

So far the biggest news is the loss by Roger Federer in Stuttgart.
After a first round bye, the top seed fell in three sets to an even older player Tommy Haas from Germany.
Haas, aged 39 and ranked 302, lost the first set easily 2-6 and the crowd was set for a disappointing result for their man.

Set two was even with both players converting a break, leading to a tie break which Haas won eight points to six.

Federer had seven break chances in the decider but Haas saved each of them.
The one break point given to Haas was converted and the veteran knocked the legend out 2-6 7-6 6-4, delighting the German crowd.

The draw now opens up for third seed Tomas Berdych and sixth seed Mischa Zverev, both players in the third round and in the Federer quarter of the draw.

In Nottingham only three seeds survived the first round.  One of these was top seed Johanna Konta who has won through to the third round where she will play Australian Ash Barty.

s-Hertogenbosch saw 161th ranked German 20 year old qualifier Antonia Lottner upset top seed Dominika Cibulkova in three sets in the first round.
As in Nottingham only three seeds progressed beyond the opening round - Ana Konjuh (5), Lesia Tsurenko (7) and Kristina Mladenovic (2)

Monday, 12 June 2017

Rafa thrashes Stan to take RG10

If ticket holders to the Men's Singles Final at Roland Garros were looking forward to something as exciting as the Women's Singles Final, then they were to be bitterly disappointed.  Yes the Spanish and Rafa Nadal fans were joyous as their man thrashed Stan Wawrinka in a touch over two hours (only 6 minutes longer than the women's final) but it was hardly a tennis match worthy of Grand Slam final status.

History makes the final worthy of discussion beyond the result.  Rafa Nadal registered his tenth title on the red clay in Paris.
It is the first time any one major has been won 10 times.
For the third time in those ten triumphs Rafa did not drop a set throughout the tournament.
He surrendered a mere 35 games including just six in the final.

As to the mismatch which ultimately gifted Rafa the historic tenth crown, Stan didn't show.
The Swiss third seed was offered only one break point for the entire match (in the third game), but Nadal snuffed that one out, forcing Stan into backhand error.

Set one defined the contest with Nadal hitting 10 winners to 4, and Wawrinka bleeding 17 unforced errors.  
Wawrinka could only manage to win half the points on his own serve whereas Nadal was comfortable, capturing 17 points off his 23 deliveries.
Two breaks of serve from several opportunities and set one easily in the Spanish bag 6-2.  

The second set was a little more competitive, but only ever so slightly.  Stan was more careful on serve, winning 12 of the 21 points on his serve.  Still better was Nadal, winning 20 of the 26 points available on his delivery.

Rafa just required the single break point and he used it in game two and effectively sealed the set there.  6-3 was the cruising end point.

Set three was a procession, with Nadal virtually throwing flowers to his fans as he shook hands of congratulations.
Reality had him smashing the remains of the Wawrinka challenge, if you could legitimately label it that.

The pair each won 13 points on their respective serves - Nadal from 16, Wawrinka from 31.
Nadal only contributed one unforced error for the set, in which he created five break chances, converting three.
When serving at 1-5 to stay in the match (correction - last at least one more game) Stan won a couple of points but lost four points through errors and that was the match.

Rafa fully deserved the title - his tennis the past fortnight was in a different stratosphere to the others in the draw.

Some significant Rankings changes as a result of Roland Garros:

Rafa Nadal from 4 to 2
Pablo Carreno Busta from 21 to 17
Kevin Anderson from 56 to 37

Novak Djokovic from 2 to 4
Jack Sock from 15 to 18
Steve Darcis from 38 to 56

Rafa Nadal is charging to number one - he is far and away the points leader this year and is good on the hard courts post Wimbledon.  He could well finish 2017 atop the rankings - if not before.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ostapenko ! - Who thought ?

20 year old Latvian Jelena Ostapenko is the 2017 Roland Garros Women's Singles Champion and what an amazingly unexpected exciting ride she took us on.

