Eirias Park has made a name for itself in recent years hosting elite performers, rugby fixtures and concerts. One event attracting elite competitors you may not be aware of, however, is the Colwyn Bay Bowls Festival. Colwyn Bay has hosted an annual Bowling festival for over 30 years attracting some of the top bowls players in the country to North Wales.
Bowls is a simple sport in which two players compete by rolling bowls (weighted plastic balls) towards a jack (a smaller target ball). The player with the closest ball to the jack wins a point (or two if both balls are closer than the opponent’s) until one player reaches 21 points. Crown green bowling, as is played in the Colwyn Bay festival is called this as the green (the pitch it is played on) has a crown and falls away at the edges of the playing surface.
Christine Blake, a volunteer at Eirias Park Bowling Club who host the event has been playing for over 10 years was keen to stress the positives of the sport. “Bowls is a brilliants sport, good for you physically and mentally and we play rain or shine.” “We have players of all ages, even a gentleman who is 95 playing on Tuesday nights.”
A clear attraction to the players of the sport is the social element. Many of the players and spectators at the festival are members of bowling clubs across the country and enjoy meeting up and seeing familiar faces competition to competition. Steve and Dave Baskerville have been playing the game since they were young thanks to their father and have enjoyed making the annual trip to the North Wales coast from Manchester for the past 30 years.
The event has attracted some of the top bowlers from around the country, including 24-year-old Greg Smith, winner of the prestigious Waterloo bowling tournament in 2015. Smith was knocked out of the George Davies trophy (the main event with a £500 winning prize) by 2008 winner Andy Cairns, but got revenge in the semi final of the Capstan Cup, open to visitors to the area. This year is Smith’s first time in Colwyn Bay, “it’s a lovely set up, we’ve heard it’s a nice area, but it is a bit of shame, I heard a few years ago there were 256 entrants to the main event, whereas now it’s 64 or maybe just over which hopefully they can advertise it a bit more and get it back up there as a real big event.”
On preparing for the Capstan final, against Kevin Wainwright, Smith said “I know a little bit about his game so I’ll try and work up a game plan in my head. I’ll look to get on with and whatever happens, happens.” Asked if he would look to return to the event Smith said “definitely, we’ve enjoyed the week….I just hope they advertise it more and we’ll tell our friends in Birmingham how good it’s been and they can come over and have a go.”
Smith’s thoughts regarding the entrance numbers were echoed by other players and organisers. The event is run by Linda Hughes on behalf of the Conwy Borough Council and brings visitors from across the country to Conwy in the hopes of winning the main prize, handed out annually since 1931. The number of entrants to this year’s event was so poor that the event was nearly cancelled altogether, but fortunately rush of entrants allowed bowls returned to Colwyn Bay for another year, and with it tourism.
The future of the sport as a whole was the subject of conversation amongst spectators and competitors. Bowls is seen very much as an old person’s sports, and whilst there were several elderly participants and spectators, there was also a 16-year-old competitor not to mention the 24-year-old Greg Smith who started playing at the age of five. Clubs in the North Wales region have been keen to recruit primary school aged children into their junior ranks, and Penrhyn Old Hall is able to boast around 20 such youngsters. The promotion of bowls as a mixed gender, mixed ability sport will doubtless do wonders for the broader appeal of the sport. Gareth Hughes and the Baskervilles brothers were positive about the sport’s future in a social context, even if the competitive scene doesn’t get the attention of other sports.
1981 winner of the George Davies trophy, Gareth Hughes now a volunteer and coordinator of the event were impressed by the standard of the greens for this year’s competition, thanks to the work of the dedicated groundsman employed as a result of the Rygbi Gogledd Cymru project at Eirias Park. The transformation of Eirias Park into a top class venue continues as there are plans to renovate the bowling greens, installing an all weather bowls pitch with floodlights in place of Green 2, which could help the popularity of the sport. Along with improvements to the playing surfaces and surrounding amenities, the increasing affordability of the bowls themselves should aid in the promotion of the sport.
A special part of the Festival and a crowd favourite is the annual Craig Roberts Memorial Invitation which will be held on Thursday 3rd August at 6 pm in Rhos on Sea. The invitational tournament sees 8 of the best bowlers from across England face off for a prize pool of 700 pounds with all proceeds going to charity, with the event posted on the BlueBorderSports youtube channel. Greg Smith is “looking forward to it, it’s a top class field,” he continued “I’m going to have to play well if I’m going to win that.” Smith faces off against highly ranked Gary Ellis in his quarter final.
The finals day and culmination of the week long festival takes place on Friday 4th August at the Eirias Park Bowling Club. Up for grabs are the Ladies Colwyn Rose Bowl, Juniors, Mixed Pairs, Capstan Challenge and the main event the George Davies trophy. Organisers and spectators are hopeful of a good turnout for the finals day, and if Thursday’s play was anything to go by the crowds will be in for exciting and high-quality bowling action.
The Colwyn Bay bowling festival was once a big tourist draw to the North Welsh coastal town and can be once again. For the council this is the ultimate goal of the festival, and with the likes of Greg Smith, Kevin Wainwright, Andy Cairns and the Baskerville brothers all playing high quality bowls proper promotion of the events and perhaps streaming footage of matches online could bring the crowds back to the Colwyn Bay Festival and even inspire some youngsters to pick up the sport and maybe have their name etched on the famous George Davies trophy.
Council support of the festival is good, but a more mainstream promotion of the event could go a long way to taking the Colwyn Bay festival to the pinnacle of Crown Green Bowls in Great Britain.
Let’s be honest here, Wimbledon 2017’s first week was not overly interesting. Sure, the women’s side of the draw was upset central for most of it, but on the men’s side it seemed business as usual and looked like the Big Four would steamroll all the way to the semis and then duke it out for a place in Sunday’s final. If I was a betting person, I’d have laid money on it. If I was a prediction person- which as we all know, I’m not- I’d have predicted it.
Let’s just say, I’m glad I didn’t. Week 2 was, in a word, whacked. Let’s start with Manic Monday…………….and no, I don’t mean the Bangles song. I mean, the first Monday where everyone and their uncle was playing. It was Monday. It was manic. It was also mega-good tennis. Hope you had your Pimms ready!
MANIC MONDAY- 10/7/17
Where do I start? I guess with the elephant in the room. You know, the one where Rafael Nadal was upset by Gilles Müller in 5 sets (a 5th set that lasted 2 and a half hours and was won by a score of 15-13). One of the Big Four down. I watched that set. I had visions of the ’08 Final. Sadly, this 5th set didn’t go the way that one did. Müller was stone-cold, heartless, ruthless as he mowed down Nadal. He won his first two ATP titles this year after 17 years on the tour. It was also the first time he’d beaten a player in the top 5. Luxembourg must be very proud. On that note, can anyone name any other famous people from Luxembourg? I’ll wait.
He looked shell-shocked, bless him. But classy move by Nadal afterwards, waiting for Müller to collect his things and walking off the court with him. Heavy blow to Nadal’s comeback season, but never mind. He at least got through his match uninjured……………that’s not a spoiler by the way.
Elsewhere, it was business as usual as Federer and Murray would win their matches. On the women’s side of the draw, it was another early(ish) exit for Angelique Kerber who was upset by Garbiñe Muguruza. Kerber relinquishes her top ranking and early round upset victim Karolina Pliskova will take her place at the top of the women’s game.
