International man of mystery
What's the deal with Marcos Baghdatis
That is the question du jour at Roland Garros after the ATP's No. 18-ranked singles player got flamed Monday by a serviceable Italian named Simone Bolelli
, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
"I was lacking practice and matches," Baghdatis explained. "I was not making the appropriate choices at the right time. I wanted to play, but the problem is I didn't know what to do. Sometimes the ball was arriving, I didn't know how to play it."
Which, if you are a professional tennis player, can be a problem.
Of course, the lack of preparation is all due to the likable Cypriot's decision to take the beginning of the clay-court season off for "personal reasons." He has yet to explain just what those reasons were, and that has set the Internet abuzz.
Most likely it is related to the abrupt departure of his mentor and longtime coach, Yiannos Hadjigeorgiou, who himself cited "personal reasons" for ending their association.
In any case, Baghdatis' career has been on a downward trajectory since he reached the finals of the 2006 Australian Open. If you're looking for context, Baghdatis now has played 42 Grand Slam singles matches, and this was only the third time he was beaten in straight sets. However, it's worth mentioning that the previous two matches were to Roger Federer
and Rafael Nadal
His singles record for 2008 is a patchy 9-6, and the future is a bit up in the air. Typically, grass has had a restorative effect on his game: He was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2006 and a quarterfinalist last year.
"I don't know if I'll play a Challenger next week, but I'll definitely go to Wimbledon," said Baghdatis, who turns 23 next month.
Baghdatis' postmatch news conference mirrored his listless on-court performance.
"That's the way it is," he said. "That's tennis."
-- Greg Garber
The French Open thought so much of Venus Williams
' sketchy first-round win that it failed to announce her news conference to the assembled media. As a result, it was a four-question, drive-by session that was over in about two minutes.
"Sometimes tennis isn't always won as quick as you want," Venus explained to her sparse audience.
Usually, first-round women's matches at a Grand Slam between a top-10 seed and someone ranked, say, No. 93, are over in less than an hour. On Monday, Israel's Tzipora Obziler
managed to extend Williams to three sets -- 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 -- in a match that consumed 2 hours and 3 minutes.
This from a 35-year-old woman, the oldest in the women's draw.
No, she said, she's not feeling any pressure.
"The only pressure I have," Williams said, "is the pressure I put on myself. So I try not to push too much."
-- Greg Garber