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Sunday, June 8, 2014
Baseline Buzz: Final thoughts

By Matt Wilansky and Greg Garber and Jim Caple
ESPN.com

A recent study revealed it costs the average family a whopping $240,000 to raise a single child. That's an enormous price tag on anyone who doesn't earn fourth-round French Open money.

So it's a good thing Maria Sharapova isn't Ernests Gulbis' sister, because a career in reproduction isn't nearly as lucrative as the $90 million the now-two-time Roland Garros champ has officially earned in winnings and endorsements. The unofficial number is probably two or three times that.

Ernests Gulbis
For the first time, perhaps ever, Ernests Gulbis' on-court results matched his loquacious pressers.

Although Gulbis' on-court results finally kept pace with his comical, antiquated views on life, he was finally put out of his misery in the semifinals, thanks to Novak Djokovic.

And would you believe the Gulbis saga was only one tiny snippet of the drama that unfolded these past two weeks?

We had women's seeds falling faster than Gulbis' already spotty reputation, the most prolific sister combo in the history of sports losing within hours of each other and brothers who lost at the exact same moment. Although for the Bryans, they are a doubles team, so that's how it goes.

But perhaps the biggest shocker of them all? An American man reached the fourth round and the second week here in Paris. What has this world come to? (Advice: Don't ask Gulbis.)

Now that we've had a few minutes to digest this wild fortnight, what, exactly, did we learn at the French Open? This seems like a logical place for ESPN tennis editor Matt Wilansky, senior writer Greg Garber and espnW's Jim Caple to weigh in for one last installment of the Baseline Buzz.

Wilansky: I don't know about you guys, but I'm still a little lightheaded from the first week. Truthfully, Agnieszka Radwanska wasn't going to make a deep run; she doesn't really dig dirt. Li Na has a title here, but I question her motivation at times. She threatened to retire last summer, and though she won the Aussie, I think once those thoughts start creeping in, it's difficult to sustain a high level from continent to continent and surface to surface. But Serena Williams? What happened there? She was totally steamrolled by Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-2 in 64 minutes way back in the second round. But on the flipside, the losses by the world's top three players opened our eyes to a young, emerging group of players who could be here to stay.

Garber: In that vein, I'll offer Eugenie Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian who is not only the future -- but the present. She reached the semifinals here and gave eventual champion Maria Sharapova a serious go, losing in three sets. Not only that, but Bouchard is the only woman among WTA players to reach the semifinals of both Grand Slam events so far. And to think that last year she won a total of four matches in majors.

Caple: The Genie Army is going to grow and grow. But before we get too carried away with the kids and too dismissive of the Williams, let's keep in mind that Sharapova, at 27, is sort of in between them and looks like she's regained her game. I saw someone with a bag of Sugarpova here and I think that brand is going to only get bigger.

Wilansky: And for her part, Sharapova says she has already dusted off the red dust and is focused only on carrying this momentum into Wimbledon, where she won her first major title a decade ago. It's good to see that some of these veteran players (can we really call her that?) can still win -- unlike, say, Roger Federer. Even though, his window is closing, there was evidence to suggest he could make a nice run in Paris. Federer had just come off a run in Monte Carlo, where he made the final and had a cushy draw at the French. But then Gulbis happened. I guess karma was off duty that day. Federer, nearly 33 years old, went five sets, but he looked his age at times, an ominous sign heading into the grass-court season.

Garber: Speaking of Federer, I can't tell you how impressed I was with the long-awaited Grand Slam arrival of Gulbis. He went the distance with Federer in the fourth round and didn't blink. The 25-year-old Latvian has been seen as an underachiever for years, but now he's practicing with a purpose, eating right and acting like a professional. After beating the No. 6-seeded Tomas Berdych, he was the only man in the semifinals never to have been that far in a major and he acquitted himself well in a four-set loss to Novak Djokovic.

Caple: Gulbis said what kept his career down before was TV and video games. It's good he's finally learned some discipline to go with his entertaining comments and literary interests. And I must say, tennis players have broader literary interests than baseball players, who rarely talk after a game about Dostoyevsky (Gulbis), Camus (Andrea Petkovic) or for that matter, Harry Potter (Simona Halep). Then again, it is a different, lonelier lifestyle. As both Shazza and Bouchard said, they consider other players to be competitors, not friends.

Eugenie Bouchard
For the second straight Slam, Eugenie Bouchard made a run to the semifinals.

Wilansky: I'm going to go out on a limb and say neither Sharapova nor Bouchard have depleted social lives. But on the literary front, I finally got around to reading Djokovic's book, "Serve to win," and I have to admit: Gluten, not Gulbis, might be the biggest hazard in tennis. Djokovic's tales of breathing difficulties and injuries were eye-opening. And it's all because he spent too much time overindulging on baguettes. So that's why it was odd to see him laboring so much against, yes, Gulbis in the semis. "Just the general fatigue that, you know, probably was influenced by conditions or other things that I felt today," Djokovic said after the match. And his health only deteriorated against Rafael Nadal in the final, when the Serb hurled whatever gluten-free cuisine was in him.

Garber: Allow me to make one final parochial observation on the state of American tennis. How about John Isner and Sloane Stephens getting to the second week in Paris? That doesn't happen every year, particularly on the men's side. It was fun to watch them advance, even in losing, respectively, to Tomas Berdych and Simona Halep. I think they've set themselves up nicely for a run on the grass at the All England Club. Come clean folks, who are your favorites for Wimbledon? I'm going to go with the defending champions, Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli -- oh, wait, Bartoli retired. Make that Maria Sharapova, as long as she doesn't have to meet Serena Williams.

Caple: I'm going to go with Serena. I think her early exit will give her the fire to play her best. As far as the men, it will be interesting to see whether Murray feels pressure to defend his title or no pressure because he already ended the British drought. I think it will be the latter and it will fun to see whether Amelie Mauresmo can give him any tips in the next two weeks. Still, I'm gonna pick Rafa.

Wilansky: Guys, I have to go with Gulbis. I mean, can't we root for the king of the quote? Kidding, of course. If history means anything, and clearly at Roland Garros it does, I don't see Rafa rummaging to the final. Djokovic looked frail toward the backend of the French, but he won't need to grind nearly as long on the grass. I'll take him. As for the women, I don't trust Sharapova's footing on grass, so that leaves only one person. And we all know who that is.