One particular man anyway, at least to begin with. JMDP was fairly solid in a straight sets victory over twentieth seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, with the exception of minor kerplosions serving for the first set and the match. But he got it done anyway, 76(3) 63. Round of sixteen, baby. At a Masters.
All about the heart.
And the arms.
And the legs.
It was a frustrating match for Dolgopolov, who is such a fun and funky player but couldn’t quite rein it in at crucial moments. Couple that with some smoking forehands from JMDP and, well. JMDP plays Philipp Kohlschreiber yet, who caused a sensation by taking out Robin Soderling in straight sets. Something of a surprise given the fourth seed’s stellar 2011 so far (Australian Open excepted), but apparently Soderling had a left foot injury and may be doubtful for Miami. At least he didn’t make any catty remarks about “real tennis”. Speaking of which …
Sam Querrey has apparently finally arrived in 2011, beating Verdasco 75 64 to set up a fourth round meeting with Tommy Robredo, who dismissed Donald Young 60 64, thereby succeeding in making Andy Murray look even worse. Verdasco’s bete noir, young Milos Raonic, hasn’t quite flashed his pan yet, beating former victim and thirteenth seed Mardy Fish. He’ll meet the American wildcard Ryan Harrison in the third round after the aforesaid upset twenty-second seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
It would be interesting to see these two face off. In fact there’s a superfluity of really interesting third-round matches from the bottom half of the draw tonight, starting with Roddick v. Isner and ending with Cilic v. Wawrinka, taking in Gasquet v. Melzer, Troicki v. Llodra, Gulbis v. Djokovic and Berdych v. Bellucci. Why was I slagging off this tournament again?
Damn those vampires.
Stadium 1 (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Gulbis vs. Djokovic
2. Marion Bartoli vs. Kim Clijsters (NB 13.00hrs)
3. ATP: Chela vs. Federer
4. Caroline Wozniacki vs. Alisa Kleybanova
5. ATP: Roddick vs. Isner (NB 19.00hrs)
6. Dinara Safina vs. Maria Sharapova (NB 20.30hrs)
Stadium 2 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Jelena Jankovic vs. Ana Ivanovic
2. ATP: Cilic vs. Wawrinka
3. ATP: Gasquet vs. Melzer
4. ATP: Raonic vs. Harrison
5. ATP: Dlouhy/Hanley vs. López/Nadal
6. ATP: Bryan/Bryan vs. Dolgopolov/Malisse
Stadium 3 (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Berdych vs. Bellucci
2. ATP: Troicki vs. Llodra
3. Francesca Schiavone vs. Shahar Peer
4. Jankovic/Pavlyuchenkova vs. Azarenka/Kirilenko (after suitable rest)
5. Nadia Petrova vs. Peng Shuai
Court 7 (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Bhupathi/Paes vs. Bopanna/Qureshi
2. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Victoria Azarenka
3. Yanina Wickmayer vs. Dominika Cibulkova
4. Mirza/Vesnina vs. Jans/Rosolska
5. ATP: Knowles/Mertinak vs. Erlich/Ram
Don’t look now – I SAID DON’T LOOK!!! – but Marin won a match in Zagreb, where he’s the two-time defending champion, beating Igor Kunitsyn 76(3) 62. He’ll be facing Florian Mayer in the quarterfinals after Stupid Flowery Girlie Girl beat Radek Stepanek in three sets. Mayer, let us not forget, is the man who dismissed Marin in straight sets at Wimbledon last year before the horrified eyes of yours truly, and he recently beat Nikolay Davydenko in the first round of the Australian Open.
This isn’t going to end well for the Mariners, is what I’m saying.
Marin fared slightly worse in the doubles, as he (somewhat bizarrely) teamed up with sometime(s) coach and tournament director Goran Ivanisevic to lose to Filip Polasek and Ivan Zelenay in straight sets, in a match that was mainly memorable for (i) Goran’s inability to get a serve in the court, (ii) Goran cracking Marin up on changeovers, and (iii) this ridiculous pair of trick shots by Polasek, which you can watch here.
But have some photos anyway, because it’s been scientifically proven that there is nothing more pictorially engrossing than a pair of lanky Croatians playing doubles. Also … Marin actually makes Goran look a little bit fat, or at least three-dimensional.
