Category Archives: French Open

FRENCH OPEN: 10 Predictions Come with Money Back Guarantee

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams

FOXSports.com national columnist Greg Couch digs into 10 questions that get to the heart of the French Open, which starts Sunday at Roland Garros in France. 

Q. It’s Nadal, Djokovic and … ummm … can anyone else on the men’s side win this thing?

A. Only Federer. And even he doesn’t have much of a shot, especially with his back and knee problems. The thing is, with Nadal out so long last year and into this year with worn-out knees, his ranking has dropped. Also, he and Djokovic are on the same side of the draw and may have to play each other before the final. It is the perfect storm of a draw for Federer. That’s sort of the equivalent of the SEC Championship Game — with the two best teams — deciding who gets to play in the BCS title game. Then, the rest of the country, basically the minor leagues, gets to fill the other spot. Federer is able to beat Djokovic on the right day, and Nadal’s knees might blow up at any time.

Please read the rest of the column here at FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Rafael Nadal on Red Clay, Greatest Force in Sports Ever

(June 12, 2012) Three minutes before he took the court at Roland Garros on Monday, Rafael Nadal wasn’t ready. It had been a rough night, he said. A day earlier, he was putting Novak Djokovic away in the French Open final, and then Djokovic started rolling over him the way he had done all last year.

The match was stopped for the night because of rain. But think of what Nadal went through after that: Djokovic had beaten him in the finals of the past three majors. Djokovic had gotten inside Nadal’s head. Djokovic, for the past year, had been the immovable force in tennis.

Well, forget all that, because in those final three minutes before taking the court Monday, Nadal felt the comfort of home. His home: Roland Garros. Nadal won his record seventh French Open, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. Djokovic is not the immovable force of tennis, after all. Nadal on red clay is.

In fact, Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is the greatest, most dominant individual force in sports today, maybe ever.

Tiger Woods at the Masters? No. Mike Tyson? No. Maybe Usain Bolt. Maybe Michael Phelps, but that was a one-time thing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. We’ll see how they do this summer in London.

Please read the rest of my column on FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Greed Costs Nadal, Djokovic, Tennis Great Moment in History

 

You can’t force history to happen. But you sure can stop it with greed, stupidity, recklessness. Tennis ruined a great moment Sunday, just sold it out to broadcasters, to NBC.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, two all-time greats, were both going for historic heights in the French Open final. It was a dream buildup in a great, new rivalry for a sport that needs as many big moments as it can find. But it rained the whole match, and officials, trying to keep broadcasters happy, kept letting the match go on and on, anyway.

What happened? Not historic greatness, that’s for sure. The showcase was ruined. Everyone lost. Fans saw a crummy match, and it never even finished. Nadal led two sets to one, and trailed 2-1 in the fourth when the match was finally stopped because, well, it’s hard to say why it was stopped, really.

Nothing had changed over the final hour of the match. It just kept drizzling. Maybe officials realized that their greed over TV money, their desperation to make broadcasters happy, had stolen Nadal’s magic and was turning their party into a disaster.

Well, the match is supposed to start up again at 7 a.m. (ET) Monday. But the forecast in Paris calls for more rain. This could drag on for a while.

It comes down to this: They never should have played that match Sunday.

Please read the rest of the column on FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Maria Sharapova Not Just for Show. Killer Barbie Back to No. 1

 

Maria Sharapova could be Danica Patrick now. She surely could have been a Go Daddy girl while dabbling in sports on the side. It would have been so easy.

Instead, with her win Thursday in the semifinals at the French Open, Sharapova will move to No. 1 in the world. She came back from career-threatening shoulder surgery. She still fights the yips on her serve at times. And a win in the final Saturday against Sara Errani will give her a career Grand Slam — at least one title in every major.

Sharapova would be just the 10th female tennis player in history to have done that. Even Venus Williams hasn’t done it.

“It’s a pretty nice feeling,’’ she told reporters as she left the court after her 6-3, 6-3 victory over Petra Kvitova. “I did not know that that (No. 1 ranking) would happen again a few years ago. So I’m just happy to be in this position.’’

When you think of Sharapova, do you think of one of the most focused, determined athletes in the world?

She is. She is Killer Barbie.

And this is just to give people a better feel for what they’re looking at. Or, as Nike is already putting it in an ad: “THOSE WHO BELONG AT THE TOP NEVER FORGET THEIR WAY BACK.’’

The balance of sex appeal and athleticism is always a factor in women’s sports. To be honest, plenty of men are watching women’s tennis for the sex-appeal side of the equation. And there’s always a debate about whether selling sex appeal cheapens the women’s sport or just celebrates athletic bodies. So when someone like Patrick, or Anna Kournikova a few years back, makes huge sponsor dollars without winning anything, it just doesn’t look good. You can’t really expect them to pass up golden opportunities, but it’s hard to say they send the right message to your daughters.

Sharapova does.

Please read the rest of this column at FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Djokovic, Federer Playing the Mind Games of Champions

This is what makes a champion in tennis, one who can last through history. It wasn’t just that Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were both about to lose, and made great escapes at the same time Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the French Open.

It was that they both won marathons that weren’t about endurance or fitness.

Frankly, as US tennis players once again just sit and watch the world’s best fight it out for a major championship, Federer and Djokovic won because of things that American tennis coaches don’t teach.

It was doubly enforced because you could see it in stereo.

Late in a five-set match that came after another five-set marathon in his previous match, wasn’t Djokovic exhausted?

“I guess at that stage,’’ he said in an on-court interview with the Tennis Channel, “you’re not really thinking if your body is tired or not.’’

Tennis might be the most cerebral sport.

