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French Open at a glance

Venus Williams plays Lucie Safarova on Wednesday.

May 27, 2009|Chuck Culpepper


(World rankings in parentheses.)

Venus Williams, U.S. (3) vs. Lucie Safarova, Czech Republic (46)

Williams is staying in her sister Serena's apartment in the 7th Arrondisement. It's always reassuring when house guests actually go out and do something rather than just lounging around the furniture with jet lag all day.

Rafael Nadal, Spain (1) vs. Teimuraz Gabashvili, Russia (70)

"I was not very precise," Nadal said after a first-round match in which he lost 12 games. He's clearly in irrevocable decline.

Maria Sharapova, Russia (102) vs. Nadia Petrova, Russia (11)

Any connoisseur of all the No. 102 players in history would have to conclude that this is the best. Of course, any connoisseur of all the No. 102 players in history is probably a wacko.

Andy Murray, Great Britain (3) vs. Potito Starace, Italy (105)

Murray, who'll toil at anything until he gets it right, looked sublime on the clay in the first round. But there's no way people from non-clay countries can thrive on this surface.

Robert Kendrick, U.S. (86) vs. Gilles Simon, France (7)

As for reading and hearing about American meekness on the clay, Kendrick said, "I kind of hate it." Well, then . . .


Jelena Dokic, 26, the Serbian former No. 4-ranked Wimbledon semifinalist who emigrated to Australia as a child, became estranged from her famously abusive father and disappeared from the game, beat Karolina Sprem 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday. It was quite something. It was her first win at a French Open since 2003, in only her eighth match of 2009, even given her rousing Australian Open quarterfinal showing. It also came just after Serbian authorities arrested her father for weapons charges and for threatening the Australian ambassador to Serbia. "I'm sorry," Dokic said. "I'm going to stop you right there. I'm not answering any questions regarding my father, regarding my personal life, at all. . . . You know, of course, I know it's your job to do, but it's also my job to refuse to answer your questions about that."


The dogged little country that probably can't, the United States, shed three more males Tuesday to complete the first round at 2-7 on the mean, savage, harrumphing clay of Roland Garros. Away went Bobby Reynolds, Mardy Fish and the 16th-ranked James Blake, who had some promising clay results this spring but wound up bemoaning the Parisian cold and wind after losing in the gloaming to Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-2, who was making his Grand Slam debut. Only No. 6 Andy Roddick and No. 86 Kendrick remain, huddled against the hostile, exacting clay world. Help.


"It was, Ouufff."

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the thrilling, No. 9-ranked Frenchman who had never won a French Open match and felt intensely tense before playing countryman Julien Benneteau, recalled his relief at winning in four sets.

-- Chuck Culpepper

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