Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Sports

Rory's ex and Li ousted

PARIS — Much to her dismay, Li Na is familiar with this feeling.

She earns a Grand Slam championship, is heralded at home, then shows up at subsequent major tournaments and seemingly forgets how to win.

Happened in 2011, after her French Open triumph made her China's first player with a Grand Slam singles title. Happened again Tuesday, when Li was seeded second at Roland Garros but lost to someone ranked 103rd in the first round, not quite four months removed from winning the Australian Open.

"I didn't follow the game plan," Li said. "Didn't have any idea how to play."

Her 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 exit against Kristina Mladenovic of France in front a partisan crowd on a cloudy, windy Day 3 came about 16 hours after the men's Australian Open champion, third-seeded Stan Wawrinka, was beaten — making this French Open already unlike any Grand Slam tournament in history.

It's the first time that the men's and women's singles champions from the previous major lost in the first round.

"Nobody say if you (are) No. 2 in the world, you have to win all the matches. I mean, this is tennis," said Li, who works with Carlos Rodriguez, former coach of four-time French Open winner Justine Henin.

For an opening match at a major, the "tension is different," she added. "Always tough to pass the first round."

Top players, even the likes of Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, frequently talk about being particularly jittery at the start of a Grand Slam tournament, even against clearly outclassed competition.

They notice, to be sure, when folks such as Li or Wawrinka depart quickly. "Regardless of what's happened to the other players," said reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who won in four sets Tuesday, "I still hoped that I would try or be able to find ways through my first match and negotiate my way through a tricky opponent in these conditions."

This French Open has seen some rough going for several past major champions and other highly seeded players, and the second round has yet to begin.

No. 13 Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 U.S. Open runnerup, was beaten Tuesday, less than a week after her planned wedding to golf star Rory McIlroy was called off; No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov, considered an up-and-coming threat by many, lost to Ivo Karlovic; two seeded men, No. 16 Tommy Haas and No. 21 Nicolas Almagro, quit during the first set because of injuries; past Grand Slam titles winner Lleyton Hewitt also lost.

One person pleasantly surprised to finally feel what it's like to win in the first round is 66th-ranked Marinko Matosevic, who was 0-12 at Grand Slam tournaments before beating Dustin Brown of Germany 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-7 (1-7), 7-5. "Huge relief," said the Aussie, who meets No. 7 Murray. "It got pretty demoralizing at some stages. I had some tough draws. When I did have my chances, I just couldn't quite do it."

Comments
Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

For the first time in almost two decades, Florida and Florida State will open the men's basketball season against each other.The Seminoles will host UF on Nov. 6, both programs announced Wednesday morning. FSU has won four in a row in the series."Any...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Times sports columnist Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to discuss Kevin Kiermaier's return to the Rays, whether Victor Hedman should win the Norris Trophy for the NHL's best defenseman, Bucs expectations for this season and Barry Trotz's next c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Hillsborough County girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Hillsborough County girls basketball team

Player of the Year: Kaliah Henderson, Jr., RobinsonFirst teamG Brylee Bartram, Jr., Seffner ChristianG Jacquelyn LeVay, Sr., AlonsoF/G Tarriyonna Gary, So., Carrollwood DayF Tiasia McMillan, So., Carrollwood DayC Kendal Cheesman, Fr., PlantSecond tea...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County girls basketball team

Player of the Year: November Morton, Sr., CountrysideFirst teamG Paris Williams, Sr., LakewoodG Summer Quigley, Jr., East LakeF Toi Smith, Sr., LakewoodF/G Carrie Lee, Sr., ClearwaterC Macey Zeh-Arndt, So., LakewoodSecond teamG Misha O'Neal, Sr., Cou...
Updated: 2 hours ago
How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

There was some interesting inside baseball elements that factored into the late innings of Tuesday's 2-1 Rays win.* First, on Matt Duffy's double off reliever Hector Rondon to lead off the eighth.Duffy said he doesn't like "to guess" what a pitcher i...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged."Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.But he knows exactly what he...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

This is how odd LHP Blake Snell's night was — he became the first pitcher to work seven or more innings and walk at least seven since Edwin Jackson threw his 149-pitch, eight-walk no-hitter at the Rays on June 25, 2010.If you weren't aware of t...
Published: 06/19/18