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TEBBUTT: MAKING IT INTO ROLAND GARROS

May 23, 2014
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

TEBBUTT: MAKING IT INTO ROLAND GARROS

There’s nothing quite like battling through three rounds of qualifying and getting into the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament.

Peter Polansky was able to savour that feeling on Friday after beating Jonathan Eysseric of France 7-6(2), 6-1 to assure himself of a spot in the 128-player field for the 2014 French Open.

The match was very competitive until the first set tiebreak when Polansky lost the first point on a poor serve return into the net before proceeding to run off five in a row to lead 5-1. He may not have known it then, but he was well on his way to a fairly uncomplicated victory.

“I feel pretty good,” Polansky said afterward. “I played really well today, especially in the second set. I saw that he was getting tired and I took advantage, just trying to hit really hard and deep and play aggressive. But overall it was a good qualifying. The first round (6-2, 6-1 vs. Austin Krajicek of the U.S.), I played really well. Yesterday, (second round 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 vs. Jan Mertl of the Czech Republic) was kind of tough. I had some chances and I kind of let it slip a little bit – but I was happy to pull through.

“I think I’ve lost five times, or six times, in the last round of qualies in the last few years, so it’s nice to finally get one in. I haven’t qualied for a Slam since 2010 – in almost four years since the US Open.”

Polansky won’t know until Saturday who he will meet in the main draw. There’s one men’s final round of qualifying match yet to play. But he has a one in four chance of playing a qualifier because two of the opening round main draw matches feature qualifier vs. qualifier. Probably the two toughest players he could face are No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych or No. 17 Tommy Robredo.

The other Canadian male in action on Friday, Frank Dancevic, was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by Potito Starace.

The Italian got revenge for a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3 loss to Dancevic in the third round of the Australian Open qualifying in January.

On the most distant court, No. 17 (at top of blog), the match was a very even affair with Starace just playing slightly more steady clay-court tennis – including some artful drop shots – than Dancevic.

The match point kind of summed up Dancevic’s day – a Starace shot landed short but a gust of wind caught it and Dancevic, having to suddenly lunge for the ball, popped it long.

But there’s still hope. If there are one or more withdrawals from the main draw, he could get in as a lucky loser.

Aleksandra Wozniak will be in control of her fate on Saturday when she faces Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey in the (delayed) final round of women’s qualifying.

On Friday, Wozniak had too much game for Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania, winning 6-4, 6-3. Wozniak was in control from the start against an opponent playing with a well-bandaged right knee.

Still ranked an unflattering No. 152 as she returns from a shoulder issue that kept her out of large parts of 2012 and 2013, Wozniak will face a little-known opponent in Buyukakcay, a 23-year-old who ranks No. 140.

For all the players, the minimum 24,000 Euros ($35,600 Can) guaranteed to main draw competitors is a strong motivator.

Unfortunately, Gabriela Dabrowski will not get her chance in the singles main draw. She was beaten 7-5, 6-2 on Friday by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, in the second round.

The first set was hard-fought but Kontaveit took over in the second. During the final game of the match, a telling stat was shown on the Court 11 scoreboard – the number of backhand winners for Kontaveit, 12, and none for Dabrowski.

What’s kind of cool about the picture above of Dabrowski – Suzanne Lenglen (statue version) is also hitting a leaping forehand in the background.

 

BOUCHARD GOES FOR TITLE NO. 1

Getty Images

Eugenie Bouchard will attempt to win her first WTA title on Saturday when she plays in the final of the first edition of the Nuremburg, Germany, $250,000 (US) tournament.

On Friday in the semifinals, Bouchard defeated Karin Knapp of Italy 6-4, 6-3 and will now face Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic for the title.

Bouchard, ranked No. 19 and seeded No. 2, is playing in her second WTA final after losing to Samantha Stosur in Osaka last fall.

She will need to be wary of the 6-foot-1 Pliskova, who is ranked No. 64. The 22-year-old Czech upset top seed Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals and No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the semifinals.

Bouchard and Pliskova played in the first round at the US Open last year, with the 20-year-old Montrealer prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

If Bouchard is able to win the title, it would come exactly 31 years after Carling Bassett of Toronto won her first WTA title in 1983 – also the week before the French Open – in Strasbourg, France.

 

THE DRAW

Defending champions Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal were the guests of honour for the 2014 French Open draw ceremony on Friday in the Tenniseum on the Roland Garros grounds.

The men’s draw was not that remarkable for jarring first-round encounters, but it was not so for the women. Maybe the biggest marquee opening match will be 33-year-old Venus Williams vs. fast-rising 17-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. Should Venus prevail, she would likely be just one more match win away from a third-round encounter with her younger sister Serena.

Also going head-to-head in the first round will be 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic against the promising Caroline Garcia of France.

From the Canadian perspective, Eugenie Bouchard, seeded No. 18, will take on Shahar Peer of Israel in her first match while Sharon Fichman, in her second Grand Slam appearance, will face No. 6 seed Jelena Jankovic.

As for the Canadian men – Milos Raonic, seeded No. 8, will begin with a match against Nick Kyrgios, the promising 19-year-old Australian who received a wild card via an exchange between the French Tennis Federation and Tennis Australia. If form held, Raonic would eventually play No. 9 seed Kei Nishikori in the round of 16 and No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. Veteran Gilles Simon, seeded No. 29, is potentially a tricky opponent for Raonic in the third round.

Vasek Pospisil is seeded No. 30, and will play Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia in his opening round.

On Friday, Pospisil said that he is not experiencing any pain in his troublesome back. He explained that it took a while, but he finally feels confident that he has learned exactly what the nature of the back problem is, and believes he now knows how to deal with it.

AROUND ‘ROLAND’

Milos Raonic has been practicing a lot with Italian players lately – partly because of the connection with his co-coach Riccardo Piatti of Italy. But on Friday, Raonic, sporting probably the shortest haircut of his professional career, was hitting with Tomas Berdych on Court 4 at Roland Garros.

In case you didn’t recognize the Czech – he conveniently had his initials on his H&M shirt.

The sleeve that Raonic continues to wear on his right arm during matches is apparently more habit than anything – and has no real practical application.

Roger Federer practiced on Thursday with Lleyton Hewitt in Suzanne Lenglen Stadium. Afterward (above), he can be seen talking to French player Benoit Paire who was coming onto the court to hit with Paul-Henri Mathieu (orange-ish shirt at right).

In case you missed it: Yours truly had a brief interaction with Federer after his media conference on Friday. Here’s the tweet:

Uncle Toni still plays a big role in Rafael Nadal’s tennis. Here’s a conversation of sorts that they had as Rafa practiced in the Court Philippe Chatrier with Tommy Robredo.

This shot is from late Thursday. I’m pretty sure it’s the Hawk-Eye crew checking out their electronic line-calling system. What was amusing about this was that, just a few minutes later, a gust of wind came up and blew many of the balls out of place – to the dismay of one of the technicians down near the court.