Monday, June 4, 2012

Houston Holds Serve!

Mike Houston starts his summer tennis coverage at Puddles of Myself with predictions for the remaining rounds of the French Open.

Four times a year, the tennis world stops for the biggest of the big, the largest of the large—the Grand Slams. The Australian Open, Wimbledon, the French Open and the U.S. Open captivate tennis players, fans and casual observers worldwide.  For two weeks at a time, fields of 128 players whittle down to a final two who play for a chance to have their names etched in famous pieces of metal.  I’ll be giving you the good, the bad and the Jennifer Capriati-esque meltdowns from the tournaments throughout the year. 

After one week of the 2012 of the French Open, we’re down to the final 8 in both the Men’s and Women’s draws. We’re sans two Williamses, but heavy on the Sharapova. On the men’s side, the big boys are about to get started with some epic matches featuring the top four seeds in the world and seven of the top ten in quarterfinals. Alright, enough light volleying, let’s get into some heavy rallies.

First Set — The women’s number 1 seed Victoria Azarenka lost her 4th round match to Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, opening the door for a new world number one if Maria Sharapova makes the Finals.  Men’s top ranked Novak Djokovic had his own fourth round struggles getting taken to 5 sets by Andreas Seppi.  The Djoker has lived to fight another day, but he’ll have his hands full with hard hitting Frenchman Jo-Willfried Tsonga playing in front of the friendly fans in quarters. 

Second Set — The last Yankee standing in the field was 19-year-old American breakout Sloane Stephens.  She made the 4th round winning all 3 matches in straight sets before succumbing to 6th ranked Sam Stosur of Australia.  Stephens is the daughter of a gifted swimmer and a former NFL running back, so tennis fans in the U.S. will have their eyes on her career from this point forward.

Third Set — By comparison, it was a relatively poor showing for the rest of the red, white and blue.  Serena Williams was ousted in the first round by a nobody Frenchwoman who promptly lost the next round.  Sister Venus lost in the 2nd round to 3rd ranked Radwanska of Poland.  Ryan Harrison, Andy Roddick, James Blake and Sam Querrey all lost in the 1th round.  Now Americans don’t have a great record on clay of late, but that’s pretty sad.

Fourth Set — Of the top Men’s seeds, only the three Spaniards have yet to drop a set.  David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and 2011 Champ Rafael Nadal have been perfect up to this point.  Unfortunately, all three are on the same side of the draw as Nadal and Almagro play in quarters and Ferrer could be waiting in semis if he gets past Andy Murray.

Fifth Set — Djokovic has never played in the finals of the French Open.  Federer is 1-4 in the French finals. Nadal is 6-0. No matter what the seedings say, the favorite is clear from this point out. Federer hasn’t won a slam since the 2010 Australian. Roger has 16 Slams all time while Nadal is at 10. In the years and months to come, what will likely end up as the greatest tennis rivalry of all time could possibly heat up into a race for the all time record before both retire. 

Tiebreak — My predictions for the rest of the tournament:

Women’s Semifinal: Stosur over Kerber, Sharapova over Kvitova. 

Women’s Final: Sharapova over Stosur

Men’s Semifinal: Nadal over Ferrer, Tsonga over Federer. 

Men’s Final: Nadal over Tsonga.  

Mike Houston lives in Brooklyn, NY and has been following all sports on the planet since birth.  He writes Sasky's NBA Sizzle rankings and other columns for  He attended the University of Missouri and flunked out from a Masters Program at the School of Hard Knocks.  Someday he'll again see the Redskins win the Super Bowl.

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