French Open 2007: Andrew's first-round TV-report
ROLAND GARROS (Paris, France; red clay; Grand Slam)
Because I'm now a demi-fan of Tsvetana, and to celebrate her 21st birthday, here's a report that I wrote for the French Open 2007:
First round: Pironkova v Williams TV-report (Sunday 27th May 2007)
- Tsvetana Pironkova lt. SERENA WILLIAMS , 7-5 1-6 1-6
I saw the whole match on BBCi [Freeview 301].
Cute Tsvetana came onto Court Suzanne Lenglen looking quite nervous, but forced herself to smile. It was cold, and they had one of the longest warm-ups I've ever seen, which was just as well as I was struggling to get my tournament-preview posted before it started!
Tsvetana warmed up in tracksuit-bottoms, but took them off for the match.
Tsvetana has gone up in my opinion after what I saw today. When I watched her at Birmingham 2006, I found her very cute, but in tennis-terms she came across as a low-power grinder.
Well she has done plenty of grinding against Williams so far (for which Williams has rewarded her with plenty of unforced errors), but she also showed flashes of brilliance, with some flairsome power and spreading rallies.
Tsvetana has a weak serve, but she's been regularly breaking Williams to compensate. Williams has been hampered by the cold, windy, wet conditions, and is just trying to hit her way through it at the risk of unforced errors, while Tsvetana is taking a much more measured approach. She moves very well, so it's very difficult for Williams to overpower her on clay - especially in these conditions.
During the warm-up, the commentators seemed to be expecting Williams to win by a deplorable scoreline, but Tsvetana has a good chance for the upset if she doesn't get too nervous like she did between *5-2 and 5-5*.
PIRONKOV @*__@*@___@* 7
WILLIAMS __*@___@*@__ 5
Williams serving 0-0: 30/0. Tsvetana showed some aggressive hitting, forcing Williams into error. 30/15. Tsvetana backhand pass-winner down the line! 30/30. Williams netted a dropshot. 30/40 (BP). Tsvetana played a lovely rally finishing with a backhand drive-volley winner after opening up the court. First blood to Tsvetana!
Tsvetana serving 1-0: Service-winner. 15/0. Williams netted a backhand. 30/0. Williams netted a forehand. 40/0. Tsvetana netted. 40/15. Williams forehand wide.
Sam Smith said Tsvetana was a compact player, good off the ground, but with a weak serve.
John Lloyd said Williams wasn't grafting the points out, and was bothered by the wind, off-balance.
Williams serving 1-0: Tsvetana wasted a deep return with a tame netted backhand. 15/0. Tsvetana backhand return just long. 30/0. Tsvetana backhand very long - so was the rally. 40/0. Williams backhand just long. 40/15. Just when it looked like Williams was settling into the rallies, Tsvetana hit a flashy forehand winner down the line. 40/30. Williams netted a backhand. 40/40. Tsvetana netted a backhand, and Williams said a loud "c'mon". Ad Williams. She held with a forehand winner down the line, after a long rally.
Tsvetana is playing much better than when I watched her at Birmingham 2006 - hitting much harder, but also grinding out long rallies which are really getting to Williams.
Sam Smith: "This match is a real grind for Williams - no shortcuts against the Bulgarian."
Tsvetana serving 1-2: A deep forehand crosscourt return into the corner forced Tsvetana to earth a forehand. 0/15. Tsvetana serve + backhand pass-winner down the line. 15/15. Tsvetana netted a horrible sliced forehand. 15/30. Williams netted a forehand. 30/30. Williams netted a backhand. 40/30. Williams off-forehand drive-volley winner into the corner. 40/40. Tsvetana netted a forehand. Ad Williams (BP). Tsvetana opened up the court with a deep crosscourt forehand into the corner... but netted an easy backhand.
The commentators criticised Tsvetana's serve, saying it was the reason she's ranked as low as she is (#91).
Williams serving 2-2: Williams came to the net, and Tsvetana netted a backhand pass. 15/0. Williams went for a forehand winner down the line, but it was just wide. 15/15. Williams crosscourt forehand volley-winner. 30/15. A deep crosscourt forehand from Tsvetana forced Williams to earth a forehand. 30/30. Williams backhand wide - forced by a deep, fast return. 30/40 (BP). Tsvetana reinstated her break with a forehand pass-winner down the line, just beyond Williams's outstretched racket!
Sam Smith: "Got a great pair of feet, hasn't she?"
John Lloyd: "Moves very well for someone of 5'11."
