French Open 2011: Rounding Up Our Final Thoughts

Dimitri KayCorrespondent IJune 6, 2011

French Open 2011: Rounding Up Our Final Thoughts

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 05:  Champion Rafael Nadal of Spain bites the trophy following his record equalling sixth victory during the men's singles final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland on day fifteen of the French Open at
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    This year's French Open wasn't very exciting in the early rounds, but ended up being a slam to remember. Having all four top seeds in the semi-finals helped, but having the two best tennis players of this era in the final made it extra special.

    Furthermore, the woman's tournament didn't disappoint either. There were plenty of good matches and the final was great.

    In this slideshow we'll see a few people, places and events (in no particular order) that stood out at this year's Roland Garros.

Maria Sharapova

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 02:  Maria Sharapova of Russia hits a backhand during the women's singles semi final match between Na Li of China and Maria Sharapova of Russia on day twelve of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 2, 2011 in Paris, France.  (Phot
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    I have to admit that I am not a Sharapova fan (cannot stand her screaming). However, having her back in the mix was good. She had a decent run to the semi-finals but was eventually outdone by the amazing Li Na.

    If Sharapova learns to slide on clay, we can be sure that she'll bag this tournament eventually. The fact that she has to run around the court and position herself with small steps while her opponents are sliding around puts her at a great disadvantage.

Francesca Schiavone

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 04:  Francesca Schiavone of Italy reacts during the women's singles final match between Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Na Li of China on day fourteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 4, 2011 in Paris, France.  (Photo by C
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Schiavone is 30 years old, and with her age she brings an entertaining, aggressive game, something that's missing among today’s young WTA stars.

    The Italian did well to reach her second consecutive final, proving that her triumph last year was no fluke. Additionally, in defeat the Italian was a true sportswoman, setting an example for all.

Li Na

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 04:  Women's singles champion Na Li of China poses with the trophy by the banks of the River Seine on day fourteen of the French Open on June 4, 2011 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Credit to her on how composed Na was in her last two matches. She had a game plan in mind and executed it perfectly, without getting flustered like in her previous slam final.

    Na's game is unique, but easy to watch. It totally breaks from the WTA's norm, and her grand slam victory was well deserved.

    On the court she was fiery and fierce. She smacked forehands down the line and also came to the net to hit a few volleys, which was refreshing to see. Her backhand was steady and penetrated the court beautifully.

    Off the court she was humble and happy, making great comments and showing a fun attitude.

Kim Clijsters

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    PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 26:  Kim Clijsters of Belgium gathers her thoughts during the women's singles round two match between Arantxa Rus of Netherlands and Kim Clijsters of Belgium on day five of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 26, 2011 in Paris, Fra
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Was it a good sign or bad sign that we forgot all about Kim? The Belgian lost early in the second round, which wasn't a surprise given she hadn't played for nearly two months prior to the Roland Garros.

    One positive that she can take from the tournament is that she wore by far the best outfit.

    Nevertheless, if she loses early at Wimbledon, her fashion sense won't be able to save her tournament.

The Women’s Final

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 04:  Women's champion Na Li of China and runner up Francesca Schiavone of Italy pose with the trophies during the women's singles final match between Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Na Li of China on day fourteen of the French Open a
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Two grand slams, two great women's finals! What's going on here?

    The answer is age. Li Na is 29, while Schiavone is 30.

    Both players grew up in a different era, when variety and tactical awareness were key. I'm not saying that things are completely different now, but power seems to have become the priority on the WTA tour.

    Li Na and Schiavone lived up to their billing and provided us with an exciting final full of running and incredible shots, especially from the former. The fightback from the Italian in the second set kept the match interesting and the only criticism could be that the tie-break was a dud.

The French Open Crowd

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    PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 28:  Gilles Simon of France serves in front of a packed Court Philippe Chatrier during the men's singles round three match between Mardy Fish of USA and Gilles Simon of France on day seven of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 28,
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    In what other tournament has a five-time defending champion been treated like a nobody? It sounds harsh, but it's true.

    In the first round against John Isner, the crowd were all rooting for the American, while Nadal got a couple of claps here and there for some great shots.

