All men’s seeds untroubled


It may be too early to say whether there is a pattern to John Isner’s matches against French players, but certainly his performance against Paul Henri Mathieu in the French Open second round brought back memories of his endless encounter against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.
Isner is extremely tall and as such, gets a lot of angle on his serve, making it very difficult to break. But his erratic ground game makes it equally hard for him to break even a serve such as Mathieu’s, because Mathieu would invariably best him in the ground stroke exchanges. Isner would now be looking fondly towards Wimbledon’s grass courts later this month.
The French Open has moved smoothly into the third round stage with almost all the men’s seeds relatively untroubled as they made their way into the second and third rounds. Favourite Novak Djokovic had a couple of nervous moments as he defeated Kavic of Slovakia. Kavic was a break up in the second set after being swept in the first, and matched the top seed shot for shot. It was a relived Djokovic who took advantage of errors from his opponent to win in straight sets.
Rafael Nadal was untroubled as he moved into the third round and looks in prime form to defend his title and win a record seventh straight French Open. On current form he looks the man to beat as he has been ever since he burst upon the international scene at the age of seventeen.
Roger Federer is looking as good as ever but he will find the going difficult against Djokovic in the semis, should he get there. Djokovic has one of the best ever service returns and his defence is rock solid. Should Federer get through his quarter which includes Del Potro, he would be the underdog against Novak. Federer’s prospects on French Clay depend considerably on the climatic conditions during the fortnight. If the weather stays dry, the courts will be powdery and fast. If the courts get soaked by rain and the atmosphere becomes heavy, the balls will absorb the red clay and get heavy. They will move through the air slowly and will favour the baseline counter attacker. This could tilt the delicate balance and make Federer vulnerable to players other than the top two. But should the air and the courts stay dry, Federer would fancy his chances against anyone. The balls being used at the French Open are also different and it remains to be seen as to what type of game they favour.
Andy Roddick lost in the first round as did James Blake, two Americans whose best is probably behind them. Roddick is never at his best on the slow clay that negates his serving power. With Mardy Fish also out of action, John Isner had been hoping to carry the American challenge until he ran into Mathieu. Serena Williams had been one of the favourites to win here, but she had an attack of nerves when two points away from winning against 112 ranked Virginie Razzano. Razzano came back in the second set tie break and then raced to a 5-0 lead in the decider. Back came Serena to 3-5 and there followed one of the most nerve wracking games with Serena saving nine match points and holding several break points before succumbing to the local favourite. Venus Williams also lost early, to the Polish girl Radwanska.
Top seed Victoria Azarenka almost followed suit, being down a set and 4-0 to Italian Brianti, before Brianti herself choked on the verge of victory. She moved into the third round and should be favourite here along with Petra Kvitova and reigning champion Li Na. Sam Stosur of Australia is also in with a chance with her booming kick serve particularly effective on the clay. Pakistan’s Aisam Qureshi and partner Julian Roger easily won their first round against a young French pairing. They are in a good part of the draw with Adel Shamasdeen and Bjorn Phau next and 5th seed Horia Tecau and Robert Lindstedt awaiting them in the round of sixteen. This is a match they should fancy winning. In the semis, should they get there, are the Bryans, the second seeds. Aisam and Roger have beaten them recently, so there is hope for some good results. Aisam and his Czech partner Andrea Hlavackova lost in the opening round to the same pairing that had defeated them at the Australian Open, Bracciali and Voskoboeva. But this time Aisam and partner were not in the reckoning, losing in straight sets.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a nationally ranked tournament is being held at the Islamabad Club. There were some oddities in the draw, with 18 players taken into the main draw. There were eight qualifiers and that left six empty spaces which should have been filled. Interestingly, a former Pakistan number three who had been performing well internationally, but because of overseas commitments, had lost his ranking, was made to qualify. This despite the fact that he was a finalist in the previous week’s tournament. Shahida Chishti of Greener Pakistan, the sponsors, made the astonishing statement that if the player wished to get in the main draw, he should have made a written request. Of course the man behind all this is a former Treasurer of the PTF who has been doing these subterfuges all his life and despite the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Sports Policy, continues to be an office bearer of the PTF. PSB should take serious notice.