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Old May 23rd, 2002, 05:43 PM   #1
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Smile Looking Forward To The French Open

I still predict that a Williams will win. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaa!

"UNTIL MONDAY - MAI 27 2002 - VENUS & SERENA"



Next Stop: Roland Garros
By Scott Riley, Tennis Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The second Grand Slam event of the year will commence next week, as the greatest tennis players in the world will descend upon Paris for the French Open.

Gustavo Kuerten and Jennifer Capriati will enter the premier clay-court tournament as its defending champions, but I get the feeling they won't exit the event with repeat performances, or in the case of "Guga," three-peat performances.

Kuerten has won two straight and three of the last five titles at Roland Garros, but he's still in the midst of trying to relocate his formidable clay- court game after missing more than two months of action after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery in February. The popular Brazilian star has failed to get past the quarterfinals in three tourneys since rejoining the circuit last month.

Guga whipped Spaniard Alex Corretja in last year's French Open final; defeated Swede Magnus Norman in the 2000 title match; and stunned the tennis world by running the table in south Paris as a green 20-year-old in 1997 (Sergi Bruguera).

Capriati has won three of the last five Grand Slam tournaments overall, including two straight Australian Opens, but she's failed to hoist a championship trophy of any kind since her most-recent Melbourne run back in January.

The Fed Cup-foiling Capriati outlasted Belgian Kim Clijsters in last year's dramatic three-set Roland Garros championship match, including a 12-10 win in the final stanza.

The 26-year-old Capriati is the top seed on the ladies' side this year, while Kuerten is seeded seventh among the men, who boast several serious threats to Guga, such as big ol' Russian Marat Safin, tough German Tommy Haas, the amazing Andre Agassi, rising Swiss Roger Federer, and even 19-year-old American teen sensation Andy Roddick.

Don't expect 2002 Australian Open titlist Thomas Johansson of Sweden to be a factor during the fast-approaching French fortnight, as clay is not his friend.

World No. 1 and reigning U.S. Open champion Lleyton Hewitt is the top seed on the men's side, but the hardcourt ace has never gotten past the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. Safin, the current ATP Champions Race leader and Aussie Open runner-up to Johansson four months ago, is dangerous on any surface, as is the hard-hitting Haas, and the incomparable Agassi has already captured at least one Grand Slam title on each of the Slams' tracks -- hardcourt, grass and clay.

Agassi completed his career "Slam" by prevailing in Paris three years ago, and he's fresh off his big clay-court Tennis Masters Rome title just two weeks ago.

Andre'll be ready.

If Agassi can nail down a second French title in four years, it would give the time-defying great his eighth Grand Slam title overall.

Speaking of greats, let's not forget the all-time Grand Slam king -- "Pistol" Pete Sampras.

Or maybe we should forget Pete.

The 13-time Grand Slam event winner has piled up seven Wimbledons, four U.S. Opens and a pair of Aussie titles, but let's face it, he's just not a threat to win seven straight matches over a two-week period on dirt.

That elusive French Open title will remain just that, elusive, as the fading star has first or second-round loss written all over him. Sampras hasn't claimed a championship of any kind since securing a fourth straight Wimbledon title in 2000.

France's best shot on the men's side is probably 10th-seeded Sebastien Grosjean, but he has yet to hit his rather-short stride this season.

A Frenchman hasn't claimed his national championship since the great Yannick Noah jumped for joy adorned by his customary dreadlocks in 1983.

There are other viable threats in the men's draw, including dangerous Spaniards Juan Carlos Ferrero and 1998 champion Carlos Moya, but I really don't see either one of them getting past the likes of Safin, Haas, Agassi, Kuerten or the immensely-talented Federer, who's currently second in the Champions Race thanks to his three-set dismantling of Safin in last week's clay-court Tennis Masters Hamburg final.

I think Roddick is still a darkhorse due to his lack of experience in the "majors."

Former champions Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Michael Chang are expected to be on hand next week, but don't expect either one, especially the used-up Chang, to travel very far in the deepest of draws.

World No. 6 Tim "No Shot" Henman says he feels confident on clay right now, but let's be serious...he's "Soft Tim."

Capriati will be challenged on the ladies' side by fellow juggernaut Americans Venus and Serena Williams, and perhaps even Monica Seles, and the Belgian studs Clijsters and Justine Henin.

Venus and the current-world-No. 1 Capriati have exchanged places atop the WTA rankings on four occasions this season; Serena is arguably the best player in the women's game right now; Clijsters came oh-so close to winning the French a year ago; and the red-hot Henin recently squared off against Serena in two straight finals, including an upset victory over the 1999 U.S. Open champion in Berlin two weeks ago and a loss to the superstar last week at the lofty Tennis Masters Series Roma.

