July 30, 2016

Protestors Fail to Halt Nadal’s Sprint to History

Rafael Nadal 2

By Ros Satar

(June 9, 2013) PARIS – A dramatic double interruption from protestors left an edgy air on an overcast Paris day, but it did not prevent Rafael Nadal from carving a place in history as the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam event.

 

Nadal beat compatriot David Ferrer in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 and now is the leading performer in Roland Garros history, with a 59-1 win-loss record.

 

The weather had turned cloudy and there were doubts that the match would get by without significant disruptions – for weather.

 

It was important for Ferrer to get a good start but it was the defending champion who made the first break early.

 

Ferrer all but gifted Nadal the first set when he was broken again, despite having got himself back on even terms, thanks to sloppy errors and a double fault.

 

Nadal started the second set with real intent, drawing gasps at times as the intensity of his clubbed forehands and backhands racked up.

 

Play was initially disrupted in the middle of Ferrer’s service game (at 4-1) by a couple of protestors holding a sign up in the Chatrier against the recently passed same-sex marriage bill, which also legalizes same-sex adoption.

 

The players waited as the chanters were escorted out of the stadium, but more drama was to unfold Nadal was coming out to serve at 5-1 for the second set.

 

A bare-chested protestor leapt from the front row with a lit red flare, as security guards moved quickly to restrain him, also ushering Nadal safely out of the way, and to extinguish the flare.

 

A similar styled protest took place at the same time at the top of Suzanne Lenglen Court.

 

This latest disruption unsettled the public and players alike, as both were unable to hold on to their serves, but it provided Nadal with a decisive break once nerves had stopped jangling to take the second set.

 

As if that was not enough, there was a brief suspension for rain in the third set, with the players held on court.

 

Ferrer was whistled at his reluctance to re-start and thankfully for the end was relatively fast for him as Nadal was not hanging about, on his way to history.

 

Six-time Olympic Gold medal winner, Usain Bolt, presented the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy to Nadal.

 

When it came to the punch, Ferrer just came up short on the aggressive needed, as he explained in his post-match news conference.

 

“To beat Rafael in clay court, I need to play more aggressive.

“When the court is slower, it’s very difficult.

“He has more power than me with his shots, and it’s very difficult for to beat him.”

 

Despite losing the final today, Ferrer moves to fourth in the ATP World Tour Rankings, and at least could joke about that after the match.

 

“I lost the final against Rafael, but tomorrow I am going to be No.4 and him No. 5.

“But anyway, I change.  I prefer to win here and to stay No. 5.  (Laughter.)”

 

When asked about the disturbances due to the protestors, Ferrer rushed it off, although he did joke: “Rafael, he was scared a little bit, (Laughter), but nothing happened, so it’s okay.”

 

Nadal later agreed but was quick to praise the efforts of the security guards who quickly bundled the protestor from the courts.

 

Nadal called this an emotional win and described how just a few months ago, this position was the last thing on his team’s minds.

 

“Five months ago nobody of my team dreamed about one comeback like this because we thought that going to be impossible.

“But here we are today, and that’s really fantastic and incredible.

“I am enjoying a lot all these emotions since I came back.”

 

But serious questions must be asked in light of the second incident since 2009, in a men’s final at Roland Garros.

 

In 2009, Spanish “streaker” Jimmy Jump tried to approach Roger Federer to place a barretina cap on his head, before being tackled and removed by security guards.

 

Security measures are tighter at both Wimbledon and the US Open, especially in light of recent high profile terrorist activities in London and New York.

 

Security measures are less tight here – as someone pointed out it is nigh on impossible to smuggle a cup of coffee onto the chilly press benches, but people with flares can manage to get in, and moreover get onto the court.

 

In an interview after the final, tournament director Gilbert Ysern felt that the situation had been controlled and that there would be no need to review security.

 

But the moment belongs to the man from Mallorca.

“This one is very special one.

“When you have period of time like I had, you realize that you don’t know if you will have the chance to be back here with this trophy another time.”

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Serena Williams Makes It Sweet 16

Serena Williams Day 2 Press Conference

By Ros Satar

 

(June 8, 2013) PARIS – How does Maria Sharapova solve a problem like Serena?

