French Open Wednesday notebook: catchup time as clock strikes midnight for Cinderellas Pironkova and Rogers

Eh Game
Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros - Novak Djokovic of Serbia v Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain - Paris, France - 1/06/16. Novak Djokovic celebrates with a ball boy. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros - Novak Djokovic of Serbia v Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain - Paris, France - 1/06/16. Novak Djokovic celebrates with a ball boy. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

PARIS – We begin with a video that was making the rounds in the tennis world Wednesday – a long way from the posh surroundings of Roland Garros, but the clay remained the same.

Just a week ago, Dutch player Robin Haase lost a heartbreaking five-setter to No. 23 seed Jack Sock of the U.S. in the first round of the French Open.

As tennis players will do, he moved on to the next tournament, which in his case was a smaller Challenger event in Prostejov, Czech Republic.

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The No. 8 seed faced a grunting Chilean named Gonzalo Lama in the first round and, well, things weren't going very well. And the noise emanating from the other side of the court was beyond annoying. So Haase, a former top-40 player, decided to take action.

After all that racket (pardon the pun) coming from the other wise, it was Haase who was called for hindrance and lost the point.

The chair umpire was within his rights – if you make the assumption that Lama isn't grunting intentionally to hinder his opponent, there's no doubt Haase's outburst was. But it's a setback for grunt haters everywhere.

Haase lost the match 6-3, 6-3; Lama was beaten in the second round Wednesday by a qualifier.

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The $100 million dollar man

Novak Djokovic had to wait a few days to complete his fourth-round singles match Wednesday, which he did with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 victory over No. 14 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.

With the win, and the guaranteed 294,000 Euros that go with it, the Serb star becomes the first tennis player to pass the $100 million mark in career earnings (just barely, at approximately $100,000,875). Roger Federer stands at $98,011,727; Djokovic passed him by winning the Miami Open in early April.

If he is to finally win his first career French Open title, Djokovic will (on paper) have to play his quarter-final match Thursday and semi-final match on Friday back-to-back, with the final scheduled for Sunday. That's after playing his fourth-round match (or part of it) Wednesday. The same holds true, of course, for other players.

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Tennis, more tennis and lots of rounds of tennis

Here are the categories in which tennis was contested on catchup day Wednesday: men's singles fourth round, men's singles quarter-finals, women's singles fourth round, women's singles quarter-finals, women's doubles quarter-finals, men's doubles quarter-finals, men's doubles third round, mixed doubles quarter-finals and mixed doubles second round.

Shelby Rogers had a great run in Paris, but it ended Wednesday. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)
Shelby Rogers had a great run in Paris, but it ended Wednesday. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)

That doesn't even factor in the legends and the juniors, who played first- and second-round matches, as well as first-round doubles matches.

It got to the point where it was difficult to tell who was what, where.

But in the end, one men's and one women's semi-final were determined.

On the men's side, No. 2 seed Andy Murray will meet defending champion and No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka. On the women's side. No. 4 Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain will play No. 21 Samantha Stosur of Australia, a finalist back in 2010.

Had those outcomes gone the other way for the women, it could have been Cinderella No. 1 (Shelby Rogers) vs. Cinderella No. 2 (Tsvetana Pironkova) in the semi-finals of the French Open. Even if you're the type that loves to root for the underdog, that would have been a challenge to sell.

As it was, the two favourites advanced in straight sets – although they were close sets. Rogers was up 5-3 in the first set on Muguruza before dropping seven straight games and losing 7-5, 6-3.

"She definitely knew what she wanted to do with the big points. I think that was the biggest thing. But I'm pretty happy with the way I played. It was just kind of an execution issue today. A few errors here and there," Rogers said. "Yeah, enjoyed it as much as I could for a loss."


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Nadal withdraws from Queen's Club grass event

For whatever reason, people were trying to be hopeful that Rafael Nadal's wrist tendon injury, the one that forced him to withdraw from his favourite tournament in the world, would be okay by Wimbledon.

It didn't seem realistic. It still doesn't. But it's no surprise that the Mallorcan has pulled out of next week's tuneup tournament in London, at Queen's Club.

