With one day off to regroup, let’s get back to the action. The French Open has resumed the mantle of volatility that makes it so famous, but only in some respects. It hasn’t gone 2013 Wimbledon on us just yet, and at this point seems unlikely to, at least on the men’s side of the draw.
On the women’s side, third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska went down to defeat against Ajla Tomljanovic, ranked 72nd in the world, 6-4, 6-4. It was a quick, methodical defeat that further highlights the kind of instability that reigns supreme in the women’s game outside of the top three, and really the top one or two. Serena Williams is a proven champion who doesn’t often crack under pressure. Victoria Azarenka doesn’t lose except to the best, usually Williams. Li Na is the same way. Everyone else is a ways away from being there, contending for titles in a way that makes you say “that woman is a threat to be there, who won’t fall apart in the clutch.” Radwanska is immensely talented, and I didn’t expect her to lose this early, but her loss really didn’t shock me that much.
Neither did the loss of Petra Kvitova, who lost a nail-biter to onetime French and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova, 28, is maddeningly inconsistent but occasionally regains the kind of form that she once showed consistently in the mid-2000s. The weird part is that she’s not that old, but usually performs as an afterthought at the majors. She’s only advanced to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and since finishing as a runner-up in New York in 2007, hasn’t advanced past the round of 16. Kvitova has won Wimbledon and the Tour Finals, and I know that her serve is formidable and that her groundstrokes are among the best that there is. But her inconsistency and lack of mobility are liabilities, and ones that the wily, experienced Kuznetsova was able to exploit.
I’m glad I was so cautious on Ana Ivanovic, as she lost convincingly to Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-3. It just goes to show that on her good days, like against Serena in Melbourne, she’s among the best out there right now. On her bad days, it looks like she doesn’t even belong on a court: unforced errors, bad serves, not moving well, getting exploited and stepped in on by lesser opponents. I’m relegating her to the status of “keep an eye on her because she’s dangerous, but believe the hype when you see it.”
Sara Errani and Simona Halep have continued to demolish the competition before them, setting up intriguing round of 16 matchups: Errani-Jelena Jankovic and Halep-Sloane Stephens. Maybe there actually was something to my prognostications of cautious optimism when it comes to the young Romanian, Halep. Wildly inconsistent 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur will be mixing it up with Maria Sharapova in the round of 16 as well. If the real Stosur shows up, this should be a great match. Otherwise, Sharapova should walk all over her. Stosur looked comfortable dispatching Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova, though the clay has never been her best surface. I’m going to out on a limb and say that Halep and Errani will face each other in the semifinals, and the winner will go on to face and beat Sharapova in the final. You heard it here first.
Once this Andy Murray match ends, I’ll do a men’s update. Keep it right here.