The second Major of the year has come and passed, and a new king and queen of the clay courts were crowned this weekend. It was no surprise who took the title on the men’s side, but a relative unknown etched her name on the trophy on the women’s side in a masterful performance.
Rafael Nadal claimed his tenth French Open title, which was termed La Decima, in an overwhelming two-week exhibition on how to destroy opponents on the red clay in Paris. Nadal not only went the entire tournament without losing a set, but was never even in jeopardy of having to play more than three sets in a match.
He dominated Stan Wawrinka in the final, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to become the first male to win a Grand Slam tournament ten times in his career. He now has 15 career Grand Slams, and is just three behind Roger Federer for most Slams in a career. Nadal could eclipse that mark just by winning French Opens, as former three-time French champion Gustavo Kuerten stated he thinks Rafa could win five more titles in Paris. That may seem like a crazy prediction, but Nadal is 79-2 all-time in Paris, and he will probably be the favorite at every French Open until he retires.
The 31-year-old moved up to #2 in the rankings with the win, and could vault back into the top spot around Wimbledon. Current #1 Andy Murray has around 2,500 points to defend on the grass courts, while Nadal did not compete in any grass events last season due to a wrist injury suffered during last year’s French Open. If he can bring the same level of play from the clay courts to the grass surface, Nadal would clearly be one of the favorites at Wimbledon, along with Federer, Murray, and Wawrinka.
Nadal’s historic, but totally expected, win on Sunday was the exact opposite of Saturday’s outcome on the women’s side. Jelena Ostapenko entered the tournament ranked 47th in the world, and had lost in the first round in Paris in her last appearance in 2016 (she lost in the first round of qualifying in 2015).
Ostapenko was a huge underdog on Saturday, as #3 Simona Halep looked to be on her way to claiming her first Grand Slam title. Halep overcame an ankle injury suffered a week before the French started, and was just three games away from becoming the top-ranked female player before the 20-year-old from Latvia hit her off the court for the win.
Ostapenko blew her opponents away throughout the tournament, as her heavy and hard ground strokes were a surprise judging from her slight stature. To her credit, she never wavered from her strategy of going for her shots, as she had over 50 errors in the final but the exact amount of winners, including the last one on match point.
Ostapenko shot up 35 spots in the rankings up to #12, and will likely be ranked in the Top 10 at Wimbledon, as the grass tourney does not follow the world rankings when they seed their draw. She clearly has the talent to continue her rapid ascent, but how she handles the pressure and expectations that come with winning a major title will ultimately determine if this was a fluke or the start of a new star in women’s tennis. Judging from the past few months, the sport definitely needs some new stars on the women’s side, as no one ranked near the top seems to want anything to do with being the face of the sport while Serena Williams has her first child.
While the Americans in the singles draw failed to do any damage in Paris, three U.S. players did hoist titles at the French Open. The top-ranked team of American (and the love of my life) Bethanie Mattek-Sands and her Czech partner Lucie Safarova won their third consecutive Grand Slam in women’s doubles. Team Bucie, as they are playfully referred to, rolled in the final, and could well be on their way to the calendar Slam (holding all four major titles at once) and possibly the Grand Slam (winning all four majors in the same year).
Ryan Harrison won his first major title in men’s doubles with his partner Michael Venus from New Zealand, while 15-year-old Whitney Osuigwe defeated fellow American Claire Liu in the girls’ singles final as well. The USA had four girls ranked in the top 10 to start the event, and had four in the quarterfinals leading up to the all-American final.
Written by: Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)