Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2012 French Open is in its second week
with all of its top men's stars still intact, while only very few of its
female standouts are still taking to the courts at Stade Roland Garros.
The usual suspects -- Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy
Murray -- are all still alive, while the women's draw was emptied out with the
losses of world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, third-seeded Aga Radwanska, pre-
tournament favorite and former top-ranked great Serena Williams, defending
champion Li Na, recent former No. 1 star Caroline Wozniacki, and 2010 champ
and 2011 runner-up Francesca Schiavone.
That's a lot of losses.
Djokovic had been rolling along until Italian Andreas Seppi took the first two
sets off him in their fourth-round affair on Sunday. Djokovic, however, did
manage to come back to best the game Seppi and land in the quarterfinals.
The Serbian Djokovic has never reached the French Open final and needs this
event to complete a career Grand Slam. He currently holds three of the four
The "Djoker" appears to be on a semifinal collision course with Federer, who
upset the sweet-swinging Serb in the French semis a year ago, which halted
Djokovic's monster 45-match overall winning streak at the time.
Maria Sharapova, like Djokovic, needs a French Open title to complete a career
Grand Slam of her own. Also like Djokovic, she has never appeared in a final
at Roland Garros.
The second-seeded Sharapova is the highest seed still standing in the depleted
women's draw and would appear to be on her way in Paris, but left-handed
Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, 2010 French runner-up Sam Stosur and steady
German southpaw Angelique Kerber could have something to say when the final
weekend rolls around.
The reigning two-time champion Nadal looks like he's on his way to an Open
Era-record seventh French Open title after losing only 19 games over his first
four matches of the fortnight. After finishing as the runner-up to Djokovic at
the last three major events, the 10-time Grand Slam titlist is determined to
hang onto his French title with what would be a third straight victory in the
"City of Light."
The former No. 1 Federer, seeking a 17th Grand Slam title and his first one
since the 2010 Aussie Open, has not been playing his best tennis in Paris, but
he's into the quarters and could well be on his way to a sixth French Open
final. The super Swiss won the title in Paris in 2009 to complete his career
Slam and has lost to Nadal in no less than four finals at RG.
Murray's still alive and kicking, but he's not going to reach his first-ever
French Open final. If the sulky Brit can reach the semis, he would probably
run into the buzz saw that is Nadal ... and that one has straight-sets written
all over it.
Some other possible "contenders" still standing in the men's draw are gritty
Spaniard David Ferrer and former U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro.
Back over on the women's side, the Aussie Open champion Azarenka succumbed to
diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round, while Serena was a
stunning opening-round loser at the hands of veteran Frenchwoman Virginie
Razzano last week. Li was erased by Kazakhstani doubles specialist Yaroslava
Shvedova in the fourth round this week, while Schiavone, seeking a third
straight trip into the French final, was shipped out by upstart American
Varvara Lepchenko this past weekend.
Note: Serena had been a perfect 46-0 in her previous Grand Slam openers before
last week's loss.
And don't sleep on Estonian strongwoman Kaia Kanepi, who has slugged her way
into her first-ever French Open quarterfinal and can beat anyone if her
massive ground strokes are landing in.
Honorable mention for the men goes out to popular Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
and Spanish clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro, who also found their way
into the QFs. And some other surprise women's quarterfinalists this week are
the aforementioned Cibulkova, rising Italian dirtballer Sara Errani and the
Another Note: Towering American John Isner played in the second-longest-ever
French Open match last week when he lost to France's Paul-Henri Mathieu in 5
hours, 41 minutes, including an epic 18-16 fifth set.
Of course, Isner and another Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, played in the longest-
ever tennis match in the opening round at Wimbledon two years ago, as that one
lasted more than 11 hours over three days at the venerable All England Club.
My pre-tournament pick for the men was "Rafa," so we're still lookin' OK
there, while my women's pick of Serena would suggest better luck next time,
with the next time being The Championships, Wimbledon in a few weeks.
The Sports Network