Sunday, June 9, 2019

My French Open top 10

all photos by Diane Elayne Dees

Here are my top 10 French Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. Is it clay or mud, and is it in my eye?: The weather was a very big factor in this year's French Open--not just the rain, but the wind, which sometimes gusted at high levels. Not only was scheduling (already a disaster) made worse, but players sometimes had to compete in very difficult conditions.

9. Scheduling by Paris, consulting by Wimbledon: This was the worst scheduling most of us can recall at a major, and while Wimbledon does a much better job of scheduling in general, the trashing of the women's tour was a reflection of what has gone in London for years.

8. Keep calm and serve like crazy: Jo Konta, for several years the great British hope, hasn't had a very good season, and her record at Roland Garros has been abysmal. But this year, after making four consecutive first-round exits, Konta reached the semifinals, stunning the tennis world. She has definitely worked on clay skills, but--most significantly--she has developed a killer serve, which is a huge help on any surface. She took out the talented Donna Vekic, and she also defeated 7th seed and 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens. She was stopped by an inspired Marketa Vondrousova in the semifinals, but what a run it was!

7. Edge of Seventeen: Granted, Amanda Anisimova is on the far edge of 17 (she'll be 18 on August 31), but she was nevertheless the youngest semifinalist at Roland Garros since Martina Hingis reached the final four in 1997. She defeated  11th seed Aryna Sabalenka (just as she did at the Australian Open, where she reached the round of 16) in the first round, she defeated Irina-Camelia Begu, and--in the quarterfinals--she took out defending champion and 3rd seed Simona Halep. Anisimova fell to eventual champion Ash Barty, but--again--what a run!

6. Don't look now, but here comes another Czech!: Petra Kvitova had to withdraw from the tournament, Karolina Pliskova was upset in the second round, but no worries--there are plenty of really good Czechs to go around. First, Katerina Siniakova upset world number 1 Naomi Osaka in the third round. But, more significantly, up-and-comer Marketa Vondrousova made it all the way to the final, and she did it without dropping a set. Vondrousova, like other top Czech players, can hit laser-like groundstrokes. But she can also find a way to mysteriously appear on almost every part of the court, as needed. Vondrousova finally dropped a set--two sets, in fact--and lost the final, in which she appeared to be a mere shadow of herself.

5. Best remix of the year: Latisha Chan and Ivan Dodig defended their 2018 title, defeating 2nd seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Mate Pavic in straight sets in the final. Dabrowski and Pavic were the winning team's opponents in 2018, also. Chan and Dodig are the first team to win consecutive championships in the history of the French Open.

4. The Paris art scene: It was a third round match, and not one that received any particular attention, but the match played between 20th seed Elise Mertens and 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova was a thing of great beauty. Of all the matches I watched, it was easily the best. It went on for three hours and 18 minutes, and had the flavor of those two Schiavone vs. Kuznetsova matches that captivated our attention several years ago. The match were not as long, but it contained one crucial feature: At no time was there a drop in quality. Mertens and Sevastova played their hearts out, went at each other with serving, slicing, dop shots, overheads, long baseline rallies, and just plain artistry. Sevastova won, 6-7, 6-4, 11-9 (after saving five match points) and--not altogether surprisingly--was easily upset in the next round.

3. Diede De Great is now Diede De Greater: Top wheelchair seed Diede De Groot won both the singles title and the doubles title (with Aniek Van Koot). In singles, De Groot defeated two-time defending champion (and 2nd seed) Yui Kamiji. The French Open champion is now the only player of any kind to ever hold a double career slam: She completed her career slam in doubles earlier this year in Australia.

2. Old friends, new title: Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic won the 2019 doubles title, defeating Duan Yingying and Zheng Saisai in straight sets in the final. They also won the Australian Open in 2018, and Mladenovic won the French Open with Caroline Garcia in 2016. As of tomorrow, Mladenovic is the number 1 doubles player in the world.

1. Barty breaks through: It was only a matter of time before Ash Barty won a major, but not many expected her to make her breakthrough in Paris. But the Australian star is not exactly conventional insofar as her career route is concerned, so maybe we shouldn't have been too surprised to see her lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. Her performance throughout the tournament was smooth and steady, and she kept her cool through the many long, rainy, windy hours. The final should have been very exciting--Marketa Vondrousova was on fire in Paris--but the Czech player just wasn't up to the occasion (she says it wasn't nerves, but I just can't bring myself to believe that). Barty, however, was more than up to it, and defeated Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3 in the final. An outstanding player in both singles and doubles, Barty is now on threat on every surface.


Todd.Spiker said...

Ah, "Double Career Slam" is perfect. I've been bending my brain trying to figure out what to refer to de Groot's accomplishment as, and it was right under my nose all along. :)

Diane said...

Glad to be of service, and surprised my brain was working that well :)

colt13 said...

You hit the high points, though I would have added Bolsova.

Abysmal is a great word to use.

Diane said...

Bolsova almost got in. At a different time of day or something, she would have been on the list. I often wind up with 11, and then look back and question myself :)