 

The answer is she doesn’t, at least not today as the head-to-head between them grew to 14-2, when Serena Williams regained the title she won back in 2002 6-4, 6-4.

 

It perhaps feels uncharitable to say that there was an air of inevitability around this final.

 

After all, the numbers do not lie and at best people wanted the match to be competitive at least, especially those who remember the London 2012 Olympic Final.

 

It is always a challenge to defend a title and Maria Sharapova certainly made her intentions clear at the start of the match, gritting her way to defending four breakpoints, before breaking Williams in the next game.

 

But of course, the world No. 1 was not standing for that – with the first set a bizarre see-saw of breaks and clutch points and “come-on’s” from them both.

 

If Sharapova was going to make her claim to defend her crown, it really had to be here to put Williams under pressure from the start.

 

You just had the feeling, though, that it was taking every ounce of effort from Sharapova to stay in contention, so it was no surprise when Williams served out for the first set, having nudged ahead again.

 

The second set started in much the same way, with a long protracted hold and the saving of many break points (again) from Sharapova.

 

Even though it came down to a single break at the start of the second set, Sharapova never stopped fighting, but Williams stepped up a gear, firing down three aces to start and finish the last game, and with it gaining her second Roland-Garros title, and her 16th Grand Slam title.

 

She now holds the most slam titles of any active player, and the sixth of all time, as well as becoming the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era – it may be impolite to refer to a lady’s age but just for the record, it’s 31 years, 256 days by the tournament end date.

 

Having nothing to defend here after her first round loss was a key for Williams today.

 

“I played so well leading up to the French Open last year ‑ and same thing happened again this year ‑ but I didn’t put any pressure on myself,” Wiliams said.

 

Sharapova had pointed out that Williams was serving harder that tomorrow’s finalist David Ferrer.

 

“I think growing up with Venus, you know, she’s serving so big, I was like, I want to serve big, too,” she said.

 

“So I think this definitely really helped me a lot.  Again, I am not the tallest girl on tour, but I definitely think I use my height in a very effective way, and I use it to the fullest of my ability.”

 

Seated alongside the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, Williams admitted her had been very nervous in serving for the match.

 

“I thought, I’m not going to be able to hit groundstrokes.  (Laughter.)

“No joke.  As you see the one groundstroke I did hit went like 100 feet out.

 

“I thought to myself, Look, Serena, you’ve just got to hit aces.  That’s your only choice.”

 

Of course having been on the receiving end of those, it was an obviously reflective Sharapova who faced the press later.

 

“I think getting to the Roland-Garros final is not too shabby, so I’d say that’s a positive.  Coming back as a defending champion, I know it’s never easy to come back with that title, so I’m happy that I was able to produce good tennis within these last two weeks and come to that stage.”

 

To reverse a trend of losses against Williams dating back to 2004 is obviously a work in progress (to put it mildly), but today showed that Sharapova could go toe-to-toe with her.

 

“Some of the results against her last year were not so good.  But the match in Miami and the match here, I think I’m doing a few more right things than maybe I have done in the past, yet obviously not consistent enough.”

 

We are only half way through the season, with Wimbledon coming up, so Sharapova could at least look ahead.

 

“It’s always the one that I always want to perform well at and the one that I always look forward to.

 

“It’s not like I really need someone to give me motivation towards that.”

 

If age is just a number now to Serena, and a new number was reached today (16 Grand Slam titles), then does she have her eye on the next prize?

 

“If it means I stop at 16 or if it means I have more, I definitely want to continue my journey to get a few more.”

 

Roll on Wimbledon and the US Open.

 

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Spectacular and Streaky – A Tale of Two Semifinals

Rafael Nadal

 

By Ros Satar

 

(June 7, 2013) PARIS – On perhaps the hottest day of the French Open tournament this year, the scene was set for two potentially explosive semifinals. There would be an air of expectation for both semifinals, but only one would deliver.

 

Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7

After an emotional week for Novak Djokovic, here was a chance to get the one slam that had so far eluded him.

 

All that stood between him was his conqueror last year, and defending champion – Rafael Nadal.

