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Meltdown of the Week


Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

Thanks to Sharapova's Victory, Caitlin Thompson Wins Cake Contest

WNYC colleague Caitlin Thompson crushes ball, bracket contest, with Sharapova/Errani French Open final.

It will either be Maria Sharapova or Sara Errani hoisting the Muskateers' Cup this Saturday at Roland Garros in Paris.  But we already know who will be lifting the first-ever I Hate Tennis French Open Cake Contest: Caitlin Thompson, editor of WNYC's politics website, It's A Free Country.

My "daft punk" (what does that mean?) colleague emerged victorious over her Thompson Twin, Tam Thomsen, with 135 points.  Thomsen needed Petra Kvitova to final in order to be Queen of the Buttercream.

"Bake me something unconventional," said Thompson. "If you want to go crazy, go for it."

Maybe that's what makes her daft punk.  She'll eat avocado-chocolate cake with foie gras frosting.  Hmmmm.....

Down, but not out: Sara Errani is in the French Open final. Copyright FFT.One of my favorite players to watch -- and listen to -- Sara Errani, grunted and hustled her way past 6th-seed and 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.  

David Sutton, on the Roland Garros website, said the third set was a "titanic struggle":

Every point was worth its weight in gold, and Errani played a flawless seventh game to lead 4-3. A lucky net cord, a double fault and a superb backhand lob brought her two break points, saved by Stosur, but another double brought Errani a third and when Stosur hit wide, the Italian was one game from glory.

Errani kept her nerve to see the match out, wrong-footing her opponent on match point before collapsing to the floor, overcome by the realisation that she had reached her first Grand Slam final.

Errani, who lost to Stosur just a few weeks earlier in Rome, told reporters the keys to the match for her were strong returns of Sam's wicked kick serve, and solid service games of her own.  

She served out the third and deciding set at love.  Wasn't she nervous? a reporter asked:

Yes.  I was very nervous, but on the same time I was really focused on the game.  Maybe she had more pressure.  So I just want to just think about what I had to do."

She said she focused on "put the ball where I want to put."  Sounds simple, right, haters? Put the ball where you want to put.  Not putt.

It's been a banner tournament, and clay court season, for the 25-year-old Italian.  She's also in tomorrow's doubles final with Roberta Vinci.  And she's won three other tournaments on clay.  Sforza, Saretta, sforza!

Glam Slam: Maria Sharapova finals, reclaims #1. Copyright FFT. She will need sforza against Maria Sharapova, who cruised past a misfiring Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 6-3.  Maria must have savored this one. Kvitova denied her another Wimbledon crown in their championship meet-up last year. 

By reaching the French Open final, Sharapova becomes the best female player in the world. The last time she was called this was 7 long years and a shoulder surgery ago.  A French Open championship would be a huge get for a woman who once said she felt like a "cow on ice" on the red clay.  

What do you think, haters?  Maria, or Sara?  I'm going with Errani in 3.  I like the way she's moving and serving.  In her match with Stosur, she got 86% of her first serves in, compared to Sharapova's 79% against Kvitova.  And Errani loves the net.  She succeeded 71% of the time in her approaches to net, vesus Maria's 50%.  If Errani pulls off some of the drop shots she used to take out Angelique Kerber, Sharapova may start mooing.



I Hate Tennis Iconic Image: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

What's there to do after you fail to make good use of 4 match points against Novak Djokovic before a stadium full of your fellow Frenchmen?  

You hide.  Under a towel.  And never come out.


Rain, Ferrer, Spoil Murray's Run; Nadal Moves On

Holding him back: Murray's cranky back, cranky personality, hurt him against a steady Ferrer. Copyright FFT.

Andy Murray hates tennis.  Especially today, after David Ferrer frustrated him with high percentage shots and wore him down in 3 hours, 45 minutes.  Ferrer is through to his first French Open semifinal, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-2.

Murray grimaced and grumbled and clutched at his balky back.  He got impatient with the Spanish 6th-seed's long rallies, hitting 59 unforced errors against Ferrer's 32.

David Tutton, blogging on the match for the Roland Garros website, described it this way:

[Ferrer] had not dropped a set all tournament, and he lured Murray into the same trap as his earlier victims. Undecided as to whether he should attack or defend, the Scot fell between two stools, and was caught in long rallies that ended more often than not when he committed an error. And when he did try to throw in a drop-shot or change things up, the ploy did not work.

Murray turned his frustration on the ball, getting more aggressive in the second set, and held to open the third.  But a half hour rain delay soured his already-dark mood.  Ferrer seized the advantage, and the match, breaking Murray 10 times.  

With his win over Almagro, Nadal is 50-1 lifetime at Roland Garros. Copyright FFT.Now Ferrer faces his countryman, Rafael Nadal, who wasn't slowed at all by the rain.  He defeated another fellow Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3, saving 4 break points. He's two wins away from a record 7th title in Paris. 