The achievement is outstanding on so many levels.  
- This is Jelena's first title and it is a major.
- She was unseeded, ranked 47, coming into the tournament. (Now she is #12)
- The first ever Grand Slam singles title to fly to Latvia has been captured by Ostapenko.
- Players beaten en route to this victory included Stosur, Wozniacki and Bacsinszky.
- Down 0-5 and then a set in both the Stosur and. Wozniacki matches.

To the final itself and Simona Halep had several things in mind strategically, but one single item was the key focus - run for everything and make no mistakes of your own.
Jelena had a completely different approach - attack everything, hit hard, errors will come but so will winners.

So the match was effectively on the younger players racquet.  If Ostapenko could shoot enough bullets accurately through the stout defence of Halep then the championship could be hers.

Set one was entertaining, and so gave us the entree to what was to be a delicious meal.
Ostapenko broke Halep to love in the opening game, throwing in two wicked backhand winners, immediately sounding a warning to those who thought this was a Halep walk in the park.
Halep shouted back with a message of her own, breaking back, and even belting a rare winner of her own.

The fifth game saw Ostapenko break the Halep serve again with ripping winners but the pattern continued - unforced errors and dropping the next game on serve due to nothing contributed by Halep, all self inflicted.

Games went to serve until when at 4-5 and 30-30 Ostapenko felt the nerves and her forehand fell apart.  Two poor shots and the set was in Romanian hands 6-4.

In set two game two Ostapenko saved two break points with forehand winners but the same forehand produced two shockers which gave Halep a 2-0 lead which stretched to 3-0 with a service hold.

A fourteen point game in which Ostapenko saved three break points was the turning point of the match.  Instead of 6-4 4-0 and a finish line so close for Halep, now Ostapenko had 1-3 and hope.

Hope morphed into more than that as the attacking Latvian began landing her huge shots as winners or forcing errors rather than missing the lines.
0-3 became 4-3 and set two suddenly awkward for the third seed.

The pressure was too much and in the ninth game Halep's forehand broke down and her serve was broken.
Ostapenko's forehand, however, lit up as she hit three winners off that wing to hold serve and take the set 6-4.

Although Halep steadied, and with the early break in the decider led 3-1, it was clear that her younger opponent had weapons at her disposal and could use these to overwhelm and break back as she had done many times already.

Jelena won the next five games, including breaking Simona to win the championship, sealed with a sizzling backhand winner, one of three in the final game.

4-6 6-4 6-3 with 54 winners and 54 unforced errors.  Simona hit 8 winners and only committed 10 unforced errors for the match.
It proves that safety first doesn't always bring rewards.

A few significant rankings movements, aside from Ostapenko moving into the top strata:

Simona Halep from 4 to 2
Caroline Wozniacki from 12 to 7
Caroline Garcia from 27 to 21
Timea Bacsinszky from 31 to 22

Garbine Muguruza from 5 to 15
Kiki Bertens from 18 to 27
Samantha Stosur from 22 to 34

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Can Stan stop Rafa RG10 ?

Andy Murray should not have won the first set in his semi final against Stan Wawrinka. Stan had broken the top seed and had served for the set, but failed, and had missed another golden chance when serving at 6-5 in the tie breaker.  Murray still won the set 7-6 and took the lead in what was to become a marathon among many of those endured in Roland Garros history.

Wawrinka continued to attack the Murray serve into set two, and his brand of play troubled Andy to the extent where Stan hit 18 winners, won 72% of points on his serve, faced no break points and broke Andy twice.

6–3 and the match was level.

The momentum continued in set three and Wawrinka broke the Murray serve in game two.  He held the break until Murray upped the ante in the seventh game where he converted a third break point in the game with a backhand winner.
The follow up hold of service evened the set at 4-4.

Four errors from the Swiss racquet in game eleven and the match had turned.  Murray claimed the set with assistance of more Wawrinka mistakes 7-5.