Not only is Rafael Nadal out of the French Open, he's out of Queen's Club as well, and Wimbledon certainly has to be a question mark. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Not only is Rafael Nadal out of the French Open, he's out of Queen's Club as well, and Wimbledon certainly has to be a question mark. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

It is the only Wimbledon warmup event Nadal was scheduled to play; his tradition, through the nine French Open titles he has won, was to arrive at Queen's Club for a first practice on grass the very next day.

Neither will happen this year. And you'd have to think that Wimbledon is extremely doubtful. 

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Venus damns with (sort of faint) praise

The closest fourth-round match, rankings-wise on the women's side on Wednesday was between No. 8 seed Timea Bacsinzky of Switzerland and No. 9 Venus Williams of the U.S.

Bacsinczky won, 6-2, 6-4.

Venus Williams of the U.S. reacts as she plays Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in Paris. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Venus Williams of the U.S. reacts as she plays Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in Paris. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The 35-year-old Williams was trying to make the quarter-finals in Paris for only the fifth time, in her 19th trip here. That's a surprisingly low number.

She's known as a gracious loser. But there is all kinds of damning with faint praise on Williams' post-match remarks.

"She played really well. I respect that she played really well. The first few games she made some errors, and in the last 12 games I made all the errors (smiling). You know, she played to win, and I give her credit for really competing well," Williams said.

Huh?

"I mean, I wanted to play better today. The most disappointing part is just not playing well, and that's disappointing. I give credit to my opponent, and it was just a frustrating day of kind of like balls not going in or hitting the net tape, so it's frustrating for me. But, you know, I competed as well as I could out there and she played a smart match. That definitely added to my troubles."

Well, okay then.

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Tournament rain defence

There was plenty of criticism after the limited play on Tuesday, and the incredible "coincidence" that Djokovic and Bautista Agut played two hours and ONE minute Tuesday – one minute over the minimum amount of play required for the tournament not to have to offer any refunds to its ticketholders. 

The other courts clocked in under two hours, so ticketholders on those courts received a 50 per cent refund.

In his first year as French Open tournament director, Guy Forget has almost had as many press conferences as the top players with the weather, Roger Federer's withdrawal, Rafael Nadal's pullout, and with another plea for the resisters to cave in and allow the planned Roland Garros expansion plans to go through.
In his first year as French Open tournament director, Guy Forget has almost had as many press conferences as the top players with the weather, Roger Federer's withdrawal, Rafael Nadal's pullout, and with another plea for the resisters to cave in and allow the planned Roland Garros expansion plans to go through.

Beleaguered tournament director Guy Forget – what a first French Open he's having – issued a statement denying that money considerations played a role in extending the main stadium match beyond that two-hour mark. Play on the other courts was stopped before Djokovic and Bautista Agut finally left their court.

First, Forget put the onus on tournament referee Stefan Fransson, whom he said has the final decision on when play should be stopped.

Mostly, he stressed that if money were a consideration, they would have stopped play at exactly one hour, 59 minutes – and let the tournament's insurance take care of the refunds. It's a nice sound bite, but of course actually making a CLAIM On that insurance no doubt would send the premium skyrocketing.

The forecast for Thursday is worse than Wednesday's, better than Tuesday's. The tournament is by no means out of the woods yet in terms of finishing on the scheduled Sunday. As it is, No. 1 women's seed Serena Williams will have to finish with four consecutive days of play if she wants to defend her title.

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Canadian update

All the Canadian are out of the grownups' version of the French Open, but there is plenty to follow in the junior event, where the country's up-and-coming talent is blooming.

Click here for an update on the three boys in the final 16. And bookmark this link to keep up on results from the other Canadians playing around the world this week.

Genie Bouchard is in London – from the looks of it, doing some sightseeing.

 

She is scheduled to play a tournament in each of the weeks of the grass-court season, three tune-ups, then the two-week event at Wimbledon. The first one is 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, a WTA International-level event next week.

On an unrelated note, coach Nick Saviano became a grandfather for the first time on Monday.

  

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