Roger Federer (3) def. Grigor Dimitrov (11)
Milos Raonic (6) def. Alexander Zverev (10)
Andy Murray (1) def. Benoit Paire
Sam Querrey (24) def. Kevin Anderson
Marin Cilic (7) def. Roberto Bautista- Agut (18)
Simona Halep (2) def. Victoria Azarenka
Johanna Konta (6) def. Caroline Garcia (21)
Venus Williams (10) def. Ana Konjuh (27)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (7) def. Agnieszka Radwanska (9)
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Petra Martic
Gilles Müller (16) def. Rafael Nadal (4)
Tomas Berdych (11) def. Dominic Thiem (8)
Coco Vandeweghe (24) def. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
Garbiñe Muguruza (14) def. Angelique Kerber (1)
Jelena Ostapenko (13) def. Elina Svitolina (4)
DAY 8- 11/7/2017
Today was a relatively quiet day in SW19 after the tumultuous Monday. Well, I say quiet, but if you’re a Brit then you must have really enjoyed the day. Johanna Konta scored a thrilling upset win over Simona Halep to become the first British woman to make a Wimbledon semi-final since Virginia Wade. She also officially cracked the top 5, as her ranking will be higher after the tournament. Out of the four games in the women’s draw, 3 were upsets, although if you want to call Jelena Ostapenko’s defeat at the hands of Venus Williams an upset, then fine. Given the roll she’s been on, it did have a certain whiff of upset, but she was playing Venus Williams. Novak Djokovic was the sole men’s player in action on the day.
Novak Djokovic (2) def. Adrian Mannarino
Venus Williams (10) def. Jelena Ostapenko (13)
Johanna Konta (6) def. Simona Halep (2)
Magadalena Rybarikova def. Coco Vandeweghe (24)
Garbiñe Muguruza (14) def. Svetlana Kuznetsova (7)
Venus Williams (10) vs. Johanna Konta (6)
Garbiñe Muguruza (14) vs. Magdalena Rybarikova
DAY 9- 12/07
Wednesday was the day it all went wrong for two more members of the Big Four. With Nadal exiting early, it was (definitely, maybe) a matter of time before one or more of the other three succumbed to something. Hint: it wasn’t Federer. Good ole Roger scored an easy victory over Milos Raonic, the man who bested him in an epic semi-final last year. Marin Cilic also had an easy day (just another 5 set match) besting the Rafa slayer Gilles Müller. But for Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, life was very difficult indeed. Murray was defeated by American Sam Querrey in 5 sets and appeared to have re-injured his hip in the process. Word on the street is that he may need surgery and there goes his hard court campaign. Djokovic, on the other hand, retired in the second set of his match against Tomas Berdych with an elbow injury. He too might be for the sirgeon’s knife. Tennis elbow, anyone? With his win over Murray, Querrey becomes the first American man since Andy Roddick back in ’09 to make a Wimbledon semi-finals.
Roger Federer (3) def. Milos Raonic (6)
Marin Cilic (7) def. Gilles Müller (16)
Sam Querrey (24) def. Andy Murray (1)
Tomas Berdych (11) def. Novak Djokovic (2) retired
SEMI FINAL MATCH-UPS
Sam Querrey (24) vs. Marin Cilic (7)
Roger Federer (3) vs. Tomas Berdych (11
DAY 10- 13/7/2017
Women’s semi-final day at Wimbledon! Sadly, Johanna Konta’s fabulous run came to an end at the hands of Venus Williams. Muguruza romped her way to the final with a dominant win over unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova, the only unseeded player left on either side.
Venus Williams (10) def. Johanna Konta (6)
Garbiñe Muguruza (14) def. Magdalena Rybarikova
This should be a good final, although my money is solidly in Venus’ court. It’s hard to argue against her experience and her 5 Wimbledon singles titles. We won’t mention the 6 doubles titles she’s won here along with Serena, though. Her last title came 9 years ago, in ’08 (same year as that famous men’s final). Muguruza to her credit, does have 1 Grand Slam title: you may remember she won the French Open last year.
DAY 11- 14/7/2017
Sam Querrey’s dream run had to come to an end- eventually. Right? Well it did. At the hands of Marin Cilic. Granted, it took the Croatian 4 sets, including a first set tie-break, to do so. At some point, Querrey ran out of steam…….as one does when they’ve played 3 five- set matches in one tournament. It’s done wonders for his ranking though. Wouldn’t surprise me if he cracks the teens. Cilic becomes the first seventh seed to make a Wimbledon final in the Open Era. That fact courtesy of the BBC’s John Inverdale.
Roger Federer’s quest for 8 Wimbledon titles is still on after his straight set victory over Tomas Berdych. Give credit where it’s due however, as Berdych pushed Federer in the first two sets. But once he’d had his serve broken in the third set, well, it was essentially game over. But Berdych, like Querrey, has had a nice ride and will surely be rewarded with a top 10 ranking when the Championships conclude on Sunday.
Marin Cilic (7) def. Sam Querrey (24)
Roger Federer (3) def. Tomas Berdych (11)
DAY 12- 15/7/2017
Garbiñe Muguruza (14) def. Venus Williams (10)
I expected this to be a more competitive match. I expected 3 sets. I also expected Venus Williams to complete her comeback season a la Federer and Nadal. I got………….none of that. Instead what happened was Garbiñe Muguruza winning in straight sets in an hour and a half under the roof of Centre Court. She becomes only the 4th Spaniard to win a Wimbledon singles title, a group which includes Manuel Santana, Conchita Martinez and, of course, Rafael Nadal (who has 2 titles)
Venus looked flat and tired for the majority of the match and her forehand was missing the court most of the time. But she has had a good tournament, and her ranking will rise. But at the age of 37 after 20 years on the tour, how much does she have left before she hangs up the racket? I hope she sticks around for a while. But Muguruza was just too much, especially after going up a double break in the second to make it 3-0. I think even Venus knew that it was over.
DAY 13- 16/7/2017
Roger Federer (3) def. Marin Cilic (7)
Well. That was quick. Another final, another straight sets victory. At least, it went exactly the way everyone thought it would. Unless you’re a Cilic fan, and then it didn’t. It’s a shame he couldn’t make it slightly more competitive. But he was hampered by an apparent foot injury-it looked to be some pretty painful blisters on his foot and, let’s be honest, it’s hard enough to walk with them let alone play tennis. The trainer came on twice and he took a medical timeout in the second set. It was gruesome. The BBC has since confirmed that Cilic was indeed suffering the effects of said blister. In fact, the poor man was in tears.
But at the end of the day, injured or not, Cilic didn’t really stand a chance. It was a bit like Nadal destroying Wawrinka in Paris. If Rafa is the master of clay, then Federer is the master of grass. It was also a history-making championship: Federer wins a record 8th Wimbledon title, the first player in history to do that; it was also his 19th career Slam title.
If that wasn’t enough, he’s also won 2 of the 4 Slams this season; Nadal has 1. And the US Open is in a month. Pretty sure Federer is the favourite to win in New York, barring any unforeseen occurrences. Wouldn’t it be great if Nadal won and the two of them end up splitting the Slams? 🎶 Let’s do the Time Warp again 🎶
So we bid farewell to SW19; it’s been a blast these past two weeks! Well, maybe not for some (Murray, Djokovic, Nadal and Wawrinka). When we return in 2018, Court 1 will have its much-awaited roof. But for now the hard court season continues. Stay tuned for a US Open report next month.
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My first foray into tennis blogging (see my pieces on the recent French Open to jog your memory) was both enjoyable and therapeutic…………what better way to take out some sport-induced rage than to write about it? So here’s foray number 2: Wimbledon. Yes, tennis fans, its that time again! The long anticipated, much awaited and incredibly short grass court season, culminating in one of the most iconic sporting events on the calendar. That little tennis tournament down in SW19, where sometimes the rain comes and makes life miserable but also where spectacles happen- I’m thinking the longest tennis match in history where Nicolas Mahut and John Isner battled it out for three days in a mtach that lasted somewhere over 7 hours and the fifth set was won by a scored of 70-68. The fortnight of Wimbledon is quintessentially British (as are the vast quantities of strawberries and cream, Pimms and afternoon tea, naturally) and is the highlight of the tennis calendar for fans and players alike.
