From Sharapova to Federer: The 10 Most Disappointing Outcomes at the French Open

JA AllenSenior Writer IJune 6, 2011

From Sharapova to Federer: The 10 Most Disappointing Outcomes at the French Open

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    It is sort of like the day after Christmas with the tree missing the pile of brightly wrapped packages tucked under its branches. You finally opened that huge package tempting you for weeks and now there is nothing to look forward to. 

    Generally, anticipation is the best part of all events. Reluctantly, as you clear away the debris and get ready for the next event, the disappointments in what you did not receive begin to mount.

    For tennis fans, at the beginning of year in January, we all got to party in Australia on the brilliant blue hard courts in Melbourne. In 2011, Kim Clijsters extended her hard court magic by capturing her second consecutive slam on hard courts. Coming into the French Open, Clijsters would be seeking her third slam in a row.

    Novak Djokovic emerged from Melbourne with his second Australian Open trophy clutched firmly in his resolute fists. He’d won the title also in 2008. Coming into the French Open, Djokovic had not lost a match in 2011. The Serb had been playing octane tennis. The fumes in his wake promised to blast the men’s status quo out  of the water. He almost did it.  Almost.

    There is nothing quite like the anticipation you feel as one of the storied majors looms large on the horizon. The mind boggles at the possibility of seeing your favorite player standing on the final day clutching the ornate trophy awarded annually at the event. 

    There is no finer moment in the sport of tennis than winning one of the four majors.

    Yet when this year's French Open was over, the disappointments began to whine in the background. Here are mine in ranked in order on the regret meter.

10. Neither Williams Sister Was in the House.

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    A year ago, Serena and Venus Williams entered the French Open as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. The sisters had not achieved that top seeding since 2003.

    In 2011, neither Serena Williams nor her sister Venus made an appearance in Paris because of major injuries and illness.

    Serena, in fact, has not played a match since her win at Wimbledon almost a year ago.  Venus has not been on court since her early round dismissal at the Australian Open. 

    Although both indicate they will appear on the grass courts, there are no guarantees at this point.

    Serena Williams is currently working with Mackey Shistone, a fitness trainer, to get herself back in shape to compete in this year’s Wimbledon championships, where she is the defending champion.

    Venus is scheduled to compete at Eastbourne in preparation for another run at winning a Wimbledon championship.  The older Williams sister has won five trophies at the All-England Club, her last in 2008.

    Their absence at this year's French Open was discussed at length as well as their future participation on the grass courts in England.

    Tennis needs Venus and Serena Williams back in action again. The French Open suffered without them. It was disappointing not see them on court in Paris.

9. Injury-Prone Juan Martin Del Potro Not Yet at Full Strength.

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    Some believe the next best player waiting in the wings is Argentine Juan Martin del Potro. 

    After suffering injury and undergoing wrist surgery, missing most of the 2010 season, del Porto worked his way back into the men’s top 20 in 2011.

    The Argentine seemed to be well ahead of schedule enjoying some success in April when he suffered another injury after winning the clay court tournament in Estoril.

    Nontheless, del Potro entered the French Open with a degree of confidence, finding himself in Novak Djokovic’s quarter.

    He met the Serb in the third round, and they split the first two sets before darkness fell and action was suspended until the following day. 

    The Argentine had momentum at that juncture. Unfortunately, del Potro could not capitalize as the match was called on account of darkness.

    The next day, Djokovic dominated winning the match in four sets. 

    Once again, injury slowed the progress of a potential number one player, del Potro.

    It was disappointing not to see him playing as well as he was capable.

    But there is Wimbledon and U.S. Open left for the tall Argentine to leave his mark in 2011.

8. The Second and Final Retirement of Justine Henin

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    It would have been incredible to see the former French Open Champ, Justine Henin, lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen one more time for the ages at Stade Roland Garros. 

    Many had great hopes that she would accomplish it in 2010, but she, like many of the other top players, was bounced out of the tournament by a red-hot Samantha Stosur on her way to the French Open final a year ago. 

    Henin, who retired from tennis for the first time in 2008, came back at the beginning of 2010 to try to win the one slam that eluded her, Wimbledon. 

    In battling countrywoman Kim Clijsters in an early round of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, however, Henin injured her right elbow in a fall. 

    That injury turned out to be a career-ending event for the Belgian who had won seven major championships throughout her career. 

    After going out in the third round of the 2011 Australian Open to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Henin announced her second and last retirement. 

    It was a disappointment she could not play in the French Open one more time.

7. "Fabulous" Fognini Dropped Out of His Quarterfinal Match Against Djokovic

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    In one of the best matches of the tournament, Italian Fabio Fognini met Spaniard Alberto Montanes for the right to advance to the quarterfinals. 

    Neither man had ever advanced that far in a major.

    Dueling on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Fognini was literally left standing with one good leg. Yet the Italian still managed to win a match he should have lost.

    To do so, the Italian had to save five match points.

    In case you were in a coma and did not notice, the French crowd never hesitates to voice their opinion of what is transpiring on court loudly and often with jeers and taunts.

    When the Italian called for a trainer suffering from pain in his left leg while down 6-7, 15-30, in the fifth set, the crowd voiced their displeasure loudly. 

    Was it a leg cramp or not? That was the question. 

    The trainer said it was not and the player was allowed treatment. Had it been a cramp, the Italian would not have been allowed to continue.

    But on he went hobbling between points, eventually winning the match. 

    But because of the crowd, the press and the call made by the trainer, Fognini’s brilliant comeback was tainted. 