Elsewhere, Johannesburg has been mainly notable for the exploits of a couple of Canadians; Milos Raonic, who beat second seed Yen-Hsun Lu before losing to Simon Greul in the second round, and Frank Dancevic, currently ranked 234, who knocked out defending champion Feliciano Lopez in a rain-interrupted match that went to 10-8 in a third set tiebreak.
And in Santiago, the hotness of the tournament took a blow when Juan Monaco lost to hermano Maximo Gonzalez in the first round, but is still ensured after David Nalbandian beat Carlos Berlocq in three and Thomaz Bellucci, defending champion, is into the quarterfinals after Rui Machado. As a reward, he got to meet the Chilean Minister of the Interior.
Top 8 seeds: Feliciano Lopez, Yen-Hsun Lu, Janko Tipsarevic, Kevin Anderson, Florent Serra, Adrian Mannarino, Rainer Schuettler, Michal Przysieny
Points of interest: Adorable Canadian giant Milos Raonic has qualified and will play second seed Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round. Also, that’s once more than I hoped to have to type “Michal Przysieny” in 2011. Twice now.
Top 8 Seeds: David Nalbandian, Juan Monaco, Thomaz Bellucci, Juan Ignacio Chela, Potito Starace, Tommy Robredo, Fabio Fognini, Santiago Giraldo
Points of interest: David Nalbandian, Juan Monaco, Thomaz Bellucci. Seriously, the South American clay swing? Sexy. Also, Robredo also got through a potentially challenging first round match with Federico Gil. Is Ex-Disco Tommy a thing again? Can he not be?
Top 8 seeds: Marin Cilic, Ivan Ljubicic, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Richard Gasquet, Florian Mayer, Marcel Granollers, Philipp Petzchner, Michael Berrer
Points of interest: Well, it depends. If you think Marin Cilic has to hit rock bottom before he can begin to climb again, then you probably want him to lose in the second round. If you think he has to arrest the slide somewhere, anywhere, then you probably don’t want to watch his second round. He’s got a tough draw to get to the semis; first a probable match with Igor Kunitsyn, then either the suddenly-scary Florian Mayer (who beat him in straights at Wimbledon last year) or the always-sexy Radek Stepanek. There’s always Richard Gasquet and last year’s finalist Michael Berrer in his half, too. And watch out for Lukas Lacko hanging around the bottom half as well. No insinuation intended.
Also: Marin is playing doubles with Goran. Seriously. Their first match is 6 p.m. local tomorrow.
It’s the new dance craze – let’s all go five sets in the early round at Wimbledon! Today’s offenders: Rafa Nadal and former (and possibly future) next big thing, lanky Robin Haase. Nadal won 63 in the fifth, but there were definitely scary moments; Haase is somewhat in the mould of Delpo and Cilic, a tall and lanky hitter of big, clean shots, and it showed.
Rafa didn’t play badly at all and his victory owed a lot to his remarkable ability to pull something magical out of the bag at exactly the right moment, so not too much cause for concern. I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty more of this sort of thing.
Because god knows you can never have enough.
Also guilty: Rafa’s next opponent, Philipp Petzchner, who put away Lukasz ‘zombie’ Kubot 6-2 in the fifth; Julien Benneteau, who survived his second five-setter in as many matches against Andreas Beck; Jeremy Chardy, whose 8-6 fifth set scoreline against Lukas Lacko looked frankly feeble; Fabbers Fognini against Michael Russell; and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was given all he could handle by the artist formerly known as Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr.
Battling valiantly but finding themselves unable to compete in the marathon stakes, the winners in four: Sam Querrey, who beat Ivan Dodig; Tobias Kamke, who sent Andreas Seppi back to his ground state of porn and tears; Xavier Malisse, who backed up his victory against Boss by putting out Julian Reister; and Nose Job, who took four to subdue Martin Fischer.
Have a collection of faces which really sum the experience of Thursday at Roland Garros. Or at least trying to watch it during one’s rather narrow tennis-watching window.
All these sad puppies and a few more had matches called off for lack of light after waiting forever to get on to court. As a consequence, today’s OOP and the weekend schedule is likely to be a nuts.
Speaking of nuts …
Despite multiple rain delays, Andy Murray managed to finish his Wednesday-started match against Juan Ignacio Chela, winning in four, 62 67(5) 63 62. I didn’t see how he played and honestly I don’t really care. He’s through and that’s a cause for celebration.
No rest for the grumpy, though; he should be back about 2 this afternoon against Marcos Baghdatis. Dangerous days.
Incidentally, I’ve stopped shouting out to Steve Tignor until he stops describing Marin as ‘solid’ (we’re locked in a battle of wills, although he may not know it). But I absolutely love what he wrote about watching Murray yesterday. He not only makes an excellent point about the underrated physicality and power of Murray’s game, but I think he’s really insightful regarding the mental gymnastics that an essentially negative person has to go through in order to make themselves approach a match positively. I liked it, anyway. (But Marin is still NOT solid.)
A brief round-up of the things I found noteworthy today …
JJ won 60 64 against Alicia Molik. She looked pretty.
Remember Project 45, Special Kei Nishikori? He’s back after a protracted injury lay-off, using his protected ranking to enter the main draw after winning consecutive Challengers, and putting it to good use, beating Santiago Giraldo 64 in the fifth. Good stuff.
Gonzo is back. And still Gonzo.
La Monf is also back, winning in four and confirming he is still himself.
As is Nole.
We lost Tommy Robredo to Viktor Troicki. Is that an upset? It doesn’t feel like one.
This is Benoit Paire. He’s 21 and he lost to Olivier Rochus in four. I watched, and I think he’s a thing. Watch this space.
Nose Job won and took his shirt off (not necessarily in that order).
And all was well in the land.
ATP – Full Results
Singles – First Round
 R Federer (SUI) d P Luczak (AUS) 64 61 62
 N Djokovic (SRB) d E Korolev (KAZ) 61 36 61 63
 A Murray (GBR) d R Gasquet (FRA) 46 67(5) 64 62 61
 F Gonzalez (CHI) d T Alves (BRA) 62 46 64 64
 G Monfils (FRA) d *[LL] D Kindlmann (GER) 63 75 67(5) 62
 I Ljubicic (CRO) d Y Lu (TPE) 76(5) 75 63
 T Berdych (CZE) d J Aguilar (CHI) 76(7) 63 61
 J Isner (USA) d A Golubev (KAZ) 64 63 62
 N Almagro (ESP) d R Haase (NED) 64 36 46 76(3) 64
 S Wawrinka (SUI) d J Hajek (CZE) 61 63 63
V Troicki (SRB) d  T Robredo (ESP) 64 64 63
 T Bellucci (BRA) d M Llodra (FRA) 64 62 62
 M Baghdatis (CYP) d J Witten (USA) 63 64 63
J Reister (GER) d  Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 61 76(5) 62
 V Hanescu (ROU) d O Hernandez (ESP) 61 16 64 63
O Rochus (BEL) d B Paire (FRA) 36 76(4) 64 75
M Granollers (ESP) d P Mathieu (FRA) 36 63 30 ret. (digestive problems)
T Dent (USA) d N Lapentti (ECU) 63 64 76(3)
D Gimeno-Traver (ESP) d D Tursunov (RUS) 61 61 61
C Ball (AUS) d P Petzschner (GER) 36 67(4) 62 75 97
Y Schukin (KAZ) d R Ram (USA) 36 64 62 64
K Nishikori (JPN) d S Giraldo (COL) 26 46 76(3) 62 64
O Dolgopolov Jr (UKR) d A Clement (FRA) 36 76(5) 36 63 63
P Andujar (ESP) d S Bolelli (ITA) 76(2) 64 62
A Beck (GER) d P Lorenzi (ITA) 46 63 62 62
L Mayer (ARG) d S Stakhovsky (UKR) 76(4) 63 62
M Fish (USA) d M Berrer (GER) 57 64 36 61 63
S Darcis (BEL) d K Vliegen (BEL) 61 64 64
L Lacko (SVK) d M Yani (USA) – 46 76(5) 76(4) 67(5) 12-10
*replaced F Mayer (GER) – illness
WTA – Full Results
Singles – First Round
(1) Serena Williams (USA) d. Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 76(2) 62
(3) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) d. Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) 60 63
(4) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) d. Alicia Molik (AUS) 60 64
(5) Elena Dementieva (RUS) d. Petra Martic (CRO) 61 61
(7) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. (Q) Simona Halep (ROU) 75 61
(8) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Elena Baltacha (GBR) 60 75
(11) Li Na (CHN) vs. (WC) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 75 63
(17) Francesca Schiavone (ITA) d. Regina Kulikova (RUS) 57 63 64
(24) Lucie Safarova (CZE) d. Jelena Dokic (AUS) 62 62
(27) Alona Bondarenko (UKR) d. Vera Dushevina (RUS) 67(3) 63 64
(28) Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) d. Mariya Koryttseva (UKR) 62 61
