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Sunday 25 May: Tale of the day

Sunday, May 25, 2008
By Drew Lilley

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9.52 pm: Anyone still out there? Here is tomorrow’s schedule of play for those who are. Rafa, Roger, Amelie, Jelena, Baghy, the Gooch (I’m sure a few Aussies are just tuning it so I thought I’d mention Mr Guccione), Timmy Bacsinszky who is a favourite of mine, Dmitry Tursunov who has the world’s funniest facebook page… Anyway, it’s been a pleasure writing at you and reading from you. Thank you for pointing out the odd typo. Errare humanum est as they say. Right, bonne nuit les petits and I’ll talk to you tomorrow from around 10 am CET. Always a pleasure, never a chore…

9.19 pm: Tipsy looooongs a backhand and Lapentti is through! Another seed (No32) falls in a marathon four-setter! And that, my friends, is the end of the day’s play…

9.15 pm: Lapentti fluffs a drop. Set point Tipsy on the Serb second serve but this time the Ecuadorean drops to perfection. 6-6, change ends again…

9.12 pm: Tipsy mini-breaks, Lapentti minis back! Hurry up guys, the staff canteen shuts in 20 minutes! Tipsy wipes his misty specs…

9.05 pm: Play suspended between Misses Dulko and Errani, the latter leading 3-1. In the tie-break it’s 3-3. This one could run and run…

9.02 pm: Tipsy slips and makes a big show of it, but Kader the ump is still having none of it. Out they stay and it’s 1-1 in the tie-break.

9.00 pm: Yup, tie-break-tastic! Surely that’ll be it either way, as it’s raining quite persistently now.

8.59 pm: Guadeloupe’s finest Nathalie Dechy takes the tie-break and the match. Well battled Nat! High-risk tennis she played, with 48 winners balancing out 44 unforced errors – twice as many as Julie Ditty on both counts. Dulko breaks back to make it 1-2 while Lapentti and Tipsy are still at it, 5-6 30-0. A tie-break approacheth…

8.53 pm: It’s all happening here! Dechy breaks back and leads 6-5, while Janko Tipsy has broken back and it’s 5-5 in the fourth! Those hardly souls out there on No.1 court are getting their money’s worth… Sara Errani and Gisele Dulko are still battling it out, 2-0 to the Italian in the decider, while Dechy-Ditty are in a tie-break….

8.42 pm: It’s still drizzling and we’re still playing. Ditty breaks to lead 5-4 so we could have a three-setter there, while Lapentti is six points away from knocking out last year’s European slam phenomenon Tipsarevic. Sara Errani has also fought back against Gisele Dulko and that one’s into a decider. Apologies for any of you who mailed me today but Delphine upstairs who usually forwards them was off today, so I’ll get a flood or a trickle tomorrow.

8.22 pm: Whoosh. Serena races through the final couple of games and gets in from the rain. The 2002 champion was a powerful presence out there, dominating her compatriot Ashley Harkleroad and racing through into the second round. Nat Dechy looks like she’s had enough though – wrapped in a towel at the change-over – but back out she comes. It’s 3-2 with serve in that one.

8.12 pm: It’s gloomy but still light enough out there to play, much to Tipsy’s chagrin as he’s 2-1 behind and a break down in the fourth. Serena is a break up but Ashley is battling her all the way in a deucetastic game on Serena’s service. Ah, more rain and Kader Nouni the umpire is looking a tad sceptical. Maybe Tipsarevic, he of the Dostoievski tattoos on his arm, will get a stay of execution. But no, more (Crime and) Punishment for the Serb as play continues.

8.02 pm: Lapentti takes the third set and with the night drawing in, his Tipsy opponent swaps to normal glasses rather than sun specs. And aha… it’s drizzling, spitting, spotting… a few umbrellas go up but umpire Kader is staying out there and keeping the players with him. Serena leads 2-1 with serve and will be keen to finish off tonight and enjoy two days off, as will Nat Dechy who took the first from Ju Ditty.

7.45 pm: It’s allez, bravo, magnifique and hi-hon hi-hons all round here as Alize Cornet wins 7-5 6-4 over Julia Vakulenko. Serena meanwhile is about to make it one set to love with Ashley Harkleroad serving at 2-5, 30-30.

7.40 pm: Whoosh. Serena shows why she’s my favourite for the tournament by winning four games in a row, coming to the net and piling up the winners. Alize breaks and she’ll now be serving for the match after the change-over. Dechy has also done a Serena on it and gone from 0-2 to 4-2, but then she goes and does an Andy Murray by being broken back. 3-4, Ditty to serve and it’s getting a bit chilly and overcast out there as the evening draws in…

7.30 pm: Dechy gets back to 2-2 while Cornet knocks her cap off while serving. It’s all happening here… Voskoboeva makes it into Round 2 after 6-1ing the final set.

