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French Open at a glance

SATURDAY’S FEATURED MATCHES

(world rankings in parentheses)

Serena Williams (2) vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (43), Spain

Williams, winner of the last two Grand Slams, recently claimed she’s the No. 1 player even though the computer says it’s Dinara Safina. It means that in this tournament, Williams has a chance to stand up for all humanity against the unmitigated arrogance of uppity computers.

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Andy Roddick (6) vs. Marc Gicquel (46), France

It’d probably be over-the-top to hold some sort of parade for Roddick if he reached the fourth round. But a semiformal cocktail party wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate.

Roger Federer (2), Switzerland, vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu (35), France

Federer actually has a phenomenal 23-match French Open winning streak against people not named Nadal. Clearly, they should hold a ceremony and give him some sort of special trophy for beating all the players from Planet Earth.

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9), France, vs. Christophe Rochus (64), Belgium; Gael Monfils (10), France, vs. Jurgen Melzer (26), Austria

The French will cheer loudly for their riveting countrymen with parents from Congo and France (Tsonga) and from Guadalupe and Martinique (Monfils). We could always counter this burst of excellence by saying we’re unimpressed until they come up with a president with parents from Hawaii and Kenya.

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A FRENCH MORSEL

There’s a Grand Slam debutante who screams so loudly when striking tennis balls that ear-witnesses find it difficult to emulate, describe or even spell her colossal groans. She’s Michelle Larcher de Brito, a Portuguese 16-year-old trained at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, and she wailed so thunderously during her third-round loss to France’s Aravane Rezai on Friday that three ambulances turned up along Rue d’Auteuil outside Roland Garros, thinking someone in the draw had been attacked by bears that had wandered in from the Bois de Boulogne. Not really, but Rezai did find it so grating that she went to the chair umpire. “I said it’s a little bit hard for me to continue playing like this.” She found the umpire’s response feckless, so complained also to the tournament referee. Rezai called the screaming a tactic, and Larcher de Brito called Rezai’s complaining a tactic, and the stadium crowd booed Larcher de Brito out of Court Philippe Chatrier. That wasn’t nice, but probably unavoidable as people often feel ornery when their eardrums have undergone savage assault.

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FRIDAY IN PARIS

Venus Williams looked lost in bowing out. . . . Rafael Nadal tore through Lleyton Hewitt with such frightening dispatch -- 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 -- that the rest of the draw ought to concede. . . . With a third straight rout, the supposedly shaky No. 1 Safina has played three matches and lost four games. . . . The actual defending champion, Ana Ivanovic, pretty much noiseless for 12 months, looked masterful again and aimed toward a possible quarterfinal meeting with Safina that would reprise last year’s final. . . . No. 3 Andy Murray reached his first French Open fourth round when he rallied from 2-5 down to lead Janko Tipsarevic, 7-6 (3), 6-3, when Tipsarevic retired. . . . Maria Sharapova kept going in her return from shoulder surgery, beating Yaroslava Shvedova, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, to make it three three-setters in three matches, and while her trademark screams did resonate, they simply couldn’t match the phenomenal Larcher de Brito . . .

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THE ENDANGERED AMERICAN MALES

Braving the inconvenient, insolent, insufferable clay while hailing from a wee country that can’t decipher it, the last American cowboy turned up grittily on today’s schedule. The official docket showed that in the second match on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Andy Roddick would play 46th-ranked Marc Gicquel of France in the third round. “I’m not going to sit here and jump up on a soapbox like I’m really good on this stuff now because I won two matches,” Roddick said. But if he wins three against such national odds, he might feel free to step gently toward the soapbox.

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STAT OF THE DAY

142: The number of Grand Slam matches Venus Williams had played, dating to the 2001 Australian Open semifinals, since the last time she won as few as four games in a match.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

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Fourth-round-bound Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, the former No. 3 player in the world, and reigning No. 11 player, on the exhilarating relief of falling out of the top 10: “No, I’m not disappointed, because I really enjoy now out of the top 10, because not so much pressure I have. I don’t need to make some media star like the top-10 guys doing every week. Because some ATP [representative] comes to me [with media requests], and I say, ‘Come on, I’m not top 10 anymore. Why you asking me now?’ ”

-- Chuck Culpepper


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