Many people will have a defining moment of Wimbledon and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll have you know that mine is the 2008 Federer-Nadal final which went 5 sets over 5 hours through 3 rain delays (because the roof on Centre Court hadn’t been finished yet) until Nadal won his first Wimbledon title essentially in the dark at 9 pm GMT. Widely considered the greatest tennis match in the history of the game, and certainly the greatest Wimbledon final ever played, it has stayed with me over the last 9 years. Thanks to YouTube, I can watch highlights whenever I want. I’ve included a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1yfWb0-jqQ
While indulging in a bit of reverie is allowed, I’ll spare you readers a lengthy spiel about this match- one day I may devote a whole article about it. Moving swiftly on to this year’s edition!
SEEDS (top 15 only)
- Andy Murray
- Novak Djokovic
- Roger Federer
- Rafael Nadal
- Stan Wawrinka
- Milos Raonic
- Marin Cilic
- Dominic Thiem
- Kei Nishikori
- Alexander Zverev
- Tomas Berdych
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
- Grigor Dimitrov
- Lucas Pouille
- Gael Monfils
- Angelique Kerber
- Simona Halep
- Karolina Pliskova
- Elina Svitolina
- Caroline Wozniacki
- Johanna Konta
- Svetlana Kuznetsova
- Domenika Cibulkova
- Agnieszka Radwanska
- Venus Williams
- Petra Kvitova
- Kristina Mladenovic
- Jelena Ostapenko
- Garbiñe Muguruza
- Elena Vesnina
Surprising absolutely no-one, the top 4 men’s seeds are the Big Four: Murray, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Its almost like its 2010 again. Federer and Nadal’s comeback tour continues, Djokovic will be hoping to maintain his form and Murray will cling on to his number one ranking. The rest of the field will hope that they have an outside chance, but my money has these guys in the semis. And I’m not sure many people would complain about that. On the women’s side, once again, its anyone’s tournament, although if anyone stands out in this tournament its Venus Williams, but who knows. After her maiden Grand Slam victory in Paris, Jelena Ostapenko could surprise us all and make the final and win, but her rawness might be the only thing that prevents that. Maybe Angelique Kerber will win and maintain that no. 1 ranking or perhaps Simona Halep will finally live up to all that potential and win her first Slam after her heartbreaking defeat on the clay. As always, we will have to wait a fortnight to find out……….so brollies at the ready!
DAY 1- 3/7/17
Let’s be honest, the first day of Wimbledon can, on occasion, be tremendously boring and reasonably straightforward with all those at the top of the draw making it through and those at the bottom, well, not. But every now and then high drama occurs on the expertly tended lawns of SW19. This year was one of those days: the first major upset. The victim? Stan Wawrinka. Several weeks removed from his straight-sets defeat at the hands of Rafa Nadal in Paris. a four-set loss to Russian Daniil Medvedev. Rumour has it that Stan the Man is nursing an injury. Here’s hoping he’s recovered for the US Open next month.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal’s matches were straightforward. Murray defeated Alexander Bublik in straight sets whilst Nadal sent Australian John Millman packing in the same way. Millman’s countryman, Nick Kyrgios retired with a nagging injury, ending his Wimbledon campaign early. Again.
On the women’s side of the draw, it was very much business as usual. Victoria Azarenka, returning to competition after the birth of her son, scored a straight-set win over young American CiCi Bellis. Venus Williams, Johanna Konta, Petra Kvitova and Jelena Ostapenko also made it through to the second round with no disasters. Also making it through to round 2: Aljaz Bedene and Heather Watson.
Andy Murray (1) def. Alexander Bublik
Rafael Nadal (4) def. John Millman
Marin Cilic (7) def. Philip Kohlschreiber
Jerzy Janowicz def. Denis Shapovalov
Kei Nishikori def. Marco Cecchinato
Carla Suarez Navarro (25) def. Eugenie Bouchard
Venus Williams (10) def. Elise Mertens
Johnanna Konta (6) def. Su-Wei Hsieh
Jelena Ostapenko (13) def. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Daniil Medvedev def. Stan Wawrinnka (5)
Aljaz Bedene def. Ivo Karlovic (21)
Kevin Anderson def. Fernando Verdasco (31)
P.H, Herbert def. Nick Kyrgios (20) retired
Carina Witthoft def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (26)
Krystyna Pliskova def. Roberta Vinci (31)
DAY 2- 4/7/2017
Day was another easy day at the office for the top seeds. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer didn’t really have to play as both their opponents, Martin Klizan and Alexandr Dolgopolov respectively, both retired due to injury. How very convenient. To be fair, it was very hot and humid in London on Day 2. Dominic Thiem and Milos Raonic made quick work of their opponents. On the women’s side, both Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova made it to round two. There were, however, several upsets as usual.
Dominic Thiem (8) def. Vasek Pospisil
Tomas Berdych (11) def. Jeremy Chardy
Roger Federer (3) def. Alexandr Dolgopolov retired
Novak Djokovic (2) def. Martin Klizan retired
Milos Raonic (6) def. Jan-Lennard Struff
Caroline Wozniacki (5) def. Timea Babos
Timea Bacszinsky (19) def. Monica Puig
Karolina Pliskova (3) def. Elena Rodina
Agnieszka Radwanska (9) def. Jelena Jankovic
Garbine Muguruza (14) def. Ekaterina Alexandrova
David Ferrer def. Richard Gasquet (22)
Adrian Mannarino def. Feliciano Lopez (19) retired
Petra Martic def. Daria Gavrilova (20)
Sorana Cirstea def. Kiki Bertens (23)
DAY 3- 5/7/2017
The men took a ‘business as usual’ approach to proceedings on Day 3, while the women’s side was upset central. A total of 6 seeded players were ousted compared to one men’s seed. The most disappointing upset on the day was Petra Kvitova’s loss to unseeded Madison Brengle. It was clear that she was nursing an injury, other than her hand, obviously, and she was having difficulties gripping the racket. You may recall that she was upset in the second round at Roland Garros as well. Rafa Nadal made everything look easy against Donald Young (again without dropping a set) while Andy Murray and Dustin Brown played an entertaining match on Centre Court, with Murray coming out on top. Johanna Konta and Donna Vekic played a three set thriller, which in the end, went to Konta, in a form of payback for her loss to Vekic a few weeks ago.
Rafael Nadal (4) def. Donald Young
Andy Murray (1) def. Dustin Brown
Aljaz Bedene def. Damir Dzumhur
Jelena Ostapenko (13) def. Françoise Abanda
Venus Williams (10) def. Wang Qiang
Johanna Kontta (6) def. Donna Vekic
Jerzy Janowicz def. Lucas Pouille (14)
Shuai Peng def. Carla Suarez Navarro (25)
Camila Giorgi def. Madison Keys (17)
Madison Brengle def. Petra Kvitova (11)
Naomi Osaka def. Barbora Strycova (22)
Heather Watson def. Anastasija Sevastova (18)
Victoria Azarenka def. Elena Vesnina (15)
DAY 4- 6/7/2017
After the amount of upsets the day before, you would have thought that would be enough and things would go according to plan. But you would be mistaken. There were 7 upsets on the day- same number as Day 3- but at least on this day there would be a more even number on either side. Federer, Djokovic, Raonic and Thiem once again enjoyed a relatively easy day on the grass. The shocker on the women’s draw was third seed Karolina Pliskova going out at the hands of Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova. But if Pliskova was having a bad day, it was nothing compared to the gruesome injury suffered by American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who crumpled to the court in agony and screamed in pain- pretty sure there were some F-bombs in there. She was stretchered off and taken to hospital, where it was confirmed that she had a dislocated kneecap and ruptured patellar tendon. Anyone wanna say: OUCH. While not a particularly successful singles player, Mattek-Sands is an incredibly talented doubles player and together with her partner Lucie Safarova are the top-ranked women’s doubles side on the tour. They were also looking to win an (almost) calendar slam this year, so this is a disappointing injury indeed. Also in the upset category, our favourite gentleman friend, J. M. del Potro.
