I’m well aware that the next major starts in a matter of days, but as they say: better late than never. I had intended to halt this blog after Australia this year, as the arrival of my daughter in December meant even less time to commit to this. But here we continue to slog.
Now that the Parisian clay has well and truly settled, let’s reflect on the tournament which saw such history-making. The crowds returned which of course was welcome, the night sessions were less successful and actually anti-climatic as the late sessions played to empty seats for most of the tournament. But future instalments should deliver.
In Novak Djokovic we are looking at the assured best of all time once the Big 3 call time on their careers. I’ve said it before and will say it again that the Serb now represents a final-stage Boss in a tennis video-game, with the hardest difficulty setting and in possession of the entire move-set. Alternatively, it is as if Novak has downloaded the entire mastery of tennis via the Matrix [showing my age there]. The final was just another example of the Serb’s now bulletproof belief and mental strength [something he certainly trailed Nadal in for so many years], coming back from a 2 set deficit against the inspired Tsitsipas. The Greek, for his part proved to his few doubters that it is he who looks to be the next of the new generation after Thiem to taste glory.
But, of course the men’s competition here was all about that semi-final. Djokovic’s dethroning of the King of Clay was not only more significant than the Serb’s previous victory here in Paris, but will be remembered as one of their greatest contests and one of the best matches of all time. It would seem premature to announce this as the end for Rafa, given his own demolishing of Djokovic in the rescheduled 2020 tournament in autumn last year, but something worries me about the manner of this defeat.
For the first time it looked like Rafa had no answer to his opponent, and more tellingly the power and self-belief looked to have started to crack. As Nadal takes time off to recuperate, we eagerly await the nature of his comeback. For Djokovic? The first man in the Open era to win all majors twice now looks even more set to dominate for years to come.
The Women’s tournament delivered of course, and yet again we saw an unexpected first-time champion triumph. Roland Garros used to be the quirky major that would often produce a shock winner, a player who may well never shine anywhere else. But as we have discussed many times now on this blog, the women’s tour is seeing a rich chapter of no single player dominating. Barbora Krejcikova more than silenced those who saw her as ‘just a doubles player’ with a scintillating fortnight in France, the Czech is refreshingly quiet and focused on court, we get no screams or meltdowns, just measured accuracy and – thanks to that major-winning doubles form – an attractive all-court game.
Her touching tribute the the late, great Jana Novotna was, for me, the icing on the cake. The 1998 Wimbledon Champion’s tearful title win was one of the defining moments in my youth and helped further my connection with this sport.
A good tournament for
Tsitsipas – For obvious reasons, the Greek star had a superb fortnight, and should be buoyed by his form on the clay, once the pain of the final subsides.
Federer – A solid outing for the Swiss, and surely his last. He finally is looking his 40 years however – but that will be a post for another time.
Zverev – Okay he failed again, but the German came up short against the inspired Tsitsipas and again demonstrated that when he is in the zone, he is unplayable.
Musetti – Debut major? No sweat. The Italian’s run was mesmerising – without doubt one to watch.
Medvedev – A great showing, he cannot claim to hate the clay anymore.
Pavluychenkova – The fairytale wasn’t to be, but in these climes who’s to say the Russian cannot repeat a run like this?
Zidansek – Like Musetti, Zidansek was unheralded but produced some big wins here and hopefully won’t fade away.
Sakkari – A powerful and passionate fortnight for the Greek, but ultimately one that succumbed to the steady sparkle of Krejcikova.
A bad tournament for
Nadal – A semi-final showing is of course no failure, but by the Spaniard’s ridiculous standard here, this will only feel like a disaster. How will he recover?
Thiem – For obvious reasons, concerns remain over the Austrian’s game. He has been nowhere this season, will New York offer some home comforts?
Swiatek – Like Nadal, the likeable 2020 champ hardly had a bad tournament, but she was such the overwhelming favourite that she would understandably have at least partly believed in her own hype. Again, let’s all hope she doesn’t now crumble a la Ostapenko.
Stephens, Kenin, Svitolina, Sabalenka – Just poor i’m afraid. How frustrating it must be to be a fan of Svitolina.
French tennis – The home nation are going through an absolute nightmare period, but it is nothing the Brits, US and Australians haven’t weathered before [with varying degress of success and speed of course].
A note about Naomi Osaka.
I am [surprise, surprise] undecided about how I feel with this one. Obviously mental health is a huge and largely ignored aspect of everyday life and particularly elite sport. But to change the rules and see yourself as bigger than the game is not the correct avenue. It is part of the job sadly to commit to certain obligations. More discussion should have been had before the Japanese took it on herself to just quit.