French Open 2011 Midpoint Notes

23:54 Sun 29 May 2011
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On the men’s side, the main stories remain what they were before the tournament: Djokovic’s win streak, whether Nadal can retain his title, and (to a lesser extent), Federer’s attempt to break the consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal streak.

On the women’s side, however, many of the storylines have been disrupted—or resolved, depending on how you look at it.

Number one seed (and world number one) Caroline Wozniacki will not win her first Grand Slam, having been eliminated in straight sets by Daniela Hantuchova (who promptly lost her next match). Kim Clijsters will not win her third consecutive Grand Slam, having lost to Arantxa Rus in three (and having given up a big lead). World number three Zvonareva is out as well. That still leaves a number of stories, of which the most interesting are: will number four seed Azarenka finally win a Grand Slam? She’s certainly got power, can she put together enough of the rest to take the French title? Will Sharapova complete the career Grand Slam by winning the only major missing from her trophy case? The field is likely as open as it’s ever going to be for her, can she take advantage? Will Schiavone, the defending champion and number five seed, prove her critics wrong and retain her title? Can she, rather than Sharapova or Azarenka, take advantage of the losses by the top seeds?

Returning to the men, Djokovic continues to impress. His play deteriorated a little against del Potro, wilting for a set under the glare of del Potro’s ridiculous groundstroke power, but then returned to its breathtaking heights for the next two set and the match; his streak is now at 41–0 for the year and is almost guaranteed to progress to the semifinals. Nadal struggled early, but it’s still an extremely tough call between him and Djokovic in five sets at Roland Garros. Murray has been progressing smoothly, and shouldn’t be entirely counted out given how hard he pushed Djokovic in Rome.

Meanwhile, Federer, often overlooked at the French but now really in the background thanks to Djokovic’s incredible streak, has quietly made it into week two without losing a set—along the way extending his Grand Slam quarterfinal streak to a ridiculous 28 in a row, an all-time record. He and Djokovic are likely to meet in the semifinals, and while form certainly favors Djokovic, it will be interesting to see whether or not he can down Federer in a semifinal for the third straight Slam.

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