Today also marked the 9th anniversary of Federer and Nadal’s epic Wimbledon final that I (probably) mentioned in my introduction to this piece………..HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!
Roger Federer (3) def. Dusan Lajovic
Alexander Zverev (10) def. Frances Tiafoe
Milos Raonic (6) def. Mikhail Youzhny
Tomas Berdych (11) def. Ryan Harrison
Dominic Thiem (8) def. Gilles Simon
Novak Djokovic (2) def. Adam Pavlasek
Gael Monfils (15) def. Kyle Edmund
Caroline Wozniacki (5) def. Tsvetana Pironkova
Angelique Kerber (1) def. Kirsten Flipkens
Sebastian Ofner def. Jack Sock (17)
Ernests Gulbis def. Juan Martin del Potro (29)
Dudi Sela def. John Isner (23)
Anett Kontaveit def. Daria Kasatkina (29)
Shelby Rogers def. Lucie Safarova (32)
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Karolina Pliskova (3)
Alison Riske def. Kristina Mladenovic (12)
DAY 5- 7/7/2017
In addition to being Day 5 of the tournament, today also marked the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London. David Beckham and Sergio Garcia (resplendent in his green Master jacket) graced the Royal Box. Murray and Nadal once again kicked behind on Centre Court.
Once again, Nadal did not drop a set, bringing his total to 28 games without losing one.- althouugh that third set was stressful! This dates back to the clay court season. I mean, he’s a decent clay courter, right? Let’s be honest, grass is not Rafa’s favourite surface, although given the current condition of SW19’s lawns, it sure is playing a lot like clay. Most of the other players have already said this. Rafa presumably cares not a lot. Surely, if the grass is going to play like clay than it makes his life a whole lot easier. Fun fact of the day: Rafa only needs to make the finals at Wimbledon in order to retake the no. 1 ranking. Whether he wins said final is irrelevant. Kind of. I’m not sure that just making the final is good enough for him anyway: he’s definitely in it to win it in 2017.
Andy Murray (1) def. Fabio Fognini (28)
Rafael Nadal (4) def. Karen Khachanov (30)
Marin Cilic (7) def. Steve Johnson (28)
Gilles Müller (16) def. Aljaz Bedene
Venus Williams (10) def. Naomi Osaka
Jelena Ostapenko (13) def. Camila Giorgi
Johanna Konta (6) def. Maria Sakkari
Simona Halep (2) def. Shuai Peng
Victoria Azaranka def. Heather Watson
Roberto Bautista-Agut (18) def. Kei Nishikori (9)
Ana Konjuh (27) def. Dominika Cibulkova (8)
DAY 6- 8/7/2017
It was, again, business as usual at Wimbledon. For the first time all week, none of the women’s seeds went the way of the upset, although Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils weren’t so lucky. Monfils went out in a five-set thriller against his countryman Adrian Mannarino and Tsonga went out in five sets against 28th seed Sam Querrey in a match that was held over from yesterday due to darkness. He only played one game once on court. Sound like a familiar scenario? It is: you may recall that this happened to him several weeks ago at Roland Garros where he was upset by Renzo Olivo. Let’s just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself at the US Open. Because we all like Tsonga.
Today was Olympic and Paralympic Champions Day in the Royal Box. Spectators included: Jason & Laura Kenney, Nicola Adams, Adam Peaty, Helen Glover and some guy named Andy Murray on his day off. Must be nice when you’re invited into the Royal Box whilst also a competitor at the tournament and they make an exception and relax the dress code for you. But I suppose that’s what happens when you’re the defending Wimbledon champ and the two-time defending Olympic gold medallist.
Alexander Zverev (10) def. Sebastian Ofner
Roger Federer (3) def. Mischa Zverev (30)
Dominic Thiem (8) def. Jared Donaldson
Novak Djokovic (2) def. Ernests Gulbis
Tomas Berdych (11) def. David Ferrer
Milos Raonic (6) def. Albert Ramos Vinolas (25)
Grigor Dimitrov (13) def. Dudi Sela
Angelique Kerber (1) def. Shelby Rogers
Agnieszka Radwanska (9) def. Timea Bacsinszky (19)
Coco Vandeweghe (24) def. Alison Riske
Garbiñe Muguruza (14) def. Sorana Cirstea
Svetlana Kuznetsova (7) def. Polona Hercog
Caroline Wozniacki (5) def. Anett Kontaveit
Sam Querrey (28) def. Jo_Wilfried Tsonga (12)
Adrian Mannarino def. Gael Monfils (15)
Another upset worth mentioning was the Bryan brothers being eliminated from the men’s doubles tournament.
As Wimbledon enjoys its traditional Sunday off before the second week kicks off in earnest, here’s a look ahead at what lies ahead in week 2.
Milos Raonic (6) vs. Alexander Zverev (10)
Grigor Dimitrov (13) vs. Roger Federer (3)
Novak Djokovic (2) vs. Adrian Mannarino
Dominic Thiem (8) vs. Tomas Berdych (11)
Roberto Bautista-Agut (18) vs. Marin Cilic (7)
Rafael Nadal (4) vs. Gilles Müller (16)
Sam Querrey (24) vs. Kevin Anderson
Andy Murray (1) vs. Benoit Paire
Now, that is what I call a good day of tennis. The Big Four in action, plus Raonic, Thiem, Berdych, Zverev and Dimitrov. There’s also 3 unseeded players- Paire, Anderson and Mannarino- still in the draw. As I’ve said before, I don’t make predictions, but if I was going to I wouldn’t bet against those 4 at the top.
Venus Williams (10) vs. Ana Konjuh (27)
Victoria Azarenka vs. Simona Halep (2)
Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Petra Martic
Coco Vandeweghe (24) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (5)
Jelena Ostapenko (13) vs. Elina Svitolina (4)
Johanna Konta (6) vs. Caroline Garcia (21)
Angelique Kerber (1) vs. Garbiñe Muguruza (14)
Agnieszka Radwanska (9) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (7)
The women’s side is stacked full of fun as well. Kerber and Kuznetsova will have tough matches as will Svitolina against Ostapenko, but will her rawness get the better of her is the question. Azarenka shouldn’t be counted out either; she could easily make Halep’s day very difficult if she’s on form; she is so far this tournament. Despite all the upsets this week, there’s only three unseeded players left in the draw: Azarenka, Rybarikova and Martic- those two are playing each other, which should be interesting.
Just another Manic Monday at Wimbledon, then!
But if, like me, you’re desperate for some sport on Sunday and because we’re all deprived of tennis, here’s some things you could watch instead:
Tour de France (Nantua-Chambery)
London Grand Prix Athletics
Austrian Grand Prix
Major League Baseball- last games before the All-Star Break.
Stay tuned for my Week 2 Round-up and Finals Weekend write-up! As always please like and follow SplitFocus Sports for all your sport blog needs.
La Decima beckons for Nadal. A 4th Slam title beckons for Wawrinka. Nadal is the favourite on what is, essentially, his home court. Or his favourite at least. If any tennis player can be said to have a home court advantage, it’s Rafa on Philippe Chatrier. Coupled with projected temperatures upwards of 34°C, it was bound to be a difficult day for Stan the Man.
