Monthly Archives: May 2009

Soderling Knocks Rafa Down and Out in Paris

Robin Soderling smothered Rafael Nadal in the fourth round at the French Open and sent him home early for the first time in four years.

Pete Sampras might have swallowed just a little bit after he woke up this morning and checked the scores at Roland Garros. The King is dead. After four straight French Open titles, Rafael Nadal finally played a bad game and opened the door for Roger Federer to equal Sampras’ record of 14 slams. Four years and 31 straight victories on the beautiful terre battue and Rafa finally played a subpar game on a day when his opponent played out of his mind.

Not only would Roger match Sampras’ record if he cashed in Rafa’s gift by winning the title in Paris, but he’d pass Sampras in most people’s minds because he’d have a career slam while Sampras only ever managed to reach one semifinal in Paris. My mind immediately went into nerd mode.

What if Roger won this thing and then got another U.S. Open to get his 15th slam? No one is going to edge Rod Laver out of the conversation with his two calendar slams – unless Rafa got one before he was done and became 1a next to Laver because only one of Laver’s calendar slams was in the Open Era. Would we hold Roger’s abysmal losing record to Rafa against him and give him a “greatest of all time” with an asterisk? Ah well, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Six times in his post match media session, Rafa said he’d left he ball short and that’s why he’d lost his first match ever at Roland Garros by going down to Robin Soderling, 6‑2, 6‑7(2), 6‑4, 7‑6(2). Rafa didn’t rise to the occasion and he didn’t fight tooth and nail in his usual rock steady style. And the ball wasn’t just short, a lot of the time it didn’t even reach the net.

It probably looks like Soderling is one of the least likely candidates to end such a stupendous winning streak, particularly as he lost to Rafa 6-1, 6-0, at the Rome event in April. And if you watch Soderling running from corner to corner on clay, his strides are so long you wonder his feet don’t go out from under him with regularity.

But Soderling has those hard flat shots that gave Tomas Berdych and James Blake three match winning streaks over Rafa in 2005 and 2006. Then there’s David Nalbandian who still has a career winning record over Rafa. Nalbandian is a master at redirecting the ball, particularly off his backhand side that is not bothered a wit by Rafa’s high bouncing left forehand.

And then there was the semifinal in Madrid a few weeks ago when Novak Djokovic won point after point by hitting enough flat shots to Rafa’s backhand to open up the court for sharp angled winner to the forehand side. Djokovic had three match points and played the match of his life, but Rafa recovered from a sore knee in time to rise to the occasion and come up with just enough fantastic points to win the match.

The next day Rafa lost the Madrid title to Federer and so the stage was set for his loss today. Soderling, the hard hitting player who isn’t as good as Djokovic or Nalbandian at redirecting the ball but is a tall dude who isn’t bothered by the high bouncer to his backhand either, the sore knee in Madrid, the whispers that Rafa didn’t quite look himself in his early rounds in Paris, and today, an agitated, stressed out Rafa throwing his arms up in despair as another ball landed in the net or over the baseline.

And that was the most surprising part of the loss. Calmness. He’s the best fighter out there because he remains calm enough to maintain his focus. When someone asked him what happened to his calm in the post match media session, this was his response:

Well, I never was calm; that’s the truth. Instead of losing my calm, the match started off very badly for me. I mean, the second set, I should have won it 6‑4. …Then not being calm enough to face the important points, …I had to fight. But sometimes it’s not enough fighting. You have to play a good level of tennis.

And sometimes people think I win because I’m physically fit but, no. When I win, it’s because I play well, and that wasn’t the case today. I must say that at key moments I couldn’t take the opportunity because I was losing my calm, and I didn’t play well.

Here’s where we have to give Soderling a tremendous amount of credit because Soderling never allowed Rafa to reach a good level of tennis – he never allowed him to find his calm. After winning just one game off Rafa in Madrid, Soderling came into this match swinging for the lines and never stopped. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but it’s the only way Soderling was going to beat him and he persisted no matter what.

The first thing that comes to mind for me is Roger Federer. We’ve been screaming at him to attack Rafa and, instead, he tries one thing and if it doesn’t work he goes on to another. He’s not the same style of player as Soderling but he also isn’t as brave. He has more to lose. If Soderling loses to Rafa, well, no big deal. We expect that. If Roger loses to him, that’s one more reason why he won’t be the greatest.

