Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Roland Garros: Barn Burner


So…a fine purveyor of the backhand dropshot, a lefty, with three WTA ex girlfriends and still sporting a backwards baseball cap at the age of 29.

A man of many talents, but certainly no Jurgen-Schmergen….

I only saw the closing moments. Melzer came back from 2 sets down for the first time in his career. He only converted four of a staggering twenty-four break points yet was still able to serve it out in five.

Not always the highest quality, but exactly the kind of barn burner the event needed.

I set my bar for “breakthrough” performances very high these days. You have Robin to thank for that. What I suspect we’ve seen here is a long time talent getting a grip on all of his working parts (of which there are many), rather than any kind of breakaway bid for top ten entry.


I still find myself wincing every time I see Djoko serve nowadays. I hadn’t seen a single one of his matches here this year. The one I did see turned out to be his last.

Not a poor clay court season by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly no 2009 (or 2008 for that matter).


…and still the run goes on.

That opening set was full of the kind of crisp ball striking and point construction that makes her such a joy to watch – so inspired in fact that I was a little disappointed she wasn’t able to close it out in two.

You’d think that anyone that beats Henin and Serena back to back in a Slam ought to win the title.

And yet, Serena hasn’t been past the quarters of Roland Garros since 2003 and Henin-isn’t-as-Henin-was (nor does she seem to want to be).

There are those that are deterministically inclined to think of every match Serena plays as being “on her racquet”. It’s an appraisal I find it difficult not to agree with most of the time. Folly, surely, to argue with a record as enduring as hers at Melbourne, Wimby or Flushing.

Her results here, however, speak for themselves too. The surface very evidently inhibits her movement – and I’m not convinced she gets quite the pace she seems to generate so freely everywhere else.

The match may be “on her racquet” elsewhere, but at RG you’ll only see it spend part of it’s time there before jilting her in favour of someone else in the ballroom.

It’s why I feel she wasn’t able to convert on that single match point: you can bet your bottom dollar that wouldn’t have happened at Melbourne.


That leaves four ladies in contention (Jakovic closed out Shvedova in straights) – neither of whom have won a Slam.

Frankly, I’m having a little trouble deciding.

Dementieva – So near and yet so far once too often. Continues to be held back by that poor excuse for a serve. “Davydenko of the WTA” or just another consummate choker”? You decide. Few would doubt she’s put in the mileage.

Schiavone – Heart. Variety. Thy name is Franny. You’d be hard pressed to find a more likeable player on tour, or one with as diverse a set of talents.

Jankovic – This time last year she was my pick for the title. It seemed a necessary consequence of her impressive record at Rome. Then muscles happened, Ricardo Sanchez happened and she seemed to lose her way. Good news is that both those things have “unhappened” now and she seems to have reacquired something of her standing as the best mover/defender in the game.

Stosur – To be honest, treated as a package of many working parts, Sammy seems to be executing better than anyone else. I still have my concerns for her over JJ though.

(Photos: AFP/Getty)

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