Another upset at the French Open. This time, defending champion Li Na, losing out to unheralded Yaroslava Shvedova in the pre-quarters, leaving the whole draw wide open for a winner. The French Open’s women’s draw is proving to be different kinds of interesting for this reason alone.
Dominika Cibulkova, Sara Errani and Yaroslava Shvedova – all these ladies have something in common this year at the French Open. They have conquered grand slam winners of past – two in this same event – to entrench themselves firmly in the women’s circuit. But where their victory signifies a positive inroad for them, it doesn’t exactly spell glory and resplendence for women’s tennis.
Azarenka and Kuznetsova and Li Na – all fell like the proverbial pack of cards. Where till a few months ago, Azarenka was picture perfect, not losing a single match, Cibulkova made her look distinctly peaky, instead of her customary peachiness. Out-of-sorts and disconnected, Cibulkova became an instant hit, while Azarenka’s it factor reduced by a huge margin.
But where the Belarusian still has the past six months to speak for herself, Svetlana Kuznetsova has a lot to mull about her performance this year, after her loss to Italian Errani in the fourth round. Her game was nothing to speak about, the first set was a colossal disaster, and the second was only damage repair to see whether she could push it to the third, the opportunity for which never rose.
It would be a matter-of-fact review to say that Li Na got bagelled and booted out of the tournament. The Chinese who has a problem, in almost every match, with her box trying to give her tips – sometimes it makes one wonder about whether certain pre-match tips are given to family and friends sitting in the box – just didn’t know what struck her (or rather struck at her).
Resembling a female version of Janko Tipsarevic with her glasses, qualifier Yaroslava Shevdova made the Chinese run hither and thither, but to her own advantage. Finally at the end of all those seemingly endless hours of hard-work and running, she reaped in the rewards – a place in the quarter-finals at the highest echelon of clay; making the defending champion considerably redundant to be a part of the show, further on.
Amidst these upsets, the fans still have something to look up to in the remaining five days of the tournament. The likes of Sharapova, Kvitova and Stosur are still playing – though not convincingly best – and on them, the hope still rests. All three however have fought some tight battles and have come through. But the point of contention is whether they have it in them to come though in the nail-biting last round encounters, against girls who would be giving it their all, without expecting to lose anything in return?
Maria Sharapova took over two hours to wrap up her pre-quarters against Klara Zakapalova. And this was not because her opponent gave her a tough fight, but because the Russian failed to consolidate breaks, whenever and wherever needed. For someone who is attempting to conquer the only title missing from her long list of titles, Sharapova’s play in her pre-quarters was less than mediocre. Serve not going well, shots going wide, wind acting against and drifting focus; Sharapova was the epitome of the clichéd off-colour. And these are the kind of things that could cost her, her chances at this year’s French Open. As compared to her, Kvitova just lost three games in her match against American Lepchenko. But where Kvitova was the stronger player today, it’s not as though she has come through this far without any hiccups.
Which is why the question arises about these remaining seeded players? Considering that they haven’t really outshone the rest – not in spades - who’s to say that they’ll survive? For survival, as it happens to be, is always about the fittest and the strongest. And on the courts of Roland Garros, its implications step-up even more. It’s about being fitter, grittier, hungrier and unassailable – mentally and physically; not for just on the fortnight throughout, but also on any given day of the tournament.