7.28 pm: Serena breaks back. From 2-0 it’s back to 2-2, while Nat Dechy is 2-0 down to Ju Ditty. Tipsy has equalised to make it 1-1 against Lapentti in what could be another five-setter – hey, we’re giving you your money’s worth today! Argentine Acasuso is not far off making it two sets to love against DomSlovak Hrbaty, while on the subject of Argentineans, glamorous Gisele, Dulko of that ilk who isn’t seeded this year, has taken the first set from Sara Errani. Galina Voskoboeva looks like winning against French girl Yulia Fedossova (it’s 5-1 in the third) and Alize is serving at 3-4 in the second and has just laid down a drop-shot that Juju Henin would’ve been proud of.

7.10 pm: 2002 champion Serena Williams is out on court and has been broken in the opening game by her compatriot Ashley Harkleroad! The final tie to start today, after the Moya-Schwank epic, is also about to get under way with Nathalie Dechy taking on Julie Ditty in the battle of the women whose surnames begin with a D and end with a Y…

6.58 pm: SCHWANK WINS! On one leg! He hits an absolute pearl that lands on the T of the base and the tramlines before collapsing to the clay and getting all red and dusty and Nadalian. No16 seed Moya is out, losing to a qualifier after a four-hour epic!

6.57 pm: Schwank is finally back on his feet and it’s 30-love…! Two points away…

6.55 pm: While all this was going on, Julia broke back against Alize, before Alize returned the compliment and held to take the first set 7-5. Alize was junior champion here last year before beginning her meteoric rise up the WTA rankings where she is now ahead of her compatriots Mademoiselles Golovin and Mauresmo and only behind Mlle Bartoli – last year’s Wimbledon finalist.

6.54 pm: My oh my! Hilary Schwank hits a winner down the line and immediately hobbles off due to cramp. The physio is on, and once Schwank is good to go again, he will serve for the match, I repeat, SERVE FOR THE MATCH! against Moya. Ths Spanish No16 seed is sitting and waiting, contemplating his fate, while Schwank is having the trainer rub his thigh that looks like its absolutely singing with pain…

6.47 pm: Murray wins the Murray way! Loses his serve at 5-1 then breaks to win, before letting out a primal scream. Blimey Andy but you made hard work of that! Speaking of hard work, Moya is in a deucetastic contest on his own serve at 3-4. There have been aces, disputed calls, slides, netted forehands… We could have a biiiig upset on our hands…

6.40 pm: Murray is a game from victory after sending Eysseric one way then the other, painting the corners. It’s been a real up and down contest that one. Moya – Schwank is still going with service. Moya is sliding as only Spaniards can here at RG but Schwank is giving as good as he gets, despite having back problems that have hampered him of late. Julia Vakulenko is serving to save the first set at 3-5 against French No19 seed Alize Cornet. And she does. 4-5, Alize to serve.

6.28 pm: Eysseric wins his first game in nine and breaks back. Clay court marathon alert. Schwank and Moya are at 2-2, while Herr Greul is about to serve to save the match against Latvian prodigy Ernst Gulbis, whose name means swan (another piece of incredible information I acquired from one of our readers last year).

6.22 pm: Muzz has obviously read Michael’s comments at the bottom of this article and rather than taking the Eurostar straight to Wimbledon, he’s fighting and is a break up in the decider. Well remembered Michael – Tsonga it was who dumped Murray out of the Aus Open before going all the way to the final. Such a shame that his knee hasn’t held up and that Jo-Wilfried will be missing here and at Wimbledon. Schwank meanwhile is still battling and leads 2-1 (with serve though) over Moya in the other five-setting currently being slugged out.

6.17 pm: Former champion alert. Serena will be up soon, facing Ashley Harkleroad. It’s a busy first day here and we’re having just the right weather for it. Serena’s waiting for Jonathan and Andy to sort each other out, but we could be here a while. Murray takes the first game on serve in the decider after going to deuce. Meanwhile on Chatrier in the dessert after the main course that was Guga’s goodbye, Alize is overcoming the shame of turning up to the party in the same frock as someone else by leaping into a 2-0 lead over Miss Vakulenko.

6.12 pm: McWhitewash. Eysseric’s service has fallen apart here – down from high 70s to high 30s in first serve percentage and Murray has been pouncing. 6-0 to the Scotsman. Acasuso has broken Hrbaty from the off while up-and-coming Alize Cornet, who has been like a breath of fresh air in French tennis (French pun there) is out on court. Jen here in the office informs me that Alize is wearing the same dress as Camille Pin. Probably not the exact same dress as I’m sure they can afford one each…

6.05 pm: The times they are a-changing. Moya is serving to make it 2-2, sliding, dropping and volleying like a good ‘un. Like a No16 seed in fact. Murray meanwhile has suddenly gone from zero to hero, holding and breaking twice to lead 4-0 in the fourth. He’s varying his shots to perfection and giving Eysseric the run-around.

