Nadal Survives, Clijsters Cruises - French Open 2011 Day 2

French Open 2011
By Ajay Singh, May 24th, 2011

The Men

For the first time in Rafa Nadal’s storied career, he was pushed to five sets in a Grand Slam first round match. At one point,American John Isner appeared to have the momentum and a frustrated Nadal appeared desperate.

Rafael Nadal Celebrates Victory In French Open 2011

This was one grueling four-hour win for Nadal and a bitter defeat for the battle-tested Isner. We may not see a better match at Roland Garros this year.

The four hour match was a strategic battle by a committed serve-and-volley player against the best clay court player in a generation who used all, his crafty tools to overcome the 6” 9” power player. Not since Pancho Gonzalez blessed the game has such a serve and volley player demonstration been on full display for an excited audience. Indeed, the level of competition would have been worthy of a semi-final match.

Both players had pre-match strategies and it became quickly apparent that Isner realized his weaknesses and intended to not let them come into play. The shorter the point, the better his chances.

The heavily-favored Nadal persevered 6-4, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-4. If Isner had been able to push for a tiebreaker in the fourth set, he very well may have won the match. Well aware of that possibility, Nadal moved forward to try to catch Isner’s serve on the rise. Although he was returning at neck-high peaks, the strategy befuddled Isner who was unable to follow the serve to the net.

Nadal was thankful for the win and can only hope that someone else draws Isner on the grass of Wimbledon. The top seed will next play countryman Pablo Andujar and Nadal seems pointed to a third round match with one-time nemeses Nikolay Davydenko who defeated Denis Gremelmyr of Germany in straight sets.

Sam Querrey and Ivan Liubicic both advanced and will meet each other in the next round. Fernando Verdasco needed four sets to put away a challenge from Juan Monaco. Xavier Malisse needed five sets to hold off Russian Dmitry Tursonov. Verdasco is favored to emerge from this grouping and play Nadal in round 4.

Surprising American Ryan Harrison gave 5th seeded Robin Soderling everything he could in losing in 4 tough sets. Harrison used excellent foot speed and daring chances to offset Soderling’s heavy-footed power game.

Fourth seed Andy Murray was not on his game or may have been unnerved by the home crowd but managed to subdue French qualifier Eric Prodon 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. Murray has a dangerous tendency to play to the opponents level of play. However, he is our pick to go all the way at Roland Garros and he is safely out of the gate. The Scotsman will play Italian Simone Bolelli in round two.

Eighth seeded Jurgen Melzer moved ahead in straight sets over Andreas Beck of Germany. In the bottom of Murray’s quarter bracket, South African Kevin Anderson looks very impressive. The South African downed France’s Nicolas Mahut in four sets and will play Juan Ignacio Chela in round two.

The Women

Kim Clijsters, the two seed but bookmaker favorite, advanced with a straight set win over Anastasiva Yakimova and will next play Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. Clijsters showed no soreness in her ankle or right arm and looks fit to play for her second Grand Slam win of the year. The Belgian will have obstacles ahead and must sharpen her competitive spirit as she moves through early matches. Her quarter pairing looks to be Maria Sharapova who won in Rome last week and downed Miriana Lucic in two convincing sets. The Russian is playing with newfound confidence and is a threat to go all the way.

Sania Mirza In Action - French Open 2011

In a surprising upset, India’s Sonia Mirza turned the trick on Kristina Berros, 6-3, 6-3. Mirza’s singles play has been improving in 2011. She will next play Aggie Radwanska, the 12th seed.

Fifteenth seeded Andrea Petkovic did not dominate Bojana Jovanovski but eeked out a 6-4, 7-6 (3). Petkovic has the game to give Clijsters trouble in the fourth round. Clijsters will probably meet Russian pretty girl Maria Kirilenko in the third round.

Much of the buzz around Roland Garros is about tomorrrow’s featured match between Caroline Wozniacki and Alexandra Wozniack of Canada. This one should not be as close as the crowd expects.


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