French Open 2012: Biggest Winners and Losers from Roland Garros Thus Far
The 2012 French Open is almost over.
For true tennis fans, the French Open is one of the most anticipated tournaments of the year, in part because it is one of the four Grand Slams and because it is the preeminent clay court tournament in the entire world.
For those reasons and more, the French Open shines a light on tennis' elite and up-and-comers more than all but a few tournaments in the entire year.
Here are some of the players who shined and those who did not.
Winner No. 1: Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova went into her semifinal matchup on Thursday afternoon knowing that a win would catapult her back into the No. 1 ranking in the WTA standings; a place she had not been since July 2008.
She proceeded to defeat Petra Kvitova—the fourth-seeded player in the tournament—in straight sets.
Not only did Sharapova officially take over the world's No. 1 ranking, she continued her assassination of the competition in this tournament, which I described prior to that match here.
If Sharapova can pull out a win against the smoking hot Sara Errani (her game, not her looks), she will likely lose her overrated label, which I also wrote about here.
A win against Errani would give Sharapova the career Grand Slam and give her a legitimate hold on the No. 1 ranking after making three of the last four Grand Slam finals. This would let everyone know, even at age 25, that Sharapova's best tennis may still be ahead of her.
Winner No. 2: Sara Errani
Sara Errani was the 21st-seeded player in the French Open when this tournament began. While she technically still holds that seeding, she isn't playing anything like it.
In fact, in some ways, she may be the favorite over Maria Sharapova in Saturday's final. She has already won three times on clay and her confidence is brimming over the top of Mount Everest after defeating Samantha Stosur, Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
All but Kuznetsova were ranked ahead of her, but even she is a relatively equal player to Errani.
Errani has never been to a Grand Slam final, and is a munchkin compared to the 6'2" Sharapova. However, just getting to the final will lift the 25-year-old Italian beyond her current world ranking and likely into the Top 10.
For a woman many knew little of prior to this tournament, Errani can become a late bloomer and one of tennis' great stories in 2012. A win on Saturday would cement that story, though it will only add to an already brilliant tale so far.
Winner No. 3: Roger Federer
For years, Roger Federer was the dominant player in all of tennis. No name was more synonymous with success in the tennis world than Federer's.
That is, until this French Open, where he's been relatively dominant save for a quarterfinal comeback win over Juan Martin del Potro in which he had to win the final three sets to advance to play Djokovic on Friday.
At publication time, Federer had lost the first set 4-6, but was leading the second 3-2. He is staying competitive, something many thought was no longer possible for Federer against the two players ranked above him.
Loser No. 1: Victoria Azarenka
Entering the two-week tournament at Roland Garros, Victoria Azarenka had a solid grip on the WTA No. 1 ranking. What's more, as the No. 1 overall seed, she only needed to get to the semifinals of the tournament and she would maintain her ranking.
In her first match of the tournament, she was challenged by Alberta Brianti, who took her to eight extra points and won the first set 7-6. Only then did Azarenka recover and dominate the remainder of the match.
Regardless, her first-set struggle put the tennis world on watch even as Azarenka went on to dominate her next two matches, losing only two games against the 20-year-old German Dinah Pfizenmaier and beating young Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak 6-4 6-4.
After those two successful matches, it seemed Azarenka had righted the ship and may be headed to at least the semis if not beyond.
However, No. 15 seed Dominika Cibulkova emerged to embarrass Azarenka in straight sets. It was not the result the No. 1 women's player in the world hoped for when she made her way to Paris two weeks ago.
As a result of Maria Sharapova reaching the final, Azarenka lost her hold on the No. 1 overall ranking and will likely drop to No. 2.
That's not a pretty ending to a tournament that had already escaped her.
Loser No. 2: Serena Williams
Coming into this year's French Open, Serena Williams was playing as well as she had in a number of years. She was a finalist at the 2011 U.S. Open, losing to Samantha Stosur, and was placed fifth in the overall world rankings as of May 28.
That placement coincided with her French Open seeding, and she seemed destined for a semifinals matchup with Maria Sharapova.
However, in a stunning turn of events, she showed up to Roland Garros and lost to Virginie Razzano (6-4, 6-7, 3-6). While it was hardly a blowout victory, Williams losing in the first round at the French Open was the ultimate upset. It could not have been expected by any means or by anyone.
For that reason, Serena Williams is by far one of the top losers at the French Open.
Loser No. 3: Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick was one of the more famed tennis prospects ever, American or international. The expectations were more than high for him.
However, while he once reached the No. 1 ATP ranking, he has never truly lived up to the hype.
You might say his first-round French Open loss to Nicolas Mahut (3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 2-6) was the pinnacle of that enigma. Roddick came into the tournament as the 26th-seeded player, and while expectations weren't high, many thought he would at least win a match or two.
His time in Paris was a major failure, to say the least.
With that being said, let's not feel too bad for him. After all, his early exit allowed him to go home to spend more time with his beautiful wife Brooklyn Decker.