In the women's quarterfinals, 2nd-seed Maria Sharapova dispatched 23rd-seed Kaia Kanepi, 6-2, 6-3.  

It was a tougher quarter for Wimbledon defending champ Petra Kvitova.  She needed 3 sets to get rid of qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova.  "I had zero energy left.  Just super tired," said Shvedova, who had to play three qualifying matches before getting into the main draw.

Kvitova's win puts Tam "Buttercream" Thomsen in 1st place in the I Hate Tennis French Open Cake Contest, with 132 points.  It's either her or the other Thompson to take the cake, according to bracket sponsor Tourneytopia's analysis of possible scenarios.  If Kvitova makes it to the finals and faces either Stosur or Errani, Tam wins, no matter who raises the Muskateers' Cup.  If Sharapova finals, and faces Stosur or Errani, Caitlin gets the blood sugar spike all to herself.  

Haters, who are you rooting for?  Sharapova/Thompson, or Kvitova/Thomsen?



Escape Artists: Djokovic and Federer Through After Five-Setters

Speak up, Nole, I can't hear you: "I WON!"

I'd be screaming into the fist mic, too, if I fended off 4 match points to advance to the French Open semifinals.

World number 1 Novak Djokovic had plenty to roar about in his thrilling, five-set instant classic against crowd favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-1.

Djokovic came out strong, taking the first set in 21 minutes and going up, 4-2, in the second, before Tsonga woke up from his on court nap and remembered that he was playing in his home country's presitious Slam.  Time to make the donuts.

And he did.  Jo-Willy started hitting winners, and coming to net more.  Tsonga's got great feel at net, and for the match, he won 65% of his net opportunities to Djokovic's 58%. He took the 2nd and 3rd sets, and was poised to take everything in the tenth game of the 4th set, when Djokovic dug deep.

Here's how The New York Times' Christopher Clarey described it: 

One point from elimination at 4-5, 15-40, in the fourth set, Djokovic transformed a bold backhand passing shot from Tsonga into a crisp volley winner. Down, 4-5, 30-40, he hit a big first serve and forehand winner.

Down, 5-6, 30-40, in his next service game, he hit a second serve, kept the ball deep and was rewarded with a forehand error from Tsonga. Down, 5-6, ad-out, he pushed forward again and repelled Tsonga’s fourth match point with an overhead.

Djokovic won the 4th set tiebreak, leaving Tsonga tugging at his Mohawk and muttering to himself. A little more than a half hour later, the Frenchman was hiding under his towel and crying while Djokovic was awash in relief.

Tsonga, according to the Times, said he felt "fatigue, frustraion, disappointment."

You go a bit through all the feelings. You want to break all your rackets. You want to shout. You want to cry. You want to laugh, saying, ‘This has to be a joke, how did I manage to lose this match?’ You want to wake up."

He'll wake up tomorrow, remembering he played the best tennis of his career, yet blew 4 chances for a historic win against a guy who's trying to be the first man since 1969 to take all four Slam championships in a row.  

Tsonga said it best: "That's tennis."

Special delivery from the FedExpress: his 31st Slam semifinal, tying Jimmy Connor's record. Copyright FFT.

Novak Djokovic now faces 16-time Slam winner Roger Federer, in a rematch of their 2011 French Open semifinal.  Fed is 14-11 against the Djoker, but the Serb has won their last two meetings, in the US Open semifinal last year and the semi in Rome last month.  

Federer did his own Houdini act, wiggling out of a 2-set hole against Juan Martin del Potro, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3.  Del Potro seemed hampered by a balky left knee that has been bothering him since the beginning of the tournament, but he told reporters later his knee wasn't a factor.  He said it was his serve.

"If I serve bad against Federer or the top guys, you don't have too many chance to win points," said del Po.

I don't know what he was talking about.  His first serve percentage was 59% to Fed's 58%. He won 74% of points when he got his first serve in, while Roger collected 69%.  But Federer had a lot of easy points on his serve, racking up 11 aces to del Po's 6.  And Federer hit 59 winners to JMdP's measly 33.

Del Potro said he's just happy to have made it this deep into the French Open, and to take some sets off of the Greatest of All Time -- something he hasn't done in two years.

"So when I win sets, when I win games against big players, against those who have a better ranking than mine, there's always something to learn," he said.

There is positive and negative, and I have to work on the negative aspects."


Errani to Semis in French Open, First Slam Semis in Her Career

Sara Errani, victorious! Copyright FFT.Sara Errani booked her first ticket into a Slam semifinal today, beating another woman making a surprisingly deep run, Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 7-6 (2).

Errani threw her racquet down -- in a good way -- and covered her face with her hands.  

Kate Battersby, at, points out that Errani, the 24th seed, was 0-28 against top ten players before today.  Kerber is Number 10 in the world, and was seeded 10th.

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