Friday, May 27, 2011
Stosur upset amplifies chaos
By Greg Garber
PARIS -- The very recent history will not repeat itself at Roland Garros. A year ago, the Grand Slam with the tendency to surprise gave us a quirky final between Italy's Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur of Australia.
On Friday, No. 8-seeded Stosur departed in the third round at the hands of an Argentine firecracker named Gisela Dulko, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. Schiavone, the defending champion, was going through a scratchy patch herself when Shuai Peng retired with a respiratory issue, even though she was leading the second set 2-1.
"It's obviously very disappointing, but it's hopefully not the end of the world," Stosur said later, stoic as always. "It's not going to change the way I play or the way I go into my next match."
The day's events only served to underline the fragile state of the women's draw. The Williams sisters, of course, are recuperating from injuries at home in Florida. On Thursday, No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters was bounced by relative unknown Arantxa Rus. And Maria Sharapova rallied from an unlikely 3-6, 1-4 deficit to defeat Caroline Garcia.
Defying the trend was 2009 Roland Garros champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who wrecked Canada's Rebecca Marino 6-0, 6-4 in a tidy 49 minutes. The 25-year-old Russian came in playing poorly, but has dropped only 11 games in three matches in Paris. She'll play the winner of Caroline Wozniacki versus Daniela Hantuchova in the round of 16.
Don't bet against Kuznetsova; she's won 33 of 40 matches on these burnt sienna courts.
"I'm playing all right," Kuznetsova said. "I'm feeling good, confident. I had few matches. For me, it was the most important moment of this tournament for me so far. Now it's starting to be more complicated matches. I pass three rounds, so next round going to be hard."
Stosur came into the French Open in terrific form; she won nine of 12 matches in the European clay-court events (including a three-set win over Dulko), reaching the finals two weeks ago in Rome. She has been suffering from a salmonella bug and, for the past five days or so, a cold. On Friday, Stosur seemed off her game. There were plenty of openings from Dulko, who may (or may not) weigh her listed 123 pounds. But Stosur repeatedly overhit the ball; she committed 35 unforced errors.
For Dulko, it was an emotional match. On Thursday she became an aunt -- twice over. Yes, twins were born in Buenos Aires, and she said she didn't get much sleep because of the time change. She unfurled a hand-lettered sign after the match that said in Spanish: It was worth it.
"The fact that I couldn't be with my nephews yesterday, with my nephews in Buenos Aires, this was something very important to me," she said. "I think it's one of the most important matches for me, emotionally speaking."
This loss wasn't expected of the sturdy Australian who took down, in order, Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic to reach the final a year ago before falling to Schiavone in straight sets. The last question of her press conference, appropriately, was of the elephant-in-the-room variety:
After coming so close last year, will she ever win a Grand Slam singles title?
"I guess I'm not thinking of it as that big a catastrophe right now because I didn't win this year," Stosur said. "And I was a long way from doing it anyway, only being in the third round. I'm not going to walk away from here thinking I've lost all my chances and the time is over."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.