Roland Garros R1

Not sure I’ll be updating every single round, but if I have time and actually get to watch a little tennis, get to listen to people talk about what’s going on in different matches, discussing form, etc., why not, right?

What I started to watch yesterday and finished watching this morning at around 5:00am PST was the Murray v Stepanek match. I tuned in yesterday as the Czech veteran closed-out the second set to establish the pretty surprising 2-0 lead. The third set, however, took about 15 minutes, no kidding, as Murray bageled him and then raced-out to another lead in the fourth before the match was suspended for darkness.

Picking-up today, Murray of course won the fourth, but the fifth and deciding was a great watch. Stepanek somehow was able to hold serve to put just that little bit of pressure on the Scot, who had very little trouble on his serve. However, at 4-5, Murray’s serve got challenged big time. Pretty exciting as the game went to deuce twice: if Stepanek had gotten just one match point. . . holy shit. Murray survived (although not having to face that MP was critical) and then broke serve for the match. I know we see early round scares like the Stan v Rosol, but this Murray match got very interesting in that fifth set.

Stepanek, as we know, has been around a while as a wily veteran with solid fundamental racquet skills, underrated footwork, solid net game (great doubles player). His serve and volley mix was effective against Murray as was his drop-shot, which Murray is usually very adept at handling. Stepanek impressed. Period.

Worth mentioning that the Czech Republic won the Davis Cup in 2012 and 2013, Stepanek and (obviously) Berdych really carrying those squads. Although Radek wasn’t beating Djokovic in those contests, he and Berdych took care of doubles play and Radek, I’m pretty sure, won the decisive singles matches to clinch. In other words, the guy knows how to compete and that doubles pedigree (he’s won a couple of majors in doubles: AO ’12 and USO ’13) really showed with his savvy net play vs. Murray today and yesterday. Not a bad R1 match.

Other than that, Nadal went 1 1 and 1 v Groth. Shortest match in his FO history. I suspect that Toni and the boys are commanding quick, efficient play from their player. His usual bloody long style of play will not be very beneficial given his draw. Take care of business, Rafa.

One of his possible stumbling blocks, Fognini, is out thanks to Granollers.

The announcers said the first set of Djokovic (I watched casually) was awkward as he struggled, but even more they said the crowd was off, like his tennis.

In my last post, I did talk about Novak’s awkwardness or stage-fright (whatever it is) in some of those big matches (finals). But I refuse to take any serious stock in this discussion at this point, even though we heard people talking about it at Rome, etc. His match v Nadal at Rome, for me, was a kind of litmus test for his big match composure. And I thought he passed with flying colors. The Rome final was not as important for me, nor for him 🙂

As we get to his 4R match with Agut or Tomic, his QF against perhaps a fluid and confident Berdych or Ferrer, or that SF, then we can take serious any flaws in his form or demeanor. I suspect he will be just fine.

How about my boy Cilic! If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I think his USO win is one of the worst things to have ever happened on tour. Granted this is clay, but he’s garbage. He lost to a guy on the Challenger tour. Perfect.

I did not see the Fritz v Coric match, but my goodness the American needs to go home and do his chores. He is not ready for the big league. Coric (19) is only a year older than Fritz (18), but that score line is pretty humbling. Although I was pleased to see Fritz reach the Memphis final earlier this year (lost to Nishikori 4 and 4), he has looked pretty out of place since, needing polish with his footwork especially, as his lanky frame has trouble staying with these stronger players.

Speaking of Americans, I saw Jack Sock get booed off the court after he finally won that R1 match. A lot of tennis people like him as a dark horse here to make a little run. I’d rather go Kyrgios (who I know is an absolute mess out there emotionally) or Thiem as a #nextgen threat to make some noise.

Let me also go on record to say Gasquet could be a quiet end to Kyrgios if they meet in 3R. And the winner there plays the winner of Verdasco v Nishikori (possible 3R). A a couple of nice matches to look forward to.

Another 1R battle of #nextgen “stars” had Halys v Chung and the Frenchman went through easily 1 4 and 4. This I’ll juxtapose with seeing an interview with the head of the ATP, Chris Kermode, who (of course) spoke glowingly of the future of the tour, referring to these #nextgen “stars” (they used this hashtag, which is why I’m obnoxiously copying it here). We tennis fans need a little more proof for such enthusiastic optimism.

The next few days and weeks ought to provide us with some useful evidence.

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