Ladies Champion Francesca Schiavone (above).

It was a very good day for ex-champions who pulled through the quarters on both the men and women’s side, if in rather different fashion.  Francesca Schiavone, the fifth seed and defending champion, and the only significant one handed player in the women’s game, looked dead to rights in a quarter-final round match that featured a younger and possibly fresher, 14th seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  Fresher yes, but fitter?  No way.  Schiavone began her spirited comeback after losing 10 of 11 games, and being only few points from elimination.  She got her errors down while taaking huge rips on a lot of balls, being the aggressor, and getting to net.  Pavlyuchenkova played it safer, and her timidity about approaching the net and her weaker serve, became huge factors once Schiavone shook off the cobwebs, about 50 minutes in.

Schiavone went for her first serves, made 16 of 24 points at net, and ripped ill passing shots when the opportunity allowed.  Sure, we have pointed out that when it’s a full slate on the women’s side, Schiavone probably wouldn’t measure up, citing her 0-8 mark against Venus Williams.  But for the women she is playing here, she has this amazing “defend the crown” posture, and it would be hard to say that she has not been the women’s best player on clay for 2 years running, and both Venus and Serena played last year, as well as Henin, please recall.  Speaking of Henin, she, and Nadal, both carried this invincible nature at Roland Garros, and we don’t want to jinx it, but it appears that Schiavone is exhibiting that nature. 

Bravo.  She won in 3 sets, 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 in 2 hours and 44 minutes.   Then there’s the other champ, Roger Federer, who got on top of Gael Monfils and stayed there, which was really a must considering Monfils staying power.  Federer in straights, making it 5 straight in which he has not dropped a set at Roland Garros.  We’re extremely happy with him.  This is the finest form he’s displayed since the fall, and usually when he wins majors, he’s playing like this.  We’re sure that he’d be very confident going into a semi-final matchup with Novak Djokovic, who has all the pressure, after Djokovic has had maybe 2 days too many days off.  Federer and Djokovic, in our eyes, are very even on clay, though Djokovic did get their last matchup on clay, which was Rome 2009, the year that Federer won the French Open title.

A lot is going to come down to Federer’s serve, obviously.  But we’d think he would be really motivated to face a guy who has knocked him out of 2 straight majors in this spot.  Is it just us, or does Roger look really good on the clay?  The man has played only 8 break points on his own serve in the entire tournament.  We can’t wait until they put the line up on that.  Federer could be a very interesting bargain come Friday.

As for tomorrow’s lines:

Nadal:  – 320

Soderling:  + 240

Rarely do you see Nadal so narrowly favored on clay.  Wouldn’t be surprised if this line moved a lot toward Soderling before match time.  First of all, there’s personal animus between the two.  Soderling thinks that Nadal shows people up, and is ingracious in defeat, always talking about injuries and whatnot.  This is a very dicey matchup for Nadal.  Does Soderling seem the fresher player?  Because he certainly is cracking shots left and right.  Soderling is controlling every rally off the ground in his matches.  He’s probably the one guy, with Del Potro being the other when healthy, who can outslug Nadal on clay.  Soderling is a natural clay courter.  If this is the same Nadal that played Isner last week, Soderling is in very good shape.

Andy Murray:  – 800

Juan Ignacio Chela:  + 500

Can we say enough about our boy Andy Murray, LOL?  He served with the bigger Troicki, came forward, and gutted out a four hour match over two days on the “bum” ankle.  That said, Murray is playing a very hot guy who also serves big, and he does seem like a good bargain on the money line.  But there’s something about Andy Murray these days, and we’re expecting to see him break through very soon.  A possible Murray/Nadal or Murray/Soderling semi would make Friday one of the best tennis days of the year, even if on clay. 

We would not be surprised if he won this tournament.

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Sharapova:  – 240

Petkovic:  + 180

Sharapova is playing great and it really wouldn’t make sense not to predict her and feel comfortable with the fact that under normal conditions she’s gonna destroy Petkovic, but keep in mind this is clay, and Petkovic is the better, more comfortable clay courter.  But we think Sharapova is gonna be hitting through like a bulldozer, on her way to a possible matchup wth Azarenka.  Who, by the way, is a very modest favorite over Na Li, with all the hype surrounding her game, which does combine the necessary power and movement to win majors.

Na Li:  + 210

Victoria Azarenka:  – 280

Frankly, we don’t like the bet because Azarenka is very unproven in this spot, but in our minds, she seizes the moment, as the younger, bigger, more powerful player, and that she is too much for Li.  And frankly, whomever it is, we will be pulling for, as we have no interest in seeing Maria Sharapova get a career slam.  No offense to her camp, but we are Venus fans, and we wouldn’t want a lot of stupid people thinking that winning one of each slam was better than winning 20 something between singles and doubles.

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