Both players walked on court to rapturous applause. Difficult to say who had the crowd behind them though. Let’s call it 50-50 and leave it at that. It was nice to see the place looking so full as well, given, what I feel anyway, was a lack of attendance over the last two weeks. Nadal to serve first. Game on.
After a 5 set victory over Murray on the Wawrinka side of things and Nadal having not won a Slam final in over 3 years (although he was runner-up in Australia against Federer) it was only normal for both to be a bit nervous and a bit tight. Even with 10 titles at stake, Rafa maintains he doesn’t think about such things…….a good attitude to have to be sure, but not one that I necessarily believe!
Each held serve for the first 4 games of the set, even though Nadal had 4 chances to break serve in the 4th game. It also took 23 minutes to get to that point. From then on it was all Rafa. Wawrinka had absolutely no answer to Nadal’s booming backhand and his own notoriously difficult forehand just could not find any open ground and instead hit the net or was pushed out long by Nadal’s baseline game, upping his unforced errors count. Rafa, meanwhile, seemed hesitant of Wawrinka’s groundstrokes, preferring instead to play short points rather than engage in long rallies that would play to Wawrinka’s favour. Stan’s unforced errors coupled with his inability to get in any good first serves, spelled his downfall and at the end of the set, Rafa was the victor.
SET # 1: Nadal 6-2
Set 2 went exactly the same way as the first…….Wawrinka failing to gain any ground whatsoever on Nadal’s backhand and was unable to force a break of serve. To be honest, he barely held on to his own service games and in the end Nadal broke serve twice. Rafa shot-making was superb, including a no-look, on-the-run forehand shot which had no business going in let alone winning the point. ICYMI, here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRdyTVYUifk
The only thing Wawrinka could do was applaud the effort and wonder what else to do. Several games later, he bent, splintered and broke his own racket, got a new one and promptly battered himself with it. But he was now faced with an insurmountable task: a comeback. But if anyone could do it it would be Stan the Man. Right?
SET #2: Nadal 6-2
Surely now, in the 3rd set, Stan will make a match out of this. Of course he won’t add himself to the list of bodies that Rafa has unceremoniously dumped in the corner of Philippe Chatrier in 2017- body count= 6. Surely not. That is, of course, exactly what happened. Rafa was ruthless. Superb. Sublime. Vintage Nadal. The Eurosport commentary team said he was moving and playing as if he was 19 years old again and winning his first title. And they were right. Perhaps he was even more brutal here, closing in on La Decima, than he had been the rest of the match. The pace: relentless. The shots: perfection. Wawrinka: exhausted, willing it to just be over. Rafa, the King: calm, cool, collected, and barely broken a sweat, every inch the Master of Roland Garros. And so it ended, after a lengthy rally, Wawrinka’s shot lobbed (not so casually, but maybe willingly) into the net; Nadal on his back, facing skyward, covered in clay, racket tossed 3 feet away. Game, Set and Match. In just over 2 hours. La Decima complete.
SET #3: Nadal 6-1.
The presentation ceremony was nothing if not emotional, with Rafa fighting back the tears every minute. Don’t worry: he held his nerve like the champion he is. But Roland Garros held onto its surprises: in the top bank of seats, fans waved banners reading ‘Bravo Rafa’ and ’10’ in official RG colours, the number 10 was emblazoned on the champion’s dais, a video montage of all of Nadal’s 10 victories was played. And then, finally, Rafa lifting that trophy for an unprecedented 10th time, and giving it that cheeky bite as he is wont to do. It does give one a shiver down the spine.
The best part of all, a replica trophy, inscribed with his name and La Decima, presented to him by none other than Uncle Toni, his long-time coach, who is retiring at season’s end and handing over coaching duties to Carlos Moya. That was a special moment. Toni Nadal has been a fixture in the coaching box for all of his nephew’s 15 Slam titles and he will be missed. It was only fitting then, that they shared this victory together. I confess I might have shed a tear and reached for a tissue at this point.
If you missed the final, here’s a link to some highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNgE9-0sNjQ
NADAL BY THE NUMBERS
15: Total number of Grand Slam titles, second all time behind Roger Federer’s 18.
10: Total of French Open titles (like we didn’t already know that!), first player ever in the Open Era to accomplish this feat
3: Number of times Nadal has won the French Open without dropping a set- the other times coming in 2008 and 2010
2: Nadal and Bjorn Borg are the only players in history to win 3 Slam titles without dropping a set
79-2: Nadal’s career record at Roland Garros; his only 2 losses were to Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic (that’s a winning percentage of .975, for you stats people out there)
35: Number of games dropped by Nadal throughout the tournament; second only to Borg’s 32 games dropped in the 1978 tourney
10-0: Nadal’s record in French Open finals. #undefeatedanditfeelssogood #perfection
4: Most games lost in a set by Nadal during the tournament
3: Nadal is the third player to win a Slam in his teens, twenties and thirties; the other 2 being Pete Sampras and Ken Rosewall
ROAD TO WIMBLEDON
The grass court season (such as it is) begins in earnest tomorrow, which means Wimbledon is just around the corner. So what does the French Open mean then? Well, nothing really. It’s over, done, fini. However, we have learned an awful lot. Like Jelena Ostapenko, the new no. 12 seed, is now a contender for the women’s title- how serious a contender is a matter of opinion. But we should not be discounting Simona Halep, no doubt she’ll be looking to avenge that smarting defeat yesterday. Nor should we not consider Angelique Kerber, who retains her no. 1 ranking. And Venus Williams is still a name to put in the hat.
Which brings us to the men’s game. With Federer and Nadal splitting the first 2 Slams, good money has them in the Wimbledon finals; and their resurgence is definitely good for the game- even if it does bring us back full circle to the good old days when they were the 2 best players in the game. With Murray being off form and Djokovic seemingly on the decline (don’t say that to Agassi though), the dream of a Federer-Nadal final may just come to fruition…….just as well as, for most fans of the game, those seemed like nothing but a distant memory. Because who doesn’t remember 2008 and what was the greatest match ever played? It’s never safe to count out Wawrinka either. Or maybe this is the year for Milos Raonic to win his first Slam title? The straight answer is: who knows? That’s what makes tennis such a great entity in sports. Bring on the Pimms. And strawberries & cream.
See you at Wimbledon, folks!
And as always, thanks for reading and supporting Splitfocussports.
DAY 9- 05/06
Day 9 saw everything go to plan and was the first day in the whole tournament, so far, where there were no upsets! The last 3 unseeded men’s players- Karen Khachanov, Fernando Verdasco and Kevin Anderson- were all sent packing. The last Frenchman, Gael Monfils, lost to Stan Wawrinka. On the women’s side, 3 of the remaining 4 unseeded players- Petra Martic, Veronica Cepede Royg and Alize Cornet- saw their runs end. Only 2 French players, both female, remain in the draw: Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia. Quarterfinals begin Tuesday 6 June.
Pablo Carreño Busta (20) v. Rafael Nadal (4)
Dominic Thiem (6) v. Novak Djokovic (2)
Jelena Ostapenko v. Caroline Wozniacki (11)
Kristina Mladenovic (13) v. Timea Bacsinszky (30)
Stan Wawrinka (3) v. Marin Cilic (7)
Andy Murray (1) v. Kei Nishikori (8)
Elina Svitolina (5) v. Simona Halep (3)
Karolina Pliskova (2) v. Caroline Garcia (28)
Tuesday’s quarterfinals didn’t EXACTLY go to plan. The heavens opened……again. But not to worry, Paris wasn’t the only place where ‘il fait pleut.’ I’m sure we all enjoyed the absolute drenching we got(!) But rain wasn’t the only thing that prevented play. At one point, Roland Garros was on lockdown after a suspected terrorist attacked a police officer outside Notre Dame. In the end only 2 matches were completed……..both were upsets.