Tsvetana serving 3-2: Williams netted a backhand return off a "slow dolly serve". 15/0. Williams forehand return just wide off a deep serve. 30/0. Tsvetana showed some hard hitting, and a deep forehand forced Williams into error. 40/0. Williams netted a backhand on the fourth stroke.
Williams serving 2-4: Tsvetana played a great spreading rally, forcing Williams to net a backhand. 0/15. Williams netted a wild forehand with a huge grunt. 0/30. A terrific rally, Williams hit a forehand wide - brilliant return from Tsvetana, and "soaking up the power" from Williams." 0/40. With wonderful hitting of flairsome power, Tsvetana won a great spreading rally to get the double break.
John Lloyd: "Serena Williams has no game-plan on clay - doesn't know what to do out here."
Tsvetana serving 5-2: Tsvetana backhand just long on the third stroke. 0/15. Some powerful hitting from Williams induced Tsvetana to overhit, and she shrugged her shoulders. 0/30. Williams forehand return-winner down the line - weak second serve. 0/40 (3 BPs). Williams netted a forehand return. 15/40. Another Williams error. 30/40. Williams backhand return just long. 40/40. Tsvetana hit a number of looping forehands down the line, and Williams hit a backhand long. Ad Tsvetana (SP #1). Tsvetana netted a forehand, and Williams screamed "c'mon". Deuce #2. Tsvetana backhand called long but overruled - replay. Williams hit a deep backhand followed by an off-forehand winner. Ad Williams (BP #4). Williams sprayed a wild backhand return wide - "just amazing" [John Lloyd]. Deuce #3. A deep shot from Williams forced Tsvetana to hit a backhand half-volley long. Ad Williams (BP #5). Double fault (wild second serve long).
Williams serving 3-5: Double fault. 0/15. Tsvetana netted a backhand. It's raining, but not hard enough to suspend play on clay. 15/15. Tsvetana forehand long. 30/15. A long rally ended with Tsvetana mishitting a forehand into the net. She groaned. 40/15. Ace.
John Lloyd: "No cheap points - it's all about the /mindset/ on clay."
Tsvetana serving 5-4: Williams netted a backhand on the fourth stroke. 15/0. Williams netted a forehand. 30/0. Double fault (second serve just long). 30/15. A very long rally ended with Williams hitting a backhand just wide. Sam Smith: "Huffing and puffing, but hasn't blown Pironkova's house down yet." 40/15 (SP #2). Tsvetana netted a forehand after a longish rally. Sam Smith: "It's like torture out here, isn't it?" 40/30 (SP #3). Williams asked for the match to be suspended, and was booed by the crowd. Williams hit a huge crosscourt backhand onto the sideline, forcing Tsvetana into error. 40/40. Service-winner (her fastest serve of the match so far). Ad Tsvetana (SP #4). Tsvetana netted a forehand and threw her racket. Sam Smith: "Forehand breaks down at the clutch-moments." Deuce #2. Tsvetana just long (umpire checked the mark). Ad Williams (BP). Williams forehand just wide. Sam Smith: "Heavy, slow, wet." Deuce #3. Tsvetana backhand long (forced by a hard, deep crosscourt backhand). Ad Williams (BP #2). Tsvetana forehand just long - broken back.
From *5-2 to 5-5*, four set-points spurned - Tsvetana is tight, and Williams is "the ultimate competitor."
Williams serving 5-5: Ace. 15/0. Williams backhand just long. 15/15. Williams netted a horrible attempt at a forehand dropshot. 15/30. Service-winner down the middle. 30/30. Tsvetana played a great spreading rally, finishing with an error-forcing crosscourt backhand volley, and pumped her fist. 30/40 (BP). Williams netted a backhand on the third stroke - Tsvetana's fourth break of the set, and she'll serve for it a third time!
John Lloyd suggested that Williams had underestimated Tsvetana, as well as struggling with the cold, windy, wet conditions.
It was really raining now, and Williams again asked for it to be suspended. She put her tracksuit-top on, but the umpire took about five minutes to decide to suspend the match while the players sat down again. John Lloyd: "This is ridiculous! On clay, unless it's raining /really/ hard, you should play on!"
This rain-delay isn't good for Tsvetana, because she had the momentum, and now she's going to have to go away and think about having to come out and serve for the set again.
Play resumed about six hours after it was suspended - despite Richard Williams complaining beforehand that his daughter might slip on a wet line and injure herself.
Richard Williams: "I don't think that girl - I can't remember her name - can play any better, and I don't think Serena can play any worse."
Tsvetana reminded me a lot of Daniela Hantuchová as she came back out - another tall, slender, pony-tailed brunette.