I'm pickin' Serena to weave her way through the draw in Paris, but Capriati, Venus, Clijsters or Henin will be eager to jump in there if the younger Williams falters.

Venus would like to add Roland Garros to her expanding trophy case, which already includes back-to-back Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, but she's had to battle a variety of injuries this season, and was forced to pull out of last week's lucrative event in Rome just minutes before she was scheduled to play Russian beauty Anna Kournikova, who, by the way, will certainly be a non- factor, tennis-wise anyway, in Paris.

The aging Seles has won three French Open crowns, but that was during her heyday way back in the early 1990's. She soared to Roland Garros titles in 1990, 1991 and 1992, but has reached just one French Open final (1998) since the well-publicized back-stabbing incident in 1993.

France's female hopes will rest on the shoulders of Sandrine Testud and Amelie Mauresmo, but Testud is just not a Grand Slam threat and Mauresmo has always choked in front of the home crowd at the Parisian Slam. Mauresmo was a first- round loser in Paris for a third time last year, and is an unacceptable 6-7 in her home major.

Mary Pierce was the last French woman to win it all in Paris, in 2000.

Pierce plays for France despite being born in Canada (Montreal) and residing in Florida (Sarasota).

Go figure.

Three other former champs will be in the ladies' draw, but additional French hardware will not come for the oft-injured Pierce, the washed-up Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (1989, 1994, 1998) or the out-of-her-league Iva Majoli (1997).

Capriati will try to become the first repeat women's winner since the legendary Steffi Graf turned the trick for a second time in 1996. Graf also won the French back-to-back in 1987-88.

The grunt-crazed Seles is the last woman to rattle off three consecutive titles (1990-92) in the "City of Lights."

The propitious Kuerten will try to become the first man to hoist the trophy for a third straight time since the fabulous Bjorn Borg gathered four straight championships from 1978-81. Borg won six French Opens during an eight-year span from 1974-81, as the steely Swede was a perfect 6-0 in his French finals.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 06:01 PM   #2
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I can't wait either! It should be interesting since we had different clay court winners for all the tournaments this year.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 06:10 PM   #3
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I'll be there so I'm definitely looking forward to it. Yeah!!!!
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 06:19 PM   #4
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Smile Lucky Dude

Bright Red - you don't say? You will be there? When are you leaving? Way - to - go.

Have a safe and great trip.

Tell the Sisters - Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Tell them they have already contributed much to the game of Women's Professional Tennis.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 06:45 PM   #5
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Yep, GogoGirl. I leave on the 27th and get there the next morning.

If I get the chance to to talk with them, I'll try to remember to send your regards.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 07:12 PM   #6
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Hey bright red, you are so lucky, hope you had a nice time in France, and remember cheer for Monica hehe.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 07:22 PM   #7
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Thanks, wongqks.

I'll be cheering for Monica. I can't wait to see all of the players.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 07:35 PM   #8
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the "aging Seles"
Ouch!
as a 32 year old, that hurts me too!
tough when you are not even 30 and called "aging"
well, I guess Capriati is close to aging then too...

anyway, I agree with the thurst of the analysis - that Serena is my bet.
but RG is produces unlikely champions..
but maybe serena IS an unlikely champion to some, who think she can't play well enough on clay to win RG.
I actually think she's the favorite, but that might not bode well because recently the favorite has not won at RG.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 07:55 PM   #9
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Thumbs up Interesting Read

Pretty balanced and snide remarks make this an interesting and fair article.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 07:59 PM   #10
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yep id pick serena too.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 11:05 PM   #11
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Smile Heatin' Up

Wednesday, May 22
Americans face tough foes on clay
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com


AT ROLAND GARROS

Things you (the tennis fan) may already know about this year's French Open, which begins play May 27:

Gustavo Kuerten, after returning from hip surgery, will be shooting for the second-ever three-peat in 72 years at Roland Garros -- Bjorn Borg's four straight from 1978-81 is the gold standard -- and his fourth Grand Slam title there in six years.

Venus (wrist injury) and Serena Williams, who have only managed to reach a combined three quarterfinals in Paris, again will not display the patience, stamina and finesse required to win this Slam.

ESPN's commentators will reference the "red clay of Roland Garros" no fewer than 47 times in two weeks of extensive coverage -- and the hair on commentator Cliff Drysdale's arm will stand on end each and every time.

