A grand-slam competition draw is the elite line up of players in Tennis. The first week of the second Grand-Slam of the year, the ‘French-Open 2014’, shook the stars, giant-killers had a parade and talents surfaced. Giant Killers parade Chilly rains in Paris kept the crowd away from the Roland Garros stadium, but what made [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Star struggles, giant killers and talent

1st week in French Open 2014

A grand-slam competition draw is the elite line up of players in Tennis. The first week of the second Grand-Slam of the year, the ‘French-Open 2014’, shook the stars, giant-killers had a parade and talents surfaced.

Giant Killers parade

Chilly rains in Paris kept the crowd away from the Roland Garros stadium, but what made organisers shiver is not the cold spell. The tournament lost more than ten big names which included the number one and two seeds of the women’s draw and three and nine of the men’s draw in the first three days. French Open 2014 showed the uncertainty of the top player’s survival in the ever shrinking difference between the top ten and the first one hundred of the world.

It made this year’s French-Open a Giant killer’s parade. Being unknown, one had to search for the names of the faces of these Giant-killers. In the women’s, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza ranked 35 beat top seed Serena Williams, France’s Kristina Mladenovic ranked 103 beat number two seed China’s Li-Na, little known Belgium Yanina Wickmeyer beat the known and emotionally disturbed Caroline Wozniaki. In the men’s singles, Stan Wawrinka lost to Spanish ‘ever present’ and ‘never prominent’ Garcia-Lopez ranked 41, Japan’s Nishikori lost to Slovak Martin Kurzan ranked as low as 59.

Unforgiving Tennis

The early European Clay circuit has been very hard on the top players. Bernard Tomic, Lleyton Hewitt, Al Magro, surprisingly Grigor Dimitrov and Mikhail Youzhny also went out. It was the same among the women. In effect, it is not a bad thing to happen. These events are not to forgive poor performance of players regardless who it comes from. For that matter Tennis was never a forgiving game. As Rod Laver of Australia put it bluntly ‘a good player is one who knows how to win even on a bad day’. Relating this to this year’s French-Open, I wonder how kind the world would be to those players who are home this Sunday.

‘Peaking’ issues

European season events were weekly and back to back on clay. This made good players peak in performance at the wrong time. Effective ‘peaking’ in performance is a multi phased process between ‘activity’ and ‘rest’. Achieving it needs freedom to choose between two. With players working to keep their rankings, such choices have become a luxury that most cannot afford. This means any good player must be able to win even on a bad day. In Japan’s Kei Nishikori’s case, I felt, physical break down was the issue and it happened again with fatigue. It was the same story on all the known players who had to leave Paris on the third day. The exodus of known good players is not over yet, the giant killers are still there and chilly wet weather too.

Surviving Stars

The big three of Men’s — Djokovic, Nadal and evergreen Federer are still there. They came through comfortably. Other famous names to survive into the fourth day are Thomas Berdych, Andy Murray, John Isner, Milos Raonic, France’s Wilfred Tsonga and Gael Monfils.
Among the women, Sharapova is looking strong. She is with Romania’s Simona Halep and the ‘silent stalker’ and ‘journey-woman’ Agnieska Radwanska. They arrived at the next station safe. At the end of the tournament only one can lift the cup. Some new names are being prompted as aspirants for the top ten positions in the future.


Tennis as a game needs more than good looking strokes and coach’s praise at practice session to win matches. When a Tennis match begins, the comfort zone of practice vanishes. Throat parches after the second service game and the favourite strokes can become intensely demanding with extra concentration. The new comers who can accommodate these situations and play a ‘game’ to overcome seasoned opponents challenge are the ones scouts pick as ‘Talents’. World junior events are meant for talent to surface. These events in Grand-Slams are played as “A” grade junior competition.

Three American girls seem to fit the description of talent at present. First is Taylor Townsend of USA. She beat seasoned campaigner Alice Cornet of France to reach the third round on Wednesday impressively. At 18 she is the youngest to come this far in five years in the French-Open.

Currently ranked 205 in the women’s was also the world junior number one before. Second is 21 year old Sloane Stephens from USA, ranked 19. She has been around but one gets to notice her only in the Grand-Slams. Third is 20 year old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. She was first noticed last year. For the moment these are the only ones left in the draw from the Americas among the women. Eastern Europe is rolling out good players in numbers. When it is time for change of guards, it will be these women who will fill the top slots.
In the men’s side, talent is mostly from the Eastern European base. Although none of the players have established firmly, good number have shown their talent in one-off performances. At present even Kei Nishikori of Japan falls into this category. Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov has been noticed this year to have come up with some good performances. Last year Poland’s Jerzy Jankowitz showed the same flair at Wimbledon.

More to come

The TV coverage must be a blessing to the local Tennis ‘aficionados’ to overcome the rainy days of May. The good matches are yet to come. Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Gael Monfils are still there to entertain the French and to keep their hopes high. The English were able to increase their representation this year with Heather Watson in the women’s and James Ward in the men’s event. Both came through qualifying rounds. As an event with or without rain, the French-Open surpasses all others in glamour and excitement.
-George Paldano, former international player; Accredited Coach of Germany, ITF and USPTR; National, Davis Cup and Federation Cup Coach–gptennis.ceylon@gmail.com-

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