5.55 pm: Right, deep breath and now back to the tennis! Eysseric’s knee is obviously OK as he took the third set from No10 seed Andy Murray. Lapentti meanwhile broke Tipsarevic straight off the bat while Moya is battling back. He survived a third set tie-break and is a break up in the fourth over the improbable Eduardo “Hilary” Schwank. And yay! The Slovakian sweetheart Dominika Cibulkova has won, in straight sets over Angelique Kerber. I’ll send her a facebook message to congratulate her.

5.51 pm: Off goes Guga, into the sunset and we all wipe our eyes and turn to the business in hand… Thunderous applause, as befits the triple champion.

5.49 pm: FFT president Christian Bimes presents Kuerten with a commemorative trophy showing the layers of a clay court as the crowd give him a continued standing ovation. “Merci beaucoup” says the three-time champion, and thanks the crowd – in French – for their support over the years. Chatrier is packed to the rafters and giving the charismatic former champion a great send-off.

5.47 pm: Guga hides his head in his towel as the crowd shout “Guga, Guga”. Mathieu leaves the court to warm applause but now it’s time for the Guga final farewell, and the big man is already fighting to hold back the tears.

5.45 pm: This time PHM takes the match. Guga’s last shot is a drop-shot that fades into the net and he loses the third set 6-2. Mathieu sits down and lets the Brazilian maestro take all the plaudits as the crowd rises to a man…

5.44 pm: Match-point Mathieu but Guga passes him as he comes to the net! What a player! It’s deuce…

5.43 pm: Eysseric is having treatment out on Lenglen for a knee problem, at 5-4 to him in the third set. Once he’s back on his feet, he’ll be serving for the third set.

5.41 pm: PHM breaks and will serve for the match at 5-2. A Mexican wave breaks out and Guga has a real smile on his face as he prepares for probably his last game on the circuit…

5.36 pm: The difficult-to-spell-correctly-when-you’re-typing-in-a-hurry pairing of Voskoboeva versus Fedossova is out on court No7. A journalist’s nightmare. Tipsarevic – Lapentti is also in the warm-up, with the unmistakeable Kader Nouni and his amazing hair-do in the umpire’s chair. Tispy’s got sunglasses on this time – remember when he played Federer and took him to five sets at the Aus wearing a pair of prescription specs? He also has a plaster on the bridge of his nose – presumably to aid breathing but he doesn’t want to get too much clay dust up his proboscis.

5.23 pm: Guga’s still out there, giving it his best shot for his last hurrah. PHM has broken and is serving at 2-1 up, but the Brazilian is unbowed, all baggy t-shirt (blue and yellow, like it was back in 1997 when he won here as an unseeded player), floppy hair and gritted teeth. Eysseric meanwhile is serving hard, laying down drop-shots like Billie Jean and generally giving No10 seed Andy Murray the run-around. And to think that Eysseric is only here thanks to a wild-card. Maybe Murray won’t be winning his first RG match today…

5.18 pm: Nic Almagro is through in straight sets, the No19 seed beating Serbian Boris Pashanski. Almagro looks to me like it should me “the skinny one”, but maybe that’s just me trying to speak my own kind of Esperanto.

5.14 pm: Mathieu serves out and takes the second set. The Chatrier crowd seems to sense that the end is nigh… Elsewhere the ever-smiling Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, whose surname means little she-onion or so I was told last year, has taken the first set 6-2 from Angelique Kerber, as befits the former’s No28 seeding. In the French derby, Mathilde Johansson is waltzing (Aussie joke there – any of you still awake?) to a 4-2 lead over Camille Pin while Roko Karanusic has come back from two sets down and is about to serve to make it 2-2 against Maximo Gonzalez, one of a whole host of Argentinean qualifiers.

5.08 pm: I hate to report this but the physio’s out and Guga’s having his lower back rubbed. I hope this isn’t the end. He’s up and on his feet and ready to receive but it’s to save the set after PHM broke him again.

Murray meanwhile obviously read my scathing comments. He and Eysseric have just played the point of the day. Murray made the Frenchman run and run, Eysseric got one back that was right at Murray’s feet, the Scotsman dug it out and laid down a drop shot, Eysseric slid in and lobbed to perfection but Murray made it back and hit a blind passing shot to win the point. A beaut. A then he went and lost the next to points to hand Eysseric a break. Set in trouble alert…

5 00 pm: GUGA BREAKS BACK! A pair of backhanders down the line leave PHM –and the crowd - standing and admiring. Go on big man! Give us a blast from the past! And blimey, Murray’s had one of his “who me? Tennis? Oh yeah, maybe later, maybe in 15 minutes or so” moments. Eysseric takes the second set 6-1 as Murray looooongs backhand after backhand. A game of two halves this one so far…