Down two sets to one, things appeared rather bleak for the 2015 champ.

No problem for Stan though - in a fourth set where no break points eventuated and a tie break was required, Wawrinka forced Murray into a backhand error three times in the tie break, enough to reach three set points on the Murray serve.
A Swiss forehand winner did the trick and it was two sets all.

Stan demolished Andy in the decider, belting another 15 winners (87 for the match), winning 16 of the 22 points on Murray's serve, and breaking the top seed's serve every time.

After four and a half hours Stan Wawrinka was now down to two fighters, himself gunning for a second RG title.

However he will need to be on his best form because his opponent is going to be Rafa Nadal.

Nadal made far quicker work of Dominic Thiem.  Just the three sets 6-3 6-4 6-0 and only a touch over two hours.
Nadal won 54 of 74 points on his serve while Thiem won only 41 of 81 on his efforts from the line.

Rafa hit 23 winners, only two more than Dominic, but kept his unforced error count to 22.  Thiem threw in 34 mistakes of his own.

In general play it was the forehands which were significant contributors to the thrashing.  Nadal was damaging with his - Thiem impotent with his.
Sadly the crowd missed out on a clash similar to the Rome quarter final where Thiem picked off Nadal's strengths and dictated the trend of the match.

Here it was simply Rafa in his second home and just shifting furniture.
Hopefully Wawrinka will offer more resistance in the final.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Halep v unseeded Ostapenko in RG finale

The women's final at Roland Garros 2017 will feature 2014 runner-up Romanian third seed Simona Halep and unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.
No surprise to see pre-tournament favourite Halep there but the Ostapenko story is a terrific one.

Halep had no easy ride on her way to perhaps a first major, having to wage a huge comeback in the Svitolina quarter final, including saving a match point.  However her running ability, capacity to deal with the second serve of Karolina Pliskova, and refusal to commit any unforced errors, enabled her to win a high quality semi final in three sets.

For the match, Pliskova attacked relentlessly, and at times it brought rewards - 
however seven aces over two hours does not reap enough free points for a serve which is normally far more generous in its donation of free points.  The four double faults didn't help either.

Halep hit a less than exciting 14 winners for the match but importantly only contributed the same amount of unforced errors, such was her focus.
Pliskova hit 45 winners but 55 unforced errors, three of those in the most vital of games - the eighth of the final set in which the ultimate break from Halep came.
The third seed served out the match decisively and will start a warm favourite to win the title, but her opponent continues to surprise.

Jelena Ostapenko turned 20 on the very day of her semi final and her hope, if maybe not her most realistic expectation, was to celebrate with victory over Timea Bacsinszky and a spot in the Roland Garros final.
The possibility of victory based on form this fortnight was actually very solid.  

Jelena began the tournament rather scratchily, taking the full three sets to dispose of Louisa Chirico.  This was the first singles match win of any description at Roland Garros for Ostapenko.  The taste was good as she swept aside Monica Puig and Lesia Tsurenko, both in straight sets, in the next rounds.

Then came the big wins against Samantha Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki, giving both players five games starts before displaying breathtaking tennis too much for the veterans.

Bacsinszky and Ostapenko opened proceedings with backhands blazing, winners aplenty, and the Swiss player earned the first break in a lengthy second game.  The young Latvian struck back immediately and from there it was excellent tennis for the rest of the set, two more breaks apiece, Ostapenko unable to serve it out at 6-5.

In one of the highest quality tie breaks of recent times, Ostepenko hit two forehand and three backhand winners, before sealing the set with a backhand volley winner.
Bacsinszky was immediately shocked by the brilliant cameo from Ostapenko but buckled down to the task at hand - set two.
Despite dropping her opening serve in the second set, Bacsinszky began to play the more consistent calm brand of tennis. 

While the more excitement may have been coming from the Latvian, with 14 winners and more net approaches, conservative Swiss strategy won the key points.  Timea's lower winner count but fewer mistakes accounted for her ability to break Jelena in the seventh and ninth games to secure a 6-4 advantage and level the match.

