Men need women's flair, women needs guys' quality matches -
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old Jun 1st, 2004, 04:42 AM Thread Starter
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Men need women's flair, women needs guys' quality matches

Men need women's flair, women needs guys' quality matches

By Matthew Cronin

Fred & Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA
Hewitt, Malisse, Nalbandian and Safin displayed great tennis in Paris.
FROM ROLAND GARROS – With men's tennis, it's the quality that really matters, which is why this Roland Garros has already produced at least 10 memorable matches. With women's tennis, much of its appeal is based on lives and times of its many outstanding personalities, which is why the focus is usually on the what could be, rather than the what was.

Tuesday at the French Open should brightly highlight these tendencies. The women could use a fair share of the men's depth and competitiveness on court, while the men could use a few gallons of the women's spark and sizzle off court.

The women will play the round-of-16 matches, featuring a delightful cast of characters in what just may end up being four hotly contested matches, but what could also be four routine scores where a handful of gals end up walking off court tearfully pulling their hair out.

On the men's side, two men not well known outside of the English-speaking world will clash in what is virtually guaranteed to be a barnburner of a quarterfinal, when this season's most accomplished clay courters, speedy Argentine Guillermo Coria, will face Spanish "Samson" and '98 Roland Garros champion Carlos Moya. Additionally, Britain's Tim Henman will bring his expanding textbook serve-and-volley style to contrast with the flashy slap shots of Argentina's Juan-Ignacio Chela.

The women have the perfect mix to open play on Court Centrale when two sometimes-bitter rivals, Hollywood glam girl Serena Williams and the emotionally turbulent Jennifer Capriati, face off. It will be the 15th time in their storied careers that six- time Slam champ Serena and three-time Slam titlist Capriati have swung hard at each other. It's without question the WTA Tour most consistently notable rivalry and always produces standout tennis. Their two careers are tightly intertwined. When Capriati won her three Slams in 2000 and 2001, Serena was her whipping girl, When Serena went on her five Slam run in 2002 and 2003, Jennifer was her not-so-lovable Chia Pet. "It's of the better rivalries I have," Capriati said. "It makes things more intriguing."

As Capriati once said, their games pretty much mirror the other one's: Both their backhands are consistent and are weapons; they can both blast return winners, although Serena is quicker fisted; Jennifer has a bit of a bigger forehand; Serena is quicker; Jennifer retrieves very well; neither will come to net frequently; Serena's serve is much more a weapon then Capriati's.
Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA
Who's in better shape: Jennifer or Serena?

Two years ago when Serena outlasted Capriati in a classic quarterfinal, she had deeper lungs and more patience than Capriati. That may not be the case now, as Serena still isn't in top physical condition after spending nearly nine months off the tour due to a knee injury. This is only her fourth tournament of the year and she has only won one title. Just over two weeks ago, Capriati stopped Serena's eight-match win streak against her by playing airtight defense in a straight-set victory in Rome.

She's so confident that she stated she would play the same way again and merely wait for errors to creep into her rival's game.

"I prefer to play someone like Serena instead of playing a real clay courter," she said. "If I can keep balls in play, then I should have a little edge because maybe she'll come up with errors. She's not used to playing on clay."

Whoever loses this contest will be one angry camper. At the age of 28, Capriati arguably has only one decent year-and-a-half left. This may be her last real shot at grabbing another Roland Garros crown.

Serena has stated that she's not distracted by her multiple off-court pursuits, but knows that the only way she's going to convince observers that she cares a great deal is to get back to her No. 1 form and win another Slam title. Given that she spent a few days leading up to the tournament at the Cannes Film Festival, a loss to Capriati here may convince some of the opposite.

Over on court Suzanne Lenglen, 17-year-old Maria Sharapova will attempt to shed herself of the "is she the next Anna" label by knocking off the sole Argentine woman who matters: the cool tactician Paola Suarez, a likeable doubles standout who would like to mention in the same breath of her countrymen.

Following Serena and Capriati on Court Centrale will be the greatest French tennis hopeful since Yannick Noah, the soulful Amelie Mauresmo, who struggles with her choking demons in her home nation has produced encyclopedia's on the topic. She'll play the leaping Russian Elena Dementieva, a grunter in the Sharapova category who equals the Frenchwoman in number of matches gagged on the big stage.

venus tries to keep her streak alive against myskina
Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA
Venus rolls into the quarters.
Venus Williams and Russian Anastasia Myskina will stride on court after Sharapova-Suarez. Serena's older and slightly wiser sister, Venus has slipped below Serena on the marquee the past two years and is attempting to prove that she really can be one of the greatest players of all time. She's riding a 19-match clay court win streak, but could very well be stopped on the train tracks by the brooding Myskina, tennis' version of Anna Karenina whose vivid displays on on-court angst would have made her a perfect character in a Tolstoy novel.

For about the 20th time, England's Henman will carrying the hopes of his tennis-founding nation on his shoulders when he faces Chela, one of four young Argentines in the quarterfinals who likely think that Fred Perry danced with Ginger Rogers. Henman is a straightforward chap whose biography won't be full of zesty anecdotes, but his monumental attempts to bring his nation back to tennis respectability for the first time since World War II is well worth chronicling. The Henman-Chela match will display a 21st century contest of guile vs. athleticism that will keep fans at the edge of their seats.

Moya is a ladies man who has been on the arm of three of the WTA Tour's most attractive women and also held the hand of famous Spanish TV personality. But while his long dark locks serve him well off court, his primary passion remains being remembered as the lead man in a very deep generation of Spaniards. If he can't win another Slam title, he'll go down in history as a lesser player than the colorless but more accomplished Sergi Bruguera.

For a man who looks like toddler's favorite kewpie doll, Coria has a tall order when being asked to become the first Argentine since the world-famous lefty – Guillermo Vilas in 1977 – to win the French. While Vilas dabbled as a poet, he was a rough-looking customer on court. Coria has 10 times the foot speed and three times the counterpunching ability, but hasn't shown much of Vilas' bravado, strength or closing abilities at the big dances. Many observers feel that this contest will determine the eventual champion. Moya will attempt to impose his brute strength on the bobbing and weaving Coria, which could turn out to be the highest quality match of the tournament.

Now if they can only drop kick each other a few times on court or punch each other out in the locker room afterward, they may get an invite to walk the red carpet in Cannes next year. The ratings-challenged men's tour would love that.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old Jun 1st, 2004, 04:57 AM
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Nalbandian/Safin match was a display of "great tennis"? Not what I watched it wasn't!!
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