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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

#BetweenTheBaselines: French Open Mid-Major Report Card
The second major of the tennis season reaching final weekend


What a crazy #RG16 we are experiencing #tennis fans.  Everything from shocking upsets to stellar shot making to weather controversy...the 2016 #FrenchOpen has not lacked drama and excitement.

As the senior draws enter the Elite 8 and beyond stages, let's take a quick look back at what we have seen so far.  It's the annual major tradition of handing out the #TwineTime mid-major report card:

MATCH

Bye Bye Big Boys - The story of opening week was less about the victories on the court and more about the withdraws off the court.  Heading into #RG16 we already saw the record grand slam appearance streak of #GOAT leader Roger Federer end at 65 consecutive appearances.  What none of us expected would be two more contenders going down during the opening few rounds.  The withdraw of 9-time champion Rafa Nadal due to a left wrist injury was a huge shock.  Compounded with the withdraw of home nation fan favourite Jo-Willy Tsonga due to a groin injury (while leading 5-2 over Gulbis) sent additional shock waves through the clay.  Nadal and Tsonga seemed destined for a QF meeting...instead they watched from the sidelines while two upstart, "upsets" marched on.

SET

Defending Champions Pull The Double? - 2015 Champs Stan Wawrinka and Serena Williams continue to roll through the draw looking to become the first men's and women's duo to repeat at Roland Garros.  #StanTheMan looked vulnerable in his opening match, a tough 5 setter vs Czech Lukos "I Beat Nadal At Wimbledon" Rosol.  Since then he has barely been tested in his matches, minus the set loss to Victor Troicki in R4.  Wawrinka hasn't faced stiff competition either...with his toughest battle coming in the anticipated (and predicted) SF match vs. Andy Murray.  As for #Serena....same old.  Another slam, another mowing down of the competition in the early rounds.  Outside of her R3 clash with Kiki Mladenovic (whom #TwineTime predicted would defeat Serena) where she survived 6-4, 7-6, she has been unstoppable.  In her other three matches, she has lost a combined 7 games.  Overall, Serena has only dropped 17 games.  Impressive right?  Well her QF opponent, Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva has only dropped 18 games.  I doubt we see an upset in the QF, Serena could get tested in her SF by either last year's SF opponent Timea Bacsinszky or red-hot Kiki Bertens.  Right now though, both Serena and Stan are looking quite strong and may be tough to beat.  On a side note, I don't think we have ever seen a defending grand slam champion generating less media buzz and attention than Wawrinka....many barely even talk about him.  Flying under the radar is just what he does when he wins a slam (Remember last year and his 2014 Aussie Open title?).  If you do want to see more of Wawrinka though, follow him on Snapchat...you won't be disappointed (he even has his own filter)!!!

GAME

Fear The Unknown - One of the things us tennis fans love about the French Open is the unpredictability of the draw.  In the #TwineTime French Open preview, this exact topic was raised and we questioned if someone could follow in the footsteps of unheralded past champions Anastasia Myskina or Gaston Gaudio.  Well 2016 has not disappointed.  Just look at the women's quarterfinalists.  Quick raise your hand if you predicted Yulia Putintseva, Kiki Bertens, Shelby Rogers and Tsvetana Pironkova in the Elite 8.  Heck, raise your hand if you even predicted ONE of these 4 to make it this far.  Yeah, not seeing any hands in the hair (even virtually!!).  Putintseva's best grand slam result was R3 at this years Australian Open.  Bertens has never made it past R2 in any major.  Rogers best was R3 at the 2015 US Open.  Pironkova is the most successful, making the SF at Wimbledon...back in 2010!  She did also make R4 at the 2012 US Open but had never made it past R3 at the French Open.  Nobody could see these 4 women storm through the draw like they did.  Although I should say Bertens has been on quite the roll entering the event, winning the tune-up in Germany.  Now sure, Rogers and Pironkova did lose to the more experienced Garbine Muguruza and Sam Stosur in the QF but still a tremendous result for both.  Can Putintseva (vs. Serena) or Bertens (vs. Bacsinszky) continue their upset run to the title?  On the men's side, little less drama but still upsets, most notably with Albert Ramos-Vinolas reaching the QF.  Ramos-Vinolas had never advanced beyond R2 at any grand slam and his QF run included a complete demolishing of #8 seed Milos Raonic in R4.  No shame for Albert though in losing his QF to defending champ Wawrinka.  We will get a surprise SF though when we see who emerges in the QF clash between #12 David Goffin and #13 Dominic Thiem.  Go check out the preview link above and see who #TwineTime coined as the one to Watch Out For (Hint: Go Austria!!).