But now that Roger beat Rafa at Madrid by attacking on the fast court and especially after watching Djokovic almost beat Rafa and Soderling finally finish him off with relentlessly aggressive tennis, I’m gonna tear my hair out if Roger does anything less should he meet Rafa again here next year.

The main entertainment during today’s match was trying to figure out when Soderling would fold. When would he start spraying his shots or hitting double faults? When would he start losing focus? When would he start acting surly and grumpy? He came close a few times.

After winning the first set easily then losing the second set in a tiebreak, Soderling looked liked he was going to lose his serve early in the third set but righted himself and broke Rafa to go up 4-3. Soderling served out to win the set but then lost his serve early in the fourth set to go down 2-0. Here we go, I thought, but then he broke back immediately at love. And as the fourth set progressed, Soderling found himself in the zone. His serve kept improving and his shots kept finding the lines.

On clay against Nadal, that’s only enough to get you to the tiebreaker, but if Soderling could serve his way through that, he had the win. He found himself up 6-1 in the tiebreak and it was his groundstrokes as much as his serve. A backhand dipper at the net that Rafa couldn’t handle, and Soderling had his win.

It looks like Roger’s main competition will come from Juan Martin Del Potro in his half of the draw and should he get past Del Potro, Nikolay Davydenko is threatening to get to the final because Andy Murray isn’t yet that good on clay. I don’t know about you, but now that Rafa can’t win the calendar slam – and I was looking for that because I want the greatest of all time list to look as funky and confused as possible, mainly because the longer you follow sports, the more you realize how rare sustained greatness is – my heart is all over Roger’s path to the final and his first French Open title. C’mon, man, don’t disappoint me now.

Early Happenings in Paris and Can a Showtime Serve and Volleyer Win in Paris?

Let’s look at what’s happening in Paris and ask whether a second coming of Yannick Noah could win the French Open.

The French Open is getting up to speed kind of like a train groaning and creaking as it builds up enough steam to leave the station. If you were looking for an upset I guess you’d have to go with Maria Sharapova taking out Nadia Petrova in the second round.

I was wondering if Sharapova would ever recover from her shoulder problem, but that worry has now been replaced by the worry that her shoulder will never be the same. Her abbreviated service motion is not uncommon in the tennis world but will her serve ever be as ferocious as it was and, if it isn’t, is her legendary fighting spirit enough to win a few slams even without the ferocious serve?

The answer is: YES. And it’s a yes because women’s tennis now has parity meaning that there’s no Justin Henin anymore and Serena Williams is accumulating injuries and Dinara Safina can probably be outnerved by Maria. Unless Ana Ivanovic can gather her nerves and, like her fellow Serb Novak Djokovic, regain some dominance, then Maria is the fiercest competitor going who can still run, jump, and walk – kind of.

Ivanovic and Djokovic, by the way, are an interesting comparison in regards to the reasons for their post slam swoons. Whereas Djokovic showed bear-sized hubris by changing his racket during the season break and apparently foregoing off-court aerobic training judging by his exhaustion meltdown at the Australian Open, Ivanovic should steal a bit of Djokovic’ hubris because she is showing signs of needing to develop a few jagged edges to her sunny disposition.

When Ivanovic hired Martina Navratilova’s former coach Craig Kardon earlier this year, two things immediately came to my mind: 1. He’ll encourage Ivanovic to attack. 2. He was hired because he has experience with a physically talented player who needs to develop some fortitude – namely Martina. I hope it works so we can see some more of Ana taking on Maria.

Along with an upset we also have some drama and it’s unfortunate that it involves Jelena Dokic. Why is it that misfortune seems to follow people who were dealt a bad hand to begin with? Dokic’s crazy father was arrested in Serbia this month after he threatened to blow up the Australian embassy because his daughter told an Australian magazine that he’d physically abused her. And this is a guy who admits that he beat his daughter.

This afternoon, Dokic had a 6-2, 3-4, lead over Elena Dementieva when she had to retire after injuring her back. She dropped into her seat and it was a heartbreak to watch her sobbing into her towel because she’s been through so much already and now she’d lost a good chance at upsetting the number four player in the draw.