Pete Sampras, 0-for-ever in the French but a lucky 13-time winner in the other three Grand Slams, will go home without the title for the unlucky 13th time.

One or both of the two young Belgians, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, will reach the semifinals as they did a year ago.

Andy Roddick, the 19-year-old American and heir apparent to Sampras, will travel deep into the tournament as he seeks his fourth title on clay.

Clay is a curious beast.

It is dirt, after all. It is a maddeningly slow surface if you have a cannon for a serve; a torturous venue if you have a short attention span and live for quick points. Patience is the only virtue in the City of Light.

"When you grow up playing on clay, you know the points are going to be long," Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela, the No. 12-ranked player in the ATP's Champions Race, told ESPN.com. "You know you are going to have to fight for every point, scramble for every ball.

"To play well on clay, you must be patient. Hitting winners is much harder than on grass or hard courts."

This is why the ugly Americans typically disappear in the early rounds, although last year Jennifer Capriati was the first American-born French Open women's winner since Chris Evert won back-to-back titles in 1985-86. Andre Agassi broke through in 1999 with the first American win there in nine years.

The Europeans and South Americans, in particular, grew up playing on clay and tend to have the steady, point-building game that flourishes on the more forgiving surface. The clay-court season, which began in early April, has confirmed this fact:

In 20 tournaments on clay (11 on the women's side), Americans have won only five titles: Venus Williams at Amelia Island and Hamburg, Serena Williams in Rome, Roddick in Houston and Andre Agassi in Rome. Spain had four winners, while Argentina had three. It is worth noting that Spain's Angeles Montolio has as many tournament wins as Williams, while household names such as Argentina's Gaston Gaudio and Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui have two titles each, or the same number as Roddick and Agassi combined.

The young Argentines have been notably en fuego thus far this season. There are four inside the top 25 of the ATP Champions Race: Gaudio, 23, is No. 13; Chela, 22, is No. 12; Guillermo Canas, 24, is No. 17; and David Nalbandian, 20, is No. 24. They are all threats to do damage at the French Open. Beyond Kuerten, these little-known (at least in America) clay-court phenoms merit consideration:


With Gustavo Kuerten still not 100 percent, Juan Carlos Ferrero might finally win the Grand Slam in Paris.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, Spain
Ferrero, 22, has reached the French Open semifinals the past two years, only to lose to Kuerten, the eventual champion. This could be, should be, his year. He is a classic dirt wizard with a modern spin; he takes the ball early and employs an aggressive and acute topspin. He won at Monte Carlo, but was bounced early in Rome and Hamburg.

Gaston Gaudio, Argentina
Gaudio was beaten in the first round of the Italian Open two weeks ago (by Wayne Ferreira), but that ended a streak of 13 consecutive victories on clay, which included his first two ATP tournament victories in Barcelona and Mallorca. In Barcelona, Gaudio lost no more than six games in five of his six matches. Some of the players Gaudio beat on his way through those draws: Grand Slam champions Carlos Moya, Lleyton Hewitt and Kuerten. Gaudio is a scintillating 16-2 on clay heading into the French Open.

Albert Costa, Spain
It was Costa who sent Ferrero reeling from Hamburg in the first round, this after losing the first set 2-6. Nearly 27, Costa is enjoying a fine clay season; he was 13-2 after beating Ferrero. His 11 career ATP titles have all come on clay. Twice he has reached the quarterfinals in Paris, as recently as 2000.

Guilliermo Canas, Argentina
Canas is a well-rounded performer -- 19-10 last year on hard surfaces, 18-7 on clay and 7-2 on grass. He made the clay finals at Casablanca this year and the semis in Barcelona.

"I love the clay season in Europe," Canas says. "They are similar to the ones I grew up on Buenos Aires. Here, I am motivated to play well."

“ Even though he is not in top form, Guga [Kuerten] is the favorite in the French. Then you have Ferrero, [Alex] Corretja and Agassi. ”
— Juan Ignacio Chela

Juan Ignacio Chela, Argentina
Chela is another versatile player who defies the "clay-court specialist" label. He reached the hardcourt final in Sydney, but lost to Sampras in the second round of the Australian Open. He was a quarterfinalist in Miami, but has suffered a rugged clay season.

"Even though he is not in top form, Guga [Kuerten] is the favorite in the French," Chela insists. "Then you have Ferrero, [Alex] Corretja and Agassi."

How about Chela?

"I'm playing OK," he said, laughing. "It is hard for me. Maybe not to win but to do well."