 

The sheer ferocity of hitting from the start was like a game of cat and mouse, but with sledgehammers for paws.

 

The first set was a tight affair, with Nadal capitalizing on his first break point opportunities to nudge ahead, and take the first set.

 

It would always be key to any success Djokovic might enjoy to start fast, or now at least stay in contention.

 

The Serb was starting to show his frustration as errors crept in under the pressure of Nadal’s intensity.

 

A couple of traded breaks, but at least Djokovic had seen that Nadal was breakable.

 

A moment taken to adjust the wooden crucifix around his neck, and perhaps to ask for some assistance or divine intervention finally delivered with another break for Djokovic to edge ahead at 5-3, serving out the set.

 

Suddenly we had a fight on our hands, but it was almost as if a wave of weariness hit Djokovic, who was now slipping and sliding on the newly swept, very dusty court.

 

It looked like he might have tweaked something, and either way, Nadal was not taking any prisoners, quickly romping to a 5-0 lead as Djokovic slumped about the place lethargically.

 

Having already received a time violation warning, Nadal received a point penalty in the last game, not that it made any difference to Djokovic, who by now had at least escaped a “bagel”.

 

A new lease on life came back to those elastic legs of his, and the crowd were treated to some lovely rallies and reflex volleys at the net.

 

Twice Nadal broke for the lead, and twice he was pegged back immediately, pushing the pair into a tiebreak – won by Djokovic, and giving the crowd what they wanted – a deciding set.

 

Djokovic must have thought it was his time, breaking immediately and staying ahead until he missed the simplest of overhead put-aways by sliding into the net before the ball had bounced twice.

 

It really became a day for the rule-book as Nadal had no play on the ball and it had effectively bounced outside of the court lines when he made contact with the net.

 

In any case, it was not the first fudged overhead, and it certainly would not be the last as time and time again, Djokovic would send them crashing into the net, or spectacularly long.

 

Finding himself now serving from behind to stay in the match, there was another twist of drama as Djokovic asked to speak to the supervisor, after slipping several times on the dried out clay at the back of the court.

 

The final salt in the wound was a break to love, ending his pledge to win the French in memory of his first coach.

 

“I congratulate him, because that’s why he’s a champion.  That’s why he’s been ruling Roland Garros for many years, and for me it’s another year,” said Djokovic after the match.

 

“I managed to come back and start playing really, really well as the match was going on, but it wasn’t good enough.

 

“I lost the match after five hours.  I wanted this title so much, so I am disappointed.  That’s it.  You know, that’s the way I feel.”

 

Nadal, playing in his first five-set match since his return from a seven-month injury layoff was relieved to have made it through to another final.

 

“So happy the way that I played, and more than happy the way that I [fought] in the fifth set after losing big chance in the fourth.

“So that’s probably the most difficult thing to do it, and I did.”

 

David Ferrer

David Ferrer

David Ferrer def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-2

 

It is inevitable that people suggest that the Nadal/Djokovic match-up was the “final that should have been” and following it was the ‘blockbuster that never was.”

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga found himself carrying the hopes of a nation, looking to become the first French finalist since Henri Leconte in 1988.

 

David Ferrer was looking to reach his first slam final.

 

Certainly the crowd wanting to lift Tsonga as much as they could, roaring when he finally got a game on the board in a first set drubbing, and as he made things a lot more competitive in the second set.

 

For Tsonga it seemed a match of irritations – differences of opinion with the chair umpire over marks, some wild errors, and just overall inconsistency.

 

If there is one player that you can ill afford to have streaky patches against, it is David Ferrer, who just played solidly all the way around.

 

To fail to live up to a crowd’s, and even a nation’s expectations will have been a tough pill to take.

 

“Maybe in a few hours, few days, you know, I will say, Okay, it was a good tournament; I played well; I was in semis.

 

“But, yeah, today I’m just disappointed,” said Tsonga after the match.

 

For Ferrer, there is the prospect of facing his compatriot, who has owned him on clay all but one of the times they have met, (Stuttgart, 2004).

 

“I won once when we were kids.

 

“Then I also won on faster surfaces, but each match is different, anyway.

 

“So I need to focus on the now and I need to make the most of all my shots.”