4.57 pm: PHM comes to the net and Guga passes him to save a break point. PHM really doesn’t know how to play this match – make him run? Overpower him? Defend and wait? Another break point comes and he finally takes it, with Guga now huffing and puffing a little bit. Eysseric meanwhile is serving like a demon, nudging 200 km/h (that’s 33 degrees Celsius in old money) and is 4-1 up over Murray in the second. And Dominika Cibulkova is at 3-2 with serve and has gone back to being Slovakian, having briefly been Bulgarian earlier in this blog. Probably because her name includes the letters BUL. I’m easily confused…

4.48 pm: Ooh la la. Strike that McBish McBosh as Eysseric holds and breaks to open the second set. Murray has suddenly become an unforced error merchant. On Chatrier meanwhile, a combination of Kuerten playing consistently and PHM seeming not to know how to play against someone who is 1100 places below him in the world and has the crowd’s sympathy vote means that it is going with serve at 3-2 Guga in the second.

4.44 pm: Bish bosh. Or rather McBish, mcBosh as Murray aces his way to a 6-2 win. Dark horse anyone? I don’t think so. It’s a bit early for him but he’s racing back up the rankings. Meanwhile, if you type “oh my gosh he’s two sets down” into a search engine, you’ll get Carlos Moya, who indeed is staring down the barrel of a straight-set first-round never-live-it-down knock-out (six hyphens!) against our mate Eduardo Schwank. Hopefully he won’t torch his winnings (clothes, racquets…) this time around -especially if he’s staying in the same hotel as me! Jesse Huta Galung, playing Jiri Vanek tomorrow in the first round, is one of my breakfast companions this year dontcha know…

4.34 pm: Decoud overcomes Rochus in a five-setter – a classic clay-court nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth struggle (five hyphens – I’m on rare form). They now make way for the angelic Fraulein Kerber from Germany against the divine Dominika Cibulkova from Slovakia. I wonder if it’s really her who accepted me as a facebook friend? Maybe it was someone posing as her but she had dozens of WTA players as friends… Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained…

4.28 pm: Murray’s now a break back up out on Lenglen. The young Scotsman has yet to win a match here at Roland but he should put that right this afternoon. He and the Djoker were very much pals and sparring partners a few years back but injuries have hampered Andy over the past 12 months. Hopefully he can put all that behind him and go deep into the second week at the French and then Wimbledon.

Meanwhile PHM has taken the first set from Guga 6-3. The Brazilian has banged down 5 aces already but the French No.18 seed has the game in hand – so much so that he even popped off for a quick toilet break between sets.

4.24 pm: Luke mailed in earlier with a few tips for the men’s draw. Latvian lad Gulbis to beat Blake (a definite possibility – he did well here last year) and Stan the Man Wawrinka to make the quarters. There, despite the fact that I’m an adopted Swissie, I’m more sceptical. He has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season but I can’t quite see him having the clay court nous to beat someone like Gonzalez. Out on Chatrier, Guga’s serving at 5-2 down. Say what you like but it's nice to see his flowing backhands one more time.

4.21 pm: The inevitable has happened – PHM has broken Guga to lead 3-1. He’s moving around OK and he certainly has a passionate crowd behind him – the fans here love the Frenchies, as well they should, but they have a soft spot for Guga.

4.16 pm: Decoud breaks to lead Rochus 3-1 in the final set. Ah, and Andy Murray promptly loses serve. La Marseillaise drowns out the bagpipes and porridge makes way for garlic for young Eysseric’s benefit. Tennis really is a youngster’s game. Eysseric is 18 and Murray has just turned 21. Even Rocket Roger, who’s been the world’s No.1 for the past 357 years (OK, since 2004), is only 25. Since Wayne Arthurs retired, Jonas Bjorkman is the oldest person out there and since he’s a year younger than me, I feel decided veteran…

4.10 pm: Kuerten holds serve and it’s one all, to the delight of the centre court crowd. He seems to be moving around on court quite well, despite his hip injury. I’m sure that adrenaline will carry him through at least the first two sets. Braveheart alert, Andy Murray’s out on court and has broken local lad Jonathan Eysseric in the opening game. Bagpipes skirl in the background and kilts flutter in the breeze…

4.03 pm: Seed report. Carlos Moya loses a first set tie-break to Argentinean qualifier Eduardo Schwank, who inadvertently had a wee fired-based accident in his hotel room at a recent challenger tournament and burnt his prize money! I kid you not – it’s all here! Nicole Fanatic at the bottom of the page wants to know what the line judges shout. It’s meant to be “fault” on serve and “out” otherwise but tends to be a whole host of vowels without much of a consonant at the end.

