The two questions on everyone’s lips coming into this year’s French Open were: would Rafa Nadal be able to make it a record 8th title and would World No.1 Serena Williams win her first French Open title since 2002? Both players ultimately proved their ability to deliver.
Serena’s path to the title was relatively untroubled, only the result in the final of 6-4, 6-4 against Sharapova indicating any sense of exertion on her part. Nadal, by contrast, had two shaky matches in the first and second rounds and his semi against Djokovic was a real cliff-hanger which could have gone either way.
Federer’s exit to Tsonga in the quarters was a major upset which essentially left the field open to Nadal and Djokovic – the former ultimately capitalising on the confidence that comes from a stellar record at the event. Most of the top seeds in both the men’s and women’s singles, however, did perform according to form, with no huge surprises in either event.
Tsonga’s passage to the semis was a carrot to the French crowd who had not seen a French winner since Yannick Noah in 1983. Sadly for him, his performance against Ferrer in the semis was well below his best, allowing the Spaniard passage to a final against his fellow countryman, Nadal.
Williams’ win now puts her in a strong position to make Wimbledon the third of her Grand Slams this year, in a season in which she has won five titles so far. She stands atop the women’s game and is now being talked about as the greatest woman player ever. She also enters the grass court season in the run up to Wimbledon, on a surface that plays well to her innate strengths as a player. Few beyond Sharapova and Azarenka seem to have the ability to compete at her level.
The men’s final was a fairly uneven contest with Nadal beating Ferrer in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Ferrer was simply not good enough on the day and clearly unable to overcome the ‘Rafa factor’. Nadal’s win put him in the record books as the only player to have won eight Grand Slam singles titles at the one event. After a number of key tournament wins this season, Nadal has ‘momentum’ going into Wimbledon. Grass is a different prospect from clay, however, and his key rivals will be vying to deny him victory there.
With the French Open over, all attention will now focus on the run up to Wimbledon, as both the ATP and WTA tours move to grass. Britain will be under the spotlight over the next several weeks, concluding with the great showcase of Wimbledon. In the men’s, Murray will be back after injury seeking his first title. Nadal, Federer and Djokovic will all be in the frame too – an exciting prospect. In the women’s, Serena is the one to beat. All eyes are focused on SW19.