Sam Smith: "Very good groundstrokes, lovely movement, but doesn't serve well. Got very tight, didn't she, especially on the forehand-side."
Sam Smith compared the situation with Serena's loss to Jill Craybas at Wimbledon 2005, when she also had to play late in the evening.
Tsvetana resumed play in her tracksuit-top.
Tsvetana serving 6-5: Williams forehand just long - looked nervous and sluggish. 15/0. Williams netted a wild backhand return. 30/0. Williams netted a tight forehand return. 40/0 (SP #5). Williams forehand long - forced by a low-over-the-net backhand down the line from Tsvetana, who won the first set 7-5.
I clapped my hands and shouted "yes!"
PIRONKOV @______ 1
WILLIAMS _@*@*@* 6
Williams serving 0-0: Williams opened up the court with a short, sharp angle to Tsvetana's backhand-sideline, and hit a crosscourt forehand winner into the wide gap. 15/0. Williams forehand just long. 15/15. Ace out wide. 30/15. Tsvetana netted a forehand. 40/15. Williams sprayed a backhand just wide. 40/30. Williams netted a tame backhand on the third stroke. 40/40. Williams netted a forehand. Ad Tsvetana (BP). Williams backhand long - great deep return from Tsvetana to break!
Tsvetana serving 1-0: Tsvetana hit a penetrating crosscourt backhand, forcing Williams into error. 15/0. Tsvetana hit a loopy forehand just long. 15/15. Williams stopped playing in the middle of the point because she thought the ball was out; Tsvetana hit a crosscourt forehand winner, but unfortunately Williams was right so she won the point. 15/30. Tsvetana netted a forehand. 15/40 (2 BPs). After a pathetic short second serve, Tsvetana sprayed a horrible forehand very long to give Williams the break back.
Williams serving 1-1: Williams's pace induced Tsvetana to net a backhand. 15/0. Tsvetana hit a sweet backhand winner down the line off a shoulder-high ball. 15/15. Tsvetana opened up the court beautifully with a crosscourt backhand, and hit a pinpoint backhand winner down the line. 15/30. Service-winner. 30/30. Tsvetana netted a wild forehand return. 40/30. Williams netted a backhand. 40/40. Williams hit a crosscourt forehand volley-winner after a well-constructed rally. Ad Williams. Serve + crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline.
Sam Smith identified that game at the time as a potential turning-point.
Tsvetana serving 1-2: A netcord from Tsvetana gave Williams an easy backhand winner down the line. 0/15. Tsvetana hit an easy forehand smash-winner after a stinging one-two punch. 15/15. Tsvetana hit a horrible forehand halfway up the net. 15/30. Williams sprayed a forehand very long. 30/30. Williams off-forehand volley-winner. 30/40 (BP). Tsvetana netted a forehand, but to be honest she hit a backhand wide earlier in the point.
Williams serving 3-1: Williams forehand winner down the line, on the sideline. 15/0. Williams crosscourt backhand winner behind Tsvetana. 30/0. Williams hit a deep crosscourt forehand drive-volley winner into the corner. 40/0. Tsvetana backhand long.
Tsvetana serving 1-4: Williams forehand long. 15/0. Williams forehand winner down the line after forcing a short mini-lob from Tsvetana. 15/15. A great serve out wide, onto the sideline, forced Williams to net a forehand return. 30/15. A long, high-quality rally ended with a crosscourt backhand winner from Williams, and Tsvetana applauded. 30/30. Double fault. 30/40 (BP). Williams off-backhand winner after a short second serve gave her the initiative.
Williams serving 5-1: Just when she looked in control of her shots, Williams netted a forehand. 0/15. Tsvetana netted a backhand. 15/15. Tsvetana netted a forehand. 30/15. A good spreading rally from Williams forced Tsvetana into error. 40/15 (2 SPs). Ace out wide.
It's a very different Serena Williams now - powerful and in control of her shots.
John Lloyd: "She now has Pironkova on the run in almost every rally - a reversal of the first set, where her lack of length let Pironkova run /her/ around."
PIRONKOV ___@___ 1
WILLIAMS @*@ @*@ 6
Pironkova serving 0-0: An amazing rally finished with Williams hitting a backhand volley pass-winner. Tsvetana threw her racket. 0/15. Tsvetana backhand wide, and dropped her racket again. 0/30. Tsvetana backhand winner down the line. She pumped her fist and shouted "aide!" 15/30. Williams hit a crosscourt forehand winner onto the sideline, after a long rally in which Tsvetana's forehand twice clipped the baseline. 15/40 (2 BPs). Williams forehand wide. 30/40. Double fault #4 (wild second serve long).
