Sixth seed and home favorite Samantha Stosur became the first high-profile casualty at the Australian Open on Tuesday, but five-time champion Serena Williams eased to victory on her return from injury.
1. The Djoker got away ... from the rest of the field. We're a spoiled bunch, us tennis fans. First we get the unsurpassed play of Roger Federer. Then comes Rafael Nadal. And in 2011, a Third King arrives. In a thoroughly dominating year, Novak Djokovic won three Grand Slams, 10 titles overall, 70 matches (against six losses) and a record $12.6 million in prize money. The Serb also prevailed in 10 of 11 matches against the other two members of the Big Three, maybe his most impressive accomplishment. And he did it all while comporting himself like a pro. Adje, indeed.
Unpredictability is one of the great virtues of sports. Want scripted endings? You go to the theater. Want choreography? Go to the ballet. Then there are sports, the best reality TV going, virtually limitless in their capacity for surprise.
Put aside the Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal storyline for a moment. It's one of the sport's most compelling developments in years, perhaps to come to a head at the French Open, but from this corner, the best story of the Rome Masters was Maria Sharapova's stirring triumph.
When is the last time the two finalists of a Grand Slam event lost in the first round of the subsequent Slam? Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur both out in the first round of Wimby 2010? That can't have happened much. -- Jake Rupp, Manassas, Va.
SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer S.L. Price after Samantha Stosur defeated Serena Williams in the French Open quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6. Price is in Paris covering the tournament.
If Rafael Nadal has the most formidable set of arms in tennis, Samantha Stosur's can't be far behind. Stosur has been coming on fast in the women's game, increasingly recognized as a threat to the elite, and on Memorial Day it became official. The powerful, smooth-flowing Australian took down four-time champion Justine Henin at the French Open and clearly won the battle of self-assurance.
Join us now for a weekend recap of the Fed Cup, a well-meaning event that has no sense of time. Grab some Tang, or perhaps that bottle of Rheingold you've been saving. Bring tools: a calculator, maybe an abacus, and above all, some common sense. It's really in short supply around here.
1. Rafa returns: Clay season is upon us, which, of course, means it's time for Rafael Nadal to reduce the rest of the field to rubble. Never mind that he'd failed to win a title in nearly a year and looked a smidge off -- "Like 87 percent Rafa," a friend estimated -- in the first four months of 2010. Nadal was up to his old domina-tricks last week in Monte Carlo, winning the title for the sixth (!) straight year and nearly double-bageling two opponents including Fernando Verdasco in the final. As we saw last year on the middle Sunday of the French Open, anything can happen on any given day. But if Nadal stays injury-free and sustains anything close to this level of tennis over the next two months, he's your favorite at Roland Garros again.
Not to take anything away from Safin, but all that smack Djokovic said about Federer seems quite anti-climatic when he loses in the second round. You think he's blushing in embarrassment right now? -- Jeff K, Foster City, Calif.
The culmination of the 2007 season begins on Tuesday, when the top eight singles players and top four doubles teams in the world compete for the WTA Championships in Madrid. All year, players have battled for enough quality points to earn a place among the elite in the year's final event.
Over a 13-year pro career, Lisa Raymond has won 62 doubles titles, including a career Grand Slam. She and her current partner, Australian Samantha Stosur, are currently ranked No. 1 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Lisa writes for SI.com on alternate weeks about her career, life on the tour and other tennis news and notes.
Make way for a woman's touch! Lisa Raymond is one of the most successful doubles players in the world. Over a 13-year pro career, the Philadelphia-area native has won 61 doubles titles, including a career Grand Slam. She and her current partner, Australian Samantha Stosur, are currently ranked No. 1 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Lisa will check in from time to time with SI.com to rap about her career, life on the tour and other tennis news and notes.