Serve was broken in the first three games of the decider, before Ostapenko held for 3-1.  Soon it became 3-3 but Bacsinszky had no more and the rampaging Ostapenko broke for 4-3, held for 5-3, and played a superb returning game to win the match.
From 15-15, the unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko hit one backhand and two forehand winners to clearly emphasise her arrival, not only in her debut Grand Slam singles final but in the top level of women's tennis.

Simona Halep will take the mantle of world number one should she win the final.  
Jelena Ostapenko will move into the top 15 if she wins - already she has jumped from 47 to 18 through her exploits over the past fortnight.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Thiem humiliates Djokovic

The much awaited semi final between clay king Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will not occur thanks to last year's semi finalist Dominic Thiem.
The Austrian has been regularly matched against Nadal this clay season and he thought it best that it should culminate in the clay major in Paris.

So not only did young Dominic upset the second seed and defending champion, he thrashed Djokovic in straight sets, the second and third effectively teaching classes to an already highly credentialed craftsman.  Revenge for last years semi final defeat here.

In an eighteen point marathon game Djokovic finally held for 3-2 in the opening set, saving a break point in the process.  The disappointment was too much for Thiem and he dropped serve the next game, giving Djokovic a 4-2 lead and possibly the first set.

However three forehand winners in the eighth game set up a return break and Thiem levelled at 4-4.  
A tie break had to separate the two and it was Thiem, with his ability to break down the Serb backhand, who celebrated a seven points to five triumph and an opening set win 7-6.
After that it was destruction of the Djokovic game, the extent to which was unfathomable.  Novak himself admitted the obvious '...I'm not playing close to my best...'.
Thiiem hit the second seed off the court 7-6 (5) 6-3 6-0 and will fancy his chances against Nadal, having beaten him in the Rome quarters just a couple of weeks back.

Nadal had an easier path to the semi match up, eliminating Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2 2-0.  Pablo unfortunately suffered an injury to his abdomen and had to retire early into the second set.

The second semi final will be Murray v Wawrinka as per last year, after Andy saw off Kei Nishikori in four sets, dropping the opener, and Stan crushed Marin Cilic 6-3 6-3 6-1.  Wawrinka is displaying the kind of form which won him the title in 2015.  However, Nadal had been beaten in the quarters that year - he is still around this year and running hot.

Can Halep be stopped ?

Elina Svitolina was within a millimetre of a semi final of Roland Garros 2017 but had her heart broken by a super resilient third seed Simona Halep.

Svitolina, the winner of more titles this year than any other female, played incredible tennis in the first set, leaving favourite Halep lost for any answer.
The powerful forehand was dynamite, leading to 10 of the Ukrainian 5th seed's 13 winners in an authoritative 6-3 display which was only an entree to what was to come in the next six games.

Elina lit up the Paris skies with five of the first six games of set two and things looked more than forlorn for Halep. Then a switch was dramatically turned.  
The Romanian held serve to momentarily keep the match alive, then at 30-30, serving for the match, Svitolina was dealt two backhand winners by Halep for a break and at 3-5 Simona now knew she had a chance.

Serving again for a semi final spot at 5-4, Elina failed, producing three poor forehands before a winning forehand from Halep squared the set at 5-5.
Eventually it was Svitolina who had to struggle to a tie break, saving three set points in the process.

The tie break was a tense process of twist and turns with first Svitolina earning a match point after two sensational winners, one off each wing.  It was saved with a backhand winner from Halep, assisted by the net.

Svitolina threw in a loose forehand and a Halep forehand winner then won her the set 8 points to 6.
Svitolina was shattered.  The decider was a whitewash and Simona Halep is in another Roland Garros semi final 3-6 7-6 (6) 6-0.

The next hurdle is second seed Karolina Pliskova whose straight sets victory over the last French player left in the draw, Caroline Garcia, was hard fought 7-6 6-4.
Pliskova wasted a chance to serve for the first set at 5-4 and had to tough it out in a difficult tie break.

