French Open 2017: Ten talking points – brutal Rafael Nadal; Jelena Ostapenko, Rohan Bopanna’s first and more

French Open 2017 saw singles winners in Rafael Nadal - winning his tenth title in Paris - and Jelena Svitolina - winning just her first title. There was reason to celebrate for India too with Rohan Bopanna winning the mixed doubles title with Gabriela Dabrowski.

Written by Tanuj Lakhina | Published:June 12, 2017 10:48 pm
Rafael Nadal poses with the trophy near the Eiffel Tower, a day after winning the tournament. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What breathtaking two weeks of tennis it has been at the French Open with Rafael Nadal and Jelena Ostapenko emerging winners in the singles categories while Rohan Bopanna and Gabriela Dabrowski won the mixed doubles title. Nadal won his tenth French Open title, Ostapenko her first title and Bopanna his first Grand Slam. Let’s do a quick recap of the past two weeks on the Parisian clay:

Rafael Nadal is unstoppable, relentless and brutal

If it wasn’t fully clear through the years, it became apparent once again on Sunday as Nadal swept aside Stan Wawrinka in the final with much ease. Throughout the tournament, he didn’t drop a set and just 35 games with the the scoreline in the final reading 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. It reminded one of the 2008 French Open final where Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. Nadal showed he was brilliant both in attack and in defence. Nadal moved past Pete Sampras with 15 Grand Slams and has just Federer ahead of him with 18.

Ostapenko wins first title – at a Grand Slam

You can’t write a script better than what Ostapenko saw unravel at Roland Garros. She hadn’t won a WTA title before Saturday and then she had won her first Grand Slam, the Latvian anthem played for the first time at a Grand Slam and all this just two days after her 20th birthday. And she didn’t win by playing a cagey style of tennis. In fact, the only time she was careful of going for her shots, she would drop games. By the end of the French Open she had hit 299 winners at an average of 42 winners every match.

Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open at just 20. (Source: Reuters) 

Bopanna, FINALLY, gets a Grand Slam

Bopanna had come close to winning a Grand Slam only once when he and his Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi reached the final of 2010 US Open. Other than that, there had been close shaves to the semifinals. But the duck finally ended at French Open as Bopanna won the mixed doubles title by coming back from a set down to win with Gabriela Dabrowski. In the process, Bopanna became the fourth Indian to win a Grand Slam after Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza.

Does anyone care for the World No 1?

On both sides of the tour, the World No 1 has looked off and poor throughout this season. Angelique Kerber, the current women’s World No 1, bowed out in the first round and it came as no surprise to anyone involved. For the men, Andy Murray fared far superior to what he has been throughout the season. The Briton reached the semis and lost to Wawrinka in a well-contested five-setter. But on both sides of things, the gap at the top has been bridged significantly. Nadal and Wawrinka are now World No 2 and 3 respectively while for the women, Kerber only stayed top thanks to Simona Halep losing in the final and Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals. It is in sharp contrast to the dynasty built by the likes of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic before them.

Good show from French women, not so from the men

Kiki Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia kept the French flag flying and the nation hopeful of the duck ending at the home Grand Slam but both of them exited in the quarterfinals. Mladenovic quite easily was the bigger hope in winning the Suzanne-Lenglen Cup but despite picking win-after-win thanks to a loud crowd behind her. The home support played a crucial role in her longevity in the tournament and in coming back from precarious positions. The support felt loudest against defending champion Garbine Muguruza who was reduced to tears in the post-match press conference.

Defending champions start strongly, end with a fizzle

Both Djokovic and Muguruza started the tournament well. They looked in good form, hit the ball well even while looking patchy in some instances. But on the whole, much better than what they had shown for themselves in the recent past. Muguruza reached the fourth round where she lost to Mladenovic and to the Parisian crowd which cheered for her a year back. For Djokovic, last year was one of relief as he finally ended his slump at the one elusive Grand Slam, but fast-forward a year, he walked out of Suzanne-Lenglen Court, with his head bowed and thumped out by Dominic Thiem.

Novak Djokovic walked out of Suzanne-Lenglen Court, with his head bowed and thumped out by Dominic Thiem. (Source: Reuters)

Should Big Four move to Big Five?

Over the course of many years, the big four have been Murray, Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. They win a large proportion of the Grand Slams but should that list be extended to five by bringing in Wawrinka? Sure he lost in the final on Sunday and rather easily so but then again, losing to Nadal at French Open is nothing to be embarrassed about. His run of staying unbeaten at Grand Slams is gone but over the past two weeks, he showed plenty of force and drive which was in full display in the win over Murray.

Svitolina undone by what she did best

Elina Svitolina had won the most number of tournaments this year and the most number of points. She stood top of the year-ending WTA Finals and was considered an outside hope for the women’s title. The Ukranian came back from set down to beat Pirokova and then more dramatically Martic. Then against Halep, she led 6-3, 5-1 and was on the verge of reaching the semi-final but just under an hour later, she leaves the court after losing 6-3, 6-7, 0-6. This when she had beaten Martic by coming back from 2-5, 0-30 just a round prior. Oh the twist of fate!

What a bizarre men’s doubles draw

The men’s doubles would go down as one of the weirdest in terms of progression. The seeds, kept in accordance with either the rank or the form, went for a complete spin at the French Open. Top two seeds Henri Kontinen/John Peers and Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut lost in the opening round and then Bob/Mike Bryan, the third seeds, and Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, the fourth seeds, lost in the second round. In the end though, Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus emerged victorious.

Feel good moments

Two feel good moments in the tournament would be Steve Johnson winning two matches barely days after losing his father. It was never going to be a welcome distraction as Johnson Sr. was a tennis coach and helped with his game. After beating Borna Coric, Johnson revealed he had his father’s mandate of fighting till the end in his mind.

The second is Juan Martin del Potro’s incredible act of kindness bestowed to Nicolas Almagro during their second round match. Almagro slid on the clay and pulled up with his injury badly hurt – a recurrence of his knee concern just a month back. After hobbling on the baseline with Del Potro standing right beside him, giving him his shoulder and calling on the medical support staff, Almagro went down on the court all while in tears. Even as he sobbed loudly with trainers attending to him, del Potro consoled the Spaniard. Later the Argentine revealed he told Almagro, “I told him to think of his family and his baby.”

And with the dust settled in Paris, bring on the lush, green grass! We move on from the bright and sunny Paris to the somewhat sunny, mostly rainy, SW19 in London at Wimbledon which begins on July 3. Au Revoir!

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