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Serena Williams to Meet Maria Sharapova for French Open Title

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

By Ros Satar

(June 6, 2013) PARIS – Victoria Azarenka’s burgeoning love affair with the clay came to a halt today, at the hands of Maria Sharapova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

In a three-setter interrupted by a brief wringing-out of a cloud, Sharapova did not have the best of starts.

It looked like she had left her first serve in the locker room, but had brought its best friend the double-fault out instead.

In truth, Azarenka did not have to do much except turn up for that first game, as Sharapova was broken to love.

But the situation did not last for long – it was clear that Sharapova had her eye in, quickly taking advantage of Azarenka’s errors, taking the first set in a little short of half an hour.

Azarenka managed to make a better fist of things, made all the easier when Sharapova gifted her the set with two consecutive double faults.

But the players also had to contend with a fidget-en-masse in the last game of the set as spots of rain fell, and the gentry in the expensive seats promptly allez-ed to afternoon tea at 15-0.

The crowd reactions also caused amusement – there was no doubt that the warmer applause was for the defending champion, but they were quick to whistle and boo (admittedly in the rain) as she challenged a point, and as the umpire had them on and off the chairs before finally taking them off.

The third set saw the errors that had been plaguing Azarenka in the first set return, although Sharapova made life hard for herself letting four match points go at 5-2.

There was no doubt at the second time of asking, thumping down an ace to finish it off.

Azarenka denied that Sharapova had cut off her rhythm or rushed her.

“There’s not much rhythm when we play each other.  We just try to, you know, take opportunity, whoever takes it first.”

Having joked in her last conference about her and clay moving in together, she was positive about her progress here this year.

“My game on clay got much better, and it’s just a matter of [the] whole process.

“Process started for me.  It unfortunately ended today in this tournament.

“But, you know, coming back next year there is so much to look forward to for me, and, you know, trying to figure it out and find it every year will be something that is going to motivate me to come back here.”

Sharapova was no doubt relieved to get the job after failing to take advantage of four match points.

“Despite having those two match points and not taking advantage of them, I was happy with the way it came out at 5‑4 and served it out.”

She will meet Serena Williams who demolished last year’s finalist Sara Errani for the loss of just one game, 6-0, 6-1 in 46 minutes.

As Errani picked up the vocal effort, the only sounds from Williams were the odd squeak as sent a ball flying long or wide.

And as the Italian finally got a game on the board, she raised her hands in triumph, as a gladiatrix might after facing down a lion.

But meal-time was quick to follow, with Williams finishing (as Sharapova had) with an ace.

When asked if playing her was soul-destroying at the moment, Williams allowed herself a smile.

“I would never say that.  Ever.

“But I just go out there and do the best that I can and that’s it. “

That being said there was no question of her giving up on any game, out of any sympathy.

“She’s a great girl.  I love her fighting spirit.  I really like her as a person.

“But when you go out there, you just have to play and forget about who you’re playing.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s final, Sharapova had to face the inevitable question about her record against Williams, last beating her in 2004.

“Well, I’d be lying if it doesn’t bother me, obviously.  (Smiling.)

“But obviously she’s won so many matches already in a row on hard and clay, so I don’t think it really matters.

“You try to go out there and do something different, because whatever you have done just hasn’t performed well.

“I hope that I can.”

And Williams’ view of that record?

“It’s a different time, a different era, just a different match.

“But we have played a lot.  Just gotta do the best that I can.”

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Djokovic and Nadal Cruise into Semifinal

Novak Djokovic practice China Open practice

Novak Djokovic

By Ros Satar

(June 5, 2013) PARIS – After the ups and down in the two women’s quarterfinals, not to mention the excitement after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s dispatch of Roger Federer, there were high hopes that the remaining two men’s quarterfinals would match them.

 

For Novak Djokovic, the progression was rapid, as he put paid to the last of the 8 men in last 16 to use a single-handed backhand.

 

The first set lasted only half an hour, with two breaks in quick succession to take the first set 6-3 over Tommy Haas.

 

Haas put up more of a battle in the second set, despite getting hardly points off the Djokovic serve, and had actually built up a 4-2 lead in the tiebreak, before finally losing the second set 76(5).

