|Rafa and Maria were worthy winners in Paris
I’m well aware that we are already deep within the (regrettably short) grass season but here’s a rundown of another cracking Roland Garros where the overwhelming picks for both titles triumphed with little trouble en route.
On the men’s side it was another good tournament filled with intriguing match-ups from the get-go, the French contingent of players did well once more with significant wins posted by Paul Henri Mathieu (another marathon match involving John Isner with the American tasting defeat), Nicolas Mahut (a back-from-injury Roddick). As a collective however, the French can be pleased. Not least with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga who came agonisingly close to beating the Djokonator who for large chunks of the fortnight looked a little off colour on his least favoured surface, Andreas Seppi almost dumped out the top seed earlier.
Tsonga’s mental strength couldn’t really be questioned despite four match points going begging, as Novak displayed at Flushing Meadows last year, he finds a seventh gear when facing elimination.
But whatever was happening on Novak, Federer and Tsonga’s half of the draw mattered less and less as the tournament unfolded, for a certain defending champion was looking serene with every match he played. Rafa cannot be hurt on clay, it is that simple. On the day of his one and only loss in Paris to Soderling the Spaniard was carrying an injury and clearly nowhere near his best.
When fit and capable, even with patchy results coming into the tournament, Nadal’s aura and confidence here is too much for anyone to handle.
The demolition of clay court specialists, Juan Monaco, Nicolas Almagro and most significantly – David Ferrer was all the proof ever needed of that. The first two sets of the final would only cement that notion further as the Spaniard picked apart Djoko’s game and wore him down.
The rain and Serb’s resurgence may well have changed things if not for poor light in this particularly gloomy French Open weather-wise. Perhaps the showers that Sunday did save Rafa, we will never know.
Maria Sharapova was similarly untroubled for much of the major, some blips here and there for the ‘bambi on ice’ are obligatory here, but both her recent Slam form and clay court momentum resulted in a different Sharapova that had been seen and frequently reviled by the Parisians of the past.
Yes, the noise was still all too present, but now you feel there is the closest thing to a complete game from Maria to back it up with. The Career Grand Slam is testament to this.
Her opponent, Sara Errani (enjoying a bumper year after her run in the AO) encapsulated both the on-going fluctuating form-book amongst the women’s elite and the ability for the clay to throw up surprises and rewarding the grinders over the greats.
Serena Williams kicked off proceedings with a remarkable self-capitulation at the hands of former danger girl Virginie Razzano (another good result for the home support), but soon Azarenka, Radwanska, Bartoli and Schiavone joined the American on the sidelines. Sam Stosur remained a lot of people’s pick for the title but such is the Aussie’s all too unpredictable mental state it came as no real surprise when the dangerous Errani came through in the semis. There was plenty of heroics throughout the tournament – see below, but this was Maria’s time, she stayed consistent as her peers – most superior on clay crumbled all around her.
2012 Roland Garros – Good tournament/Bad tournament
A good tournament for….
Rafael Nadal – Imperious once more, Nadal played some of his best tennis in the tournament, particularly that semi-final destruction of Ferrer.
Sarra Errani – Superb all tournament, gusty play with bags of variation, finesse and charm, a little overawed and overpowered at the last hurdle.
David Ferrer – Yes the Spaniard was wel land truly beaten eventually, but his run was excellent showing Andy Murray a thing or two.
Yaroslava Shvedova – Some sparkling tennis from the comeback kid and future starlet, big scalps and lots of character en route to a tight exit at the hands of Kvitova.
Maria Sharapova – Finally clinched that elusive last major and silenced those pesky Parisians in the process.
Dominika Cibulkova – More big names fell at the hands of the Slovak, who after threatening to do so for some time is knocking on the door of the top ten.
Jo Wilfred Tsonga
Bad tournament for…
Novak Djokovic – Hear me out, yes the Serb came so close to achieving what Nadal and Federer never could (or are likely to), but by the Serb’s own impossible standards this can only be seen as a failure.
Serena Williams – Along with Sharapova Serena was the form player on clay, but this was a tawdry exit even by her standards.
Richard Gasquet – There was flashes of form and some nervy moments in the early rounds, then the match with Murray was a culmination of everything that Gasquet has become. Scintillating shots followed by complete meltdown.