Monday, June 3, 2013

French Open: Quarterfinal Preview

I still go back and forth regarding my sporadic blogging about tennis, but I guess waiting until the late stages of a slam to start posting is a temporary solution. With that said, the first 10 days of the French Open has come and gone and after we're left with the last 8 men and women of the tournament. Among them are many of the usual suspects including 5 former champions, but a few surprises as well like a couple of Tommys over 30 years old.

N. Djokovic [1] vs. T. Haas [12]
R. Nadal [3] vs. S. Wawrinka [9]
D. Ferrer [4] vs. T. Robredo [32]
R. Federer [2] vs. J. Tsonga [6]

Yes, Rafael Nadal is going for his 8th French Open title. Yes, top seed Novak Djokovic is looking to improve his results last year by winning and achieving a career Grand Slam. And yes, Roger Federer is attempting not only his second French Open title, but also his first title of the year. But can we just talk about 35 year-old Tommy Haas and 31st year-old Tommy Robredo? By this time last year Haas was ranked outside the top 100 while Robredo, beset with injuries, was ranked in the high 400s. Since then, they've played well enough to get seeded here and their performance is nothing by inspiring. Robredo actually becomes the first man since 1927 to come back two sets down in three consecutive matches while Haas is the first German to reach the Roland Garros quarterfinals and the oldest major quarter-finalists since Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open. Haas' 3rd round match with Isner has been dubbed by many as the match of the tournament so far with the German edging out the tall American 10-8 in the fifth set.

Both men will be underdogs in their next matches as Haas will face a rusty, but still solid Djokovic while Robredo will go up against relentless David Ferrer. Nadal, who had uncharacteristically slow starts in his first few matches, is the obvious favorite against Stan Wawrinka, who had to come back down 0-2 sets in his latest match versus perennial major non-quarterfinalist Richard Gasquet. The most intriguing quarterfinal match of the lot will be between Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga since despite Federer's 9-3 record H2H against the Frenchman, Federer was pushed to 5 sets in his last match while Tsonga hasn't even lost a set the entire tournament.

S. Williams [1] vs. S. Kuznetsova
A. Radwanska [4] vs. S. Errani [5]
V. Azarenka [3] vs. M. Kirilenko [12]
M. Sharapova [2] vs. J. Jankovic [18]

First and foremost, this is Serena Williams' tournament to lose. This is true even though she hasn't won the French Open in more than a decade and had only played ONE match total in Roland Garros the past two years! Of course anything can happen (see her first round loss last year), but she hasn't lost on clay this year and in terms of pure power and talent, there is no one left that should trouble her. She'll have to face former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova who hasn't had a great year since her quarterfinal result at this year's Australian Open and came into this tournament unseeded. On the same side of the draw is 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska who beat former champion Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round to reach her first French Open quarterfinals. She'll meet last year's "surprise" finalist Sara Errani who is so far backing up last year's result. That's probably the one match that could go either way.

Defending champion Maria Sharapova is playing like the defending champion and she can certainly repeat provided Serena isn't her opponent at the finals. First she'll have to get through Jelena Jankovic who has had mixed results this year, but seems to be finding some form here. Sharapova should still win based on form. On the same side, Victoria Azarenka took out former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone to reach another major quartefinal (her 7th in her past nine slams). She should be seen as the favorite against Maria Kirilenko who was blessed with an easy (hasn't faced anyone ranked above 50).

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