We also had some drama with a slightly happier ending. At least for Roger Federer. It’s hard to know if his win over Rafael Nadal in Madrid was an anomaly or not because the surface there is fast, but Federer absolutely looked like his vintage self after fighting off a Jose Acasuso set point at 2-5 in the third set then winning 12 of the last 15 games to advance to the third round, 7-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-2.

This grainy video shows Yannick Noah playing the clown in a second round match against Magnus Larsson in the 1991 Hamburg Masters Series event. It’s hard to believe that this was a regular ATP event let alone Masters Series and even harder to believe that he won the match. Embarrassing is the word that comes to mind.

To be fair, Noah was at the end of his career and the guy is an entertainer with a successful singing career so what do you expect. I was looking at Noah videos because I wanted to remind myself that Noah had something in common with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga so I could ask the question: Can a showtime net guy win the French Open in 2009?

The showtime part is important because both Tsonga and Marcos Baghdatis powered their way to Australian Open finals on the strength of play and emotion and can you imagine the scene if Tsonga could make it to a quarterfinal or a semifinal in Paris? Complete bedlam. I pity his opponent.

The question, though, is whether anyone can beat Nadal by attacking the net relentlessly. Federer has refused to do it in Paris because he’s afraid of getting passed and it’s not really serve and volley, it’s more like slam the ball hard and flat and wide enough to get yourself to the net. Tsonga took out Juan Monaco today in a fabulous display of power and athleticism from both of them and it gave me hope that such a strategy could work.

And remember, the court was a lot slower when Noah won his slam. And Tsonga is not afraid – relentless is the only way he knows how to play. The problem is that Tsonga is the best candidate but he’s always either recovering from an injury or just about to be re-injured and it’s no longer a matter of luck. It’s either his structure or his mechanics and neither of those is going to change drastically.

Tsonga is the kind of player who can catch lightening in a bottle and he did play one of the most perfect matches I’ve even seen against Nadal in his Australian Open run, so he can win a slam and he could win the French Open, but not this year, certainly, because he missed most of April with an injury and he’s not tournament fit for a two week schedule of best of five matches.

But I wish I could crank up a video game with a totally healthy, top of his game Tsonga against a top of his game Nadal in Paris and see what happens. How do you think it would go?

Prepping for the French – Roger Federer Answers a Few Questions

Roger Federer answered some tough questions after he lost the French Open final to Rafael Nadal last year. Let’s take a look at his answers.

This will be a short post because I’m off to New Mexico tomorrow and I have to get ready. I’m going to The Lightning Field and The Very Large Array just south of Albuquerque.

The Lightning Field is a “Land Art” installation comprised of 400 stainless steel poles arranged in a grid that measures one mile by one kilometer. Apparently the best time to experience it is at sunrise so I’ll have to drag my butt out of bed at an ungodly hour once I arrive. The Very Large Array is also a grid. It consists of 27 dishes that each measure 82 feet in diameter arranged in a Y shaped grid. Each arm of the Y is 13 miles long.

The Very Large Array is used to detect evidence of extra-terrestrial life, among other things, and you probably saw it in Jodie Foster’s 1997 film Contact. If I don’t get fried by lighting or carted away by extra-terrestrials, I’ll be back for the early rounds of the French Open next week.

I thought about doing a boring French Open preview but luckily I’m prevented from doing that because the draw doesn’t go up until Friday. While I was rooting around the French Open website, I happened upon Roger Federer’s post match media session after he was walloped by Rafael Nadal in last year’s final, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, and I was very impressed with the tough questions journalists threw at him. Here’s a short example:

Q. Has he improved since this day one year ago, and have you gone off?

ROGER FEDERER: …When you really cannot play your game and he can play exactly what he wants from the baseline, well, you end up with scores like this sometimes.

Which begs the question: Roger, why don’t you attack more at the net against Rafa? Because, Roger might say, the French Open is not the Madrid Masters where the air is thin and the clay is fast. There I had an advantage. In Paris I might get passed all day long.

Q. Rafa’s offensive skills are obviously improving, but do you believe that still on this surface great defense beats great offense?

ROGER FEDERER: Look, I don’t know if it’s got that much to do with great offense or great defense, it’s just his movement on clay. It’s just better than the rest.

I’ve always said it three years ago already: He plays like two forehands from the baseline because he has an open stance on both sides. I can’t do that, so I lose a meter or two here and there from the baseline. So he’s got a huge advantage in this aspect.