The second set was on serve until Garcia fell at 4-5 to three clean winners from the Czech racquet and the match was over.

How Pliskova will deal with her first outing on clay at semi final level will be intriguing, especially with Halep rejoicing in her epic comeback.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Bacsinszky and Ostapenko in semi

Rain dominated Day 10 of Roland Garros 2017 so much so that the two scheduled male quarter finals were postponed until the following day.
Fortunately the two women's quarter finals were begun, and concluded with significant delays through a day and evening of frustration.

Both matches finished with the lower ranked players winning through to a semi final clash with each other, which was not a satisfying way to end a wet and miserable Paris Wednesday for supporters of French hope Kiki Mladenovic.

Mladenovic had opportunities against Swiss miss Timea Bacsinszky but was not able to hold together her game which until now had been held up as one to beat for the title.
Bacsinszky was flying under the radar, and shouldn't have been, considering her recent form on the Roland Garros clay.  Her ranking is below her actual playing ability, perhaps affected by an injury affected start to the year, but her results have been impressive in parts, including a win in Fed Cup over Mladenovic.

Timea hit more winners and kept her unforced errors to a minimum, while Kiki was less able to control her attacking shot making.  The break opportunities were more frequent for Timea, and although Kiki did particularly well in saving many with brilliance, it was not enough and each set was solidly snapped up 6-4 6-4 and Bacsinszky found herself again in a Grand Slam semi final.  Once more it would be on the Paris red clay, but this time her battle would not be with Super Serena but Surprise Jelena.

Jelena Ostapenko, who turns 20 on the day of her semi final, seems to thrive on giving away 0-5 starts.
Sam Stosur, in the round of sixteen, appeared to be giving the Latvian a thorough lesson.  However, after taking the set 6-2 Sam was turned into the student as an energised Ostapenko ripped apart the Aussie game to win her way to a quarter final with 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki.

Intriguingly, Wozniacki had never beaten Ostapenko in all of their previous three clashes, including two on clay last year.
Wozniacki began with hopes of reversing that trend, and quickly, in Stosur fashion 5-0, barely giving the teenager time to blink.

Ostapenko replied defiantly, breaking the Danish serve twice to bring it back to 4-5 and serving to level it all.
Wozniacki broke in time to lead 6-4, but as with Stosur, and even more decisively, Ostapenko hit Wozniacki out of Paris in the next two sets.

26 winners to 4 and 10 points won at the net from ten attempts compared with one from one, portrayed a young star intent on attacking to win a match rather than trying just to make as few mistakes as possible - the latter is what Wozniacki found herself doing because she ran out of winning options. 4-6 6-2 6-2 

Ostapenko is an exciting unknown quantity and yet another addition to the depth of women's tennis which is looking rich even when Serena leaves a huge gap.

Weather permitting we will see the remaining women's quarter finals on Day 11, plus all 4 Men's quarters, including the standout Djokovic v Thiem.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Debut womens champ assured

Quarter finals time at Roland Garros and of the eight men left in the draw five have won at least one Grand Slam title. Of the other three one has been a finalist and one a semi finalist (here last year) So odds are no new winner of the men's singles crown, especially given Nadal's hot form.

However, there will be a first time Grand Slam title for whoever takes home the chocolates in the women's final.  Garbine Muguruza did it last year and any of the eight remaining have the chance to do it this year.

Caroline Wozniacki has been runner up twice in the US Open, but only been to the quarters here once before and never beyond.
Her opponent Jelena Ostapenko has never been this far in a Grand Slam event, in fact last year lost her opening match in all 4.

Elina Svitolina has her best GS record on the clay at Roland Garros, having made the quarter final here two years ago.
She will face the bookies favourite of the remaining players, Simona Halep, who was a beaten finalist here in 2014, losing to Maria Sharapova. 

