Youth trumps experience in historic French Open
Youth prevailed over experience at Roland Garros on Sunday when Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 19, upset fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva, 26, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2. The win ushered Pavlyuchenkova, the youngest woman remaining by the fourth round, to new heights at a Grand Slam.
"This is my first Grand Slam quarterfinal, so it really means a lot to me, especially beating Vera," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I knew it would be tough and she's very experienced, fights until the end. I just believed 'til the end, and I just tried to play my best every point."
At No. 15, Pavlyuchenkova is also the youngest player in the WTA's Top 40.
Third-ranked Zvonareva's loss offers a new statistic for the history books: In 43 years of Open Era tennis, this is the first time that none of the top three women's seeds reached the quarterfinals of the French Open. The top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki and No. 2 Kim Clijsters both lost to opponents in the third round.
Zvonareva, a quarterfinalist here in 2003, was not surprised by her loss.
"I know what I have to work on and what I have to improve," Zvonareva said. "The whole tournament I wasn't playing my best tennis. Of course, when you play less than 50 percent of your potential, it's very tough to win the fourth round of a Grand Slam."
It's not hard to be impressed by Novak Djokovic's 43-0 winning streak, which dates back to last December. The hard part is imagining what it feels like to perform to that kind of standard.
Roger Federer is one guy who can relate. Federer, a record 16-time Grand Slam champion, once enjoyed a 41-match winning streak. Federer's streak started in August 2006 at the first round of the US Open and lasted until March 2007, when he lost in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open (formerly the Pacific Life Open) at Indian Wells, Calif.
"You definitely feel invincible at times," said Federer, after moving into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 win over Swiss compatriot, Stanislas Wawrinka. "Like with certain players who you have a great record against, you have never lost to or you beat the guy over six, seven times in a row. You definitely go into matches thinking, 'Jeez, something really crazy has to happen today that I will lose.'"
Of course, Federer knows there's a flipside a winning streak -- it eventually has to end.
"The trickier part is all of a sudden you think, I'm winning so much, eventually it's going to snap, that streak," Federer said. "That was the trickier part for me; when everybody started to talk about it, the more there was talk, the more likely it was going to happen. It's kind of tough to keep your head down and just focus."
It just so happens that Federer is the last player to have defeated Djokovic, 6-1, 6-4, in the semifinals of the 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last November. Federer could have the opportunity to bookend Djokovic's streak with another win here if they both reach the semifinals.
The young guns arrived Sunday for the junior competition at the French Open. Almost as soon as it started there was a major upset.
Top-seeded Jiri Vesely, 17, the reigning Australian Open junior boys' champion in singles and doubles, lost to Yaraslau Shyla of Belarus 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in first round action.
"Of course, I came to Paris with other ambitions," said the Czech. "I wanted to play my best tennis here, but today was a bad day for me. On the court I felt too much pressure on myself. All I can say is I'm very sad."
After Australia, many believed Vesely could go on to win all four Grand Slam junior boys' titles this year. Now that possibility is gone.
"I think other people had ambitions for me that I could win the next Grand Slam," Vesely said. "Maybe I just heard too much about this tournament."