Serena, Federer lead French Open Midterm Grades
PARIS -- Eight days in, four Americans remain alive at the French Open. As do the usual suspects. Herewith, our Midterm Grades, on the usual curve ...
Serena Williams: Before the tournament, you would take her against the field. She's done nothing to disabuse that notion. Is it really true that she lost in the first round last year to a player outside the top 100? Hard to imagine. She hasn't won the French since 2002, but she hasn't lost on clay all season.
Roger Federer: Remember him? Swiss guy. Yay high. Not part of the pre-tournament chatter, he won his first three matches in straight sets and then a five-setter over Gilles Simon 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday. Make it 36 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals dating to the 2004 French Open. He doesn't have to face Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal untl the final, should he get through Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and likely David Ferrer.
American women: Four of 'em are in the round of 16 -- Serena, Sloane Stephens, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Hampton -- for the first time at a major since the 2004 U.S. Open. The latter two beat Li Na and Petra Kvitova, respectively, comprising the two biggest upsets in the women's draw.
Thirtysomething Tommys: No. 12 Haas and No. 32 Robredo both thrive. Haas, 35, is in the fourth round -- and could easily advance farther with his next match against No. 29 Mikhail Youzhny -- after beating John Isner 7-5, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-7 (10), 10-8 in four and a half hours in the match of the tournament so far. Robredo, 31, barely in the top 500 a year ago, beat Gael Monfils and Nicolas Almagro and dissolved into tears both times. The Spaniard became the first man since 1927 to come back to win from two sets down in three straight matches.
Rafael Nadal: Hasn't entered "beast mode," losing sets in each of his first two matches and complaining about scheduling. So far, there's been no joy in clayville. "I really need to play better," he said. "Otherwise, I can go back to Mallorca and go fishing." But he's still here.
Madison Keys: Wins her first match with ease, looking comfortable on the clay. Then lets an opportunity slip by, falling to fellow teen Monica Puig in Round 2. The promise is still there.
John Isner: Deserves credit for courageous five-setters on consecutive days, nearly making his first French fourth round. But until he adds to his return game and shortens matches, it's going to be a tough (and long) slog. The former American No. 1 hasn't made the second week of a major since the 2011 U.S. Open.
Mère nature: Unseasonably chilly days and Wimbledon-style rain delayed proceedings early in the first week. But the draw is all caught up.
Sergiy Stakhovsky: Didn't mount much a challenge in his first-round match against Richard Gasquet. But we love the trend of players using Instagram during the match. I suspect he could do a kickstarter campaign to cover his fine.
Daniel Brands: German journeymensch looked terrific against Nadal for much of their first-round match. See you at Wimbledon.
Caroline Wozniacki: Woz's woes continues. She wrapped up a dismal clay-court campaign by losing to Bojana Jovanovski in the second round. It's hard to believe that this was the world's top-ranked player 18 months ago. This isn't fun for anyone.
Laura Robson: Lacks a coach and, more important, confidence. After beating No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska on clay last month, the Brit, 19, lost in the first round and then pulled out of doubles with a back injury.
Tomas Berdych: The fifth seed got an all-time lousy draw, pitted as he was against Monfils in the first round. Then, after winning the fourth set, he relinquished momentum and fell in five sets.
Retiring types: More and more players take the court unfit to play their first-round matches but grind out a set or two in order to collect the $30,000 check.