We're down to the semi-finals at The 2011 French Open, and the men and women seemed to have switched places in the tennis world in the past few years. All through the 1980's and 90's, in the four Grand Slam tournaments of the year, you could almost always count on the top four seeded women making the semi-finals, while the men were all over the place, the top seeds losing in the early rounds, putting some strange, unexpected players in the semis. Now it's flipped; while the top four men in the sport, Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray almost always seem to find their places in the semi-finals, this year's French no exception, on the women's side it's a free-for-all. Today's semifinalists on the women's side of The French Open are the 11th seed playing the 5th seed, (Bartoli vs. Schiavone), and the 6th seed playing the 7th seed, (Li vs. Sharapova). The women's tour is definitely going through a transition period, with the past decade's top players, Serena, Venus, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin leaving the game, with no younger players yet ready to dominate the next era of the sport.
When it comes to Novak Djokovic breaking John McEnroe's 1984 record of a 42-0 win streak to start the year, it just got a little trickier. When Djokovic won his 4th Round match, his record for the year stood at 41-0. His unseeded, almost unknown opponent in the quarterfinals, Fabio Fognini, looked to be an easy win for Djokovic, which would give Djokovic a tie with McEnroe's twenty-seven year-old record. But then Fognini pulled out of the tournament, which put Djokovic in the semi-finals, but Djokovic wasn't given credit for the win, keeping his record for the year at 41-0. So now to tie McEnroe's record, Djokovic has to defeat Roger Federer in the semi-finals, ouch!, and to break the record he'll have to beat, (probably), Rafael Nadal in the finals. Double ouch. It's a tough haul, but something tells us that Djokovic will do it.
And speaking of the women's side of tennis, would someone, please, for the love of god defeat Maria Sharapova? Watching this woman's game is painful; watching her play actually makes us hurt. Sharapova, who already holds three Grand Slam titles, is experiencing a career resurgence after being away from the game for awhile due to injuries. But she has to be the single most obnoxious player in the sport of tennis. It's not the fact that she loudly barks like a seal everytime she strikes the ball that's so annoying, although that is very annoying, no, it's Maria's
"gamesmanship" which is so torturous. Sharapova is determined to slow the game down, (she plays better when the pace of the game is slow), and so after every single point she takes the maximum amount of time allowed before serving. It makes watching her play even less exciting than watching paint dry. But where Maria deserves a slap on the wrist is when she subtly breaks one of the first rules of tennis, which states that the receiver must play at the speed of the server. In other words, when you're receiving, it's your responsiblity to be on the line, ready to receive the serve when the server is ready to serve. Instead, Maria turns her back on the server after every point, pretending to adjust her racket strings, forcing the server to wait. She's not technically breaking a rule, but the tactic is rude and obnoxious. We're hoping that at some point in their semi-final match that Li Na will go ahead and serve the ball to a back-turned Sharapova and whack her right in the back of the head. It might not correct Sharapova's unsportsmanlike behavior, but it would certainly make us feel better. Come on, Li, we're begging you!