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Alix Ramsay Rambles On About All Things Tennis In Paris

By Alix Ramsay

We spoke too soon. Just when it seemed as if everything was getting back to normal, all hell broke loose on Day Four at Roland Garros. And it all started with Serena.

Having struggled in the first set on Monday against Kristie Ahn – and then turning on the afterburners to race past her deflated rival in the second – Serena said she was ready for whatever Tsvetana Pironkova could throw at her on Wednesday. But then, after the briefest of brief warm-ups on Wednesday, she thought again.

The Achilles problem that first struck during her semi-final with Vika Azarenka at the US Open had not improved and she knew that, to avoid further, serious damage, she had to stop.

“After I warmed up, and it was a very short warm-up, and then afterwards I talked to my coach and I was, like, what do you think?” she said. “What are your thoughts with this? So, we kind of both thought about it, and we really realised that it more than likely wasn’t the best for me to try to play today

“I think Achilles is a real injury that you don’t want to play with, because that is not good if it gets worse. I think it’s one of the worst. So I don’t want it to get to that point; [so] I actually have a chance to get better.”

The medical advice is to do absolutely nothing for a couple of weeks and then take it very slowly from there.

“I think I need four to six weeks of sitting and doing nothing,” she said, “at least two weeks of just sitting down, and then, from after that, two weeks [when] I have been told that I need to start doing a little training.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to play another tournament this year. I’m definitely going to take that first initial two weeks of just nothing, and then start from the next two weeks, and then from that I will get a little bit better. But it will give me a lot of time to fully recover for the future.”

Meanwhile, Azarenka may well find herself elbow to elbow (in a socially distanced sort of way, natch) in the departures lounge at CDG with Serena. From a decent first round showing, she fell apart at the seams against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, losing 6-2, 6-2 in 102 minutes. The Slovakian was good and Azarenka was awful. She lost the match on her 37th unforced error which meant that Schmiedlova got through by winning only 34 points on her own account. That takes some doing.

Victoria Azarenka of Belrus in action against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.

Azarenka vowed to learn from her lousy morning in Paris but she will surely be kicking herself all the way home to Florida (where, as she pointed out on Sunday, the weather is a lot better).

“The lesson I need to learn is that sometimes when things don’t work for me, was to be willing to adjust a little bit more and not think of the end of the match, to finally start changing my game.

“I felt like I was trying a lot, trying different things, but today things were not working. I felt like nothing really was working, but I still had to find a way to win, and I didn’t.

“So, it’s a lesson for me to learn how to be more, I will say, courageous, to go for more. And I will learn it, for sure.”

Her departure, following hard on the heels (injured or otherwise) of Serena, left a gaping hole in the second quarter of the women’s draw. Instead of Serena heading towards Vika in the fourth round, we now have Schmiedlova against Nadia Podoroska, the world No.131, and Pironkova against Barbora Krejcikova, the world No.114, from the Czech Republic, vying for that showdown. It’s been an odd year.

But the award for the best hissy fit of the day has to go to Sara Errani, she of the drugs ban in 2018. She was taking on Kiki Bertens in the second round but got the yips on her serve in the first set. Time and again, she threw the ball up and then pulled out – she was chucking the ball three feet behind her left shoulder.

As she tried and tried again to get it right, she picked up a time violation and a loss of serve (unsurprisingly, it was a second serve she was fluffing, so she lost the point) and then finally threw in an underarm delivery. Bertens was alive to that and won the point but then it all got very messy.

Sara Errani in action against Kiki Bertens during their women’s second round match.

The serve-less Errani fought back. Bertens started to cramp. Errani thought Bertens was faking it and mimicked her moans and groans. Bertens won 7-6, 3-6, 9-7. Errani still thought she was faking it and told her to “F*ck off” and refused to tap rackets when it was over. And then Bertens was taken off in a wheelchair, howling in agony.

Bizarrely, Bertens had suffered such cramps before and, again, it was in cold conditions when she had worked up a sweat. Odd, but true. As for Errani’s view that she was faking it, Bertens was nonplussed.

“I should take some more acting classes or should pursue a career in that,” she said. “I’m not sure what she’s thinking, but, no, I didn’t feel really good on court to be honest.

Kiki Bertens reacts as she plays against Sara Errani.

“But a good thing, I think, it was for me that all the time the cramps were coming and going again, it was not like that it was staying in the body. So, I felt like I had to stay calm and not be pumped too much because all the time when I did the fist pump like I could not do the fingers any more normal, so I just try to stay calm and try to let the cramps go again.”

And if she can recover in time, Bertens is through to the third round to face Katerina Siniakova.

Blimey, and we thought things were getting back to normal.