Karolina Pliskova, the highest remaining seed (2), struggled in her fourth round match against 97th ranked Paraguayan Veronica Cepede Royg.  Veronica had never previously made it through to a Grand Slam main draw so taking Pliskova to three sets in the round of sixteen was a great achievement.

Pliskova managed to reach the quarters here - her GS history was rather ordinary until she made the US Open final last year and followed up with a quarter final appearance in this year's Aus Open.  Her serve is a major weapon but also can be her downfall.
Karolina next has to deal with French favourite Caroline Garcia.

The best prior to Roland Garros 2017 in a Grand Slam event for Garcia had been a few third round losses, and she'd never been past the second round here.

The final quarter final features in form Swiss player Timea Bacsinszky and Kiki Mladenovic, the second of the two French girls still alive in the tournament.
Former top ten player Bacsinszky was a semi finalist here in 2015 (losing to Serena Williams after leading by a set and a break) and quarter finalist last year.

For Mladenovic this is her second GS quarter final following the 2015 US Open.  However it is a breakthrough here after losing in the third round in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Not much to work with going on history, except Simona Halep has been to the final before and is in exceptional form, so it would be hard to see anyone stopping her charge to the title from here.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Ostapenko upsets Stosur

The first quarter finals were set on Day 8 at Roland Garros, and surprisingly 2016 champ Garbine Muguruza won't be one of the final eight.  French fans were elated to see Kiki Mladenovic win the day in a thrilling three setter.  Next for the 13th seed is Timea Bacsinszky, who eliminated 10th seed Venus Williams after dropping the opening set.  
Bacsinszky dominated Williams for the remainder of the match, hitting 19 winners and winning 63 points to 40.

The other quarter final decided will be a clash between 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki and unseeded teenager Jelena Ostapenko.  Ostapenko recovered from 0-5 in the first set against Samantha Stosur, and eventually losing that set, to overwhelm the Australian 2-6 6-2 6-4.

Wozniacki proved too strong for 8th seed Sveta Kuznetsova in the opening set but the two time Grand Slam champ pushed Wozniacki to a decider with the type of tennis that saw her lift the Roland Garros trophy in 2009.

Wozniacki steadied and played an excellent third set, committing only two unforced errors and winning 60% of points on the Kuznetsova serve.

Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic are only one match each away from the eagerly awaited semi final.  Nadal has dispatched one compatriot easily - Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1 6-2 6-2.  His quarter final opponent is Pablo Carreno Busta.  This Spaniard took over four hours to defeat fifth seed Milos Raonic, the final set 8-6. 

Novak's task is potentially tougher, needing to overcome Dominic Thiem.  Djokovic defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets.  Thiem continued his dominant form in this tournament by thrashing Horacio Zeballos in the fourth round.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Rafa easily - Novak escapes

Heading closer to a meeting in the semi finals, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic had the most contrasting third round matches you could ever imagine on Day Six of Roland Garros 2017.
Nadal was incredible, only giving up one game in his slaughter of Nikoloz Basilashvili from Georgia.  His next victim will be fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, the 17th seed having dispensed of Jiri Vesely.

Djokovic, however, was a break ahead in set one against Argentine Diego Schwartzman, before dropping serve twice and losing the advantage 5-7.  Better news in set two when the second seed pounced in the eighth game to break and then hold for 6-3 and level proceedings.
Schwartzman was still playing the more consistent tennis and Djokovic found himself in deep trouble in set three, unable to convert the four break points given him, but broken once and down two sets to one.

The defending champion dug into his reserves and treated the crowd to some of his magic just in time.  The final sets were completely different, with Serb domination the theme. 6-1 6-1 and Djokovic escaped to reach the round of sixteen where he will play 19th seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.  Albert also needed to win the final two sets to oust 16th seed Lucas Pouille and disappoint the crowd by sending another French player home.  

