French Open Recap: Rafael Nadal Wins 4th While Ana Ivanovic Grabs 1st

Matthew SchiffmanAnalyst IJune 8, 2008

Tennis’ most grueling tournament, the French Open, came to an end Sunday. As entertaining as the fortnight in Paris was, the final lacked the drama that everyone expected.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to see Rafael Nadal capture his fourth straight French Open title, tying Bjorn Borg’s Open Era record. What was surprising was the fashion in which Nadal won on Sunday—to put it mildly, Nadal rolled over world No. 1 Roger Federer, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

Winning only four games in three sets, Federer never imposed himself in the match.

He looked like a deer in headlights in the first set, while Nadal just took the game to him. Federer settled down in the second, and even had break points in the seventh game on Nadal’s serve, but failed to convert, and wilted away afterward, failing to win another game.

Meanwhile, Nadal simply played amazingly. Not just in the final, but throughout the tournament. There was not a single flaw in his game. It had to be unbelievably scary for his opponents, but no one can deny the fact that Nadal looked better on clay this year than he ever did during his career. 

He went through the two weeks without dropping a set, breaking his opponents’ serve 51 times, and playing only one tiebreak. Nadal still hasn't lost a match, or even played a fifth set, at Roland Garros, and after watching the past two weeks, it’s tough to think he ever will.

The women’s final on Saturday was a bit more entertaining. New world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic defeated the Russian Dinara Safina, younger sister of two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin.

The women produced solid tennis, but Ivanovic never really looked threatened. Safina put pressure on her, but didn’t have enough to take a set, and admitted after the match that she was both physically and mentally tired from all of the tennis she had played.

That doesn’t come as a surprise after Safina defeated No. 1 seed Maria Sharapova in three sets in the fourth round, coming back from a lost set and 5-2 down in the second.

Next round was déjà vu, as Safina again fought back from a lost set and 5-2 down to defeat Elena Dementieva. In the semifinals, Safina made short work of countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova with a 6-3, 6-2 win.  Though Safina fell in the final, she burst onto the WTA scene, and out of her brother’s shadow, with her results in Paris.

Ivanovic, meanwhile, became the first woman from Serbia to win a Grand Slam tournament. And with fellow Serb Novak Djokovic winning the Australian Open, Serbia now has two Grand Slam trophies to its credit in 2008.

As for the rest of the two weeks, much of the tournament went as predicted, but France offered plenty of surprises this year.

With Justine Henin’s retirement, the women’s draw was pretty open. Serena Williams looked to win her second French Open, but the third round was unkind to both Williams sisters, as Serena and Venus lost just hours apart on the same day.

Sharapova was seeking a Career Slam, but her run came to an unexpected end when Safina pulled off the first of her two improbable come-from-behind victories. With Sharapova’s early exit, Ivanovic became No. 1 in the world after defeating countrywoman Jelena Jankovic in a tough fought semifinal, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

On the men’s side, Federer and Nadal met, as expected, for the third year in a row in the men’s final. David Nalbandian, normally a threat on clay courts, made a surprisingly early exit in the second round. 

The American men had another disappointing showing.

With Andy Roddick’s absence, James Blake was the highest ranked American in the field, but he lost in the second round to 19-year old Ernest Gulbis. Robby Ginepri had the best showing, reaching the fourth round before losing in straight sets to Fernando Gonzales.

But, at least one American came away with a trophy—Bob Bryan teamed with Victoria Azarenka won the mixed doubles championship.

The host French crowd has to be satisfied that Gael Monfils finally had a breakout showing in a Major tournament. The unseeded Frenchman made the semifinals before falling in four sets to Federer.

So, after two weeks in France there were plenty of storylines.

Nadal made history by matching Borg’s record and remaining a perfect 28-0 at Roland Garros; Federer failed to achieve a Career Slam; Ivanovic stepped up in Henin’s absence to claim the No. 1 ranking, while winning a Major in her third appearance in a Slam final; and the American men, and women, had a disappointing showing on the clay.

Now, with the clay season finished, it will be onto the lawns of the All England Club where Federer will look to win Wimbledon for a sixth year in a row.