Timea Bacsinszky (30) def. Kristina Mladenovic (13)
Jelena Ostapenko def. Caroline Wozniacki (11)
A rainout meant that Wednesday would be chocker-block and, let’s be honest, every tennis fan’s dream with the top 4 men’s seeds in action on the same day. It does mean they’ll be playing on back-to-back days, but its not like anyone’s complaining. While the women’s matches went as expected, on the men’s side, well, there was drama. Andy Murray survived a first set scare against Nishikori, but ultimately battled through. Rafa Nadal spent very little time on court after his opponent retired due to illness. And the upset card was not filled yet: Novak Djokovic fell to 6th seed Dominic Thiem. While this might be somewhat of a surprise, Thiem has beaten Djokovic on clay twice already this season. Its a good thing Andre Agassi went on vacation and missed it……but something tells me he won’t be happy when he gets back.
Andy Murray (1) def. Kei Nishikori (8)
Rafael Nadal (4) def. Pablo Carreña Busta (20)
Stan Wawrinka (3) def. Marin Cilic (7)
Dominic Thiem (6) def. Novak Djokovic (2)
Karolina Pliskova (2) def. Caroline Garcia (28)
Simona Halep (3) def. Elina Svitolina (5)
SEMI FINALS- 08/06
Day 1 of Semi-final action featured:
Jelena Ostapenko vs. Timea Bacsinszky (30)
Simona Halep (3) vs. Karolina Pliskova (2)
In a twist that (probably) no-one saw coming, unseeded teenager Jelena Ostapenko upset Timea Bacsinszky in her semi-final to become the first Latvian player to reach a Grand Slam final and, at age 19, is the youngest player since Ana Ivanovic to make it to play in the finals at Roland Garros. Given how she’s mowed down the seeded players she’s come up against, she’s a threat in Saturday’s final. Her opponent? 3rd seed Simona Halep, who was a finalist last year. She upset 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova in her semi-final match. Both players look dangerous, and both are gunning for their maiden Slam titles………..women’s tennis is just full of drama these days.
Jelena Ostapenko def. Timea Bacsinszky (30)
Simona Halep (3) def. Karolina Pliskova (2)
SEMI FINALS- 09/06
Day 2 of Semi-finals featured:
Rafael Nadal (4) vs. Dominic Thiem (6)
Andy Murray (1) vs. Stan Wawrinka (3)
Where to start? Well, by now everyone knows that Andy Murray was upset in 5 sets by Stan Wawrinka in a match that lasted 4 and a half hours. Needless to say, Murray was not altogether pleased. Nevertheless, it was a thrilling match (5 setters tend to be) and everyone loves an upset. Going into the match, it could have gone either way, although given Murray’s struggles on clay this season and the fact that Wawrinka has won this title before, one would have been forgiven for thinking that this would be the day that Murray (finally) stepped it up a notch. Wawrinka was a man on a mission from the start, even if he did lose the first set in a tiebreak, 4 very long sets later, including a 6-1 fifth, he was the victor. Although, given the events of the second semi, he might (sort of, who knows?) be wishing he’d lost after all.
Which brings us to the King of Clay, up against Domini Thiem, the victor of a hard-fought match against Djokovic, and, in some circles, Nadal’s heir apparent for this title, when he retires. Whenever that is. Surely Thiem would make a match out of it and make it competitive, right? WRONG. Surprising no-one, Nadal dominated this match in the exact same way he had every other match in the tournament, dropping 6 games (bringing his total to 28 overall) and winning in straight sets, including a 6-0 third in which Thiem looked exhausted, flat and utterly defeated, which he was. Thiem has been the second-best clay court player over the last season or so, but up against the Master, he didn’t really stand a chance, and he left covered in dust while Nadal soaked up the glory of his 78th career victory at Roland Garros. For the record, he’s only lost 2 matches in his career in Paris. 2. Let’s all just sit back and let that sink in.
Stan Wawrinka (3) def. Andy Murray (1)
WOMEN’S FINAL- 10/06
Jelena Ostapenko v. Simona Halep (3)
If someone had told me that this year’s French Open women’s champion would be a 20-year old Latvian, 2 days removed from her birthday and in her first Grand Slam final, I’d have probably said ‘no way.’ BUT. HOLD. ON. JUST. A. DOGGONE. MINUTE. I watched this match……the whole thing. And I rarely, if ever, do that with women’s matches. This girl was incredible. After losing the first set, 6-4 and being down 3-0 in the second she roared back. Granted, she made a ton of unforced errors, but never mind that. Her aggressive style of play and a booming forehand is what won her the match. Now, about that forehand: it clocks in at 73 mph. That’s faster than Andy Murray’s. The only 3 players with a faster forehand: Nadal, Wawrinka and Thiem. That’s right, folks: her forehand is one of the fastest in the game, male or female. In any case, she played her heart out and when all was said and done, I don’t even think she believed that she’d actually won. Simona Haelp played a great match, though, but she had more on the line: her first Slam title and, had she won, taking over the no. 1 ranking. Speaking of rankings, Jelena Ostapenko has gone from being ranked 47th in the world to 12th; not bad for winning your first ever WTA title, which also happens to be a Slam. Oh, and she says clay is her least favourite surface. Go figure!
Jelena Ostapenko def. Simona Halep (3)
MEN’S FINAL- 11/06
There is something about the Grand Slams that is 100% more exciting and spine-tingly than the other tournaments in the year: the high probability of upsets, marathon matches (2008 Wimbledon finals, anyone?) and high(er) quality play. This year’s French Open has reached its halfway point and as we go into the business end of the event (the finals are next weekend), I thought it would be nice to write a piece now. I would have written a preview, but with my luck. the fortunes of my favoured players would have all gone to pot…….don’t believe me? Look at the AL East Standings.
Having said that, the French Open is my favourite of all the Slams. Controversial, I know. But by all means, feel free to me why I’m wrong. Not that I have anything against Wimbledon- or Australia or NYC- I love Wimbledon; but there’s just a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about the orange clay in Paris that just sucks me in year after year. Rafael Nadal’s 9 titles there may or may not have something to do with it. I am unabashedly a Nadal fan, have been since his first French Open win way back in ’05. 12 years ago for those of you counting. And while that may seem like a long time, consider this: in those 12 years, Nadal has won the title 9 times. a feat never done before at any Slam, let alone clay (which is notoriously the hardest surface to play on). Us sport-minded people like to talk about dynasties, but somehow, tennis is rarely, if ever considered. So, forget all those ‘team’ dynasties- yes, even my Patriots!- and consider that Nadal isn’t called the ‘King of Clay’ for nothing. This year, he goes for title Number 10 on a court that, come his retirement, should be named after him. Vamos!
This year’s edition of Roland Garros will be interesting for three reasons:
1. The women’s title will go to someone not named Serena Williams, who won’t be gracing a tennis court until next year because she’s expecting her first child. If this is somehow news to you then, surprise! It should also be mentioned that when she won the Australian Open back in Fenruary she was already 8 weeks pregnant. You go, girl! Serena Williams: GOAT? Never fear though, she will at least be in attendance in Paris, supporting sister Venus’ campaign.
2. Roger Federer surprised everyone when he withdrew from the tournament, and it’s not because of injury, because those days seem to be behind him. While he never gave a reason, it’s likely due to the upcoming grass court season and his desire to win another Wimbledon title before he eventually hangs up his racket. Given the short turnaround between the two Slams (2 weeks), it’s actually quite an astute move. Didn’t stop him from turning up anyway: he was spotted at Nadal’s first round match on Monday. Checking out the competition? Supporting a friend? You be the judge.