3.57 pm: I’ve been told below not to be condescending by describing the likes of Iveta Benesova as leggy and lovely. Yeesh, I wouldn’t mind being described as either (hardly likely as my legs are more Santoro than Karlovic). Guga’s underway but has netted a forehand on the first point. Come on Guga, everyone’s behind you – go out with a bang. He’s wearing his trademark blue and yellow shirt of course…

3.50 pm: To the delight of the crowd, French Open legend Gustavo Kuerten is out on court and warming on the Philippe Chatrier court he made his own on three separate occasions. Read all about his glorious Parisian past in a series of articles starting here.

3.40 pm: Clay-court marathon alert! Rochus and Decoud are into a decider after the Belgian won a fourth-set nail-biter-tie-breaker (three hyphens in a row – beat that!) Meanwhile we’re all waiting for the arrival of three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten for what could well be his final match at Roland Garros and indeed on the ATP circuit, against Paul-Henri Mathieu out on Chatrier.

3.36 pm: The Djoker wins! A four-setter which took a little longer than he would have hoped, but hey, he didn’t start playing til the second set! Gremelmayr gave a good account of himself and looking at the tournament as a whole and particularly the bottom half of the draw, this was excellent practice for young Novak against a tough lefty, one of whom lies in wait for him in about 12 days time…

3.34 pm: Djoker time! The Serbian No.3 seed is serving for the match. Meanwhile another –ova is on fine form. Klara Zakopalova of that ilk. She breaks and then holds to lead 4-1 against Virginie Razzano. Ah, and the medical team is back out to look at the French No.24 seed.

3.25 pm: Djoker breaks in the fourth to lead 3-1. Elsewhere, it’s going with serve almost everywhere. No.16 Carlos Moya and No.19 Nicolas Almagro are out on some of the outside courts.

3.15 pm: Hawk-eye? All we need is good old-fashioned dust. Razzano asks the question and the chair umpire comes down, checks the mark left by the ball and raises the index finger to indicate that it was indeed out. Palm flat out pointing downwards means in, by the way. It’s 1-1 in the decider between these two.

3.08 pm: We’re into a fourth set on court 3 with Franco-Argentinean Sebastien Devoud two sets to one and 4-4 with Belgium’s Olivier Rochus. Ah, more breaks, and this time Zaka-pullover has nipped in, taken Razzano’s service and snaffled the second set. And Ah once again. Djoker bangs down an ace, right on the T, and it’s two-one after two hours.

3.03 pm: Break time! Razzano gets one break back and is now only 5-3 down, while Djoker will now serve for the set again, this time at 6-5.

2.54 pm: Medical time-out on Lenglen as Razzano calls for the physio and the doctor. Play resumes and the French girl pounces on a second serve to stick one right down the line. They didn’t administer much treatment but whatever they said certainly worked.

2.51 pm: Drew the jinx, they call me. Djoker loses his rhythm. At 15-40, he has three chances to put the game, and the set away but can’t smash for toffee. Greml goes back, back, back to retrieve the smashes, ending up in the 35 euro seats at one point (well almost…) and then puts a beaut of a passing shot past the Serbian to break back. A service game to love later and it’s 5-4.

2.48 pm: Djoker’s on form and loving his tennis. Serving at 5-2 in the third set. Elsewhere, on Lenglen as it happens, local favourite Virginie Razzano took the first set but is a break down in the second to another Czech (lots of them here today for the Sunday start) Klara Zakapalova. Ooh, make that 4-1. The crowd are curiously muted and Virginie is all frustrated sighs and shakes of the head.

2.44 pm: Accolades all round as Blake gets through, saluting the crowd as well as his worthy opponent. 6-4 6-1 7-6. Pretty solid stuff for a first round. Lots of winners (42) but as many unforced errors (46) as Blake tried to force the pace. He’ll improve as the tournament progresses and will hopefully break the American hoodoo of first week exits for the men.

2.42 pm: Blake’s a mini-break up in the tie-break. Schuettler serving, 3-5. Ooh, beauty down the line and it's match-point on the American's serve.

2.36 pm: This really is more like it. Djoker and Gremlins have just had a belter of a rally, concluded by the Serbian putting an overhead smash away and raising his arms in triumph, while his opponent smiled in recognition of what was some sparkling tennis on both sides. If you want to relive, and indeed watch, points like that in real time live animation, the IBM Slamtracker is the place to be (open a separate window – I don’t want to lose you so soon, we’ve barely got to know each other…)

2.35 pm: Under the heading “that’s more like it”, the Djoker has warmed up. He’s 3-1 up in the third set on Gremlinmayr and is attacking like a good’un. Wristy forehands and plenty of approaches to the net.

2.32 pm: By George, but Schuettler’s shaking it up. From 2-5 and Blake serving for the match, it’s now 5-5 and deuce. Blake’s topspin forehands seem to be finding a lot of net, and Schuettler is going all out, with little left to lose.