While people complain about the women's game being numbingly predictable, the French Open still has the ability to surprise. The past five winners: Iva Majoli, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (nine years after her first triumph there), Steffi Graf (just shy of 30 and retirement), Mary Pierce and Capriati.


If Jennifer Capriati defends her French Open title, she'll have won four of the past six Grand Slams.

Capriati, of course, is the favorite, having won three of the past five Grand Slams. She was last year's French champion after losing the first set to Belgian Kim Clijsters 1-6, then rallying to take the second set 6-4 and the third by a staggering 12-10. In this year's Australian Open, Capriati won a memorable final in the wilting heat, saving four championship points against Martina Hingis before prevailing in three sets. A win in Paris would give Capriati the first two Slams in 2001 and 2002 -- the first four of her career.

Clijsters and another Belgian, Justine Henin, will make their presence known -- count on it. Clijsters made a name for herself in last year's final and now at only 18 she is becoming a fixture in Grand Slam semis. This year, she defeated Henin in the quarterfinals to reach the Australian Open's Final Four before losing to Capriati again. Clijsters is ranked No. 4, despite missing six weeks with a broken arm she suffered in Australia.

All Henin (No. 5) has done is reach five finals: Gold Coast, Antwerp and Amelia Island -- losing to Venus Williams in all three -- plus Hamburg and Rome that she split with Serena Williams.

Lindsay Davenport (knee injury) and France's Nathalie Tauziat (retirement) will be missing, but a number of athletes are playing well. Majoli, for one, has resurfaced after a more than four-year absence at the top of the women's game due to injuries and poor form. Ranked for three straight years in the top 10, Majoli saw her ranking plummet as low as No. 163. Now ranked No. 32, she won in Charleston last month, beating Patty Schnyder in the final, her first WTA title since 1997, the year she won the French Open. Schnyder, too, has shown flashes of the game that once vaulted her into the top 10. To reach the Charleston final, she took out Capriati, Serena Williams and Amelie Mauresmo -- top 10 players all. Schnyder currently is sitting at No. 23. Here are some players not on the marquee that could make a good impression at the French, as well:

Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia

Daniela Hantuchova isn't a marquee player for the French, but expect her to grab some limelight.
As an 18-year-old, she won her first WTA title, Indian Wells, in March, taking out no less than Martina Hingis in the final. Hantuchova, the No. 18 seed, became the lowest seed to win a Tier 1 event since 1980. She reached a career-best third round at the Australian Open in singles, lost in the doubles final with Sanchez Vicario and won the mixed doubles with Kevin Ullyett. She's ranked a career-high No. 13.

Anna Smashnova, Israel
Smashnova, the best name in tennis, is enjoying the best year of her career at age 25. Only 5-foot-2, 117 pounds, she won titles earlier this year in Auckland and Canberra, doubling her lifetime total, and dispatched Clijsters in Berlin in a 2-hour, 46-minute thriller.

Francesca Schiavone, Italy
A quarterfinalist in Paris a year ago, Schiavone defeated Amanda Coetzer along the way before falling to Hingis. In February, the 21-year-old (ranked No. 35) reached the quarters in Paris, beating Hantuchova in the process.

Lina Krasnoroutskaya, Russia
Forget Anna Kournikova, Krasnoroutskaya is the real Russian deal -- when it comes to playing tennis, anyway. At the age of 17, she reached the French Open quarterfinals a year ago and then advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon. A sprained ankle has kept her out of action for more than two months (during which time she turned 18), but she should be ready to go in Paris.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 11:08 PM   #12
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 11:13 PM   #13
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Quote:
Lina Krasnoroutskaya, Russia
Forget Anna Kournikova, Krasnoroutskaya is the real Russian deal -- when it comes to playing tennis, anyway. At the age of 17, she reached the French Open quarterfinals a year ago and then advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon. A sprained ankle has kept her out of action for more than two months (during which time she turned 18), but she should be ready to go in Paris.
Hmmm.... this article is from May 22? They must be pretty behind because Krasnoroutskaya withdrew from Roland Garros a few weeks ago now.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 11:18 PM   #14
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Re: Looking Forward To The French Open

Quote:
Originally posted by GogoGirl

World No. 6 Tim "No Shot" Henman says he feels confident on clay right now, but let's be serious...he's "Soft Tim."

LOL . I completely agree with that assessment.
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Old May 23rd, 2002, 11:22 PM   #15
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Re: Heatin' Up

Quote:
Originally posted by GogoGirl
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
He's very much out of touch with women's tennis since he doesn't mention Serena as a favorite.
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