John Lloyd said Tsvetana's serve was such a liability that she should take six months off the Tour to remodel it, if it wouldn't be too late at age 19. It's a huge gamble,
Williams serving 1-0: Williams went for a backhand winner down the line, but it was just wide. 0/15. Tsvetana went for a forehand winner down the line, but it was just wide. 15/15. A pinpoint forehand down the line from Williams forced Tsvetana to net a one-handed backhand. 30/15. Virtual ace down the middle. 40/15. Tsvetana played a nice spreading rally, finishing with a crosscourt backhand winner right onto the junction of sideline and baseline! She pumped her fist and shouted "aide!" 40/30. Williams hit a forehand volley-winner on the fifth stroke.
Tsvetana serving 0-2: An acute-angled crosscourt backhand from Williams forced Tsvetana to net a backhand. 0/15. Tsvetana hit a fabulous off-forehand winner and shouted "aide!" 15/15. Williams blasted a crosscourt backhand winner and Tsvetana threw her racket after it. 15/30. Williams backhand winner down the line. 15/40 (2 BPs). Williams netted a backhand after some more hard hitting from Tsvetana. 30/40. Williams netted a backhand. 40/40. Tsvetana netted a backhand after a meaty rally from both players. Ad Williams (BP #3). Williams netted a forehand, and Tsvetana shouted "aide!" Deuce #2. Williams played a good spreading rally with a crosscourt forehand winner behind Tsvetana. Ad Williams (BP #4). Tsvetana's forehand clipped the netcord and fell back on her side.
Tsvetana may be going down, but I really admire the way she's at least doing so with all guns blazing. Some of her groundstrokes are unbelievably sharp and hard!
Williams serving 3-0: Double fault. 0/15. Williams netted a forehand after a long rally. 0/30. Tsvetana forehand return just wide. 15/30. Williams serve + crosscourt forehand winner. 30/30. Williams netted a backhand. 30/40 (BP). Williams netted a backhand after another long rally. Tsvetana breaks back!
Tsvetana serving 1-3: Williams opened up the court for a crosscourt forehand winner, but it was just wide - great lateral retrieval from Tsvetana! 15/0. Tsvetana backhand long. 15/15. A well-placed crosscourt backhand from Tsvetana forced Williams to net a backhand. 30/15. Double fault. Tsvetana rolled her head. 30/30. A short-angled crosscourt forehand forced Tsvetana to earth a forehand. 30/40 (BP). Williams crosscourt forehand winner off a netcord-dropshot from Tsvetana.
Williams serving 4-1: Williams backhand just long. 0/15. Tsvetana backhand just wide. 15/15. Tsvetana hit a backhand wide after a long rally with a lot of lateral running from both. 30/15. Williams forehand down the line off a crosscourt dropshot from Tsvetana. 40/15. A deep return into the corner forced Williams to earth a forehand. 40/30. Tsvetana netted a backhand after Williams gave her the runaround yet again.
Tsvetana serving 1-5: A great crosscourt forehand return forced Tsvetana to earth a forehand. 0/15. Williams netted a forehand off a deep, hard ball from Tsvetana. 15/15. A deep sliced backhand from Williams caught the outside edge of the baseline, forcing Tsvetana to net a backhand. 15/30. A short second serve got the treatment: a crosscourt backhand winner like a bullet from a gun. 15/40 (2 MPs). First serve into the net. Brave deep second serve: crosscourt forehand return just long - very late call!! 30/40 (MP #2). First serve into the net. Tsvetana, driven wide, went for a backhand winner down the line, but it was just wide. Williams won 5-7 6-1 6-1 at 19:42 CEST.
"Did she beat Venus a couple years ago in Australia? I personally would have propelled myself after that. So she's still at 91, so I don't know. It's hard to say.
"I'm a fighter. I've never gone down in the first round of a Grand Slam, and I didn't want that to change. I can breathe now. My goal is to stay not losing in the first round of a Grand Slam.
"I was also feeling that if I went down, there was a 99.9% chance she would lose in the next round. That helped me keep fighting. I couldn't lose on the Sunday, no way.
"The conditions were difficult. The rain really slows the court down. And she was obviously able to get more balls back because my balls weren't skidding as well as they could have. In the rain, it was really slick on the lines. Going back, it wasn't as rainy.
"I was already coming back when there was the [rain-]break, and there's no way I wouldn't have gone to at least three sets.
"I pretty much should have won that [first] set. I'm a perfectionist, and I'm always trying to make things perfect.
"I was feeling better in that third set, sliding better, playing the way I want to be playing on clay."
Dr. Andrew Broad
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