Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Rain, rivals and Williams sisters

PARIS — The draw ceremony began with a video showing an artist's rendering of what the tournament site is expected to look like in a couple of years, including a planned retractable roof atop the main stadium. For now, though, Roland Garros is the same as it has been, meaning the rain that's predicted throughout Week 1 will play havoc with the schedule at the claycourt tournament. "We'll see how it's going to be with the weather," said Roger Federer, whose 17 Grand Slam titles include the 2009 French Open. "I heard it's going to be quite difficult, especially the first week with the amount of matches there are to be played. It's clearly going to have an impact."

As it is, the French Open presents a particular test, because of the grueling nature of playing on red clay, where points tend to be longer than on hard or grass courts.

Federer knows that dealing properly with the stops and starts is essential.

"Sometimes the rain starts at a very bad moment either for you or for the opponent or for the spectators — at the worst moment of the match. So … you just need to win those matches one way or another, however you do it," he said. "Even if it's not good tennis, it doesn't matter."

Sprinkles fell Friday, and eight-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal said: "Hopefully the weather will be better."

A look at five things to know about the year's second Grand Slam tournament when the clouds clear:

Nadal the 'No. 1 Favorite'

For all of the struggles of Rafael Nadal (below) in the run-up to the 15-day tournament — his three losses on clay are the most for him in any season in a decade — his competition still considers the Spaniard the "No. 1 favorite to win the tournament," as Novak Djokovic put it. Nadal, 59-1 at Roland Garros, is trying to become the first man to win the French Open five consecutive years. He acknowledged feeling "nerves" and "anxiety" after quarterfinal losses at Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the spring, but he said reaching the final in Rome made him think "the dynamic is positive."

Djokovic's turn?

No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic (below) reached the semi­finals five of the past seven years, but it's the only major trophy missing from his collection. The Serb said he derived a boost last weekend from beating Rafael Nadal on clay at Rome, "something that doesn't happen every day." But Djokovic is 0-5 against Nadal in Paris, including losses in the 2013 semifinals and 2012 final. "Knowing that I have gotten closer and closer each year to the title gives me enough reason to be confident," Djokovic said. As for Djokovic's chances of completing a career Grand Slam, three-time French Open champion Mats Wilander said: "It's just a matter of time, you would think."

Other contenders

Roger Federer practiced Friday with Stan Wawrinka, his friend and gold-medalist doubles partner for Switzerland at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Their names are about the only ones that get mentioned when the topic is who, other than Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, could be a factor for the June 8 men's final. At No. 3, thanks in large part to his Australian Open title in January, Wawrinka (above) is seeded ahead of No. 4 Federer at a Grand Slam for the first time. "I'm one of the favorites," Wawrinka said, "but I wouldn't say I'm the top favorite. I'm so far from Nadal, so far from Djokovic." The potential semifinals are Nadal-Wawrinka and Djokovic-Federer.

Williams vs. Williams

Time was, Serena and Venus Williams played each other in Grand Slam final after Grand Slam final, four in a row starting at the 2002 French Open. Serena won that, and she added a second French Open trophy last year, part of a 53-2 record on clay since the start of 2012. There could be an all-Williams matchup in the third round in Paris, which would be the sisters' earliest meeting at a major since the 1998 Australian Open. If Serena beats Venus, she could face 2012 champion Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, a rematch of last year's final.

Waiting for a French champ

During Friday's draw, the president of the French tennis federation, Jean Gachassin, referenced how long it has been since a local man won the title — 1983, when Yannick Noah (right, father of current NBA player Joakim) did it. "Personally, I keep thinking and dreaming of success for a French player here," Gachassin said. "Why not this year?"

     
Comments
Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road … pronto

Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road … pronto

TAMPA — Vegas has left the building.Wasn't the Lightning just arranging place settings for next weekend's NHL All-Star Game party?With that in mind, I headed to the home dressing room at Amalie Arena late Thursday after the Lightning was manhan...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: La Salle at Rhode Island11 a.m.CBSSNPurdue at IowanoonESPNFlorida State at Virginia TechnoonESPN2; 1010-AMWichita State at HoustonnoonESPNUVillanova at ConnecticutnoonCBSSt. John’s at GeorgetownnoonFS1Ohio State at Minne...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

SUNRISE — Aaron Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights on Friday, spoiling Vegas coach Gerard Gallant’s return to Florida. By gaining a point, Vegas moved within one point of the Lightning...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Well Humored ready to get back on a dirt track

OLDSMAR — It is time for Well Humored to get dirty again.The WinStar Farm homebred makes her first start on the Tampa Bay Downs main track Saturday afternoon in the $50,000 Wayward Lass, one of three stakes events on the Skyway Festival Day 11-race p...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Star-struck Kyrgios stays cool on court

Star-struck Kyrgios stays cool on court

MELBOURNE, Australia — With Will Smith in the crowd and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga across the net, Nick Kyrgios was in his element as the main attraction for a night at the Australian Open. Time to put on a show. One of his favorite actors — Smith was making...
Updated: 8 hours ago

National Hoopfest: Berkeley Prep proves to be no pushover

TAMPA —  Berkeley Prep's four-game win streak came to end Friday.That was expected.The Buccaneers faced West Oaks Academy, an independent powerhouse from Orlando that plays a national schedule, during Friday's National Hoopfest tournament....
Updated: 8 hours ago

Sports in Brief

BaseballTebow gets another crack at making mets Tim Tebow has been invited by the Mets to spring training for a second straight season.The 30-year-old will begin his second year of attempting to reach the big leagues when spring training opens in Por...
Updated: 8 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 19

Friday’s scoreboardBoys soccerIndian Rocks Christian 2, Lakewood 1Lennard 3, Spoto 0Girls soccerPCAC Championship: Largo 3, Osceola 1Lennard 8, Spoto 0
Updated: 8 hours ago

Lowry, DeRozan help Raptors end Spurs jinx

TORONTO — Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Raptors beat the Spurs 86-83 Friday to snap a four-game losing streak against San Antonio. Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as Toronto imp...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Quarterback or bust for Quinton Flowers in the NFL?

Quarterback or bust for Quinton Flowers in the NFL?

ST. PETERSBURG — Reps have been priceless for Quinton Flowers this week, each to be maximized and handled with care.Yet he couldn't avoid handling some clumsily.On the opening day of practice at Shorecrest Prep for today's East-West Shrine Game...
Updated: 8 hours ago