3. The absence of Maria Sharapova, who was denied a wild card entry by the French Tennis Association. Sharapova, who has been serving her 15 doping ban, made her return a few weeks ago in Hamburg, not too much fanfare, admittedly. Would she have been a contender for the title anyway? Debatable. But if it makes anyone feel better, she probably won’t be playing at Wimbledon either. Her next appearance in a Slam will probably come at the US Open in August unless she doesn’t qualify for that. Quite frankly, I’m surprised she’s not persona non grata everywhere.
SEEDINGS (TOP 10)
- Andy Murray
- Novak Djokovic
- Stan Wawrinka
- Rafael Nadal
- Milos Raonic
- Dominic Thiem
- Marin Cilic
- Kei Nishikori
- Alexander Zverev
- David Goffin
- Angelique Kerber
- Karolina Pliskova
- Simona Halep
- Garbiñe Muguruza
- Elina Svitolina
- Dominika Cibulkova
- Johanna Konta
- Svetlana Kuznetsova
- Agnieszka Radwanska
- Venus Williams
With Federer and Serena out, everyone moves up a spot in the seedings, including Milos Raonic, who is the first Canadian tennis player to ever be seeded this high. GO CANADA. And if anyone knows any of the players in the women’s top 10 (or seeded 11 through 32) not named Venus Williams, then you’re doing better than me! And I watch tennis!
DAY ONE- 28/05
I, for one, love that Slams start and end on a Sunday: it makes everything come full circle AND gives us all something to watch that isn’t football or motor racing or…….whatever else. Day 1 at Roland Garros was gorgeous: temperatures in the 30’s, blue skies. What’s not to like? Granted none of the big names were in action, but there were some good matches. Dan Evans flew the British flag on day one, and was promptly defeated in 4 sets by Spain’s Tommy Robredo. The story of the day, however, was the return of Petra Kvitova, the victim of a home invasion in December; she suffered injuries to her wrist and hand, had surgery, missed the Australian Open, and was likely to miss most of this season. However, she looked in fine form, dismantling her opponent, American Julia Boserup in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Welcome back, Petra!
Staying with the women, it was a tough day for top seed, Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who found herself dumped out in straight sets by Russian Ekaterina Makarova. Much was made of her lack of form so far this season, considering how far she rose up the ranks last year; those in the know will remember that last season she usurped Serena at the top of women’s tennis for several months, only to end the season at number 2. For obvious reasons, she is the de facto top seed, but nevertheless, her early departure opens the door wider for an already wide open field.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez def. Gilles Müller (26)
Ekaterina Makerova def. Angelique Kerber (1)
Monica Puig def. Roberta Vinci (31) It should be noted that, despite being unseeded, Puig is the defending Olympic champion from Rio 2016.
DAY 2- 29/05
Day 2 dawned with more anticipation than the previous day with both the men’s and women’s defending champions in action and the King of Clay holding court on Suzanne Lenglen. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, if your name was Nadal, Djokovic or Muguruza. Quite a lot went wrong for poor Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman, seeded 12th at his home Slam, was facing an unseeded Argentine, Renzo Olivo, which looked to be a relatively easy victory……..or so you would have thought. Instead, what transpired was a 4-set marathon, won by Olivo the following morning (after only 8 minutes on court) when the match was called due to darkness. To be fair, it was pitch-black when the tournament referee called it, and as we all know, the venerated clay in Paris is yet to have floodlights (or a roof) installed. Not that Tsonga went down without a fight, he clawed his way back in the 3rd and made some fabulous shots, but give credit where its due, Olivo played a heck of a match.
Nadal, though, had an easy time of it, downing Frenchman Benoît Paire in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. Meanwhile, Djokovic wasted no time in dispatching Spain’s Marcel Granollers, also in straight sets, and defending women’s champion Muguruza saw off Italy’s Francesca Schiavone in straight sets. Good day at the office then! Also in action, Milos Raonic, who cruised through his match against Belgian Steve Darcis. Fellow Canuck Françoise Abanda also made it through to Round 2.
UPSETS (7) including:
Fernando Verdasco def. Alexander Zverev (9)
Jiri vesely def. Jack Sock (14)
Nikolox Basilashvili* def. Gilles Simon (31)
* remember this guy, his name will come up again. No spoilers here!
DAY 3- 30/05
Day 3 saw Andy Murray take the court for the first time. His clay court season has not been going well, with several losses on the surface leading up to Paris. Its safe to say that clay is not his favourite surface. Nevertheless, he saw off Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in 4 sets .Compatriot Kyle Edmund also saw action and came through against Portugal’s Gastão Elias. Unfortunately for Jo Konta it was not to be, as she departed after a 3-set loss to Su-WEi Hsieh of Taipei. Flying the Maple Leaf on Day 3: Eugénie Bouchard who made it safely through to the next round, defeating Japan’s Risa Ozaki in 3 sets, despite nursing an akle sprain. Stan Wawrinka, despite a second set tiebreak against Slovakian Jozef Kovalik, went through as well.
Renzo Olivo def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12)
DAY 4: 31/05
It was business as usual for Djokovic and Nadal on Day 4 as Dutchman Robin Haase and Portugal’s João Sousa found themselves summarily and swiftly dismissed from Paris. For Raonic, however, he endured a scare from Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva, but prevailed in 4 sets.
Britain’s Aljaz Bedene saw his tournament come to an end at the hands of Jiri Vesely, that being said, he seems to have a bright future ahead. Petra Kvitova’s return was short-lived as she lost to American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Raonic’s compatriot, Abanda, was decimated by Caroline Wozniacki 6-0, 6-0, bringing her tournament to a rather unceremonious end.
Most of the day’s matches were played with few fireworks, but there’s always one…………..in the match between American 25th seed Steve Johnson and unseeded Croatian Borna Coric (you may remember he beat Andy Murray a few weeks ago), both became unhinged: Johnson argued repeatedly with the chair umpire, while Coric, after he had lost, took his frustrations out on his poor tennis racket, and a water bottle. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we see broken rackets!
Horacio Zeballos def. Ivo Karlovic (23)
Oms Jabeur def. Dominika Cibulkova (6)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands def. Petra Kvitova (15)
DAY 5- 01/06
Day 5 rolled around with all the big names (well, not all, but you get the point) still in play. The most newsworthy story of the day was Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro being an exemplary model of good sportsmanship when he consoled his opponent. Nicolas Almagro, after the latter went down with a knee injury. Poor guy was in tears on the court! J.M. (Can I call him that?) was there, helping him off the court, sitting next to him, and generally being a gentleman. He even carried Almagro’s bag for him, as well as his own!!! So, kudos to Juan Martin del Potro for showing that good sportsmanship is not dead, and for generally being a gentleman. Well, they do say tennis is a gentleman’s game. Honestly, the guy has more bedside manner than I do!!!! If you want to check it out for yourself, here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqnkVUvgutU
Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka sailed through their matches against Martin Klizan and Alexandr Dolgopolov respectively. Kyle Edmund put an end to Renzo Olivo a day after the latter’s stunning 4-set win over Tsonga. Shame.
Karen Khachanov def. Thomas Berdych (13)
P. Martic def. Madison Keys (12)
Veronica Cepede Royg def. A. Pavlyuchenkova (16)
Magda Linette def. Anna Konjuh (29)
Alize Cornet def. Barbora Strycova (20)
DAY 6- 02/05
Day 6 saw two important things: another act of excellent sportsmanship and a superb performance from Rafa Nadal. And by domination I mean annihilation, decimation, domination, beatdown if you prefer. I mean, at some point, I felt sorry for his opponent…..sort of.
