Tennis: Federer slumping as tennis hits Roland Garros

On the Israeli side, Shahar Pe'er has an ideal opportunity to leave her poor recent form behind her in the next couple weeks at the French Open.

federer basa 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
federer basa 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Everything about tennis is a little off heading into the French Open. Roger Federer, seemingly invincible against anyone but Rafael Nadal, is off to his worst start to a season since 2001. Nadal, meanwhile, recently lost a match on clay - for only the second time in three years. Justine Henin, like Nadal the three-time reigning champion in Paris, suddenly retired this month at the age of 25, the first woman to walk away from the sport while ranked No. 1. On the court, it's enough to make one wonder which way is up as the tennis world gathers at Roland Garros for the season's second Grand Slam tournament, which begins today. On the Israeli side, Shahar Pe'er has an ideal opportunity to leave her poor recent form behind her in the next couple weeks at the French Open. The Israeli No. 1, who is ranked 18th in the world and seeded 17th at Roland Garros, has struggled desperately in recent months, losing time and again to inferiorly ranked opponents. Pe'er, who reached the last 16 in Paris in the last couple of years, will face Australian Samantha Stosur (150) in the first round and could play rising Hungarian star Agnes Szavay (13) in the third round. Israel's other representative in the women's draw Tzipi Obziler (94) faces the almost impossible task of beating No. 8 seed Venus Williams in her first round match. Dudi Sela (61), who needs a good showing in Paris to meet the Olympic criteria, plays Romanian Victor Hanescu (76) in the first round and is on course to face No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet in the second round. Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, who have had a poor clay court season so far, will learn who they'll face at Roland Garros after Monday's doubles draw. Federer, whose 12 major singles championships put him two shy of Pete Sampras' career record is at an intersting crossroads. Consider this: Each of the past six years, Federer arrived at the French Open with at least two - and as many as six - tournament titles to his credit. The past three seasons, he was a combined 103-9 with 13 trophies entering the French Open. And in 2008? He is 26-7 with only one title. Federer gives off nothing but optimism, however. "I'm feeling where I want to be shortly before a really important stretch of tournaments," he said on Friday. This, despite coming off a loss to Nadal on clay in the Hamburg Masters final. That dropped Federer's career marks against the Spaniard to 6-10 overall and 1-8 on clay, including losses to Nadal in the past two French Open finals. The clay-court major remains the only Grand Slam title missing from Federer's resume. Nadal will attempt to become only the second man in history to win the French Open four years in a row, joining Bjorn Borg. Henin also could have been trying to win a fourth French Open in a row. But she says she's done for good, and her absence gives more hope to someone such as Maria Sharapova, trying to complete a career Grand Slam, or Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, attempting to claim a first major championship. Nadal was hampered by foot blisters during his loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero at the Rome Masters two weeks ago, just one of two defeats in his last 110 matches on clay. Allon Sinai contributed to this report