Tuesday, June 01, 2004

After the Weekend: The middle weekend of the French Open had its share of surprises. Not so much that, say, top-seed Federer was bounced by 28-seed Gustavo Kuerten. (Remember, Gustavo has won here before.) Nor is it a surprise that the quarterfinals will feature a Brazilian, four Argentinians, and a Spaniard. The surprises came in the form of the "other" guys in the quarters: Lleyton Hewitt and Tim Henman, two men of the commonwealth.

Henman, as we've discussed ad nauseam, is a likable, not-quite-good-enough serve-and-volley player. Prior to this, he'd never been past the third round at Roland Garros. Granted, his bracket put him up against a bunch of once-a-year who-dats thus far. It will be interesting to see how he handles the younger (though not young, in tennis terms) Juan Chela. Of all the players in the QF round, Henman is lucky to have pulled one of the two past-prime second tier. (The other, coincidentally, is Gaston Gaudio, Chela's doubles partner.) Rooting for Henman at Wimbledon, his home and best surface, is the tennis equivalent of being a Cubs fan. For him to win on the Paris clay would be ironic, to say the least, although it would ensure the financial success of Wimbledon this year to have him rolling into London with a slam under his belt. (I've no doubt Fleet Street would immediately declare him, if not the outright favorite, the "man to beat" on the South London turf.) That said, Henman usually makes short work of the clay specialists who dare to tread Wimby's greenery. Likewise, he's not even close to being in the same league on clay as a Kuerten or Coria, and he'll be dismissed quickly.

The other "other" in the QF, Hewitt, seems to be a natural for the French Open, and in fact he's been to the quarters here before. He's a young, aggressive baseliner, fleet of foot, with nice angles to his passing shots. Of course, you could say the same of a certain Michael Chang. Hewitt has two slam trophies on his shelf somewhere, but lately he's gained a bit of a reputation for getting his doors blown off in early rounds by qualifiers. At least with Chang we knew that there was some sort of physical limit to what a short guy with not enough reach could do against the towering Krajiceks of the tour. Hewitt's excuse has yet to be sorted out. Walking away with the big dish this week might mean he doesn't need to come up with one.

Like I said last week, don't take your money off the guys with the vowel names, particularly Guillermo Coria and Carlos Moya, who play in this round; the winner of that match has great odds at being the champion of the fortnight. But don't count out Hewitt.

1 comment:

Razor said...

And both the Williamses get bounced within 30 mins of eachother. For some reason, I thought one or both was going to get serious this year; each having something to prove (Venus - that she's not stuck in Serena's considerable shadow; Serena - that she could overcome her injury and dominate). I guess I was wrong. J-Cap sees a nice path ahead, being the only one remaining who has done it before. I saw Justine lose her early-round match. The announcers kept harping on how she was only recently back from a bout with mono. I'll buy it as she seemed quite exhausted.

The men: As you've more or less said, it's worthless to prognosticate. If Hewitt and Henman are in, and Agassi and Federer are out, then it truly is a non-sensical tourney. So, pick the guy with the most vowels.

I look for Agassi to give it his all in Wimby. That's the sight of his first great championship, which gave him credibility at a time when he looked like a male precursor to Kournikova. The U.S. Open would be icing on the cake, but he'll get huge applause there win or lose. If he wins Wimby, then he should announce his retirement, and only play the U.S. for sentimental reasons - no pressure to win.