AMERICANS ROCK PARIS – Keys and Anisimova into Quarters, Kenin Falls

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Photo: Tennis365

Bill Simons

Paris

SHOT OF THE TOURNEY: Dominic Thiem chased down a shot by showman Gael Monfils and hit a clean tweener winner to the open court.

SONYA’S SONG: Hidden high in the aging trees of the Bois de Boulogne, the well-throated birds of Paris sang out. Gone was the weekend’s sweltering heat. The birds delighted in the mists of the morning. Less pleased was American Sonya Kenin. Just blocks away the heavy damp conditions would, just slightly, mute the power of the blaster from Florida who used her imposing groundies to grind down Serena Williams two days ago.

This morning she was again back on Center Court, but things were different. Gone was the evening throng that watched her combat an icon. Amidst the drizzle a nearly empty stadium hadn’t awakened yet. Kenin’s fourth-round foe, Ash Barty, once played professional cricket. She won the Miami Open and has soared to No. 8. She’s a fabulous, inventive player. Still, outside of Australia, the Down Under lady is not yet an over-the-top star. So what?

The crafty Barty took it to Kenin. In a flash Ash easily claimed the first set. Kenin could have folded. But she’s one feisty fighter. The Floridian with the staccato strides rallied to take the second set. But the third was a bagel party for Barty. She cut down on her errors and called on her experience to claim the match 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 in 90 minutes.

Still, it was a pleasant visit to Paris for Sonya. The American of Russian heritage announced, “Sonya Kenin is here.” She’ll take home a tidy $271,814.94 and will rise to No. 29. In years to come, there’s little doubt that tennis will be singing her praises just as surely as Parisian birds will continue singing their songs.

JUST WONDERING: Has anyone since Steffi Graf paced around the court with such a ferocity and intent as Sonya Kenin does?

RAFA FOREVER: The head of the French Tennis Federation said that there will be a statue of Nadal at Roland Garros in 2020.

WHAT NO CLASSROOM CAN TEACH – TSITSIPAS ON WAWRINKA

“Today I felt something that I can’t really explain. Today was the first time in my entire life, in my twenty years of existence, that I felt that ‘aura’, the real definition of the word, competition. Not any kind of competition though. It felt different than any other time, any other battle, any other moment on the tennis court. There is something about today that I won’t be able to explain. It’s a feeling that makes me appreciate the sport that I chose to pursue in my life as a career. The bitter taste of that loss is something unexplainable. Stan Wawrinka makes our sport real and pragmatic. It’s something that’s rare to find in the world…It’s something unique. There is loads of charm and charisma to it. We both struggled, we both went beyond our limits, we both experienced luck, and our destiny was drawn on that Parisian court after five hours of physical and mental suffering. I really don’t know if what I feel right now is positive or negative. There is no bipolar effect to it. Today I learned something that no school, no classroom, no teacher would be able to teach. It’s called living life!”

SOMEWHERE OVER THE TSITSIPAS – COMMENTS AND QUIPS FROM STEFANOS

 “Friendship is about finding people who are your kind of crazy.”

“Earth and water have always been as they are.” – A Tsitsipas tweet from the ancient Greek

“The last match I won is the biggest win of my career.”

“You don’t inspire me at all.” – Stefanos to his support team during his epic loss to Stan Wawrinka

“Wealth has given me a little bit of freedom.”

GO FIGURE: Jo Konta had never won a Roland Garros match before this year. After wins over Lauren Davis and Donna Vekic, she’s into the quarters…It was more difficult for Dominic Thiem to speak in French than it was to beat his foe, Gael Monfils…With the loss of Spanish qualifier Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, There are no more American collegiate players left in the draw.

A FEDERER READER:

Federer said he has often considered serving underhanded, but probably wouldn’t do it. He added, “Anything in the rules is okay [smiling].”

On playing with the wind at his back, he suggested, “It’s like you’re serving from sort of a tree, from a mountain and from the other one you feel like you’re playing up the hill.”

On the one-handed backhand “It’s nice that it’s not a dying breed, because Stefanos will be around for a long time. So will Dominic. And that will inspire a new generation.”

As for himself, the icon said, “I do believe that I am a normal guy.”

On playing Wawrinka, “I hope he’s not at the level of  2015…because there he was crushing the ball. It was unbelievable.”

THE IMPERFECTION OF RAFA AND ROGER:  Rafa told the Tennis Channel that he doesn’t believe in perfection. That’s good because he’s only 90-2 at Roland Garros and he lost a set here. The sky is falling. Federer is imperfect too. As we saw at the US Open, he does sweat. A 20-year-old kid, Casper Rudd, actually broke his serve and had a set point. Roger the flawless actually whiffed completely on a backhand. His outfit (which actually is pleasant enough) drew snarky criticism.

REMEMBERING ROLAND: Andrea Petkovic noted that at the French Open, “We have a court in a botanic garden. We have a court named after a 20s fashion icon. AND A WHOLE TOURNAMENT NAMED AFTER A FREAKING PILOT!

DIRT BALLER MADISON KEYS: Madison Keys was a Roland Garros semi-finalist last year, she won Charleston in April on green clay and is now into the French Open quarters. When she was told that she is being called a clay-court specialist, Madison smiled and noted, “I think they were joking.”

BOUND FOR GLORY AMANDA: Amanda Anisimova continued her breathtaking run today when she crushed the Spanish qualifier Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov 6-3, 6-0. The convincing win propelled the Floridian to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal berth. Anisimova is only ranked No. 51. And she’s just 17, and due to WTA guidelines can only play a limited schedule. Gifted with a beautiful power game, she beat No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the tournament. But now she’ll have to face No. 1 seed Simona Halep, in what could be a fascinating match. BTW: Anisomova has been compared to Maria Sharapova. They both are blondes with Russian parents and are represented by IMG. Maria was the last teen to win Slams. Her first came at Wimbledon in 2004 when she was 17 and it would be something if another 17-year old won her first Slam this year.

QUOTEBOOK:

“The strength of Wawrinka is absolute genius.” – Sophie Amiach

“She needs a little more shape on her ball.” – Radio Roland Garros on Naomi Osaka

“I find Muguruza fascinating as an individual. I don’t understand her at all as an individual, I don’t understand her as a tennis player. She seems to have everything. – Catherine Whitaker

“Young Americans don’t have the fear of Serena Williams because they haven’t been battered and bruised by her over the years.” – Roland Garros Radio

“I’m a fighter and I just beat Serena. So, of course they’re going to remember…I’ll remember that.” – Sonya Kenin

PRESS ROOM BROUHAHA: When asked if he received an apology about Saturday’s pressroom mishap in which officials asked him to leave the main interview room, Dominic Thiem said, “Yeah, I had an apology. I mean, I don’t know whose fault it was exactly…I don’t know if it was her mistake or if it was only the mistake of the officials, but I don’t know if she saw me or if she saw that somebody [was] in the room. So if she [had] seen me, then it would be nicer [for] her to wait.” When asked if he was fined for skipping TV interviews, he replied, “I’m the only one who didn’t do any mistakes there, so why I should get fined?”

THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION: Sonya Kenin, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Amanda Anisimova all made it to the fourth round, and are all children of Russian emigrants. Denis Shapovalov’s is also of Russian heritage. Karen Khachanov is the only Russian left in the singles.

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