FRENCH FED FRENZY: Federer said that when he walks the streets of Paris “everybody is, like, ‘This is your year. You’ve got to do it.’ They’re screaming from their scooters and out of the car. They even get out at the red lights and want me to sign an autograph or take a picture. It’s quite incredible this last couple of weeks. It just shows me that everybody is watching the French Open here, and it’s great to get the support. You know, once out in the stadium, it’s amazing. I mean, we don’t have a grand Slam in Switzerland, but I definitely feel at home in the Grand Slams, and especially here.”
WHAT’S WAS RUSSIAN AND AMERICAN WITH A PERIOD IN BETWEEN?: Young Svetlana Kuznetsova first emerged as Martina Navratilova’s doubles partner. The May-October partnership, prompted Navratilova, who was then 46, to comment on her then 17-year-old partner: “I see my face and wrinkles coming out. I’m close to menopause and some of these kids haven’t had their period yet…Guys, am I making you uncomfortable?”
WAR IS NOT HEALTHY FOR TENNIS PLAYERS AND OTHER LIVING THINGS: Svetlana Kuznetsova said that her grandparents had to go to war with little more than a knife, and encouraged their grandkids to battle and scrape with everything they have. Of course, as IT’s Matt Cronin noted, Russian tennis didn’t take off until the Soviet Union fell. BTW: None other than Anna Kournikova offered one of the most provocative anti-war commentaries in tennis lore, saying, “The only thing I’m concerned about is war. There’s enough space for everyone in the world. Why can’t they talk – not with tanks and guns? Why did they send those Russian kids to die in Afghanistan? They didn’t even live yet. How many mothers are crying out there? There’s not even a cemetery to know where their bones are.”
SAY IT ISN’T SO: The Bryan Bros. had match points in the second set of their semi against Wesley Moodie/Dick Norman and then lost 0-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. Of their losses, Mike Bryan said, “This one has the most sting…It tests your spirit. Obviously, we should have closed it, but that happens in sports. Bob hopefully will win the mixed [with Liezel Huber against another Southern Californian, Vania King, and Brazilian Marcelo Melo). That would be a Grand Slam.” Mike added that he couldn’t remember playing such a one-sided match only to end up losing.
THREE’S A CHARM: The French final will be Safina‘s third Grand Slam final and the third all-Russian Slam final. Kuzy is not a particularly clutch finalist. Her record in finals is 10-18. The last big all-Russian final was a Slam. Elena Dementieva beat Safina to claim Olympic gold last August in Beijing.
SO WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THIS ONE?: The two men who had the best clay-court seasons – Nadal and Djokovic – exited RG early. The two women who most excelled on dirt this spring – Safina and Kuzy – will meet in the final.
WHERE ELSE BUT AT THE FRENCH: Just outside Roland Garros, they were handing out a glossy, 24-page brochure promoting Giuseppe Verdi’s Opera Rigoletto.
ONION SOUP: Cibulkova supposedly means “little onion.”
A TRIM SLOOP SKIMMING ACROSS THE SURFACE: The first woman’s semi featured two grand ponytails. Dominika Cibulkova‘s ponytail is one of the best on tour and Safina’s isn’t bad either. Other ponytails that swing free ‘n easy out there include Azarenka, Jankovic, Dementieva, Bartoli and Rezai. Sharapova used to have a good one. One of our favorite historical ponytails was Chrissie Evert’s. But our all-time favorite was Anna Kournikova‘s, which prompted Frank DeFord to write that Anna looks “like a trim sloop, skimming across the surface, her long signature pigtail flying about like a torn spinnaker in the wind. Her lines are perfect – especially now that she doesn’t jam the second-service ball up her knickers.”
GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES: Dominika Cibulkova, who is listed as 5-foot-3 and has a Dunlop racket bag that seems almost as big as she is, again proved you don’t have to be a Big Babe to excel. The Slovokian told IT that her diminutive size doesn’t phase her and it helps her with her movement, which she’s quick to note is an advantage. Great short women who come to mind: Rosie Casals, Amanda Coetzer, Ai Sugiyama and, of course, Justine Henin.
FAST TALKER: According to the hard-working interview transcribers in Paris, Ana Ivanovic (last year’s RG champ and a former No. 1, who is known for her fine play, fine looks and unquestionable smarts) speaks at a lightning 330 words per minute, and that’s in her second language, English.
TWO WEEKS OF BLUE SKIES: What to expect in London for Wimbledon, now that the tournament has finally installed an 80 million roof.
LADIES WHO FELL SHORT AT THE FRENCH: Venus, Sharapova, Hingis, Clijsters.
HEADLINE OF THE DAY: AS ALWAYS, SERENA ALL ABOUT SERENA
EXCHANGE OF THE DAY (AND MAYBE THE TOURNAMENT): With Kuz up 2-1 against Stosur in the second set tiebreak, the athletic Russian and the dubs whiz from Queensland had an explosive six-volley exchange with Sveta prevailing.
GIRLFRIENDS MATTER: Toronto journalist Tom Tebbut reported that a Paris paper surveyed the top 12 French players, asking them who was the most disliked player on the tour. “The consensus was Tomas Berdych,” wrote Tebbut “with fellow Czech Radek Stepanek and Robin Soderling of Sweden tied for second. There was a caveat about Soderling – some players noted he had become marginally less dislikeable since getting a girlfriend.”
RUSSIAN REVOLUTION: With the all-Russian Kuznetsova vs. Safina women’s final on tap, Sveta spoke of how such an explosion of Russian talent came to pass: “If you turn back and you see about tennis popularity in Russia, it would be first by Yeltsin, because he put a lot. He was big in politics, and he pushed a lot [of] tennis in Russia. He got all diplomatic people, people around [the] president to play tennis. So people came. They put money into tennis…Then Kournikova made it big. Doesn’t matter people don’t like her. Doesn’t matter that they say she never won a tournament. I still think she did amazing effort. They made such a big deal about her not winning a tournament. For me, she was top-10 player. She played semis I think of Wimbledon. She was very tough. She was No. 1, I think, in doubles. She had an unbelievable achievement. She was very popular and she could do the same thing on court and off the court. It’s a lot credit for her for doing this for Russian tennis. And then it’s became Maria, Kafelnikov – these old guys that they were big, Safin. This all pulled tennis forward and forward. Maria, she has great credit because she very popular and she was No. 1. So everybody did something for Russia. So we’re pulling it forward.”