But let’s start with another example of classy gentlemanly behaviour and sportsmanship (because we like that sort of thing). After taking a horrific tumble during his match, Belgium’s David Goffin limped off the court with the trainer and into the locker room. His opponent, Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos, when it was decided that Goffin could not continue, carried Goffin’s bag to the locker room before returning for his own. This coming a day after his countryman, J.M. (del Potro), was seen consoling his injured opponent. Classy fellas, these Argentines!
Now, might as well just address the elephant in the room…………or blog post, whatever. RAFAEL. NADAL. OWNED. IT. But when you have 9 French Open titles, I guess you’re entitled to a complete and utter decimation every now and then. AmIright? That brings us to Nikoloz Basilashvili (I told you his name would come up again), who, unfortunately, was on the receiving end of a Nadal trouncing. This is a guy who’s tshirt and shorts both featured skulls, surely in an attempt to at least look intimidating. Heck, the guy had already beaten two world class players in Gilles Simon and Victor Troicki. But on this day, he was outclassed and outmatched by the King of Clay, who, let’s be honest, barely broke a sweat in the hour and a half he was on court. Even when he was serving for the match and there was thunder and lightning around Roland Garros, Nadal looked every inch the champion. Its safe to say he got his swagger back. Its safe to say Basilashvili wishes he hadn’t gotten out of bed.
Fri 2 Jun
Round of 32·Philippe-Chatrier
Its not every day, a tennis fan sees a scoreline like this, especially in the men’s game. I’m pretty sure the one game, Basilashvili did win, was a pity game to save him the embarrassment of a ‘triple bagel,’ which incidentally hasn’t happened in several decades!! Is this a sign of things to come from Nadal?
And both Djokovic and Raonic won as well, as a side note.
UPSETS- 3 including
Pablo Carreño Busta (20) def. Grigor Dimitrov (11)
Horacio Zeballos def. David Goffin (10) – retired
DAY 7- 03/05
Day 7 was a bit of a letdown, as rain suspended play for the whole evening and caused disruption to earlier matches. Andy Murray saw off our gentleman friend J.M. while his comrade, Kyle Edmund saw himself ousted, after a good run, by South African Kevin Anderson. Stan the Man (Wawrinka, not Musial) also went through comfortably before the heavens opened.
On the women’s side, Alize Cornet scored an upset victory over 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, ensuring at least one Frenchwoman would go through to the next round.
Fernando Verdasco def. Pablo Cuevas (22)
Carla Suarez Navarro (21) def. Elena Vesnina (14)
Alize Cornet def. Agnieszka Radwanska (9)
DAY 8- 04/05
Honestly, I was not intending to take this ‘half-baked’ article through to Day 8, but today was an interesting day. I mean, for everyone not named Nadal, who cruised easily through his match against countryman Roberto Bautista Agut. The scoreline was not as…..let’s go with gaudy, as Friday’s, but dominant nonetheless. Djokovic also had a relatively easy day at the office, seeing off Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas in straight sets. In the upset category, Milos Raonic, Garbiñe Muguruza, Sam Stosur, Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova all waved ‘au revoir’ to the clay. I’m gutted that Raonic is not going through to the second week, however, it does mean that I don’t have to a) pick sides between him and Nadal and b) watch Nadal (potentially) decimate him.
Pablo Carreña Busta (21) def. Milos Raonic (5)
Karen Khachanov def. John Isner (21)
Caroline Wozniacki (11) def. Svetlana Kuznetsova (8)
Timea Bacsinszky (30) def. Venus Williams (10)
Kristina Mladenovic (13) def. Garbiñe Muguruza (4)
Jelena Ostapenko def. Sam Stosur (23)
Petra Martic def. Anastasija Sevastova (14)
So, going into the second week of Roland Garros should prove interesting then. Quarter-final matches start Monday and everything should be wrapped up by next Sunday….barring any more rain delays.
Fernando Verdasco v. Kei Nishikori (8)
Andy Murray (1) v. Karen Khachanov
Kevin Anderson v. Marin Cilic (7)
Stan Wawrinka (3) v. Gael Monfils (15)
Carla Suarez Navarro (21) v. Simona Halep (3)
Elina Svitolina (5) v. Petra Martic
Caroline Garcia (28) v. Alize Cornet
Veronica Cepede Royg v. Karolina Pliskova (2)
Jelena Ostapenko v. Caroline Wozniacki (11)
Kristina Mladenovic (13) v. Timea Bacsinszky (30)
Dominic Thiem (6) v. Novak Djokovic (2)
Rafael Nadal (4) v. Pablo Carreña Busta (21)* (don’t quote me on this date)
But what have we learned? Essentially, nothing that we didn’t know before. The women’s title will definitely not be won by a Williams sister; in fact, the race is so wide open you could park an 18-wheeler in the gap. That being said, both the second and third seeds remain in the tournament. On the men’s side, however, it looks like Nadal and Djokovic are on a collision course for the semis on their side of the draw while a Murray-Wawrinka clash seems imminent on the other. But with Nadal playing the way he is bearing in mind he hasn’t dropped a set- it looks like he’s well on the way to that 10th title. But that’s not a prediction!
Catch me in a few weeks with a roundup from Roland Garros and a preview for Wimbledon! Á bientôt!
One of the very best calls time on a tremendous career.
This isn’t retirement. This is reinvention! https://t.co/eR4JQQnijv
— Drew Sullivan (@drewsullivan8) May 30, 2017
Drew Sullivan announced Tuesday that he would be retiring from the game of basketball after a 14-year pro career that saw his talents on display all across the world, for European clubs and the GB National Team. Sullivan made his debut in the BBL aged just 15 years old, for the London Towers, before heading to America to play high school and college basketball. After four stellar years at Villanova University, Sullivan made his way back to Europe playing in the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Russia and Greece.
The 6’8″ Forward from London also had a number of seasons with Newcastle Eagles in the BBL before returning to British basketball full time in 2010. Sullivan retires as one of the most decorated players in BBL history with two MVP titles, six Championships, five playoff titles, three cups and six trophies. Sullivan also has six finals MVP awards, such was his individual dominance. Sullivan spent 4 seasons with Newcastle, one season on Merseyside and five years with the Leicester Riders. In 2014/15 Sullivan left the Riders to join the London Lions before returning to Leicester the following season. Sullivan was one of the most dominant interior players in the history of the BBL with a total of 4452 points and 2157 rebounds. Sullivan was no slouch defensively, recording 263 total blocks and 335 steals in his BBL career (stats exclude playoff semifinals).
— Adam Day (@AdamDay_Phoenix) May 30, 2017
Sullivan not only shone for club, but also for country, helping lead England to a Bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and winning over 100 caps for the Great British national team, including captaining the team during the 2012 Olympic games. Sullivan laid much of the groundwork through his play and presence to enable the National Team to make it to this summer’s EuroBasket competition.
— Erika Hardy (@everardstigress) May 30, 2017
Drew Sullivan is a player who will be missed on basketball courts up and down the country. A fearsome competitor on the court who is known around the league as one of the good guys of British basketball. Sullivan was a dominant forward, able to play well at both the 3 and the 4. Exceptionally good inside, Sullivan was able to drive and finish at the rim better than most and his shooting range made him a constant threat to be managed wherever he was. Tenacious in rebounding and defending Sullivan will go down as one of the greats of British Basketball.
The outpouring from social media has had one simple message following the announcement. Enjoy your retirement and #ThanksDrew
We wave goodbye to a BBL legend as @drewsullivan8 announces his retirement!
— BBL (@BBLofficial) May 30, 2017