Sunday, June 5, 2016

My French Open top 10

Sculpture, Centre Georges Pompidou
Here are my top 10 French Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. The (seemingly) unstoppable rise of P3tra: Beaten 6-0, 6-7, 6-0 by Shelby Rogers in the third round was the latest--and the most dramatic--example of the obvious fact that something is wrong with Petra Kvitova. I've written about my speculations so many times, I won't go into them here. What matters is that someone fix it. Soon.

9. Somebody write a score: Everyone knows that Alize Cornet is going to provide BIG drama almost any time, but especially at a major, and especially at the French Open. She certainly didn't disappoint. Suffering with cramps in one leg in her third round match, she also had an injury in the other leg. This double pain resulted in numerous medical timeouts, which some questioned because the cramped leg was getting worked on so often. The evidence shows that no one did anything wrong, but a lot of people--even accepting the legality of the procedure--continued to object to what they considered extreme gameswomanship.

No one, however, was as upset as Cornet's opponent, Tatjana Maria. At the conclusion of the match, which Cornet won, Maria scolded her at the net instead of shaking her hand. Cornet was not impressed: She continued to celebrate her victory and work the crowd. It didn't take long for Maria to tell the world that she planned to take legal action against the tournament, the ITF, and perhaps the WTA. There were apparently some unpleasant encounters between her camp and Cornet's camp.

This was a far cry from, say, Bartoli Theatre, which brought delightful drama to big stages. This was something else--kind of "made for TV"--and may still be going on.

8. Quietly magnificent: While no one was looking, Monica Puig and Julia Goerges played one of the most beautiful matches of the tournament. All you have to do is look at the score, 7-5, 6-7, 7-5, to get an idea of what went on. Puig won, with a total of 130 points, while Goerges had 126 points. It was a very long, grueling affair, and it had everything. Both players were superb in this second round match, though not much was ever said about it.

7. Nothing could be finer: South Carolinian Shelby Rogers, who was a ballgirl at what is now the Volvo Car Open (and who won the Family Circle Cup junior event), somehow slipped into the main draw of the French Open. Ranked 108 in the world, she started the tournament with a bang by defeating 17th seed Karolina Pliskova.

But that was just the beginning of Rogers' French feat: In the second round, she defeated Charleston runner-up Elena Vesnina, then took out 10th seed Petra Kvitova. But Rogers wasn't quite finished. In the round of 16, she handed a defeat to Irina-Camelia Begu, whom many (this writer included) expected to be around during the second week.

Rogers bowed out in the quarterfinals, to none other than eventual champion Garbine Muguruza. What a run!

6. The rain in France falls mainly at the French Open: It rained and rained. It was worse than 2010. There were delays, a major power outage, and one entirely lost day. Matches had to be moved, players had to play on two consecutive days, and the schedule became so crowded that spectators had to make hard choices about what to watch. There were also several angry players who thought that officials had forced them to play in dangerous conditions. And of course, players who don't do well in heavy conditions were defeated.

5. Help!--I can't stop winning!: Here it is, 2016, and I'm writing about the winning ways of Martina Hingis. The original Swiss Miss, in her third career, won the mixed doubles title with partner Leaner Paes. In an odd twist (there were so many of those at this tournament), Hingis wound up playing the other half of Santina in the final; Sania Mirza reached played in the final with Ivan Dodig.

Hingis has now won three of the four majors in singles, and all four in both doubles and mixed doubles. The only major missing from her singles resume is the French Open. As I wrote a few days ago, had she won that, too, we would have to call her accomplishment the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Career Slam. Maybe I'll call it that, anyway (especially if some gold is added later this year).

4. "Going Dutch" gets a whole new meaning: I call Kiki Bertens the Fed Cup Beast because in Fed Cup, she is just about unstoppable, and is an elite player. That vibe hasn't translated well to the regular tour--until lately. And in Paris, Bertens shone as brightly as anyone. She had a terrible draw, yet she worked her way through it, all the way to the semifinals.

The Dutchwoman began her campaign by removing 3rd seed Angelique Kerber from competition. She then knocked out rising clay court star and 29th seed Daria Kasatkina, and followed that with a defeat of 15th seed Madison Keys. Bertens' next trick was to beat 8th seed Timea Bacsinszky. She had played a lot of tennis, both at Roland Garros and before, and it finally caught up with her. The unseeded Bertens sustained a calf injury which hampered her movement in the semifinals.

Had she not been injured, could she have beaten top seed Serena Williams? We'll never know; Bertens was on quite a roll. No one in the tournament had a more difficult draw, and Bertens' performance was spectacular. 

3. The Ninja in the mirror: Aga Radwanska is the greatest shot-maker I've ever seen. And while her opponents occasionally "out-Aga" her once or twice in a match, in Paris, she met her Ninja twin. Barbora Strycova faced off against Radwanska in the third round, and the match was pure magic. You can't watch it without repeatedly gasping and applauding and just being in absolute awe of the things these two women did to get the ball over the net (though NBC declared Nadal's tweener a better shot than anything Aga and Barbora did--please): It's one of the most entertaining and inspiring matches I can recall seeing. Radwanska won it, but they were both in absolute top form. Here are some highlights:

2. Vive la France!: Caroline Garcia and Kiki Mladenovic have become very serious threats. After winning Charleston, Stuttgart and Madrid, the French Fed Cup stars took a giant leap onto the red clay of Paris and won the French Open, defeating 2013 champtions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. This is the first time in 16 years that a Frenchwoman has won the doubles title at Roland Garros, and the first time in 45 years that a French pair has won. The French Open title is the (new) pair's first major, and the Frenchwomen have aligned themselves nicely for a run at the Olympic Games.

1. Call her Garbi. Call her Mugu. Call her French Open champion: Garbine Muguruza, who transcended "rising star"status when she reached the final at Wimbledon last year, went one better this year in Paris. She not only won the Roland Garros title, she did it by defeating Serena Williams in the final. The first clue came in 2014, when the Spaniard defeated Williams in the second round of the French Open. And while, at times, Muguruza has been known to let negative emotions take her over in the middle of a match, she was all business in Saturday's final.

It was a very good match, and included Williams' signature roar back when everything was on the line in the second set. But Muguruza seemed prepared for that, and handled it masterfully. Her 7-5, 6-4 defeat of the defending champion made her the first Spanish woman to win the French Open since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario did it in 1998. 


Todd.Spiker said...

Always love the Top 10. :)

I've got to think Aga stands a good shot at another Shot of the Month award with the point that ended with her high backhand volley and Strycova sliding into the changeover area. (Well, unless it'd get topped by the one where they were both sitting on the ground, of course.) The latter (more oddball) point got the more attention, but I think the other one is a more "pure" example of both their games.

One thing that hasn't changed over the years -- those NBC "best points" of the tournament have always felt like more an effort to get certain players in the rundown than to, you know, actually show the best points of the tournament.

Diane said...

The only reason not to give Aga Shot of the Month is if it goes to Beezus! A couple of hers were amazing.