    Very disappointing. Fognini withdrew unable to face Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

6. Kim Clijsters Danced Her Way out of Contention.

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    Kim Clijsters, World No. 2, was on everybody’s list to win the French Open after winning the 2011 Australian Open championship. The Belgian followed that win by compiling a fairly successful hard court season. 

    Then Clijsters attended her cousin’s wedding in early April and suffered an ankle injury while dancing. 

    The injury kept her out of action during the entire clay court season. The lack of match preparation on the red dirt naturally affected her play.

    Clijsters, who was seeded second, was ousted in the second round of the French Open 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 by Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. 

    That was a disappointing result for Clijsters and her fans. 

    Granted, the Belgian might not have won anyway. But it was a shame that she could not have been injury-free for the second major of the year.

    Our advice to Clijsters going forward as she prepares for Wimbledon––stay off the dance floor.

5. Unlucky Andy Murray Rolled His Ankle in the Third Round

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    You have to wonder what Scot Andy Murray might have accomplished at the French Open had he not rolled his ankle in his third round match against German Michael Berrer.

    While Murray was able to hang on and win that match, the next two rounds became very difficult because the Scot could not move as well.

    Slow starts contributed to a long five-set match in the fourth round against Serb Victor Troicki and a difficult encounter against Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela which Murray won 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a little under three hours.

    By the time Murray met Rafael Nadal in the semifinal, the Scot was still not 100 percent, and the extended play time he suffered in getting to the semifinals took its toll during the match. 

    Murray had played an outstanding tournament on clay in Rome prior to the French Open, extending Djokovic to the limit before losing. 

    Djokovic then went on to defeat Nadal in the Rome final. 

    During his semifinal match with the No. 1 seed, Nadal, it was disappointing for all of us to witness Murray  injured and unable to play his best tennis.

    Hopefully, as he gets ready for Wimbledon, Murray will recover fully.

4. The Failure of the No. 1 Seed to FInally Win Her First Grand Slam Trophy.

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    With the retirement of the great French Open champ Justine Henin, the absence of the Williams sisters and the injury to Kim Clijsters, attention naturally focused on World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and all the younger women making their way up the rankings ladder to the top of the women’s game. 

    Would Wozniacki sanctify her ranking by finally winning that first major? 

    The tennis pundits all felt she needed to justify being No. 1 by winning a slam title. 

    With most of the former slam winners gone or sidelined, the 2011 French Open appeared to be the perfect place for the 20-year-old Dane to make her stand.

    But clay was not her surface of choice. Wozniacki fell in the third round to Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova. 

    Now, of course, we will be subjected to the persistent whine of tennis commentators who complain about the Dane’s ranking.

    These people will complain about her ranking until the cows come home or until Sweet Caroline finally wins one for the gripers!!  Disappointing.

3. No Novak Djokovic in the Men's Final

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    There are not many in the world who fail to admire and respect the athletic ability and artistry of Roger Federer on the tennis court. 

    Federer’s absolutely perfect match against the No. 2 player in the world, Novak Djokovic, during the semifinals, was as rewarding as any match the Swiss has won throughout his career.

    It said to the world who doubted him, “I belong at the top of this game for as long as I care to play it.”

    Federer’s play dismissed the hottest player on tour, denying him the No. 1 ranking for the moment.

    Yet in that moment, it also meant the Swiss would have to play Rafael Nadal on clay at Stade Roland Garros. 

    As magnificent as his play was against Djokovic, Federer had his chances against Nadal in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. 

    Wasn’t it time for someone else to try?

    Most believe that Novak Djokovic had a better chance to win in the final than Federer. 

    That does not mean the Serb would have defeated Nadal.

    But it was disappointing that Djokovic did not overcome Federer in their semifinal match, giving himself the opportunity to try.

2. The Inability of Maria Sharapova to Achieve Her Career Grand Slam

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    You just had to be inspired watching Maria Sharapova march through the 2011 French Open, refusing to lose. 

    The Russian had won slams at every other venue except on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros.

    She remained determined to capture that elusive title throughout the tournament––going for shots, being aggressive and capitalizing on her amazing resurgent serve. 

    Such play on clay, historically, her worst surface, made her run through the women's draw all the more remarkable.

    After winning the title in Rome, Sharapova came into the French Open with a great deal of momentum and self-belief. 

    Her fall to Li Na of China in the semis was justified because Li was the better player that day, but, for Sharapova and her fans, there was momentary disappointment. 

    The Russian had not appeared in a  Grand Slam semifinal since 2008, and her return to form will make her a favorite going into Wimbledon.

1. Federer Fails to Take the Last Step and Win Slam No. 17.

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    After battling all the way to finals, excusing some high ranked and very competent seeded players, Federer unexpectedly found himself in the 2011 French Open Final. 

    All during the tournament the talk had been of No. 2 Novak Djokovic and his inevitable meeting with No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the final.

    No one discussed the World No. 3 Federer, except as an afterthought or as a footnote to past championships. 

    Do you think that annoyed the man used to being the center of attention at every major since 2004?  It did.  It gave the great man something to prove. 

    Prove it he did. 

    Federer took down the hottest player on tour in four, totally dominating him in the first two sets.

    As darkness descended, Federer prevailed over the Serb, shaking his finger at the world, tsking their shortsightedness. 

    The belief was back and Federer needed to win one more match against his arch-rival Nadal for the 2011 French Open Championship and Grand Slam No. 17. 

    Federer gave it his all.  But he lost 5-7. 6-7, 7-5, 1-6 on the final Sunday.  It would have been the greatest triumph of his career to win this title against Nadal.

    It was disappointing to see the great man come so close and fail in Paris once again.