 

Nerves finally seemed to get to the Serbian, who failed to convert a match point on Haas’ serve, and then getting broken himself as he was serving for the match at 5-4.

 

Haas brought things back on terms at 5-5, but was broken for Djokovic to take another spin at serving out for the match,

 

This time he took no chances, closing out his place in the semi-final in a time just short of two-and-a-quarter hours.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

He will face, defending champion Rafael Nadal who crushed Stanislas Wawrinka in a little under two hours, for the loss of just six games – 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

 

Wawrinka found himself broken right at the start of the match, much like one of his racquets, with his obvious frustration showing.

 

In the second set, Nadal took an early lead, but this time Wawrinka was able to find a chink in his armor, breaking to get things back on serve.

 

Nadal’s response was to win the next three games and with it a two-set lead.

 

Wawrinka was all but done, as Nadal quickly built up a 5-0 lead, relenting enough to let the Swiss get one game on the board, before holding to love to sweep into the semi-final clash with Novak Djokovic.

 

Prior to the event, Djokovic was reluctant to discuss the draw, and dismissed questions about it ahead of the semifinal.

 

He said: “It’s not the first time I’m playing him.  We played over 30 times.

I’m sure that we know each other’s game really well.”

 

He continued: “As I said, we are in good form. This is the biggest matchup of our Roland Garros 2013 campaign for both me and him.”

 

Nadal has played himself into better form over the last three matches.

 

He said: “I’m happy the way that I played today especially.  [It] was my best match on the tournament without any doubt.

 

“Now I am in semifinals, three matches in a row without losing a set.  Last two matches I only lost one serve.”

 

Looking ahead to the semifinal, he echoed some of the guarded statements of Djokovic.

 

He said: “For me, it’s the semifinals, and doesn’t matter if it’s against Novak or against another player, because the player who not [going to] win the semifinals is not the champion of Roland Garros.

 

“He’s just the semifinalist.  That’s the big difference.”

 

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Sharapova Edges Jankovic, Meets Azarenka in Semifinal

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

By Ros Satar

 

(June 5, 2013) PARIS – Defending champion Maria Sharapova edged out Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic in a nervy three-setter to book her slot in the women’s semifinals – 0-6 6-4, 6-3.

 

Certainly the start of the match slipped away from Sharapova rapidly as Jankovic stormed ahead break after break, closing out a 6-0 score line in just under half an hour.

 

Sharapova, however, got her eye back in the game, breaking Jankovic right at the start of the second set and again for that all important double-break cushion.

 

There looked like there might be a brief wobble, at Sharapova’s first attempt to serve the set out, getting broken.

 

The Russian made no mistake the second time, leaving Jankovic to berate herself, her box and probably anyone else in earshot.

 

Perhaps even more ironic, this pair had completed two sets before Azarenka/Kirilenko had managed to finish their first set.

 

The third set was a tighter affair, with the decisive first break going Sharapova’s way to lead 4-3, delivering the final blow by breaking to take the third set 6-3.

 

After the match, Jankovic summed the match up, saying: “Overall was a big fight.  “It was great tennis out there.  We battled, you know, [it] was few points here and there that made a difference.”

 

Jankovic had been playing in three disciplines at the French Open, in a bit to use the doubles experience to help improve her singles play, but acknowledged it had been a lot of tennis in the last two weeks.

 

In an earlier news conference, Jankovic had joked that maybe the last time the pair had faced each other on clay, it would have been at the Bollettieri academy, when they were about 12.

 

But she praised Sharapova today, saying: “Credit to her.

 

“At the end she was a better player.  I was a bit unlucky, but I fought hard until the end.”

 

“I played a lot, but overall I had an amazing tournament.”

 

Sharapova admitted her own start had been less than spectacular.

 

She said: “I think clay really suits her game.

 

“She plays extremely well on it because she loves to defend.  She can do that all day long.”

 

It was important for her to put that first set behind her, and regroup for the decider.

 

“In the third set it was still extremely tough.  You know, we held serve for a while, and it was really important to get that break.”

 

Over on Lenglen, the passage of play could not have been more different.

 

While Sharapova and Jankovic were getting into their decider, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko were duking it out in a first set that lasted 76 minutes.

