Think the Unthinkable

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SILLY SEASON IN PARIS: Roland Garros has rarely seen so many shock results as the draw opens and opens (and, some would say, weakens).

JUST WONDERING (SOLDERING DEPT.): 1. Robin Soderling’s win over Nadal was described as an earthquake. So does that make his merciless victory over Nikolay Davydenko an aftershock? 2. Is the Swede in some kind of zone or what? 3. How come Soderling has never advanced beyond the third round of a Slam before? 4. Why has once-so-bright Swedish tennis been suffering such a winter of discontent? 5. How cool is it that Bjorn Borg sent a text to Soderling after his Nadal win, saying congratulations and “thank you for not letting Nadal break my record?”

VIVE LA DIFFERENCE: Chilean fans follow Francisco Gonzalez around the world, but not to the extent that British journalists traipse the planet following Andy Murray‘s every move.

LATIN QUANDARY: The very southern nations of South America – Chile and, especially, Argentina – have been producing strong players of late. But the middle and northern nations of the continent (and the rest of Latin America, for that matter) are far behind.

THE AGONY OF DEFEAT: David (that would be the 5-foot-3 Dominka Cibulkova) came within two points of double-bageling Goliath (that would be the 6-foot-2 Maria Sharapova, a three time Slam champ). Still, Cibulkova prevailed 6-0, 6-2 in what, despite Sharapova’s significant rustiness, has to be considered a stunning result. The best Slovokian since Daniela Hantuchova had ’em dancing in the streets of her hometown, Bratislova.

NO KIDDING: After Sharapova’s largely jolly comeback run came to a screeching halt, Maria proclaimed, “You can only ask your body to do so much.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Chris Bowers suggested, “It’s always good to think the unthinkable.”

A CURIOUS DIALOGUE: After Nadal’s loss, a reporter asked Federer, “The question for the last month or maybe more has been, what does Roger have to do to beat Rafa? You don’t have to answer that anymore. Are you relieved?” Roger responded, “Um, he didn’t retire, right?”

RED SEA ALERT: Talk about things falling in place, Federer‘s record against the rest of the remaining RG field is 38-1. There are no past RG champs still standing.

NOT LIKE KISSING YOUR SISTER, BUT…: If Fed wins RG, it’ll be quite a record-tying triumph. Still, something will be missing if he does it without having downed Rafa. Even Roger says it’s his dream to beat Rafa at RG. BTW: When and if Roger breaks Pete’s record, will Sampras be on hand to have a look?

SAGE OF THE SEASON: Just before Sweden’s last Grand Slam champion, Thomas Johansson, left home to come to Paris, he wrote to his followers, “[I] won’t be blogging tomorrow because I’m going to Paris to see Robin Soderling beat Rafa Nadal in four sets.”

JUST WONDERING: Is Serena coming into her own and playing her way into RG? (And does it actually help that she’s out of the dubs?)…Will Sharapova come into her own by the end of the summer, shake off all her rustiness and face a still-fabulous-after-all-these-years Kim Clijsters in the U.S. Open final.

FASHION QUESTION: Will Rafa ever wear pink again?

GO FIGURE: Arguably, Nadal has prevailed in the most scintillating three-set match of the year (his 4:02 instant classic over Djokovic in the Madrid semis); the most captivating five-set match of the year, his 5:14 Aussie win over Fernando
Verdasco; and (sorry, Michael Chang, George Bastl, Richard Krajicek, et al) perhaps the most stunning upset in all in tennis history, when he lost in the fourth round to Swede Soderling. And, lest we forget, the guy won last year’s Wimby final, which many consider the best match of all time.

THE SKY IS FALLING (SLOWLY): Is it possibly some kind of trend or just a one-off fluke that Nadal has now lost two straight, and far from inconsequential, tournaments on the slow stuff?

BAGEL ALERT: There have been more curious bagels in this year’s RG than any other Slam in memory.

INTRO TO FRENCH 101: RG lovers are familiar with the French terms for match point and set point: balle de match and balle de set. So not surprisingly, just as Sharapova was on the brink of being double-bageled, press room wise guys suggested there should be a French term “balle de bagel.”

BIRTHDAY BLUES: After birthday boy Nikolay Davydenko was mercilessly dismissed by Robin Soderling, Steve Flink reported to N.Y.’s WCBS that “it was Davydenko’s birthday, but there weren’t many happy returns.” BTW: For the first time in five years Rafa Nadal will not be celebrating his June 3 birthday at RG while en route to a title.

JUST LIKE GOING TO A CAR RACE TO SEE A CRASH?: Fierce young Victoria Azarenka‘s fiery performance made us wonder if there are some fans who go to tennis matches to see players implode.

SAY WHAT?: Dinara Safina came into her quarterfinal having lost a measly four games in four matches and then promptly lost her first set against Azarenka 6-1.

AMERICANS IN PARIS: Roddick reaching the fourth round (before he was crushed in the dusk by homestanding Gael Monfils) was a run for American patriots to cheer. Serena is still holding the flag high while Bob and Mike Bryan are into the men’s semis and hope to win their second French title, which, they say, is the toughest Slam to win. Bob and Liziel Huber are in the mixed semis and new San Pedro, California resident Sloane Stephens is in the girls’ semis.

LOVING IT: Years ago when kid Andre Agassi came to France, the culinary capitol of the universe, he promptly headed McDonalds (or was it Burger King?) Anyway, IT got word that after his win over Roddick, Gael Monfils was spotted leaving a Paris McDonalds toting two bags of fast food.

SO MUCH FOR OUR CRITUQUE OF FRENCH – ENGLISH HAS ITS FLAWS, TOO: Why isn’t there an English tennis term, say “Slam-less” – to describe a player who hasn’t won a major. BTW: There are many a top woman who have yet to win a major – No. 1 Safina, No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, plus newcomers Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki and vet Nadia Petrova. On the men’s side, there’s No. No. 3 Murray and No. 5 Del Potro, plus Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko.