These days, grand slams feel like they race by before we have a chance to truly relish them and savor all the amazing stories they produce. It is as they say, time flies when you are having fun. If it is any consolation, we do have some great memories from the French Open fortnight. There are stories to tell and questions to ponder, as we move from the parched Desert terrain to the inviting and serene green of the grassy plains. Let’s start with the obvious ones.
Eleven and counting…
Even now, as I sit and write this, it feels like I’m looking at the accomplishments of my tennis avatar on Top Spin. What Nadal keeps doing, year after year at this tournament, is mind boggling. On Sunday, he added Dominic Thiem to an impressive list of players he’s defeated in the final of Roland Garros. The question we are left with as Nadal leaves Paris biting that silver ware for the eleventh time, is a simple one. Will he ever be stopped here? It is no longer a question of “when”? It is now a question of ‘if’. As Rafa showed us on Sunday, different challenger, same result. The Clay keeps on rolling, and he cannot be stopped.
Halep the Champion
Regardless of who you were rooting for in the women’s final, it was hard not to feel happy for Simona Halep as she clutched that trophy like a new born baby or an irreplaceable gift. Indeed winning a grand slam is an irreplaceable gift and Halep knows that more than most players. Where does she go from here, now that the slamless tag is off her back? It is hard to imagine Halep not bagging a few more grand slams. She has been too consistent not to get one of these opportunities again. Now that she knows what it feels like to win one, it is a feeling she will crave over and over again. I don’t see her running the table on grass, but you never know. Simona is playing as a justified number one, for the first time in her career. The pressure is off of her and that liberating feeling just might do wonders for her in the short and long term.
The match that wasn’t
It was all set. A historic clash of two juggernauts, whose careers will forever be intertwined, justifiably or unjustifiably so. There are nearly as many parallels between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, as there are differences. Both women are probably the two fiercest competitors the WTA has ever seen. They are both endorsement, and fashion juggernauts outside the courts and legends on it. That star power is what drives the fascination with this match up each and every time. It certainly has never been about the match up itself. The last time Maria Sharapova beat Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal didn’t have a single grand slam to his name. It has been fourteen long years of dominance for Serena, over Maria. So why did the build up to this match have that extra punch to it. It screamed opportunity – mainly for Maria. She was to go up against Serena Williams, at her most vulnerable. The icon had just come back to the tour after giving birth to a child. She was out of shape, and out of match practice. Sharapova on the other hand, had been on the comeback trail for far longer. For the first time in 14 years, this was her match to win. It never happened. Williams pulled out of the tournament before the start of the match, citing an injury. It was certainly an anticlimactic end to the build up and one of the lower moments of this year’s edition of Roland Garros.
It is no longer a secret that coming into this tournament, Marco Cecchinato had never won a grand slam match in his life. However, every player has his day… or is it tournament in Marco’s case? The Italian wowed us with his offensive game and beautiful one handed backhand. In the wake of his run, were much more accomplished players including Novak Djokovic – Marco’s most stunning victory of the fortnight. Unfortunately his Cinderella run came to a crashing end at the racket of fellow one handed wizard, Dominic Thiem. It is also sad that Cecchinato’s amazing run was tainted by news of his purported match fixing involvements. His run being punctuated by a controversial topic, reminds me of Tennys Sandgren’s run at the Australian Open, which was unfortunately drowned by certain tweets he had made in the past. He would do well to focus on winning tennis matches from here on out.
On the right Thiem
This recap is simple. Against any other player in the world, Thiem would be a grand slam champion. Rafa recognized this and touted the Austrian to win one day. I believe he will, eventually. Maybe when Rafa hangs up his racket.
On to the grass!