 

Kirilenko left the court for a medical timeout, leaving Azarenka to practice serves.

 

Then after a 10 minute hold, a couple of breaks at the tail end of the set pushed the pair into a tie-break.

 

Azarenka was able to build up a lead to take the first set 76(3).

 

After that, it seemed to be plain sailing for the Belarusian, breaking Kirilenko early in the second, and then again in the last game to finish their match while the other Russian was still battling in the decider.

 

Having described herself in the past as not quite “married” to the clay yet, she elaborated that the relationship might have moved on.

 

“I still don’t have any ring on my finger.  (Smiling.)

“But I feel like, you know, we made a step forward.  We are moving in together.  (Laughter.)”

 

Azarenka leads the head-to-head against Sharapova 7-5, but Sharapova has beaten her the two times they have played on clay.

 

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Q & A: Catching Up with Taylor Townsend at Roland Garros

 

Townsend 5

 

(June 5, 2013) PARIS – Being at Roland Garros is not all about running from Court Philippe Chatrier to Court Suzanne Lenglen for two weeks.

Out on the outside courts, die-hard tennis fans catch good doubles and junior action throughout the two weeks.

One U.S. junior has already enjoyed some success in making that tricky transition from the Juniors to the Pro Tour, notching up a win against the then-ranked 57, Lucie Hradecka, at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells this year.

Ros Satar caught up with the No. 1 junior for 2012 Taylor Townsend after a solid second round win against Croatia’s Jana Fett.

Ros Satar for Tennis Panorama News: Great win today –a couple of breaks here and there but you really did edge it out?

Taylor Townsend: It was good, she came out playing really well, she was serving really well and in the beginning she really wasn’t missing a ball.

We exchanged some breaks and there were a few times where I could have served and gone up a break and a hold but she broke.

But it was a good match, I was really happy.

RS: What was it like out there – it started out quite cloudy but probably by the time that you were playing, it looked quite nice?

TT: It was actually very nice, it got a little bit cloudy and it was a little windy at times.

RS: Enough to whip up that clay into your eyes?

TT: Exactly – it actually got into my eyes a little bit but I am not complaining – I’m tough [smiling]

RS: Is it strange playing the juniors having made your pro debut at Indian Wells

TT: It’s not weird, because I played all last year and I’m still 17 so it’s not really weird but it’s definitely an adjustment that you have to make between going from the pros to the juniors.

It’s nice to see all my friends [going back to juniors].

RS: How did it feel to get that win in Indian Wells, to player ranked 57 at the time?

TT: It was amazing – like one of the best feelings ever, I felt on top of the world

I went crazy, after I did it, I just went nuts like I was a little kid.

I told myself one point at a time, one point at a time, I switched the score round and stuff.

But I was actually on a roll, I was playing really well so I [tried] not to think about it.

RS: What’s the transition like –the biggest challenge and the biggest benefit?

TT: The biggest challenge s definitely the mental thing.

It’s really easy to change your game because the speed of the ball isn’t the same

It’s really easy for you to let up a little bit and not really play to win like you would against the pros.

You can get away with not going for your shots as much and stuff like that, because even though you’re playing juniors, you’re still working on a specific thing.

But the benefits are you get to play matches, good matches that help you compete.

Basically it’s a good opportunity to continue what we’re working on.

If you change the way that you play and the way we’ve been practicing, then yeah that would be a downfall.

If we continue to work on the same line that we have been, with our strokes and playing to win and aggressive style of play, then it’s a huge benefit playing the juniors.

RS: So basically each time you’re playing in the juniors, you’re concentrating on one thing to improve, and when you go to the pros it’s really a question of putting that all together and going for it?

TT: Exactly

RS: What are the goals that you’ve set yourself this year?

TT: My goal is I wanted to reach at least into the top 200 or better by the end of the year and I really didn’t set a goal for juniors because honestly at the beginning of the year my coach was in Australia so I didn’t really know what my schedule was going to be.

But basically my pro [goal] I think very attainable because I’m at 333 already and we’re only half way done with the year.

I think I can do it.

RS: About the demon dirt – how is it going playing on clay?