Two interesting points here: offense vs. defense on clay and open stances and the one handed backhand. Clearly defense means a lot more on clay because you can’t overpower your opponent as you can on a faster surface, but Roger correctly restates the question in terms of movement. Movement might be slightly less important on offense but if you’ve ever seen Rafa run around his backhand, scoop up a low ball then hit an inside out forehand that skitters off the court closer to the service line than the baseline, you can see why movement is the relevant skill.

As for Rafa’s open stance backhand, you can see what Roger means here:

There is such a thing as an open stance one-handed backhand but none of the pros do it by choice. It’s usually an emergency stroke. And it’s not just the distance Rafa gains with the open stance backhand, it’s his right hand. Rafa is right handed so when he’s out of position on his backhand, he can muscle the ball back with his right arm. We make a lot of the fact that Rafa’s high bouncing forehand goes in to Roger’s backhand but here’s a place where Rafa’s backhand works to his advantage too.

Roger would dearly love to win this event because it would tie him with Pete Sampras’s 14 slams, but it would also move him past Pete because Pete never won the French Open. It would be very important at the moment but I don’t know how long it would hold up. I’m pretty sure Rafa can win a U.S. Open before he’s done and that would give Rafa a career slam too. And though Rafa might not get to 14 slams, he has a good chance to win a calendar grand slam this year.

Is a calendar slam today worth more than Rod Laver’s calendar slams in the 1960’s? Probably an unanswerable question because it’s so hard to compare different eras. But if Rafa wins a calendar slam and adds a few more slams after that, and even if Federer gets his 14th slam, then Rafa is in the same sentence as Laver, Federer, and Sampras.

Two weeks from now, I have a feeling I might be reading an interview much like the one above.

Djokovic Comes in Second to Rafa in an Epic Madrid Semifinal

Novak Djokovic played the clay court match of his life but it wasn’t quit enough to beat Rafael Nadal.

Either Rafael Nadal fell out of the bed this morning or three straight clay titles have worn him down because he gave Novak Djokovic a break in his very first service game of their semifinal in Madrid by double faulting with a serve that landed halfway up the net then slowly rolled back towards him. As for the rest of his game, Rafa was spraying balls like a misbehaving ball machine.

When you see your opponent doing that, especially if he’s the best clay court player on the planet, you can’t help but feel very good all of a sudden. And Djokovic did feel good. He probably couldn’t believe his eyes. And he wasn’t just feeling good, he was carrying out a successful strategy.

Serving with a 4-2 lead in the first set, Djokovic was slamming balls at Rafa’s backhand till he got a good enough angle to hit a sharp crosscourt backhand to Rafa’s forehand side. He followed that up with another hard flat shot to Rafa’s backhand then hit behind him to finish off the point. In the next point he took a short ball and hit wide to Rafa’s forehand side again. Djokovic walked off the court having won the game as Rafa swisped at the clay with his racket.

I wondered if anyone would beat Rafa on clay this year and, if they did, would it be one of those matches where Rafa was exhausted or would his opponent be able to outplay him? Djokovic is the second best clay court player on the planet this year – he was Rafa’s victim in the final of the previous two Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Rome – so he’s as good a candidate as anyone and he has something Roger Federer doesn’t: a good strong two handed backhand and a unparalleled ability to change directions with it.

Well, Djokovic is actually second when it comes to that too. David Nalbandian is best at redirecting his backhand but now he’s out for months with hip surgery and I’ve not seen anyone return from hip surgery yet and look good. Have you? To tell you how important that redirection thing is, Nalbandian actually has a winning record over Nadal.

Djokovic held on to the break to win the first set and Rafa began to wake up a bit in the second set, but after going up 2-1 he called for medical help. Rafa’s left knee was bothering him so maybe he hadn’t fallen out of bed and maybe this is the same thing we see each year with Rafa: the fatigue induced physical breakdown. He used to wear tape under both knees, now he had tape on top of his knee.

Rafa stayed in the second set but clearly he wasn’t at full strength so you had to think the knee was bothering him. He was still spraying shots and he wasn’t winning points when he had to run down a drop shot, clearly something wasn’t right. I want to say that Rafa also wasn’t running around his backhand as much as usual but it’s hard to know because Djokovic was hitting hard flat shots to his backhand side and maybe Rafa didn’t have time to run around his backhand. I’d have to see someone beat Rafa with the same tactic when he doesn’t have tape all over his knee to know for sure.

