The wildly unpredictable 2014 French Open is winding down with the semifinals on approach after a jarring set of quarterfinal bouts that remained true to the overarching theme of the tournament.
On the women's side, Maria Sharapova is the only widely known name left, although she is not the highest seed left in the draw. The biggest upset on that side saw No. 28 seed Andrea Petkovic take down No. 10 Sara Errani to make it through to the final four.
The men's side provided more in the way of thrilling entertainment, with old pals Novak Djokovic and Ernest Gulbis set to dance after the latter pulled off yet another jarring upset. Both Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal survived upset bids in lengthy matches and will renew their impressive rivalry.
Here is a look at how to catch the action at Roland Garros:
|Date||Round||Coverage (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Thu, June 5||Women's Semifinals||9 a.m. - 2 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 5||Women's Semifinals||11 a.m. - 2 p.m.||NBC||NBC Sports Live Extra|
|Fri, June 6||Men's Semifinals||7 a.m. - 11 a.m.||Tennis Channel||TC Plus|
|Fri, June 6||Men's Semifinals||11 a.m. - 2 p.m.||NBC||NBC Sports Live Extra|
Storylines to Watch
The Potential Passing of the Torch
Cliche sure, but rarely has the overly dramatic phrase been more applicable.
Sharapova seemed poised to make it to her third consecutive finals appearance in Paris, one year removed from being bounced by Serena Williams. But to do so, the Russian will have to overcome a growing force in the sport.
At just 20 years old, Eugenie Bouchard has now reached the semifinals at both Grand Slam events so far on the 2014 calendar. Her matchup against her idol seems fateful, as one can discern from this picture that dates back more than a decade, provided by Joyce Eng of TV Guide:
Do not expect Bouchard to be a deer in headlights, though. That is easy enough to understand per her comments once the match was confirmed, as captured by Chris Chase of USA Today:
We’re not friends, so there is that. Of course as a child I looked up to her and I remember watching her in the finals of Wimbledon and, you know, thought what she was doing was so cool and I wanted to do the same thing. We’re in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I’m going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle.
I don’t think the tennis tour is the place to have friends. For me it’s all competition. I think it’s important to just remember that we’re going to play against each other in matches. It’s not like we’re teammates. To me, it’s kind of more competitive.
Sharapova holds a 2-0 edge over Bouchard in head-to-head matchups, including a victory in the second round last year in Paris, but the Canadian has a newfound momentum and confidence. Sharapova struggled a tad last round against Garbine Muguruza, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
While impossible to say if the torch will truly be passed, it makes for one of the better storylines to come out of the French Open in recent years.
Who says big names like Williams have to be around to have a must-see tournament?
Close Friends Reunited
It has been quite some time since Djokovic and Gulbis were this close.
More than a decade, in fact.
Djokovic was far away from his family he left behind in Serbia and Gulbis from his in Latvia when the two trained together in Munich. There, they developed a close bond on and off the court, as Djokovic explained upon hearing Gulbis was through to the final four, via Christopher Clarey of The New York Times:
"So we were good friends. We know each other really well. He was always somebody that was very enthusiastic about everything in life, and you could see he wanted to enjoy it with the open arms, if I can say that politically correct."
Gulbis has never really been able to overcome Djokovic in dominant fashion, as he trails 1-4 all-time. But the Latvian has turned heads as of late on the clay courts in Paris, capped off by his dissection of No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Outside of reminiscing about the past with Gulbis, Djokovic also touched on how difficult he expects the semifinal bout to be, as captured by Adeline Auger of Tennis Trotteur:
#Djokovic: "Not the 1st time I have 2 days off. Gulbis is playing his best tennis in RG, I think our SF his gonna be a great match".— Adeline Auger (@adel1609) June 4, 2014
Given the current trajectory of the wild tournament, do not expect Djokovic to continue his dominant march. The two friends go way back and are on superb rolls, meaning the men's side of the bracket certainly has much to offer in the way of action, too.