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Tennis
A fairytale start at Roland Garros
Al Jazeera's Chris Tortise reviews the drama at the French Open, where seeds have tumbled after round one.
Last Modified: 30 May 2012 15:33
Frustration for 13-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams who became the tournament's highest profile casualty [GALLO/GETTY]

It all seems a little subdued when play begins on a Sunday at Roland Garros.

The biggest clay court tournament scheduled the first round over three days in Paris, but reaction has been mixed.

The line-up was almost secondary, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga the highest seed playing.

Despite giving an extra day of tennis to the paying public (a move the organisers were surely pleased about), the plan seems to have backfired. Crowds were small, and the atmosphere, at times, muted.

Of course, fewer big names lead to fewer potential upsets. Perhaps it was just a precursor of what was to come …

Battles

On Monday, world number one Victoria Azarenka from Belarus survived from a set and 4-0 down (saving a point for 5-0) to beat Italy’s Alberta Brianti. German 12th seed Sabine Lisicki and 17th seed Roberta Vinci from Italy were also knocked out. Feliciano Lopez, the men’s 15th seed, retired early in his match with a muscle injury.

On Tuesday the 16th seed, Alex Dolgopolov, fell in five sets, while 8th seed Serbian Janko Tipsarevic survived a battle with American Sam Querry.

But none of those upsets came close to that of Virginie Razzano.

The French native, ranked 111 in the world has had an emotional lead-up to this year’s tournament. Just before the start of last year's French Open, her coach and fiancé died of a brain tumour.

A year later, she was drawn to play the favourite for the tournament and fifth seed, Serena Williams. The American, who won the Roland Garros title in 2002, has been in imperious form on the clay.

A demolition of the aforementioned Azarenka in Madrid led many to believe Williams would return to the summit of the rankings by the end of the year, and, despite a strong start by Razzano, Williams was soon two points from taking match.

And yet the turnaround was somewhat reminiscent of women’s tennis.

Razzano, by now trending on Twitter, won six straight points to force a third set, and then took control of the match eventually closing it out for an emotional 4-6 7-6 6-3 win.

The victor, struggling with cramp, needed eight match points and fended off five break points in a draining final game lasting 20 minutes.

Williams, gracious in defeat, came round the net and congratulated the Frenchwoman. It is the first time the great American has lost in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament.

"There is no excuse," the 13-times grand-slam singles champion said.

"I just didn't play at all the way I have been practising."

Fairytale win

And who would deny Razzano her stunning victory?

"I didn't think too much. I know I have unlimited resources," she said after the game.

"I dug very deep and I knew nothing was lost, even when I had cramps (in the last game), even when I was not feeling well," she said.

"It's the most beautiful victory in my career." 

Every Grand Slam has a fairytale run – have we found the latest? With Williams gone, the draw opens up, probably paving the way for Maria Sharapova. But she may need to get past the heroine of Paris.

Perhaps Sunday starts will never provide blockbuster encounters for the public to enjoy. But as long as someone can win the hearts of the Parisians, nobody will care.

Take a bow, Virginie Razzano. You deserve it.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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