TT: Actually I love it, because the clay here is so nice, they take such good care of the courts, it’s just so smooth.

The courts are just like candy underneath your feet, you just slide so gracefully – it’s so beautiful

RS: It’s like ice-skating?

TT: Yeah exactly!

RS: Is it very much a part of your season, the clay in Europe in particular?

TT: Yeah it is.

You go from the Australian Open, and then you have your clay court season, then you have your grass court season and then you go back to hard court.

You’re on hard court six months of the year if [not] more, it’s nice to have the change up and learning how to maneuver, move and how to play and how to work the clay and how to work the grass, it’s really nice.

It makes the season, it makes it different, it gives it a little bit of a unique character.

RS: What is your view of all the US women that have been in the draw?  You started with 15, down to 3 but two real headliners tomorrow – how does that make you feel?

TT: I’m proud, honestly – Serena(Williams), Sloane (Stephens), Venus (Williams), they’re all making me so proud to be an American.

They’re putting on such a good face on women’s tennis, it’s amazing.

The guys as well, they’re doing very well – John Isner, Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison, all of them are doing really well.

They’re great inspiration for me to just keep working hard [especially] seeing Serena mostly – you keep working hard and she’s in her prime, she’s in the later stage of her career, so it just gives me really great encouragement just to keep working hard.

RS: Are they all quite supportive of the juniors coming up, if you run across them at various tournaments?

TT: Yeah – they’re so nice.

We all hit together and they’re very helpful with giving advice and stuff like that.

It’s just a matter of if I get nervous to ask them a question or not [laughs]

RS: What is your schedule now for the rest of the year?

TT: You and I have the same question [laughs]

I know I’m going to Birmingham after this and then I’m going to play the juniors at Eastbourne and Roehampton and then Wimbledon and after that I have no idea.

RS: Are you going to play the juniors at the rest of the majors this year?

TT: Yeah just the majors really, because US Open most likely, I’m not really sure.

We’re just doing it just to play matches really, and stay competitive because if I wasn’t I would come over here and only play one or two tournaments and then be done.

RS: I guess playing the majors, you get a small taste of what it’s like to play that big an event?

TT: Yeah, Exactly.

RS: Are you doing any sight-seeing, any fun stuff whilst you are here?

TT: Hopefully – I mean this year I’m playing doubles so I’m not at the site all day

I’m not playing two matches so I think my dad really wants to go out, this is their first time out.

I don’t know what to do see because I didn’t go sight-seeing last year so we’re all going to experience this together.

But [definitely] the Eiffel Tower and Champs Élysées and some other stuff.

I’m just asking the ladies in the locker room, and they’re helping me a lot.

[RS writes down a load of suggestions]

At the time of writing, Taylor was into the third round of the Girls’ Singles Draw at Roland Garros.

On Tuesday evening in Paris, Townsend received the International Tennis Federation award for being the top junior girl for 2012 at the ITF World Champions Dinner.  Townsend was the Australian Open 2012 Girls Junior Champion. She is the first American junior girl to end the year at No. 1 since Gretchen Rush in 1982.

 

Karen Pestaina contributed to this interview and report.

 

Related article:

2012 Townsend and Andrews Take Junior Girls Title

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Tsonga Ousts Federer at French Open

Tsonga Celebrates

By Ros Satar

(June 4, 2013) PARIS – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the French Open tournament, putting Roger Federer out, in straight sets 7-5 6-3 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

 

For many, the fact that Tsonga beat him may not have been the surprise. He had not dropped a set in this year’s run, and since being coached by Roger Rasheed at the start of the year, there was an expectation that results would and should come.

 

Despite being broken first by Federer, he settled into an aggressive game, breaking back and putting things back on serve. It came down to a miss-hit soaring high, that handed the first set to the Frenchman.

 

A single early break in the second set was all that was needed to set up a two-set lead.

 

The third set was perhaps the danger area for the Frenchman, with Federer breaking him in the first game, but being broken straight back.

 

Federer was able to peg back one match point, but it was not enough to stop Tsonga from claiming a semi-final place.

 

Federer said afterwards: “I think I struggled a little bit everywhere.