Djokovic got two break points at 4-4 and another at 5-5 but Rafa does what he does, hang in there, and he had a set point on Djokovic’s serve at 6-5. This is a good time to note one other place where Djokovic comes in second.

Rafa gets a lot of credit for adding more mad skills to his game than any other player and he deserves that crown as does his coach Toni Nadal since everyone else imports temporary coaches while Toni and Rafa appear to go it alone, but Djokovic comes in second again and that’s a good thing. His net game has improved tremendously and he used it to fend off that break point.

Thus they found themselves in the second set tiebreaker and I can assure you Djokovic did not want to go another round with Rafa, but Rafa found himself with a set point at 6-3 in the tiebreaker after some gorgeous play that included a runaround forehand down the line that was so improbable that it left Djokovic flat footed even though he was only a few feet from where it landed. Djokovic put a return out of the court and we were on to the third set.

Serving at 1-2 in the third set Rafa shanked a serve so badly it ended up in the bottom of the net. I guess it can happen to anyone but I’ve never seen it happen to him before. That double fault put him down 0-30 and Djokovic managed to get the break but in next game, Rafa put Djokovic through a 31 point rally before finishing it off with a feathery drop shot and Djokovic started to cramp. Rafa had his break back.

It may seem disingenuous because both players gave us a huge match today, but you have to rap both players on the noggin for cheating tennis by playing their home country events instead of taking a week off. Both play five tournaments in four weeks including three Masters events because Rafa insists on playing Barcelona and Djokovic just played the small event in Serbia.

And they now found themselves in what would be the longest best out of three Masters match in history. I guarantee you it wouldn’t have been historic if the chair umpire had enforced the 25 second time limit between points, by the way. If you think Nadal takes forever between points, Djokovic is right up there.

Rafa hit another error to go down a minibreak in the third set tiebreaker and Djokovic looked like he might pull out his first clay court victory over Rafa in nine tries, but then he gave the minibreak right back. Rafa hit another error to give Djokovic a match point at 6-5 and Djokovic did everything he possibly could to cash in. There was a hard low backhand that Rafa had to scoop out of the dirt, a forehand down the line that just stayed inside the line, and a high bouncer that anyone else would have just put back in the court. But Rafa, who isn’t just anyone, swung up at the ball with a forehand swipe and curled a winner into the deep corner of his opponent’s court.

Two points later Djokovic had his second match point and this time he did all the saving before Rafa finally managed to wrong foot him and put another curling forehand in that same deep corner. On Rafa’s first match point at 8-7, Djokovic went to the drop shot again to save it but he messed up a return on his third match point and now they were at 9-9.

The quality of the shots was stunning and Rafa had one more stunning shot: an out of position running forehand that Djokovic surely wasn’t expecting him to hit for a winner. One more deep shot down the line and Rafa had added another entry to his long list of “best ever” matches.

Djokovic couldn’t beat Rafa even though Rafa didn’t look like he was at full strength, but jeez, don’t tell Djokovic that because he’d played magnificent tennis running down ball after ball after ball for over four hours in front of a madly partisan crowd. He did say the following after the match: “I’m very disappointed that I can play this well and still not win a match,” and he’s now in the curious position – like the rest of the tour – of feeling like he’s getting closer to beating Rafa but just as far away.

Still, he should remember that Rafa dealt with that feeling for, what, 160 weeks. That’s how long he stayed at number two and look where he is now.

Murray Toys With Robredo in the Magic Box

Andy Murray had a plan in Madrid today and Tommy Robredo played right into it.

Tommy Robredo mishit a backhand and sent the ball flying out of the court to let Andy Murray win a tough service game and get to 4-4 in the first set of their third round match in La Caja Magica (The Magic Box), the magnificent new stadium in Madrid that is the site of this week’s Masters 1000 event. Murray immediately took the remaining tennis ball out of his pocket and swiped at it as he let out the curse in the middle of the following sentence: “All you need to do is ****ing play every point like that.”

