French-Open Roland Garros is an event where every match from pre-quarters onwards usually turns out to be epic and often has been a crucible which forged new players. This year it has immortalized Lucie Safarova. She topped the scale in performance and mde it into the 2015 finals in Paris becoming the first Czech woman [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

A new name in French Open Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova


French-Open Roland Garros is an event where every match from pre-quarters onwards usually turns out to be epic and often has been a crucible which forged new players. This year it has immortalized Lucie Safarova. She topped the scale in performance and mde it into the 2015 finals in Paris becoming the first Czech woman in 34 years to reach the French finals. In her run up to the final, Safarova beat grand-slam winners and finalists which include Russia’s Maria Sharapova, Spain’s Garbine Mugurusa, Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic and Germany’s Sabine Lisiki.

‘Winning initiatives’ of tactics
At the end of the first week, surviving players had the ‘staying power’ to play long clay court matches and hit winners. The seeded favourites had their share of ‘tough matches’ in the early rounds and some, quite unexpectedly, did not make it to the last 16. The quarter-finals showed the players who could think ‘outside the box’, but then to ‘think’ is one thing and ‘to do’ is another, in intensive competitive situations. Here, the power of character is revealed.

Game compilation
Seeding in a draw is designed to bring the best players to the last rounds which will make the event attractive and memorable and this draw did achieve this as the quarters did have many players who were capable of winning the title. In Tennis scoring, it takes four points to win a game. Only the ‘game won’ appears in the final score card and never the points won. This makes ‘compiling the game’ as the most critical aspect of strategies. This is the secret that good many players are unaware of. It is easily seen but many who play Tennis do not focus on this most important winning aspect.

Scoring in a ‘deuce’ situation further complicates the game compilation issues (‘deuce’ situation is when both players have won three points each). It demands winning two successive points, to complete the game. It is this aspect of scoring that can lengthen a game. Some games register even 15 deuces. This means that such a game will have a staggering 36 rallies and can last well over ten minutes. It happened in the French Open this week many times, increasing spectator excitement.

‘Macho’ tactics of winners
‘Macho’ tactics of hitting winners to compile a game only works if the opponent is leagues below in standard. If players are equal in strength it will not work well on slow clay. Good players almost never enter hitting winners as the opening gambit on clay. ‘Engagement’ is the first tactic of any good player.

This year’s draw had the strongest challenge right from the start of the first rounds. It fact, many good players accumulated fatigue here and lost early. Most of the losers in this stage, tested opponent ‘engaging’ but could not create openings to hit winners. This happened to the best of players. Few big names that faced this situation and lost are Maria Sharapova to Safarova; Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki to Germany’s Julia Goerges; France’s Cornet to Ukraine’s first woman in Grand-Slam quarters, Elina Svitolina; Roger Federer against his countryman, Stanislas Wawrinka.

The last four elites who could still hit winners were Serena Williams even sick with high temperature, Swiss newcomer Timea Bacsinsky, Serbia’s former French open winner, Ana Ivanovic and first time Grand-Slam finalist Lucie Saforova. Among men it was Novak Djokovic looking extremely strong and was able to dispose legendary clay master Rafael Nadal in the shortest workout in the quarter-finals, Stanislas Wawrinka, Roger Federer doing his last stint I believe and Andy Murray of the United Kingdom. Murray is currently three in the world and shows every sign of becoming ‘number one’ soon.

Impressive ‘come backs’
In the women’s scene, recovering Azerenka former number one is bouncing back in the ranking, after sinking to a number closer to 100. She was always a tough competitor and nearly took Serena out last week. Serena herself had other plans which did not permit Azerenka to recover into the rally. Serena showed the world to remember what she is made of.

The future will remember this performance of the two ‘one time’ number ones, for the use of the deadliest if arsenal in Tennis. The area which failed Azerenka to finish the match after leading, is the first serve and long rallies, both of which were her favourites at her peak. She entered the French open as the 27th seed. Ana Ivanovic will have to be named another ‘comeback’ player. It was her personality traits that took her down but it looks as though those areas have improved a lot. She lost in a close, good match to Saforova.

Among the men Stanislas Wawrinka looks like he is back with a highly developed ability to react as he disposed Roger Federer in one the shortest match losses in the quarter-finals. His sighting and reaction enabled him to tackle Federer playing from inside the court.

There were too many winners from his racquet for Federer’s liking. Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga played extremely well in this year’s French Open. Deservingly he is in the semi-finals as I write this. In Tennis, it is not easy to be entertaining, show emotion and also play well. In my opinion the emotional part is a new thing in sport and more of a TV ingredient than a real one. It takes the player way out of the mind set needed for the next point. There is no point in celebrating each winning point as it does not appear in the final score. It is the ‘games and match’ that is shown in the final count.

The matches in the two previous rounds of the quarters really showed ‘who is who’ in today’s Tennis. What does a player need to appear in the last eight in a tournament of this nature? Although many aspects can be cited the most critical are the winning-initiatives to compile games.

In entertainment for the grand stands and in producing good Tennis for enthusiasts, 2015 French-Open has surpassed all expectations. With the lonely Frenchman and master entertainer Tsonga, the Parisians have some stake in the event. Without the facility of replay, some ‘line calls’ were questionable. Human error was always a part of the game from its inception. Only umpire’s examination of the ball mark was allowed on appeal. Some of the calls did not tally with the electronic replay on the TV screen. Even the big names raised their voices on this issue with ‘boos’ from the grand stands. All are part of the grand stand entertainment and the final round is expected to be even more entertaining!

George Paldano, former international player; Accredited Coach of Germany, National coach, Davis Cup and Federation Cup Coach; ITF and USPTR; –

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