2.25 pm: What’s the weather like, one of you asked at the bottom of the page (scroll down for comments and your chance to have your say). Lovely. Warm, sunny, barely a cloud. We’re set fair for a full day’s play (he says, tempting fate). First bagel of the championships (a bagel is a 0-shaped roll and therefore represents someone being 6-nilled) and that was by Danish No.30 seed and 2006 Wimbledon juniors-winner Caroline Wozniacki against Yvonne “light serving” Meusburger from Austria.

2.20 pm: Fret not, once the other members of this year’s team are up to speed then we’ll have round-the-clock continuous blogging. Elsewhere in an absolute shocker, an American guy is about to win a match! I know, I’m being cheeky, but this isn’t a happy hunting ground for our transatlantic cousins, as they would be the first to admit. Blake is 5-3 up in the third set against shaky Schuettler (a German play on words before you think I’m insulting the poor fellow). He’s not that shaky though as he’s just broken Blake who was serving for the match. There’s life in this game yet. And while I type, Schuettler holds to love. Blake has another chance to close out, serving at 5-4.

2.15 pm: Back in the saddle and the Djoker has just equalised to make it one set all against Denis “the Gremlin” Gremelmayr, who surely is a few vowels short of a proper surname.

1.26 pm: Yakimova equalizes at one-all against Hsieh. Other than Novak being in trouble at 2-5 with the Gremlin about to serve, the courts are a little quiet at the moment so I’m off for the quickest of quick lunches. Put the kettle on, watch the slamtracker to follow the point-by-points (light green means serving, dark green receiving for the benefit of blond reader Carin for Sydney – just teasing you, m’dear) and I’ll be back before you’ve even noticed I’ve gone.

1.20 pm: Gremlin’s whipping some wristy lefty forehands down there and the Djoker is a step slow to everything. Hmm… Aha, Ouanna is not a ouinner. Del Potro wins 6-3 6-2 6-3 in two hours. His two-handed backhand looked very impressive today. 41 winners, only 15 unforced errors.

1.14 pm: Seed taking his time to warm up alert. Gremelmayr broke Djoker to open and then held. 2-0 to the German. And as you can probably hear since they are shouting so loudly, my mates Eli and Araz are on now live and loving it on Radio Roland Garros. Tune in, turn on and be prepared to laugh. These guys mix tennis talk and infectious humour and chat quicker than a Brenda Schultz-McCarthy service. Aie aie aie, as they say here in Paris - Gremlin has broken again and is now serving at 3-0 against Djoker-vic. This will really put the cat among the pigeons, as they say in Grande Bretagne.

1.11 pm: Nalbandian wins, and throws his headbandian into the crowd. The flowing-locked Argentinean looked confident out there today, full of attacking shots and winning in under two hours (clay being the slowest of surfaces, it usually favours defenders and matches often last three or four hours, or more).

1.08 pm: Nalbandian nets and Berlocq is still alive, having battled through a few deuces in a brave last stand. HeadBandian is coming to the net a lot and exposing himself to a few passing shots, but in general he is looking on imperious form.

1.03 pm: Frank the Dancer Dancevic levels matters at one set all against Lopez Jaen. Meanwhile HeadBandian is showing no mercy at 5-0 up in the third and surely final set of the first of 857 all-Spanish-speaking match-ups this year…

12.59 pm: James Blake, No.7 seed and on whose shoulders American hopes are resting in the men’s draw in the absence of Andy Roddick, is out on court and shaking it up against Germany’s Rainer Schuettler (that was a German pun out there, language fans…) Ooh, and here he comes, Batman’s evil nemesis… THE DJOKER! Ready to take on all-comers in the bottom half of the draw, starting with Denis Gremelmayr, another Tueton. Ooh, the Frenchies in the office here are going “ooh la la” as Jeremy Chardy is through in straight sets against Frederico Gil. That’s me losing in the prediction competition already…

12.52 pm: Su-Wei Hsieh served for the match but Anastasiya Yakimova from Belarus (a country I have visited) broke back and it’s now 5-5 in the second set.

12.47 pm: The mark of a true champ. Breaks at the right time, in the 12th game, and last year’s finalist and all-round sweetie Ana Ivanovic is through, 7-5 in the second set with a forehand winner down the line. Unlucky Sofia Arvidsson tried her best and is already giving a smiling and gracious interview while Ana is doing the ball-autographing thing. And she’s grinning. As she always does. LovelyAna.