Please read the rest of this column on FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Serena Williams Crumbles, Cries. Who is This, Anyway?

Serena Williams doesn’t crumble. She intimidates, she bullies, she rages. But she doesn’t act the way she did Tuesday in the first round of the French Open. After choking away the second set against a no-name player ranked out of the top 100, Williams sat on her chair before the final set and started sobbing.

Right there in the middle of the match. Williams was crying. She covered her face with a towel. She grabbed tissue and blew her nose.

Who was that, anyway? Williams went on to lose a three-hour match, a marathon where guts usually wins. Williams, two points from winning, went on to lose to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

In the 47th major championship of her career, Williams had lost in the first round for just the first time. It was also just the fourth time she had lost to a player out of the top 100.

“Yeah, it is disappointing, but it’s life,’’ Williams said. “Things could be a lot worse. I haven’t had the easiest past six months. Nothing I can’t deal with.’’

Perspective. In the past two years, Williams suffered with life-threatening blood clots in her lungs, and, she said, she also stepped on broken glass in a restaurant, leading to foot surgery.

So, yes, losing a tennis match isn’t the worst thing in the world. But Williams said she had to look back, figure out what she did wrong Tuesday and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It sounded like a simple mathematical formula. Maybe it is. Maybe it was just one bad day. But it looked just too different, too inexplicable. It looked like the start of Williams getting old.

Please read the rest of the column at FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Yes, Andy Roddick Lost Again. But it’s not His Fault No Other Americans are Good Enough to Boo

Andy Roddick loses again at the French Open

At some point, routines just become ruts. And while watching Andy Roddick in the first round of the French Open Sunday, you might have gotten annoyed at him. Irritated. Frustrated. You were in the rut.

It has been years of feeling that way about Roddick, especially at Roland Garros. But the truth is, it’s time to get off Andy Roddick’s back.

He’s not the present anymore. He’s the past. And it’s not his fault that no other American player has been good enough to move into the present and take the torch of U.S. tennis from him. Roddick, aging, stands there holding it, judged by it.

He lost 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 to Nicolas Mahut, the guy known for losing the marathon 2010 Wimbledon match to John Isner, 70-68 in the fifth set. Mahut is 30, and a journeyman. Before Sunday, in his long career, he had won just one match in the main draw of the French Open.

Please read the rest of my column at FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Feats of Clay. Moments in History Coming Together for Djokovic, Nadal, Federer

Great sports arguments work backward through history, step by step, impossible to resolve.

Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus? Jack Nicklaus or Ben Hogan? Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis? Joe Louis or Jack Dempsey? John Elway or Joe Montana or Johnny Unitas?

Somehow, we’ve all been convinced by opinion makers and SportsCenter, who can only sell the Greatest Of All-Time (GOAT), that what we’re seeing now is better than what we saw before. The only way to prove it, of course, would be to get those people through history together in their prime.

That’s what’s different about the place men’s tennis is in now.

“A very special time,’’ Roger Federer said.

Unless opinion-makers are just at it again, working their magic, this might be the moment when the three all-time best meet. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer go into the French Open this weekend aiming for a different and defining spot in history.

Please read the rest of the column at TheDaily.com


AFTER OZ: Novak Djokovic Now Has Signature Moment, Moves on to Fight Through History

 

Every athlete needs a signature moment to make history. Titles and championships and stats are needed too, of course. Something has to fill the record books. But the moment adds pictures and memories and oohs and aahs to the words and numbers.

Muhammad Ali had the Thrilla in Manilla, and another one in Zaire. John Elway had The Drive, and Joe Montana The Catch, and Willie Mays the over-the-shoulder nab. Babe Ruth pointed (supposedly) to the bleachers. Michael Jordan? Well, he had a bunch of them.

So after Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in 5 hours, 53 minutes in the final of the Australian Open Sunday, he took the microphone and told Nadal over the PA system: “We made history tonight.’’ He was talking about it being the longest major final ever.

The truth is, Djokovic moved into history because of the match itself.

A classic. An epic. It might have been the greatest match ever played, though I’m still putting Nadal’s moment – the win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon – ahead of it, as well as at least one of the Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe Wimbledon finals.

But this was the greatest example of two athletes reaching their absolute physical, mental and emotional limits, giving every last drop.

 

Please read the rest of my column at FoxSports.com


Li Na: 116 Million People Can’t be Wrong. Another Look at her Amazing French Open Ratings

Li Na

Take all the people who watched Game 5 of the NBA Finals with LeBron and Dwyane and Dirk, and add to that the people who watched the NCAA Championship Game between Butler and UConn.

From there, add everyone who watched The Decision. Plus Kobe Bryant and the Lakers playing Game 7 in the NBA Finals last year against Boston. Plus all of the first four games in the Stanley Cup finals this year. Heck, throw in everyone who watched the American Idol finale.

You know what it adds up to? (Warning: This will not connect well with the American sports psyche.)

It adds up to fewer people than watched the French Open women’s singles tennis final last Saturday.

No, not in the U.S., where just under two million watched the match. In China, 116 million people watched Li Na become the first Chinese major singles champ, beating Francesca Schiavone. But this isn’t to report the ratings, which came out a week ago. Instead it’s about what these numbers mean to American sensibilities. Be honest: We think of ourselves as the center of the sports world.

But Game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals drew 12.9 million viewers. Nine times that many people watched Li in China.

Doesn’t a sport have to do well in the U.S. to be popular and healthy? Honestly, I sort of think it does. How many Americans know that soccer is popular everywhere else, but won’t really make it big until it makes it in the U.S.? There is just too much money here, and such a celebrity culture. Continue reading


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