PARIS, France - Cleaning out the Insider Notebook from Day 4 at Roland Garros, which was chock-full of words of wisdom from the tour's veterans.
Timea Bacsinszky happy to fly below the radar.
Bacsinszky has been all over the radar when the tour comes to Roland Garros. In 2015 she was well below the radar, ranked No.24 and still in the midst of her comeback after a long break from the tour. She proceeded to march her way to the semifinals. Last year she was a contender for the title. She made it to the quarterfinals.
This year? Not many have been talking about the 27-year-old, whose Roland Garros resume is proven but her season lacking the big results. Bacsinszky is perfectly fine with that.
"There are quite a few phases where you have some players who play really well, and then there are injuries, and it comes and goes," the always philosophical Swiss said. "I think I had been very much in the spotlight since 2015, and then when I won the two tournaments in Mexico in a row, I know that my personal story, there was a lot of focus on that. That really made me understand what it was to be in the spotlight, in the hot seat.
"Things are quieter now. I know there are times I will be in the spotlight; other times less. People talk or don't talk. [Journalists] need to be [identify] who's the favorite, who's going to play later, who's going to make it to the third, who's going to make it to quarterfinals before anything has even been played.
"So the journalists write their pieces. I say just let the racquet talk."
Don't make plans with Svetlana Kuznetsova at a Slam.
The No.8 seed is one of the favorites for the title in Paris due to a combination of her form and experience. After all, she knows what it takes to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, having done so in 2009. But it's been years since the Russian has been considered a major favorite. I asked Kuznetsova whether she considered it a sign of respect after all these years.
"I think the players do care [about who journalists consider the favorites for a title], but they would say they don't because they don't want that pressure. Plus, talk is cheap. Everybody talks. If Maria Sharapova was in the draw or Serena, they would be the favorite and I would have less pressure. Now my friends tell me hey we're going to be there in the second week. I'm like whoa, whoa, whoa. Just stop right there. I'm in the second round.
"People don't get it. Each round is like a fight, a fight to the end. You may not get to the third round. Everybody plays their best game and you can lose. It's your job. You could tell me oh, today the crowd was against you, you should have lost. I say no, it's my job. I have to be professional and leave the talk out of it.
"Respect? Yeah, I feel it because I'm Top 10. People give me the attention. When I was No.20 I wasn't any favorite. I don't see any difference. I still feel like I can have a good run, it doesn't matter what my ranking is. But my run depends on many circumstances, just like other players. Depends on the draw, on the day how you feel, in the weather how you play.
"Many things have to go in to do great at a Slam. It's very difficult. For me, from one match to the third match, it's like one month has passed because you go through so many things and you're still managing to do that. So it takes a lot of emotions and it's not so easy."
Through her first two matches, Kuznetsova admits she hasn't played her best tennis yet. But she's improved match to match. She'll face No.32 seed Zhang Shuai next.
Welcome to Kiki's Funhouse.
The good news is Krstina Mladenovic's stiff back is feeling better, as she showed in a straight set win over Sara Errani. The bad news is it's not 100%, and she'll have to continue to get treatment to get ready for what could be a very difficult match against last year's quarterfinalist, Shelby Rogers.
It's not easy to play injured. It's even tougher to do with the expectations and pressure of playing in your home Slam in front of an, at times, unforgiving French crowd.
"It's tough," Mladenovic said. "It's either going very well or it's a drama, because of lots of expectation, lots of, tension, pressure, playing at home. You could see a full house out there. You always want to do great. It's a lot on the nerves. You've got to play well.
"But once you know how to deal with it, to handle that pressure, it's great. You just enjoy. From my side, I'm always trying to take only the positives. I love big events. I love big pressure. I love that kind of atmosphere. This is what I'm there for.
"I also think the French crowd are amazing, but they are also tough. I think you got to really try to be an example on the court, like show great attitude, so they kind of appreciate what you're doing on the court. I'm enjoying my time out there, fighting and trying to make them enjoy my tennis."
Caroline Wozniacki is allergic to Rome.
Interesting tidbit from today: Wozniacki told reporters one of the reasons she skipped the Internazionali BNL d'Italia this year was because of allergies.
"The whole thought behind it was that I get bad allergies in Rome, so I literally can't breathe" she said. "And I get fevers and stuff. That's one of the reasons. I also still had a little bit of a shoulder pain from Madrid. So those two things combined kind of, I was like, I'd rather take it easy and then make sure I can get 100% for here.
"It's really strange. It's really only at the courts, which is even more strange. Any time I get on-site, I think it's those big trees that do it, because when I'm into the city center and walk around I'm feeling fine. I have literally tried all the medicine we are allowed to take and nothing really helps, or it puts me to sleep, which either way isn't really great."
CiCi Bellis competing like a pro.
The 18-year-old has had a remarkable clay season, advancing to the third round of the French Open in her debut. On Wednesday she knocked out a darkhorse favorite in No.18 seed Kiki Bertens, who made the semifinals last year. Bellis can now count two big names to her win list on clay, after having beaten Bacsinszky earlier in the clay season.
Asked about how different the pro tour is from the juniors, the hyper-competitive Bellis highlighted the pure intensity. "The girls just want to win every single match, every single point," she said. "I think that's such a big difference from when I played in juniors or even in pro circuit tournaments. I mean, these girls really fight for every single point and shot that they hit. And I think that's something that surprised me that they still do it over and over, day in and day out, tournament in and tournament out. It's amazing."
Quote (Story?) of the Day: Take it away, Timea!
"It's really great when you talk plenty of languages, but unfortunately you understand everything everyone's saying in French, Hungarian, Swiss-German.
"There were some young kids there who started saying [Hungarian phrase] with a really bad accent. I thought, 'Right, you win the first prize for the Roland Garros standup comedy festival.' So it was really a crappy joke. I just wanted to look up at him and say, 'You know what? Why don't you just shut up.' People don't really realize that there is plenty of things going on, on these courts.
"At one point, I don't know if you will read it in tomorrow's newspapers, but they were behind the court. It was like five guys. They were commenting every point. You know, like if they sit in front of their television and they are experts. But when they're 10 feet away or 15 feet away from me, seriously? I'm not going to repeat it, because I don't want young people to hear the profanity, but I said, 'Come on, cut that out.'
"So, yes, it's tough on these small courts. So my concentration is pretty good, because it lasted, like, 40, 45 minutes. And then I think it's probably different when there is a lot of resistance on the other side. Here I felt that I had a kind of comfort zone that I had created for me. Meaning that after a while when my focus kind of slackens, I can hear people talking around me."