Other fourth round matches will see:

Raonic v Carreno Busta
Thiem v Zeballos (Goffin was leading Zeballos but was unfortunately forced out through a freak injury to his ankle thanks to the tarpaulin)

The women's matches were all won by the favourites and as a result fourth round matches will be:

Defending champ Garbine Muguruza v French player Kiki Mladenovic 
Samantha Stosur v Jelena Ostapenko 
Venus Williams v Timea Bacsinszky 

Caroline Wozniacki was in a battle with American teenager Catherine Bellis 6-2 2-5 when play was suspended.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Murray slowly finds form

Andy Murray had a slow beginning to his second round match at Roland Garros, losing the opening set to Martin Klizan from Slovakia.  He recovered from that lapse as the world number one should, and although it took three and a half hours it was an impressive win, with 41 winners as evidence.

Local fans were pleased with the straight sets progress of Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils but were less happy that Kei Nishikori and Fernando Verdasco ended the hopes of other French players Jeremy Chardy and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Wawrinka, Cilic and Isner progressed without a hitch, and del Potro was handed a free pass when Almagro was unfortunately forced out through injury at a set apiece.

Delpo will feature in possibly the tournament highlight so far - a clash with Andy Murray in round three.

Prominent casualties in Day five were Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios, who fell to Karen Khackanov and Kevin Anderson respectively.

The crowd was delighted to see French favourite Alize Cornet upset Barbora Strycova, allowing the 20th seed a mere 5 games for the match.  The Czech player didn't help her chances, contributing 36 unforced errors.

Better news for Czech fans was the win by the highest remaining ranked player in the draw, Karolina Pliskova, although Ekaterina Alexandrova took her the distance.
10th seed Agnieszka Radwanska also had to fight all the way to reach the third round, overcoming a fine performance from Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck, ranked 113 in the world.

Svitolina and Vesnina both came from a set down to survive but seeds Madison Keys, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ana Konjuh said farewell from the singles draw.

Simona Halep, Caroline Garcia, Anastasija Sevastova and Carla Suarez Navarro continued to win with relative ease.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Jabeur makes history at RG

Day Four of Roland Garros was historic but Dominika Cibulkova will not be celebrating. The sixth seed lost her second round match to Tunisia's Ons Jabeur.
Ranked 114, Jabeur was a lucky loser from qualifying and becomes the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grsnd Slam tournament.

The 2011 Roland Garros junior champion was in charge from the outset, using the drop shot on many occasions to great effect, and hitting lots of clean winners.
Jabeur broke Cibulkova in the ninth game of set one and closed it out 6-4.

Cibulkova struck back, streaking out to a 3-1 lead in set two.  There it ended for the Slovak whose lead in form to Paris has been less than impressive.  Five straight games for Jabeur and her enjoyment of Roland Garros continues, Swiss 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky her next challenge.

Reigning champ Garbine Muguruza dropped the opening set to future star Anett Kontaveit but recovered to keep her hopes of successive titles alive.
Petra Kvitova's hopes of a honeymoon return to competitive tennis was stopped by Bethanie Mattek-Sands in two tie break sets, but the grass of Wimbledon is looking attractive for the Czech star.

18 year old American Catherine Bellis knocked out 18th seed and last start winner Kiki Bertens in three sets, but other seeds were more comfortable in travelling to the third round, especially Caroline Wozniacki who selfishly won all 12 games against Canada's Francoise Abanda.

French fans were sad to see the end of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's chances at lifting this year's trophy, with his loss to unheralded Renzo Olivo in four sets.
Better fortune for fellow Frnchman Lucas Pouille who dispatched Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci in three sets.

Nadal, Djokovic and Thiem breezed through their matches with Haase, Sousa and Bolelli.  Ivo Karlovic was, with Tsonga, the only seed to fall, losing in straight sets to Horacio Zeballos from Argentina.

On the doubles front a big upset occurred - Australians Nick Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson defeated the French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

Kyrgios is back on court for more serious competition tomorrow, taking on another big server South African Kevin Anderson.  Expect a lot of short points.