Learning from the best

Sports VIEW

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

The Grand Blanc girls’ tennis team competes for the state title in Div. 1 Saturday at Midland Tennis Center.

While the season for Almont, Imlay City, Goodrich, Carman-Ainsworth, Swartz Creek and Davison is officially over after regionals pared down the field on May 19-20, tennis is alive and well for the Div. 1 Grand Blanc program.

The going won’t be easy, however, as No. 1 Singles Sabrina Dass has drawn Ann Arbor Huron’s Isabell Zheng. No. 2 Singles Ruchi Ahluwalia has a bye in round one and faces Ann Arbor Pioneer’s No. 2 seeded Jennifer Liu. At No. 3, Anjali Mannam also has a round-one bye and drew Ann Arbor Huron’s Catherine Cho. At No. 4, Alison Stevens moves on to the second round and will contend with Livonia Churchhill’s Mara Kargeozian.

In the doubles tandems, Andrea Thompson/Ola Nowakowska face No. 4 seed Arvidson/Rampton of Pioneer, while Rachel Goyette/Hali McMillan faced Utica Eisenhower’s Dellkor/Spirovski. Morgan Ulseth/Kate Colsanti drew a bye at No. 3 and face Novi’s Aljadeh/Sheeran and Carly Fockler/Anissa Ciani have to take on the No. 4 seeded Handley/Von Behran of Rochester.

Also looking for state hardware are the track and field teams, who will compete on Saturday with D1 teams at Rockford, D2 squads run at Grand Rapids, D3 teams contend at Comstock Park and D4 schools put their best against the other state qualifiers at Jenison.

The weather is iffy again for Saturday with rain predicted predicted. That will be a welcome change after the 90- degree heat wave from Monday and Tuesday that dogged the softball, baseball and soccer districts that had to play under heat advisories.

World Class Clay

Tennis fans also have been able to enjoy a wide coverage of the French Open on the Tennis Channel, ESPN and NBC for the past week and a half. The competition reached the quarterfinals, which began play Tuesday. Some big upsets include on the women’s side, the top three bowing out with No. 3 Kim Clijsters ousted by an unranked Arantxa Rus, No. 10 Jalena Jankovic was taken out by defending champ and

No. 5 Francesca Schiavone. Perhaps most surprising, No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was eliminated by No. 28 Danielle Hantchukova. She’s out too. That leaves a wide open field that includes No. 7 Maria Sharapova, who has finally tamed the injury demons that have dogged her over the past couple of years after shoulder injuries and finally surgery. She’s hired a new coach, gotten engaged and looks to be in good form with Schiavone still in the mix after she was taken to a 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 three-set battle against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who nearly upset Schiavone in the final set.

Noticeably absent are the Williams sisters, as Serena continues to contend with the slow healing from an embolism after foot surgery and Venus continues to battle several injuries. Both are rumored to be returning for the grass court season, but we’ll see what transpires there.

The men’s field still holds some of the most exciting matches to come after Tuesday’s quarterfinals saw No. 9 Gael Monfils lose in straight sets to No. 3 Roger Federer. He has his highest ranking to date and player David Ferrer of Spain to a brilliant five set win on Monday. That set up a Federer vs. Novak Djokovic meeting for yesterday. Djokovic is undefeated thus far this season. No. 1 Rafael Nadal takes on No. 5 Robin Soderling in another epic battle. Soderling beat Nadal in 2009, Nadal defeated Soderling in 2010, and the pair is on a collision course to scratch it out to see who plays in the semis. One of them will get Andy Murray, limping through the final rounds on a bum right ankle or Juan Ignacio Chela.

Rafa, as Nadal is known to those in the tennis world, also is struggling and after narrowly escaping his Monday match was quoted as saying that he couldn’t win the French Open the way he has been playing.

It’s been interesting that the upsets have come from players who are finally using their short game, volleying at the net, slicing and changing up the pace. That’s been missing from the men’s and women’s game and is so refreshing to see versus the slugfests at the baseline.

We don’t know what will happen on Wednesday as we go to press, but the finals should be Grande watching, as the French like to say.

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