“To be honest, personally, I’m pretty sad about the match and the way I played. “Jo does a good job keeping the pressure on.”

 

In his post-match news conference, Tsonga spoke of his focus for the match.

 

He said: “I think tactically I played really good tennis, because from the beginning until the end I played the same tennis.”

 

Understandably as it is a home slam, there is a lot of expectation on his shoulders, but he shrugged it off, saying that it was not just for this tournament, but for everything he does.

 

He will face David Ferrer who came through a comparatively easy quarter-final against Tommy Robredo, who could not repeat the feats of his earlier rounds.

 

Ferrer defeated Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.

 

Tsonga said: “I feel I’m able to beat him because I believe I have the weapons for that.

 

“I have more endurance now.  I’m more consistent.  I hit harder than he does.”

 

Tsonga is carrying the hopes of a nation to be the first Frenchman since Yannick Noah to win the title (1983). The last Frenchman to get to the semi-finals was Gael Monfils in 2008.

 

Ferrer is through to his second French Open semi-final in a row and, like Tsonga, has not dropped a set.

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Serena Williams Battles into Semifinal

SerenaWilliamsWilsonPhoto

By Ros Satar

(June 4, 2013) PARIS – No. 1 seed Serena Williams overcame a spirited comeback by 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova to complete the semi-final line up for the top half of the draw 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

 

It started very straight-forwardly for the American, as she romped through the first set in 38 minutes, when her next competitor was barely through her first set.

 

Kuznetsova took a timeout for medical treatment on an abdominal strain at the end of the first set.

 

At the start of the second set, the momentum had definitely shifted, as it was the Russian’s turn to zip into a commanding lead.

 

Winning five games on the trot, Williams found herself serving to stay in the set, finally breaking the run of games against her.

 

It looked as though we might be in for an upset, as Kuznetsova edged ahead by a break but Williams delivered a double coup-de-grace breaking Kuznetsova and serving out the set at the first attempt.

 

Williams said: “I was really excited that I was able to win such a tough match.”

 

Their head-to-head on clay was split 1-1, and Kuznetsova had beaten Williams in 2009, on her way to winning the championship.

 

Williams said: “She’s won two Grand Slams, so that doesn’t take luck.

“You know, it takes a really good player.

“She never gives up.

“Like when I had my match point, I was thinking, I’ve got to just stay so focused because she probably plays this like it’s 15‑all.”

 

Kuznetsova has struggled with form in recent months, but there were a lot of positives to take from this run.

 

The Russian suffered a disappointing first round loss in Rome, and had very little practice time ahead of the French Open. Then she suffered an abdominal strain in her straight-sets win over Bojana Jovanovski in the third round.

 

She said: “I look overall for the whole tournament I am extremely proud of myself what I’ve done.

 

“I was extremely pleased with the way I performed here, and I just need to keep going the same way.”

 

 

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Errani Edges Radwanska for Semifinal Spot

ErranidefeatsStosur

By Ros Satar

(June 4, 2013) PARIS – 2012 finalist Sara Errani was the first of the women to book her slot in the semi-finals, with a tight straight sets 6-4, 7-6(6)win over fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

 

Errani started on the offensive early, breaking Radwanska in the third game, only to lose the advantage.

 

Errani got the better of the Pole, who had never made it past this round at the French Open, to lead with another break at 4-3, taking the first set in 44 minutes.

 

Radwanska got off to the quicker start in the second set with an immediate break and in this set the momentum see-sawed between the two of them.

 

Radwanska fought to get things back on even terms forcing a tie-break, saving one match point.

 

But it was just a brief respite when, at 6-7, a backhand swinging wide handed Errani her second successive semifinal slot.

 

Radwanska remained positive about her performance, in tricky breezy conditions.

 

Radwanska said: “She was playing very solid tennis today and didn’t miss much.

“Of course, I could do it in the second set, but, well, it just, you know, two points I was worse and, you know, and that was the match.”

 

Both women found the conditions tricky, with strong winds to the left side of the umpire’s chair.

 

Errani said: “in the first set I won one time, one game against the wind, and that was the key of the first set.

 

“[I] was lucky to close the second set, but could be also for her the second set.  [It} was a very near match.”

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