Madrid Tennis Open - Day Six

Murray may have been yelling at himself or he may have been playing with Robredo’s head because clearly the message was: “All I have to do is play safely and let my opponent make errors to win this match.” Murray is often criticized for not playing aggressively enough and today he was turning the criticism on its head by verbally embracing “a just keep the ball in the court” strategy.

Murray may have been mad that he squandered two break points in the previous game with a few careless errors, but he really was just keeping the ball in the court. At times he looked like he was out on the practice court carefully hitting crosscourt backhands and forehands.

In the next game, Murray’s strategy appeared to be working as Robredo hit three unforced errors and Murray found himself up two break points again. I didn’t doubt that Murray could improve his clay court results this year but I did wonder how he’d go about it. He’s had problem with his conditioning in the past and here he was, relying on that conditioning by playing “be the backboard” therefore guaranteeing long points. And he was playing defensively against a Spanish player on Spanish soil. Was this being smart and reading his opponent or just being arrogant?

The strategy didn’t work just yet. Robredo forced Murray into errors to save those two break points and though Murray got two more of them, Robredo kept enough balls in the court to hold serve. But on Robredo’s next service game at 5-5, here we were again: Robredo hit more errors and Murray was up two break points one more time. Robredo knew it too because there went his racket flying across the court.

It must be extremely annoying to see your opponent exert just enough energy to stay in the point and wait around until you make an error then fulfill his expectations by doing just that. Robredo is smart enough to know what Murray was doing but apparently he thought the only way to beat him was going for winners. That’s kind of curious because Robredo has won 21 games on clay this year while Murray has won only 5 and here was Robredo whacking away instead of throwing in some drop shots or changing up speeds or, I don’t know, keeping the ball in the court just enough to force Murray to try a different tactic.

I suppose it’s not arrogance if it’s true. Robredo hit another inside out forehand error to lose that break point and go down a break at 5-6. Murray then served out to take the first set 7-5. Murray got another break early in the second set and now he’d succeeded completely. He was totally in Robredo’s head and took the next step, which was tantamount to rubbing Robredo’s face into the dirt after knocking him down. Murray turned to aggressive attacking tennis. Robredo won the first game in the second set and that was it.

Do you think Murray is that sophisticated? Did he and his team read Robredo well enough to come up with the strategy of completely demoralizing him in the first set then going for the jugular in the second? Don’t think they’re that good though they are very good. Murray saw Robredo struggle and he managed to remind himself, with a bit of yelling, to let Robredo continue his self-destruction.

Murray overtook Novak Djokovic and is now the number three player on the planet. If Djokovic and Murray are the next version of Federer-Nadal, I’m still having trouble seeing Mr. Cat and Mouse taking many slams. But Murray has beaten Djokovic the last three times they’ve played so I’d better get used to it.

By the way, Andy Roddick got a wedding present from Nikolay Davydenko today: a walkover into the quarterfinals. And Ivan Ljubicic is still trucking along and finds himself in the quarterfinals, though he played in a weak quarter with an out of form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon who is allergic to big events.

One more thing about The Magic Box. Its shaker and mover is one Ion Tiriac, former tennis player and manager – he was Ilie Nastase’s Svengali and Boris Becker‘s manager. Since then he has branched out. Two years ago he was worth more than $1 billion from a wide range of financial interests that include a bank appropriately named Banca Tiriac.

As you can see, Tiriac is not short on ego and he’s now making noises about elevating the Madrid event to the fifth slam. I’m sure the organizers of Indian Wells and Miami are rolling their eyes over that one. Those are both two weeks events – well, more like a week and a half but at least they’re longer than Madrid – and they both rank only behind the four slams in ticket sales.

Having said that, Tiriac is a very smart guy and clearly handles the financial world very well. Indian Wells, meanwhile, almost lost its event a few years ago and had to sell some land and call in financial help from former tennis players like Pete Sampras. Last year they lost their longtime sponsor Pacific Life and managed to sign up BNP Paribas to replace it.

The event in Miami is sponsored by Sony Ericsson and many tennis observers expect the company to drop their sponsorship when the contract runs out. Sony Ericsson is also the main sponsor for the WTA and it surely doesn’t help that their marketing ambassador Maria Sharapova hasn’t played their event for the past two years and has missed the last eight months of the WTA tour with a shoulder injury.

It’s very unlikely that we’ll get a fifth slam and surely not on clay, but if any tournament czar can pull it off, it’s Tiriac.