(31) Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) d. Lucie Hradecka (CZE) 76(1) 46 63
(32) Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) d. Julie Coin (FRA) 61 62
Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) d. Sara Errani (ITA) 61 75
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) d. Tatjana Malek (GER) 62 63
Ana Ivanovic (SRB) d. Chang Kai-Chen (TPE) 63 63
Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 75 62
Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) d. Iveta Benesova (CZE) 63 63
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) 67(2) 63 62
Polona Hercog (SLO) d. (Q) Misaki Doi (JPN) 63 60
Tathiana Garbin (ITA) d. Kristina Barrois (GER) 16 76(7) 63
Arantxa Parra Santonja (ESP) d. (Q) Kurumi Nara (JPN) 62 62
Roberta Vinci (ITA) d. Virginie Razzano (FRA) 75 62
Julia Goerges (GER) d. Melinda Czink (HUN) 62 63
Rossana de los Ríos (PAR) d. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) 76(2) 63
(Q) Kaia Kanepi (EST) d. Pauline Parmentier (FRA) 63 61
(Q) Sophie Ferguson (AUS) d. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 16 62 62
(WC) Stéphanie Cohen-Aloro (FRA) d. Stéphanie Dubois (CAN) 67(3) 61 63
Update: Please note that polls will stay open until midnight GMT tonight, in the grand electoral tradition. There’s still time to campaign …
So. It’s time to face up to the elephant in the room. Even the most optimistic estimates acknowledge that we are facing a long, barren summer/autumn/winter/future without Delpo on the tour, and whatever news we do get about him is likely to be depressing. It’s also true that, for some inexplicable reason, Delpo has become the main mascot, poster-boy and raison d’etre of New Balls, Please. He’s our tagline. He’s the majority of my posts. And while it’s safe to say that this will always be the case, now that the first shock of the news has worn off and the reality of Roland Garros, Wimbledon, Davis Cup and almost certainly the US Open without him is sinking in, the mind turns inevitably to coping strategies. Not for me personally; enough drinking will almost certainly take care of that. For this increasingly sporadic blog of mine.
Henceforth, I propose the following: the immediate adoption of an interim ultrafave as the stand-in recipient of my most obsessive blogging attention. I’ll do my best to watch his matches and rhapsodise about them or bewail them at length; I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest news about him, no matter how trivial; and I won’t let a week go by without posting new (or old but suitably appealing) photos, no matter how specious the excuse. I’ll even change the tagline of the blog to reflect the shift in focus. And in the spirit of election day in Great Britain (I get excited about voting, OK?), I thought I would make this a democratic decision and hold a poll. Obviously whoever it is will probably get dumped like yesterday’s empties when Delpo comes back, but in the meantime … You, the reader (there may only be one of you these days), will decide.
So, without further ado, I present to you my shortlist for the stand-in mascot of New Balls, Please.
Cons: I’ve been anywhere between ambivalent and downright mean about him in the past, thus risking increasing my well-established (and deserved) reputation for fickleness; only known bromance is with Steps; frequent discussion of his sandwich-avoiding girlfriend will also probably be necessary; he may find out about me and eat my liver.
Suggested tagline: “New Balls, Please: Feeding the masses on Lucie Safarova’s leftovers.”
Cons: Not that much actual news about him, so I would have to make it up find some.
Suggested tagline: “New Balls, Please: Nobody nose Bellucci like we do.”
Pros: former Wimbledon boys’ champion trying to make it on the tour, offering you a unique chance to get in on the next big thing very, very early; prolific tweeter; supplies a lot of his own cute photographs; well-established bromance potential.
Cons: would force me to blog a lot about Challengers and Futures and such; potential massive loss of investment if he isn’t, after all, the next big or even a thing.
