Roland Garros 2014: Middle weekend round-up

It has been an exemplary first week of action and drama in Paris with controversy, upsets and stirring comebacks delivered on a daily basis. Thankfully for the neutral, things don’t look like letting up as we head into the second week.
First on Saturday it was the labelled favourites to struggle as Ivanovic and Kvitova – two former slam winners who had looked amongst the most comfortable – exited. Admittedly this was at the hands of Safarova and another former champ here, evergreen Kuznetsova.
Those were the shocks of the day as other fancied players on the clay swept through with comparative ease: Nadal, Halep, Ferrer, Errani and Jankovic all continue to look strong.
There were wins too for Sloane Stephens, Marcel Granollersand Kevin Anderson but the drama kept coming throughout the day with several epics going the distance.
Donald Young and Gael Garcia-Lopez slogged it out with the American falling just short of the unlikely comeback whilst home favourite Monfils finally put away fellow firebrand Fognini in a thriller of equal quality.
But as the day drew to a close, first Andrea Petkovic and Kristina Mladenovic hogged the spotlight on Chatrier with a nerve-fest momentum swinger. The phoenix-from-the-ashes German breaking local hearts and finally edging over the line.
Meanwhile a certain Andy Murray – as I predicted – was having a tough time shaking off the attentions of Philipp Kohlschreiber who has the weapons to worry the top men. But while the first set – taken by the German – provided the expected blip, Murray was guilty of an almost fatal loss of concentration. After finding his A-game and taking the next two sets with some ease the Scot squandered break after break to eventually slink off at 7-7 in the fifth.
The plucky British media were in for a sleepless night.
Still sadly hampered by his back, Richard Gasquet was also involved in an overnighter against fellow veteran Verdasco, but this was no such contest as the Frenchman would bow out with barely a whimper.
Sunday began with more of the same as Genie Bouchard ousted the 8th seed Kerber in under an hour and to the loss of just three games. There would be no gifts from the umpire this time to assist the likeable German.
After Berdych oozed class in dispatching and out-aceing Isner and the aforementioned matches from the previous day had been wrapped up (Murray holding tight to win 12-10), it was time for more headlines.
Ernests Gulbis had again troubled the newspaper inches with some ill-advised comments off the court but made amends somewhat by finally delivering on the big stage once on court.
Facing a Federer who was having a major off day, the Latvian produced his trademark unpredictability, complete with some masterful shot-making. In particular it was some deft drop-shots and that backhand, especially down the line that proved more than enough.
Roger had suddenly retreated into the clueless baseline-hugging has-been of last season, and he knew it. Such was the Latvian’s variation and rare confidence and conviction that the Swiss couldn’t trust his new found net-play.
It was looking a similar story for Maria Sharapova who survived an almighty scare against Samamtha Stosur. After two tight sets; 6-4 for each player the Russian was clearly still hungry for more bagels, duly wrapping the match up with another today.
Tellingly, things were oh-so easy for Novak Djokovic who stamped out any hope of a repeat scare from Tsonga, brushing the entertainer aside. Easy wins too for Muguruza, Raonic and Suarez Navarro. All three have a great chance here this week.
Days 7 and 8 Heroes: Andy Murray and Ernests Gulbis.
French Focus
Gael Monfils
Au Revoir
Kristina Mladenovic
Richard Gasquet
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga
Pauline Parmentier
Middle Weekend seeds lost
Roger Federer
John Isner
Richard Gasquet
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga
Fabio Fognini
Philipp Kohlschreiber
Andreas Seppi
Petra Kvitova
Angelique Kerber
Ana Ivanovic
Sam Stosur
Ekaterina Makarova

Sorana Cirstea

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