CONVERSATIONS WITH CINDERELLA: When Shelby Rogers was asked, “How much of a tear machine are you,” she confided, “One-hundred percent tears all the time. Sad, happy, hungry, reading a book, watching a movie. They flow easily…Those little puppy commercials – adopt a dog.” Mary Carillo then told Shelby Rogers that “everyone I’ve talked to who knows you continues to tell me that you’re the kindest, sweetest person in the history of civilization.”
Rogers replied, saying, “You’re going to make me cry.”
“Then I’ll change gears,” Carillo continued. “Do you have any plans to become hardened and bitter?”
The slightly-taken-aback Rogers said, “No.”
SHELBY CINDERELLA – ROGER IS OUT, ROGERS GOES ON
Before the French Open started, tennis fans around the world were crushed. Federer withdrew.
But, if you can’t have Roger, why not go for Rogers? That would be American Shelby Rogers.
Similarly, tennis fans in Manhattan Beach, California were also beside themselves Their town resident who was their leading French Open prospect, Maria Sharapova, was suspended and wouldn’t be playing.
Enter Rogers. Again, that would be Shelby Rogers. After all, of late, Manhattan Beach has been Ms. Rogers’ neighborhood. Friday she swept by one of the most feared players in the game – Petra Kvitova. Never mind that the Czech has earned almost $21 million compared with $799,773 for Rogers, or that the two-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova is ranked No. 12 and Rogers in a lowly No. 108.
So what? The results out on quirky Court No. 2 were hardly a fluke. In her two previous Roland Garros matches, Rogers swept by the considerable Russian Elena Vesnina and upset the No. 17 seed, Czech Karolina Pliskova to set up a third round match with an even better Czech. Her 0-6, 6-7,6-0 win over Kvitova was stunning. The oddly balanced scoreline had an eerie similarity to Rogers’ 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 win over Genie Bouchard at the Canadian Open.
Rogers – a bright and spirited Charleston, South Carolina native – likes psychology and hockey. She relishes the noise and aggression of the NHL, plus it’s rowdy. On top of this, Rogers is a bit of a philosopher. She told us that “the best things in life are not things.”
Still, she admitted, getting to the fourth round of a Slam is a pretty good thing. And now, after going out on a major show court and beating the No. 25 seed, Romania’s Irena-Camelia Begu, 6-3, 6-4, she’s the darling of Roland Garros and the best Cinderella story American tennis has had since Melanie Oudin at the 2009 US Open. She’s into the quarterfinals, a result the famously absent Federer wouldn’t have minded achieving. After all, for the moment, Shelby is certainly one jolly roger.
JIMMY HOFFA IS ALIVE AND WELL IN PARIS: Jon Wertheim came up with the best nickname of the month. He dubbed Dominic Thiem “The Theim-ster.” Not to “labor” the point, but allow us to say that the 22-year-old has kept on trucking. In the battle of the next generation, Thiem beat German phenom Alexander Zverev to become the youngest player to reach the last 16 at Roland Garros since Djokovic ten years ago.
WHAT ELSE COULD HAPPEN TO GOOD OLD TENNIS?: There was a match-fixing scandal in Melbourne. Maria Sharapova was, at least temporarily, booted out of the game due to drugs. The sports’ most celebrated journalist, Bud Collins, died. Then there was the unhappy sexism controversy in Indian Wells. Police raided the French Open headquarters due to a ticket-selling dust up and Roger Federer and French fave Gael Monfils pulled out of the French Open before the first ball was struck. Then on Friday, the best clay court player in history pulled out of the French Open, which he’d won nine times. And yesterday France’s other charismatic star Jo-Willie Tsonga also pulled out. At least today there was a warm, fuzzy Cinderella story – the delightful breakout of Shelby Rogers.
Still, one is tempted to ask, what’s coming next?
THREE OF FOUR IS BAD: Three of tennis’ top four charismatic players – Roger, Rafa and Maria – are all out of Roland Garros. Serena remains. BTW: With Nadal and Tsonga out of the draw, the biggest beneficiary is Novak Djokovic.
HOW SWEET IT IS: Four American women – Serena, Venus, Madison Keys and Shelby Rogers – are all through to the fourth round.
‘YOU’VE GOT TO GET YOUR LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE’: Latvian Ernests Gulbis said he wouldn’t be playing the Olympics because the games don’t provide prize money or points, so “it’s a little bit like tennis tourism.”
In contrast, when asked about going for the gold, Venus’ face lit up and she said, “You’re playing for a gold medal. You’ve got to get your life in perspective.” BTW: Rafa Nadal has been designated to be the flag bearer for the Olympics in Rio, but there’s a decent chance that he won’t be able to play. Somewhat similarly, Caroline Wozniacki was named to be Denmark’s flag bearer. But she did not play enough Fed Cup ties to qualify for the Olympics. But she was injured and will protest her ban.
