French Open 2012: Top Storylines to Take Away from Tourney
Maria Sharapova accomplished a dream that she has been seeking for some time. She won her first Grand Slam title back in 2004 as a 17-year-old, outlasting Serena Williams. And this year, she completed her career Grand Slam by winning the 2012 French Open. She will also be ranked No. 1 in the world.
It has not been an easy journey as most know. In recent years, she has worked hard to come back from shoulder surgery—a surgery that led many to doubt her ability to make a strong comeback.
That way of thinking confirmed they did not know Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova's level of play and eventual victory will rank as one of the biggest storylines coming out of Paris this year. But there are others.
Let's take a look back on some significant highlights from Roland Garros.
The Unexpected Is Always in the Realm of Possibility
Sometimes we become so complacent in expecting a certain outcome, we cannot fathom any other.
This year's French Open provided evidence that any and all things are possible.
Let's take a look at a few unexpected outcomes:
—Serena Williams lost in the first round for the first time in her career. Coming into this tournament, Serena was an astonishing 46-0 in first-round matches. Adding insult to injury, she was actually up a set and 5-1 in the second set tiebreaker against Virginia Razzano—a player ranked 111th in the world.
—Victoria Azarenka came into the French Open having already won several titles, including the Australian Open, only to be taken out in the fourth round by the No. 15 seed Dominika Cibulkova.
—Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was on the verge of heading into the semifinals at Roland Garros. Unfortunately, not being able to convert four match points caused him to defeat himself against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
—Varvara Lepchenko defeated the No. 19 seed Jelena Jankovic, along with the No. 13 seed Francesca Schiavone to reach the fourth round of Roland Garros.
Tennis Is as Much a Mental Game as It Is a Physical Game
Most of the time, when analyzing any player's game, the focus is on their physical fitness and physical weapons/skills.
However, even being physically fit and possessing a well-defined skill set does not guarantee success on the court. Those physical attributes must be combined with the ability to properly use them as well as a strong mental game.
A strong mental game can allow one to stay competitive within a match and can even assist in helping overcome obstacles to eek out a win in those tough situations.
Here are a few recaps from Paris:
—Sara Errani had played well and it seemed as if there was no stopping her. In her semifinal match against Samantha Stosur she got the winning edge, taking the first set 7-5. But in the second set, Stosur was clearly in command and Errani lost the set, 6-1.
Then, it was as if Errani filed that second set away, regrouped and returned to playing at the level that got her to the semifinals. She took out the U.S. Open champion 6-3, securing her first French Open final berth.
—Taking a look at the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Novak Djokovic match simply reiterates what Djokovic has exhibited time and time again. He has as much mental strength as he does physical strength when he plays. Not many players face four match points and are able to negate them and battle back to win the match.
—Dominika Cibulkova is officially listed at 5'3". She's even shorter than Sara Errani. That in itself is an obstacle for most.
Considering her small stature and a matchup against world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who has either won or nearly won the majority of the tournaments she's played in 2012, it looked like Cibulkova should have been out of contention before the match even started.
Most would shudder at the thought—but not the No. 15 seed Cibulkova. Not only did she defeat Azarenka, she did it in straight sets, 6-2, 7-6.
No Matter How Great You Are, You're Still Human
Tennis players, like other celebrities, are looked upon many times as invincible, almost non-human. This is especially true of those who are considered the best of the best.
At Roland Garros this year, there were times when even the best showed their vulnerability as they were faced with overwhelming situations never faced before or critical sink-or-swim moments that could make all the difference.
Let's go back to the court for these moments:
—Serena Williams is known for her game face. Unfortunately, when Serena realized that she was losing a first-round match—a Grand Slam match at that—even she was overcome by emotion. Whether the camera shot was intentional or accidental, Serena was caught reprimanding herself and crying into her towel.
—Roger Federer is always referred to as one of the most poised players, man or woman, as he always seems to keep his cool on the court. But during a tense moment in his quarterfinal match against Juan Martin Del Potro, the world got a rare glimpse of Roger releasing his frustration. Someone made a noise as Federer was playing a point, and he clearly felt the sudden sound impacted his performance.
—As Novak Djokovic is continuously tormented by the A-game of Rafa Nadal during the final, at one time, he throws his racket, and at another time, he punches a hole in the Perrier signage on his bench.
As the sun sets on Paris, the 2012 French Open leaves us with many insightful lessons from various storylines.
What was your favorite and/or most insightful storyline? Do share in the comments below.
Delores Smith-Johnson is a correspondent and syndicated writer for Bleacher Report.