French Open: A Deja Vu Upset, Underhand Serves, and the Aftermath of Selfie-gate


AGAINST THE ODDS: After defeating Marcos Baghdatis to set up a third-round match against his hero Roger Federer, Bosnia’s Damir Dzhumur was asked if it’s harder for someone from his home country to reach the top of the game. “I think it is,” the 23-year-old, currently ranked No. 88, answered.  “Actually, it is definitely. No support from anybody. You have to be everything [on] your own. You have to go through everything alone. I mean, I can say alone, but with my parents, of course. They did everything for me. But no support from federation, no sponsors. So all the financial things you have to do, [there’s] nobody behind you … to [help you]. But fortunately I did manage to go through all that.”

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING: At last year’s US Open, then-32-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni scored one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when she defeated No. 2 seed Simona Halep in straight sets in the third round. History repeated itself—shall we call it a case of deja vu?—in Paris, with Lucic-Baroni using powerful, bullet-fast groundstrokes to knock out Halep, last year’s finalist, in the second round, 7-5, 6-1. Lucic-Baroni’s comeback reemergence in New York last falls was arguably the most emotional story of the tournament, arriving deep into a decades-spanning career marred by familial abuse and injury. Since then, she won a tournament in Canada and reached No. 70 in the world, but her victory still counts as the most decisive upset so far at this year’s French Open.

“I take a lot of pride in what I went through in my life, the difficulties,” Lucic-Baroni said after the match, when asked about her turbulent past. “And I know—I think I know for a fact that a lot of people couldn’t do it, what I went through, and come back and fight the way I did and [still] do. So I take a lot of pride in that. That I was stubborn, that I believed in myself enough and I was strong enough to be here today, because it’s really pretty nice.”

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE: Speaking of Canada, when the French Open draw was announced, all signs showed that No. 6 seed and famous Canadian Eugenie Bouchard was in danger. She’d lost six of her last seven matches going into Roland Garros, and her opponent, world No. 44 Kristina Mladenovic, took out Li Na in the first round here last year. It was one-way traffic for Mladenovic as she used strong serving and canny drop shots to race to 6-4, 5-0 lead against the struggling Bouchard. But then nerves crept into the Swiss-French player’s game, and things grew increasingly tense before Mladenovic aimed one last service winner directly at her opponent to score a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Now both Bouchard and Simona Halep—a finalist and semifinalist at last year’s Wimbledon, respectively—head into grass court season surrounded by question marks and under growing pressure to shore up their results from 2014.

KIKI AND MIKI: Only one letter separates the nicknames of the two top seed-topplers on the women’s side at this year’s French Open: Mirjana “Miki” Lucic-Baroni and Kristina “Kiki” Mladenovic.

ROGER—THE AFTERMATH OF SELFIE-GATE: Following his relatively straightforward second-round win, Roger Federer was asked about security at the French Open—a hot topic because he was approached on court by a fan for a selfie after the first round. “I think everybody is a little bit more alert,” said Federer, who’d previously made clear he was “not happy” about the incident. “That was the only wish I had. It’s just that the security is more alert. They don’t need to change anything that we need to have fences and all that stuff, not at all. Tennis is one of the most accessible sports out there, and we are unbelievably close with our fans. That’s what I love about it. So for me it was just more important that everybody was doing their job.”

As for Rafa Nadal‘s recent request that umpire Carlos Bernardes not officiate his matches, and whether he’s ever asked for similar treatment, Roger was an artful dodger, steering clear of a yes or a no.

FLAVOR FLAVIO? The Roland Garros website has attracted no shortage of criticism this year, from fans complaining about the impracticality of its design to Stan Wawrinka voicing anger about a sensationalist piece the site posted. The latest bits of rancor range from the comical—Fabio Fognini being mislabeled as “Flavio” (a slip-up perhaps influenced by the fact that Fognini’s girlfriend is Flavia Pennetta) in a photo montage—to more serious matters: the site isn’t making press conference transcripts, even edited ones, available to the general public.

VENUS OUT OF ORBIT: After her first-round loss to Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams skipped out on a post-match press conference, incurring a $3,000 fine from the ITF. In the aftermath of the non-event, opinions ranged, with some saying Venus has earned the right to skip out, some saying the move is disappointingly out of character considering her elder stateswoman status, and others wondering if the matchup had a role in her decision not to speak.

THAT’S UNDERHANDED: A two-time WTA title winner perhaps best-known for her mammoth win over Serena Williams at Roland Garros in 2012, Virginie Razzano is no stranger to drama on the red dirt. Last week, the 32-year-old veteran angered opponent Elena Vesnina during a match in Strasbourg. “Didn’t expect such a bad behavior from Razzano,” Vesnina tweeted after she’d lost and delivered a frosty handshake, adding, “I should be ready for this next time.” Here in Paris, Razzano attracted attention for serving underhanded twice during a first-round win. One of her attempts, on a match point, resulted in a double-fault.

IN AND OUT OF THE GAME: In the most high-profile doping news since Wayne Odesnik‘s career censure earlier this year, the ITF announced that Kateryna Kozlova, a 21-year-old Ukrainian player currently ranked No. 102 in the world, is serving a six-month ban for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation. The ban prevents Kozlova from competing at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Another player who has served a ban in the past, qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva, is into the second round after scoring a straight-set win over No. 25 seed Jelena Jankovic. In 2005, Karatancheva, then a teenager, was issued a two-year suspension shortly after reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open.

JOHNSON MARCHES ON: The subject of a recent SoCal Inside Tennis cover story, Steve Johnson is progressing in Paris—he’s into the third round after defeating Sergiy Stakhovsky in four sets. Next, Johnson has his work cut out for him: he’s facing No. 8 seed Stan Wawrinka.