At age 39, it’s less surprising to see Kimiko Date Krumm beat Dinara Safina in the first round of Roland Garros 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 than it is to see her walk on water. Those are some winning abs, too! (Getty photo.)
Canadian sports writer Stephanie Myles has a great anecdote on yesterday’s El Tabakh-Rezai match on Centre Court. (Screen grab via Twitter.)
We don’t do too much in-depth, let’s-talk-about-the-tennis coverage here on TSF, but every once in awhile it’s a healthy practice just us TSFers to dive into and we’re pretty sure you get a kick out of us trying to sound like we know what we’re talking about.
I’ve had high hopes for many a players on the WTA Tour, especially those with such salacious backgrounds. You know who I’m talking about: the Jelena Dokic‘s and Melanie Oudin‘s of the world. To me, there is nothing better than a mid-ranked player making a run for her country at her home Slam with the crowd (and the world) cheering her on. It’s something unique about women’s tennis that you can’t quite find elsewhere, and though it rarely happens, when it does it is purely magical.
Last year, two such runs captured the attention of tennis fans as Dokic and Oudin made respective runs to the quarterfinals at their home Slams. The back stories were mostly inspiring and the chance for us to ride with them on their incredible journey felt refreshing and new in a women’s tennis tour that can often feel like another tattered episode of Beverly Hills 90210.
At the French Open, it has been a while since such a run has been made. A decade ago, Mary Pierce finally capped off a tumultuous Roland Garros record by winning the title over Conchita Martinez, and she surprisingly made a run to the finals in 2005, taking out Lindsay Davenport along the way before being humbled by one Justine Henin in the title match.
So this year, as Aravane Rezai makes her march through the women’s draw, she cannot do so as a dark horse. Her win two weeks ago in Madrid was a dazzling display of Pierce-like Big Babe tennis, where she hit through the likes of Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams. The thing about Rezai seems to be that she really can hit through her opponents with little regard (unlike Oudin) but also has her head squarely screwed on after five years on tour (unlike Dokic).
Her history is that of a Dokic-Pierce storybook, chalk full of stories of an over-involved father and threats of playing for a different country (Iran) and spats with the French Tennis Federation. Perhaps such histories have plagued girls on the WTA in the past, but if Rezai continues to play with the resolve she showed Sunday in a 6-1, 6-1 drubbing of Canada’s Heidi El Tabakh, then the French could get their first home-grown story line in quite a while.
Amelie Mauresmo could never quite enjoy her experience at Roland Garros because of her distaste for the pressure of the French. But to watch the powerful strokes of Rezai is something special. Few players are not physically intimidated by the Williams sisters, but Rezai can go toe-to-toe with them in a baseline brawl, and if she doesn’t suffer from the Frozen Foot Syndrome that plastered Pierce’s feet to the clay in the 2005 final against Henin, she has a legit shot at being a threat for this tournament.
Like peers Sania Mirza and Shahar Peer, Rezai makes the internationalization of women’s tennis feel more enlightening. And though she can be a streaky player, Rezai seems to be enlightened herself by the journey thus far, something that could prove vital for a shot at Roland Garros glory: “When you play tennis, you make sacrifices to reach that level so this pressure, you like it, it comes with the reward.”
A reward next Saturday for Rezai? First she has to get past Angelique Kerber, a player who drubbed her at this year’s Aussie Open.
When I used to blog over at Tennis Chatter, Troy did incredible work for me in the Photoshop department. Well, I’m glad I’ve corralled him to be a part of what we do at TSF, because he’s plain brilliant. This TIME cover features a soccer-playing Rafa, a dapper Roger and the one and only Lady JuJu. She might be able to hold court with Justine Spears, a good friend from our Chatter days.
Well the 2010 edition of Roland Garros has already begun and there’s a few upsets to speak of (Victoria Azarenka, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez!) on the opening Sunday. I’m surprised that Svetlana Kuznetsova worked her way past Sorana Cirstea so easily (3 and 1) and both Robin Soderling and Aravane Rezai have opened their Paris campaigns in convincing fashion.
So before the draws take too much shape, post your picks for the men’s and women’s champion at this year’s second Slam. It’s going to be a wonderful one, right? I can’t wait!
(screen grab via roland garros web site)
Is that Mary we see?! Upon closer inspection, no… no, it isn’t. Does this mean Troy can tell the future?? (TSF illustration by Troy Venechanos)
We wonder if Aravane Rezai could become this decade’s Mary Pierce at the French Open? It’s been a decade since Pierce, the on-again, off-again French citizen (according to tennis enthusiasts), won the title at Roland Garros much to her fans’ pleasure. Rezai has already allowed controversy to swirl around her young career, and her Iranian heritage runs parallel to Mary’s history with Canada. Both are bigger-built girls who belt off the baseline and use their hard, flat strokes to make up for less-than-best movement.
It will be interesting to see if this really could develop. Rezai has been steadily rising in the WTA ranks for the last three years, and might use 2010 as her breakthrough year after winning in Madrid last week. In what has mostly been a lackluster year, Rezai beat Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams to win the tournament. Rezai is a respectable 9-6 at Roland Garros, and this year is a guaranteed seed now that she is in the top 20. Could she be a week two contender? Guess we’ll see which Mary… we mean Aravane, shows up.
Looks like the USTA will have plenty of choices when it comes to this year’s Fed Cup final between the U.S. squad and the Italian team. 11 cities have entered bids to hold the November tie. Among the bidders are three cities in Texas (San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth) and two in California (Pacific Palisades and San Diego). Looks like Montgomery, Ala. decided to sit this one out (surprise!). Our guess: one of the Texas sites. No WTA event is held within a solid 1,000 miles of said state.