|Joyous Jubilee – The 2012 winners and return to the throne
On Saturday Maria Sharapova cemented herself as our generation’s Queen of Clay, with her second French Open title and fifth overall. With the Russian sealing that coveted title to extend her perfect set of major wins, the fairytale ending of Simona Halep’s story was not to be.
Halep would’ve been the eighth different winner in Paris in as many years, proving that Roland Garros is the major to champion the outsiders and mix up those record books with some new names.
Not that there’s any doubt however, that the Romanian will sign her name amongst the greats in years to come.
Whilst Maria’s reign on the clay is rather slim with the two wins, things couldn’t be more different for les garcons. Rafa Nadal – now with nine Roland Garros titles has achieved the unfathomable. Novak Djokovic assumed the position of whipping boy after a bright start. It is a feeling that Roger Federer and David Ferrer know well.
The Serb didn’t play as well as in their semi-final meeting last year, but made a bright enough start. Will he – like Sampras – fail to triumph here?
Maria Sharapova def Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7, 6-4
In a titanic battle where chalk met cheese, we were treated to one of the best ladies finals at the French – nay any major – for over a decade. Awe-inspiring rallies frequented each moment and all of them a showcase of defence and guile from one end and attacking heart-on-sleeve groundies from the other.
The crowd, myself and much of the neutrals I imagine were routing for the diminutive Romanian who has continued her form from last year which has made her the form-player. In many ways Halep represents a modern day Henin such is her slightness and use of angles.
While she possesses a greater consistency than the great Belgian, she does need to work on her touch and feel at the net.
What more can be said of Masha though? Yes that screech was at its worst at times, and her serve continues to be a right mess. But her mental strength remains second to none – displayed so brilliantly over this past fortnight – and the power and accuracy with those groundies is astounding.
Each set was a slog and rarely did the quality dip, the culmination of which arrived in a mind-blowing rally halfway through the contest in which Simona triumphed, as she so often did in the longer fights.
Off-court Maria remains graceful and had matured immensely to become likeable even to the haters – of which I used to be. Both women held their own in the media spotlight, trophies in hand.
The men had a tough act to follow.
Rafael Nadal def Novak Djokovic 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
For the most part, they delivered in a tense match oozing with quality and how-did-they-do-that retrieving, shot-making and athletisicm. It was then, the quintessential battle between these two tennis titans.
For two sets, the first of which he took; Djokovic played exactly the right way, executing the aggressive, precise tactics that can challenge Nadal and that few can sustain.
But this has been the Nadal of old this fortnight and not the indifferent apparently distracted and/or defeatist incarnation of this year’s clay season.
Ruthless and verging on the barbaric, Rafa slowly but surely turned the screw on his opponent before suddenly sprinting away and crushing the spirit of the Serb.
As the punishing heat mercifully subsided in the fourth Djokovic sensed his chance and sniffed a fifth set after fighting back from a break down to level at 4-4. But it was not to be as Nadal – as he has done for the last decade – proved imperious here in Paris.
Heroes of the tournament
Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin
A bad tournament for…