OF MAC AND MILOS: No one has had a more successful post-retirement career than John McEnroe. He’s an ageless star on the senior tennis circuit, is considered by many to be the best male broadcaster in the game, is a continual pitchman, has written one successful book with another on the way, and he has his own New York tennis academy. Yes, he faltered as our Davis Cup Captain, as a TV talk show host and as an art dealer. He never evolved into a rock and roll icon, plus his record as a coach a couple of decades ago was modest. Boris Becker and Spaniard Sergi Bruguera didn’t exactly thrive under his tutelage. The latest twist for Mac is that, for three weeks before Wimbledon, he will be a coaching consultant for the highly cerebral Milos Raonic.
DOUBLES IS FOR OUR ELDERS? Brett Haber noted that, at one point Saturday, 19 of the 20 doubles teams remaining had at least one member who was over 30. The exceptions were Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil, who are now out of the tournament.
SAY IT ISN’T SO: Great, John Isner is through to the fourth round, but his fellow American Jack Sock lost. So for the 15th year in a row the US will have no more than one player in the fourth round.
NO IDEAS ABOUT POWER: After nasty storms took down the electricity in the French Open broadcast center, tournament director Guy Forget said, “We fixed the technical issues with the power, but we have no idea why this happened.”
PRIMAL SCREAM THERAPY: Lleyton Hewitt would yell “C’mon!” incessantly, even on the double faults of foes. Sharapova and Azarenka have super shrieks and Murray has his “mumble tank.” But Serena manages, at just the right moments, to manage her on-court emotions by calling on the best scream therapy in tennis history to help her out. Loud, emphatic and unfiltered, her primal and guttural screams combine with passionate (“I am the champion of the world”) body language that can’t be missed.
‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’: For the first time in her career, Venus Williams got a warning for coaching. She was less than pleased and went to the tour supervisor to complain. She later said the coaching “never happened.” She explained, “I respect each person on the court and I want to be respected too.”
NOT TO GET MISTY-EYED, BUT IT’S HARDLY A MYSTERY THAT TENNIS MISSES THE MISSING MISS: Tennis misses the missing miss Maria Sharapova. She does bring a spark, style and presence. Sharapova’s ranking has dropped to No. 23 and Russia’s defiant tennis federation has tentatively named her to their Olympic team. The hearing for her use of meldonium is scheduled to happen before Wimbledon.
LOVING PARIS IN THE SPRINGTIME: Venus Williams is into the second week of the French Open for the first time since 2010. She explained her motivation to win by saying, “I love Paris [and winning here] is a good excuse to stay a little longer.”
QUOTEBOOK: “It’s something that gets your nerves. She’s a great champion.” – Alize Cornet on the greatness of 35-year old Venus Williams
“I felt like being stabbed by a knife.” – Jo Willie Tsonga on the abductor injury which forced him out of his match with Ernests Gulbis
“She’s one of the sweetest girls. I couldn’t be happier.” – Madison Keys on her friend and former roommate Shelby Rogers
“Isner now looks like a Bambi on ice” – Gigi Salmon
“It was all a bit moan-y.” – Radio Roland Garros on Andy Murray during his victory over Isner
GO FIGURE: Former French Open champion Li Na, who is in Paris to promote a WTA tournament in her hometown, is expecting a second child…Who would have suggested that Richard Gasquet would beat world No. 6 Kei Nishikori?
BOREDOM MOTIVATES :When Stan Wawrinka was asked how he landed up playing with a ball boy during a break in his match, the Swiss explained that he was bored, so he asked the ball boy if he played tennis. When the kid said yes, Stan said, “Let’s play.”
OSAKA IS ON THE MAP: President Obama drew attention when he went to Hiroshima, but after Japan’s Naomi Osaka fell to No. 6 Simona Halep 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, Eurosport TV said “Osaka is definitely now on the map of women’s tennis.” The powerful teen, whose father is African-American, has long been based in Florida. She’s soft-spoken, whimsical, reflective and appealing. She once claimed that everyone who lives in Osaka is named Osaka. Like just about every other young player, she says she wants to win a Slam – preferably the US or Australian Open. But she opens up with self-deprecating comments like “I don’t know what I was doing” and “Because I’m so immature I start freaking out.” Osaka, who reached the third round of the Aussie Open, is now ranked No. 101. And yes, she is definitely now on the WTA map.
A STAR IN THE MAKING: Former Wimbledon finalist and No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza is through to her third Grand Slam quarterfinal.