12.46 pm: Arvidsson (who looks more like a Dottir than a Sson to me but hey) is serving to save the match. HeadBandian is two sets up over Berlocq in the Argy derby (he took the second 6-4), Rochus (Olivier of that ilk, not Christophe) leads fellow francophone Decoud and I am eating an apple to stave off hunger since, if it’s anything like last year, you’ll all complain when I sneak off for a quick lunch. Ooh, deuce in the Sofia – Ana match. Ana’s two points from the win…

12.40 pm: Why don’t the comments appear automatically, asks Sam at the bottom of the page? Just in case you’re writing naughty things, you little tinkers. Only I can write rubbish and get away with it – you need to be moderated just in case (I’m sure you understand). In on-court matters, Del Potro is now two sets up over Ouanna who despite his name being pronounced Wanna, ain’t looking like a winna. Sofia and Ana meanwhile are at 5-5.

12.32 pm: Hoo cha cha! It’s all over. The battle of the leggy lovelies has gone the way of Iveta Benesova, who dumps Nicole Vaidisova out 7-6 6-1. Ouch. Nicole’s off, done a runner already and who can blame her? Iveta meanwhile is all smiles as she signs those lovely out-size tennis balls you can get here and waves to the crowd. Iveta was beta, as simple as that.

12.30 pm: Glad to see you’re paying attention out there in Internet-land, especially Mtuya who gets the first spotters’ badge of the day. Lucie Safarova has whupped poor Sandra Kloesel 6-1 6-1. Swift to the max. And here on serve, Vaidisova – who beat Amelie here two years ago to launch her career - is two points away from an inglorious elimination before most players have even checked into their hotels…

12.28 pm: Seed in REAL danger alert. The lovely leggy lefty Iveta Benesova is a set and 4-1 up on Nicole Vaidisova and serving (and 30-0 to boot). Vaidi’s been out of sorts most of the season, and while Iveta had to qualify, that’s only because she had a slow start and was around No.120 when the places were allocated. Since then she’s risen to the 60s and she also had an ideal warm-up by playing (and sailing through) the qualifiers.

12.23 pm: Ana’s doing that “head down, left fist clenched” thing she does when she’s on a roll. From 1-3 it’s now 4-3 and the pressure is on the only non-blonde Swede to battle back.

12.19 pm: Welcome back all of you readers from last year. Nice to see you remember the nicknames! There’ll be plenty of Djokers, Kuzzy Wuzzies, LovelyAnas, Wocket Wogers, Stan the Mans, Jellybeans (that’s Jellyna Jankovic) over the next two weeks. And wowzers! Chardy is two sets to the good over the lethargic Lusitanian Gil. Maybe he’ll be the first winner of the day…

12.18 pm: Nice to see those comments up and running – keep them coming. Lopez and Hsieh took those tie-breaks. Ah, and LovelyAna has broken back. It’s three each a-piece in the second set – will she be the day’s first winner?

12.11 pm: Two tie-breaks being played. Dancevic – Lopez Jean in the men’s, Yakimova – Hsieh in the women’s.

12.08 pm: 21 unforced errors from Nicole in that first set. The No.15 seed is in trouble, and so is the No.2. Ana is a break down to Sofia in the second and has just saved another break point. The Serbian then serves out and it’s 2-3 (but of course Ana took the first set).

12.06 pm: Benesova takes the tie-break battle of the tall slim Czechs called –sova. Vaidisova was off the pace in the 13th game and while she saved a set point, Iveta coasted to a 7-2 win.

12.05 pm: Wow! Iveta is 5-1 up on Nicole in the tie-break! Seed in danger alert!

12.04 pm: HeadBandian is a break up over Berlocq in the second set. All going to plan for the No.6 seed at the moment. In the tie-break, Iveta Benesova is a mini-break up on Nicole Vaidosova. A mini-break by the way is when you win a point on your opponent’s serve in the tie-break.

12.02 pm: Juan Martin del Potro takes the first set from French qualifier Josselin Ouanna. And as I predicted, the Czech ladies are into the first tie-break of the tournament. Edge of the seat stuff already and we’ve been going less than an hour…

11.57 am: Aha! The comments section is up and running at the bottom of the screen! Get posting, mes amis!

11.55 am: Frenchman Chardy is a break up in the second as well as being a set up over his Lusitanian opponent Gil.

11.52 am: Ana breaks back, just to prove that she can, and the first set is hers. Vaidi and Bene look headed for a tie-break in the battle of the leggy Czechs (both taller than me) called –sova.

11.47 am: HeadBandian takes the first set in the Argentinean derby.

11.45 am: LovelyAna serves for the set but Sofia breaks back! You go girl, as they say the other side of the Atlantic. Elsewhere, local hero Jeremy Chardy has already taken the first set from Portugal’s Frederico Gil.

11.40 am: Ha! It ain’t sova! Iveta – who had to go through the qualifiers but is on sparkling form, jumping about 60 places in the WTA rankings in the last couple of months – breaks back against Nicole. Elsewhere, the race is on to be the tournament’s first set-winner. And Lucie Safarova has done it, taking the first 6-1 from Sandra Kloesel.

