Del Potro will challenge Djokovic in third

Del Potro will challenge Djokovic in third

Published May. 25, 2011 10:09 p.m. ET

John McEnroe — having a beer in the media bar here at Roland Garros with Mats Wilander and John Lloyd — had just watched Novak Djokovic edge a little closer to his own win streak of 42 matches by getting a win on a default against Romania's Victor Hanescu after leading by two sets to love.

"I think Novak needs to get to the quarterfinals to get past me," said McEnroe. "That's fine. Records are made to be broken. He's been playing incredible tennis so he deserves it."

Victories don't come much easier than the Serb's 41st, which was notched up on Philippe Chatrier Court on another sublime Parisian evening when his opponent withdrew midway through the third set with a thigh strain. Incredibly it was the third time in six meetings that Hanescu had failed to finish a match against Djokovic. And to think it was Djokovic who used to get the bad rap for quitting with health problems.

This wasn't a perfect performance from the man who has a chance of becoming world No. 1 if he reaches the final here. The Babolat balls tended to fly off his racket and he missed quite a few routine returns by over-hitting the baseline. But Hanescu could not capitalize because, despite his big serve whacked down from his 6-foot-6 frame, he simply could not find a weak link in the Serbian armor. Not surprising, really. There isn't one.


Juan Martin del Potro will be the next man to try and pry open the lock after the big Argentine blasted his way past Slovakia's Blaz Kavcic, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Djokovic admitted that this will be a big test for him and, as the balls should favor del Potro's mighty serve, he could well be right.

Over on Susanne Lenglen, Roger Federer offered up a little lesson in how to stroll through a clay court match by beating the French wild card, Maxime Teixeira, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. It was heady stuff for the 22-year-old Teixeira who is ranked 181 on the ATP computer. Federer allowed him just enough leeway to show that he might climb towards the top 100 sometime soon.

Gael Monfils was also facing a French newcomer, the tall, powerful Guillaume Rufin who was not only the youngest player through to the second round at the age of 21 but also the lowest ranked by some distance at 253. But he acquitted himself well and took a one-sided set off the No. 9 seed before bowing out, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

There was drama late in the evening when Vera Zvonareva came through to beat Sabine Lisicki 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 after saving match point at 4-5 in the third set. Lisicki had started suffering from cramps towards the end and took a 10-minute health break during the change over at 6-5. The trainer took Lisicki's blood pressure with the tournament doctor in attendance and it seemed that the German might be unfit to continue.

But she almost staggered back on court and played through two more games, barely winning a point as Zvonareva closed out the match. Lisicki then collapsed sobbing at courtside and had to be carried on a stretcher back to the locker room.

The day began with an all-American women's match on Court Three between Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Varvara Lepchenko. It ended with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win for Mattek-Sands. However, after Lepchenko had played a fine second set, the outcome was far from certain.

"The last time we played, she wasn't playing that well," said Mattek-Sands, who spent most of the press conference talking about her often-flashy outfits. "I thought she played really well today. Her spins can be tricky. A lot of times she hits late and you think she's going one way and she goes the other."

Mattek-Sands worked all that out in the third and started to return well again as she began finding her touch. As for the "look," we got a bit of an insight into those long socks that have become something of a trademark for this extrovert player.

"I do wear them for a reason," she said. "They are actually compression underneath my socks. But I also wear them because tennis is so conservative and people go 'wow' when I wear them. For me, it's fun. I just like to be different."

No harm in that because Bethanie can play, too. Third round of a clay court Slam is not bad.

Lepchenko, who was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and is in the process of becoming an American citizen, was annoyed with herself for not maintaining the standard she achieved in the second set.

"I don't know what happened in the third," she said. "I just couldn't keep playing like I had been the second."

Lepchenko had wandered into the press room in search of Doug Robson of USA Today. "I'm trying to find the article you wrote about my victory over Flavia Pennetta on Monday," she said. "Do you know how I can find a back copy?" No one had an answer to that question but, hopefully Varvara can find it to remind herself of the best win of her career to date.

If Sam Stosur is going to do better than she did here last year, she will have to win the title. And that does not look like an impossible goal for the Australian who was a semifinalist here in 2009 and a finalist last year. As she admitted, the women's field is wide open and, although she lost to Maria Sharapova in the semifinal in Rome, she feels that her game is where she wants it to be.

It certainly looked in very good order as she set about beating Simona Halep, never allowing the Romanian to find a rhythm. Cracking winners all over the court, Stosur was in command from start to finish and won 6-0, 6-2.

Answering questions about the lack of a single dominating women's player at the moment, Stosur replied, "I think some people will look at the situation and say, 'That's not very good.' But then you can look at it and think that there is big group of players who are really competitive with each other. So I think there are really good players out there who haven't won Grand Slams yet and maybe this will be the time. Like I said, anyone can beat anyone, especially from the top 10."

Caroline Wozniacki, the current world No. 1, is one of the prime candidates to grab that elusive Slam but she had a bit of a struggle early in the day against her near namesake, Aleksandra Wozniak before winning 6-3, 7-6. Wozniak led the Dane six points to two in the tiebreak but failed to press hard enough on any of her four set points and Caroline was able to fight back and take the breaker 8-6.


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