40

No Set Loss For Me - Can you name the one player men's play who has yet to drop a set during this grand slam?  Djoker?  Nope!  #Stanimal?  Nope!  For sure not Murray!!  If you are thinking singles player, you are wrong.  The only men's player still kickin' up the dirt on a perfect slam is Brazilian Marcelo Melo, playing doubles with Ivan Dodig.  The #3 seeds have advanced to the men's doubles SF and are yet to drop a set (for the record Dodig played men's singles and lost in R2).  The closest match they have played has been their QF 6-4, 6-4 win.  With the top men's seed being upset earlier, Melo and Dodig have a strong shot at repeating their French Open title from a year ago.


BTW: On the women's draw, quarterfinalists Serena Williams, Yulia Putintseva and Timea Bacsinszky are yet to drop a set...with Williams and Putintseva preparing for a QF showdown.

30

Hingis History Denied - What a story for the now-35 year old #SwissMiss Martina Hingis!  Forced to retire still in the prime of her career due to injuries, she has made a resurrection through playing doubles tennis.  Hingis and Indian partner Sania Mirza have been unstoppable over the past 18 months...almost!  Hingis was looking to claim the 2016 French Open women's doubles title to complete her second non-calendar year Grand Doubles Slam achievement (previous coming in 1998-99).  Many, myself included, thought this was the slam dunk prediction of all the senior events hitting the clay in Paris.  Nope!  Hingis would be denied her chance at history when she and Mirza were defeated in R3 by unseeded, and almost unknown, Czech pair Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.  Krejcikova and Siniakova have never been past R2 of any slam, singles or doubles, prior to this event.  Props to them on pulling the upset (perhaps a dark horse women's doubles team for the Olympics?).  The Czech duo followed up their win with a QF win over fellow Czech doubles specialists Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Hradecka and now will meet 2013 French Open (and 2014 US Open) champions from Russia Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the SF.  As for Hingis, don't get too sad too quick.  She is still alive in mixed doubles with another Indian partner, Leander Paes.  They are currently slated to take on fifth-seed Elena Vesnina / Bruno Soares in the QF.

15

on mon Dieu - The poor French tennis fans...you have to feel for them.  Proudly out battling the horrid weather during week one only to see all their home nation players fall flat on the clay courts, much to their chagrin.  Sure there were mild successes to boast about, notably Richard Gasquet finally reaching the QF and surpassing the R4 #RolandGarros curse.  Of course Gasquet would be defeated in the QF by Andy Murray.  Overall, this French Open has been "catastrophe" pour les Francais.  On the men's draw, 15 Frenchmen started play on Day 1.  At the end of R3, only Gasquet was still standing with Gilles Simon and Jeremy Chardy beaten in R3 and Tsonga withdrawing...add in the pre-tournament withdraw of French favourite Gael Monfils.  As for the women, basically the same end result.  10 women began French Open dreams and all 10 found defeat prior to R4....with Kiki Mladenovic, Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier the only ones to survive to R3 (and subsequently lose).  Interesting to note, Paris fans may not turn their love to the Williams sisters anytime soon as Serena defeated Mladenovic and Venus eliminated Cornet.  All hope is not lost for French flags waving on championship weekend as men's doubles wildcard team Julien Benneteau/Edouard Roger-Vasselin have made the QF and women's doubles #5 seed Caroline Garcia/Kristina "Kiki" Mladenovic have advanced to the SF.  France hasn't had a men's singles champion since 1983 (Yannick Noah) or finalist since 1988 (Henri Leconte).  Mary Pierce was the last French women's singles champ (2000) and the last finalist (2005).  Unfortunately both of those futility streaks will continue for another year. "on mon Dieu"

BAGEL

Rain, rain, go away!! - The weather has played havoc on the scheduling throughout the tournament.  Organizers have been left desperately trying to squeeze in as many games as possible since most of Sunday and all of Monday games were rained out.  Even when play resumed on Tuesday, players were forced to not only battle one another but the continued onslaught of rain drops pelting them.  Just ask Aggie Radwanska and Simona Halep what they thought on the playing conditions during their 4th round upset losses to Tsvetana Pironkova and Sam "Bam Bam" Stosur.  If there was ever a time to begin construction on a roof for this grand slam, 2016 is the perfect example on why it is needed...and soon!


As we enter the final few days of #RG16, stay tuned to your TV sets and online scores to see who emerges victorious this year.  As for the #TwineTime preview & predictions?  Men's draw still going strong.  As for the women's draw?  Yikes!  Better luck next year for me I suppose.....