11.34 am: The forum/message board isn’t up and running yet, so in the mean time, feel free to mail me at the above address. In on-court action, Vaidisova has broken Benesova in the battle of the sovas. Iveta should take heart though- it ain’t sova til it’s sova…

11.27 am: Ana breaks. 3-1 to the Basel-based forehand expert (I live in Switzerland by the way, so will be supporting any from or who lives in the country of cuckoo clocks and chocolate).

11.25 am: Lucie Safarova’s off to a flyer and no mistake. Win, break, win. She’s 3-loving it over Fraeulein Kloesel on No.3 court.

11.19 am: Sofia hits back and holds serve. She’s not intimidated by the Serbian No.2 – good for her. I don’t actually believe that she’s Swedish though as she’s not blonde. Surely some mistake. Elsewhere, Iveta holds against Nicole in the –ova derby and… wait for it, wait for it… BREAK ALERT! David HeadBandian is the tournament’s first breakmeister, taking Berlocq’s serve early doors.

11.15 am: Ana wins the first point of the match, the day, the tournament! (That’s the only point-by-point I’m doing by the way… I can’t type that quickly). She’s serving and whoosh! There we go, she’s a game to the good.

11.10 am: Ana Ivanovic and Sofia Arvidsson are out on Chatrier (that’s our centre court), Nalbandian and Berlocq in the all-Argentinean battle are on Lenglen (our other centre court – we’re so cool we have two). Nicole Vaidisova and Iveta Benesova are on No.1 in the battle of the leggy Czechs. Tracksuits are being shed, final bananas eaten and we’ll be under way any minute now. Can you feel the tension, folks? The excitement? The anticipation? The… (find thesaurus and insert own word her…)

10.55 am: It’s all hectic here. Well actually it’s all hectic for me as I’m trying to fill in the brackets for a competition we have every year among the journalists. You have to predict the winner of every single match in the men’s draw. Which is probably about 127 matches. I’m getting writer’s cramp (it’s so 20th century – you have to use pen and paper to fill it in…) Feel free to write in (multimedia@fft.fr) and let me know your tips for the top this year, men’s and women’s obviously (that’s players – both men and women readers are free to write in as well – we’re an equal opportunities blog here).

10.47 am: Plenty of players warming up and the courts are bathed in sunshine. Oooh I’m looking forward to this! Who’ve I bumped into so far? LovelyAna was strolling around the other day, looking lovely, as was Dominika Cibulkova who believe it or not is one of my “friends” on that ubiquitous social networking site that shall remain nameless (as are Dmitry Tursunov, Anna Chakvetadze, Maria Kirilenko…) I watched Rocket Roger having a hit-out the other day and he was looking in good form. Here’s hoping…

10.35 am: That’s all well and good Drew, I hear you cry/type/mutter, but what’s the weather like? Well, after yesterday afternoon’s downpour, I reckon we’ve got the rain out of our systems. Today’s skies are blue with a fairly sizeable cloud covering, but we should be set fair for a full day’s play. Speaking of which, this is who's on court today : obviously the big names include retiring former champion Guga Kuerten against local favourite PHM (Paul/Henri Mathieu) and LovelyAna herself, Miss Ivanovic.

10.30 am: My lords, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2008 French Open! For those of you here (or on the Wimbledon site) last year, yes it’s me, Drew Lilley is back to entertain you (and who knows maybe throw in a few tennis updates on the way). For those of you who don’t know me, run for the hills while you still can…

So, what’s new this year? Well, you can still get send me your feedback to the address at the top of the screen, but you can also post your own comments onto the site’s message board! Simply click on the link at the bottom of the page and away you go. See your name and message in print on the site! Nothing naughty please – we obviously edit out anything racist, sexist, this-ist, that-ist… And no text-speak please. I’m too old to wade through “Go Rafa UR th gr8st!!!!!!!!” a thousand times a day for the next two weeks…

What else is new? This year’s women’s champion for starters! My beloved Justine Henin retired a few days ago, but she was kind enough to come along and give a press conference here yesterday (link), meaning that I could listen to her delightful tones one more time. A voice as smooth as her backhand my little Juju has. So yes, a new champion will be writing her name on the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

Otherwise, as well as being Juju-less, we’re also without Andy Roddick, Daniela Hantuchova, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tommy Haas, Sebastien Grosjean, Lindsay Davenport (who was never going to come anyway as she’s not overly keen on clay and is gearing up for the Olympics)

Anyway, let’s hear from you. Either post your thoughts on the message board (the link will appear any minute now) or feel free to write to me (via the feedback link at the top), and I’ll try to answer as many questions as possible. Let me know who your tips are to go all the way this year. It’s a tough one to call, but for me it’s Serena and (surprise surprise) Rafa. Though who knows, if Djoker can tire him out in the semis, Rog might have a chance… And when I say Serena, it might actually be Jelena, or Ana, or Sveta, or Dinara…


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