A densely packed few days

May 31, 2010

When you see a man like Andy Murray dressed in a big black wig performing Michael Jackson’s ‘I Want You Back’ (a convincing and skilful performance with real guts and heart, I may add), you can’t help but respect him more as an individual. See, the guy can have a laugh, he can have a bit of fun and doesn’t mind embarrassing himself, good on him.

Unfortunately Berdych wasn’t going to be played as easily as the karaoke machine in the French Open karaoke booth. Andy Murray crashed out of the men’s game against an on-form and confident Tomas Berdych, beaten 6-4 7-5 6-3. The Scot was outplayed both mentally and physically from the first game, and despite some flashes of his usual self he seemed completely out of rhythm. Berdych dominated the game whether he was serving or returning; and his serve played havoc with Murray’s control on the points. Murray is widely believed to be the greatest returner currently in the game, but he struggled to get Berdych’s fast, heavy serves back and therefore crumbled from the first moment, giving him very few chances to break Berdych’s serve. Despite some complaints about the conditions (light, clay and wind), Murray had to admit that he was simply outplayed by Berdych, who after all was playing in the same – admittedly tough – conditions. His former coach Petchey claims that Murray will still be a strong contender for Wimbledon despite his rather poor run since coming runner-up at the Australian Open. If he pulls off a run like he did at Melbourne when he hits SW19, then he certainly will be a force to contend with. If he continues playing like he is now, he’ll be out quicker than Britain can collectively shout ‘Come on Andy!’

Now, he we move to Robin Soderling. The Swede who upset the King of Clay Nadal this time last year, and has been at the root of the phrase ‘pulling a Soderling’. His career has grown in leaps and bounds in the last year or so. This Grand Slam is no exception. He got a solid win against Marin Cilic in round 4, and is now going to be tested by Roger Federer, the man who he met in the finals in 2009. Soderling’s form is definitely in good shape, but this is Roger Federer. He doesn’t let people take away the chance for him to reach a final very easily. With that sort of outlook on the match, it’s comforting for Soderling fans to know that when the Swede retires from the game he could easily pick up the microphone and take up a role in an ABBA tribute band. His fabulous turn in the Roland Garros karaoke booth was just as impressive as Murray’s, performing ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ by ABBA with all the lustre and platinum blonde hair (aided by a rather terrifying wig) that is needed for an ABBA rendition. Good luck against Roger, Soderling, who came through unscathed and still without having lost a set after beating Wawrinka 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the fourth round. Federer even has time amongst this busy, win-win schedule to man the karaoke booth, introducing the acts in the video compilation for French TV. I’m still waiting for him to don the wig and give us a tune, but I’m not overly confident that that is going to happen…

Novak Djokovic was up first this morning on Day Nine, and looked a little out of sorts at first before finally settling into an impressive rhythm. His serve is still wonky and definitely needs some work, but the rest of his game is blistering and the ground strokes he produced against a determined and unrelenting Ginepri means he is looking good going into the next round, where he will play Melzer. He won’t be winning this tournament with that serve though. When asked about the rocky start, Djokovic calmly explained ‘I’m really not a morning person’. Fair enough. Maybe he was up too late performing in the karaoke booth though; yes, not only did it ensnare the world number 1 and Britain’s top tennis player, it also got the world number 3. Of course Nole is known for being an entertainer, but he rather blew me away with his rendition of ‘Gypsy’ by Shakira (in what seems to be a playful jibe at Nadal’s steamy appearance in the official Shakira video of that same song). For those who haven’t seen the video I would suggest a sneaky peek, although maybe not if you’re in the office. Let’s just say, it involves a very provocative Novak in a big wig with a half naked Viktor Troicki strumming away at a ukulele. Those two must have a very tight friendship, otherwise after all that rubbing and grinding there may be some awkward silences in the locker room…

In more serious (and less karaoke-related) news, there was a stunning result today as Justine Henin slumped against Sam Stosur, who won 2-6 6-1 6-4. So we won’t be getting the Williams/Henin I know many of us have been waiting for. It was a shame to see Henin so lost out on the clay, a surface she excels so greatly on, and facing another wait until she can try at a Grand Slam title again. Credit must go to Samantha Stosur though, who took her chances and was as aggressive as she needed to be to break Henin and control the game for the win. She now faces Serena Williams, who beat Peer, despite losing all of the first seven points of the match. After that little blip though, she was back to her usual self and had such depth and pace on her groundstrokes that Peer struggled to put up a defence, and eventually succumbed 6-2 6-2.

Jelena Jankovic beat Hantuchova earlier on this evening with a comprehensive 6-4 6-2 scoreline, and it looked a comfortable match for the Serb world number 4. She plays Shvedova next, who beat Groth 6-4 6-3. Wozniacki came through against Flavia Pennetta, 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (4-7) 6-2. Despite all the talk of the ankle injury scare, Wozniacki is going far and is up against Shiavone of Italy in the next round.

The women’s quarter finals should surely bring some of the rather lacklustre crowds into the stadium, particularly the Stosur/Serena head to head. The men’s quarter finals begin tomorrow, with Federer facing up against Soderling, Berdych playing Youzhny, Djokovic against Jurgen Melzer, and an all Spanish match up of Almagro and Nadal. I’m tingling with excitement already, and no it’s not just because I’m waiting to see whether Rafa will take a turn in the karaoke booth before the Grand Slam is over. Both sets of quarter finals promise to be a tense and thrilling affair.

- SophieG

Written by: SophieG

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