Suggested tagline: “New Balls, Please: In three years’ time, we’ll look amazingly prescient. Maybe.”
Pros:Starting to capitalise on his huge talent (not a euphemism); hilarious press conferences; never dull.
Suggested tagline: “New Balls, Please: Where we’d do Ernests Gulbis for free.”
So those are the candidates – but only you can decide. Please cast your vote, and then elaborate on your choice/suggest alternative taglines/ let me know who should have been on the shortlist and why in the comments. Remember: destiny is in your hands.
(Please note that I’m going to do what I want regardless of your vote, just as soon as I’ve figured out what it is I want. I did say this was inspired by the UK’s general election.)
Top seeds: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Marin Cilic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, Mikhail Youzhny, Ivan Ljubicic
The tournament’s already well underway (sorry), with a full day’s play producing no real upsets but a few heart/loinwarming results, notably courtesy of Nalby, Pico and Boss who all notched up straight sets wins:
Boss! What happened to your awesome conquistador beard?!
Tomas Berdych overcame the windy conditions for a good win against Feliciano Lopez, Gasquet battled to a three-set victory over Dolgopolov Jr. (or O-Dog, as I understand he’s known), and Thomaz Bellucci sadly fell to Philipp Kohlschreiber.
See you in Barcelona, Nose Job.
Singles – First Round
 J Ferrero (ESP) d [Q] M Granollers (ESP) 60 63
 T Berdych (CZE) d F Lopez (ESP) 63 61
 D Ferrer (ESP) d [Q] P Luczak (AUS) 62 64
 J Monaco (ARG) d [Q] J Nieminen (FIN) 75 75
D Nalbandian (ARG) d A Beck (GER) 63 61
[WC] R Gasquet (FRA) d [Q] D Gimeno-Traver (ESP) 62 46 62
[Q] A Golubev (KAZ) d J Chardy (FRA) 62 76(2)
J Benneteau (FRA) d [Q] O Dolgopolov Jr. (UKR) 64 57 62
N Almagro (ESP) d S Greul (GER) 36 75 62
P Kohlschreiber (GER) d T Bellucci (BRA) 26 63 76(3)
E Gulbis (LAT) d M Chiudinelli (SUI) 63 62
P Petzschner (GER) d G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 63 26 62
B Becker (GER) d [WC] B Tomic (AUS) 64 62
Doubles – First Round
N Djokovic (SRB) / V Troicki (SRB) d T Bellucci (BRA) / A Montanes (ESP) 61 75
M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) d J Knowle (AUT) / A Ram (ISR) 63 36 10-3
[WC] R Hutchins (GBR) / A Murray (GBR) d F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK) 61 75
Today’s OOP brought to you by the best of British tennis.
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
 M Cilic (CRO) vs I Andreev (RUS)
J Benneteau (FRA) vs  F Verdasco (ESP)
 J Tsonga (FRA) vs N Almagro (ESP)
 T Berdych (CZE) vs [WC] R Gasquet (FRA)
P Kohlschreiber (GER) / R Lindstedt (SWE) vs N Almagro (ESP) / I Ljubicic (CRO)
COURT DES PRINCES start 10:30 am
 J Melzer (AUT) vs P Mathieu (FRA)
F Fognini (ITA) vs M Llodra (FRA)
V Troicki (SRB) vs L Kubot (POL)
A Montanes (ESP) vs  M Baghdatis (CYP)
 M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR) vs M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL)
COURT 2 start 11:30 am
F Serra (FRA) vs S Robert (FRA)
V Hanescu (ROU) vs  S Wawrinka (SUI)
M Cilic (CRO) / C Kas (GER) vs J Melzer (AUT) / M Youzhny (RUS) – After Suitable Rest
COURT 9 start 11:30 am
[Q] T de Bakker (NED) vs E Schwank (ARG)
 T Robredo (ESP) vs H Zeballos (ARG)
Congratulations as big as his old nose to Thomaz Bellucci, who beat Juan Monaco 62 06 64 for his second career title in Santiago last night. He’s the first Brazilian to take the title since Guga in 2000. And you know what that means …
He’s an oil painting. My god.
Sorry, Pico, but your day will come. You’re too pretty to be a bridesmaid forever.