    When the player the crowd supported was doing well, they were vociferous and loud, and when the player was not doing so well, they were lost in oblivion.

    The crowd was quite mean. If they didn't like a certain player, they showed it loudly, and when an opposing player wanted to have a talk with the referee, or did something they didn't like, they booed constantly.

    Of course, crowds are allowed to act however they want, but as tennis is thought of as a family sport, where everyone is suppose to respect one another, it wasn't nice to see.

    It's nice that each grand slam has its own kind of crowd, but "aggressive" or "negative" behavior, like there was at the French Open,  is sometimes copied elsewhere. If negative reactions begin to spread to other crowds at other grand slams, it will detract from the game as a whole.

French Open Organization

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    PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 23:  A general view of Court Phillippe Chatrier as Roger Federer of Switzerland serves during the men's singles first round match between Feliciano Lopez of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland on day two of the French Open at Roland
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Three matches in a row were postponed and finished the next day. Seriously?

    Additionally, the organizers were almost embarrassed when the second semifinal finished in the fading light.

    Once again, all they think about is the money, without realizing the people who bring in the money are the players themselves.

    Tournaments and the ATP in general are starting to make dangerous decisions based solely on business, and one day the players might think of a breaking away and starting their own division.

    Don't think for a moment that this is impossible, because the fans follow the players, not the tournaments.

Tomas Berdych

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    PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 23: Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic shows his dejection during the men's singles first round match between Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic and Stephane Robert of France on day two of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 23, 2011 in
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    No comment.

Gael Monfils

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    PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 31:  Gael Monfils of France hits a forehand during the men's singles quarterfinal match between Gael Monfils of France and Roger Federer of Switzerland on day ten of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 31, 2011 in Paris, France.  (
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Showman or tennis player? He use to be more of the former, but now he's balanced the two perfectly.

    All his matches were great, full of drama and action. This was the tournament when the Frenchman finally grew up, and he showed his maturation in his five-set victory over David Ferrer (who had been playing great tennis leading up to the match).

    Against Federer, the Frenchman looked tired, and couldn't deal with the wind. Nevertheless, he tried his best, and as always he played to the crowd and relied on them to push him through some tough moments.

Eurosport Commentating

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    Jun 1989:  Mats  Willander of Sweden takes a water break during the Wimbledon tennis championships at the all England club in London.                                                                                Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Although they did a much better job here than at the Aussie Open, most of the Eurosport team were too pro-Federer. It got so bad at times that it made me want to press the mute button.

    Of course the Swiss is an important player to talk about, but there are other people in the tournament too! Sometimes there would be ten minute conversations about him even when we were watching two other players on the court.

    Mats Willander was great though. At the Aussie Open he also acted like his colleagues at Eurosport, but here he toned it down considerably and gave the audience great insight into things we would never have thought of.

    Plus, he was the only person who came out and said that Nadal was just fine after his first match and that the Spaniard had everything under control.

Roger Federer

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 05:  Roger Federer of Switzerland hits a forehand during the men's singles final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland on day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 5, 2011 in Paris, France.
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The biggest pressure that Federer now faces when he steps on the court doesn't come from his opponent. All the pressure that the Swiss is under comes from himself.

    When he's in the lead, Federer is known to be able to dispatch his opponents ruthlessly; he was once famous for steamrolling more inexperienced, lower-ranked players. This is no longer always the case, but against Djokovic in the semifinals he showed this eye of the tiger once again.

    Federer played fantastic tennis against the Serb. His backhand was immaculate, his whip forehand was working magnificently and his serve was top notch throughout. Federer never lost his belief in this match, and that's what made the difference. He kept pumping himself up with fist pumps and yells of "come on", and the positive effect on his game was clear.

    In Australia, he told the press that he would be back in six months, but he was wrong.

    Federer was back in five.

Andy Murray

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 06:  Andy Murray of Great Britain returns a shot during practice on day one of the AEGON Championships at Queens Club on June 6, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Murray showed what he was really capable of against Troicki in the fourth round, even on a bad ankle. At times, he played astounding tennis in that match. There were moments when it seemed as though any shot he tried was impossible to return.

    He also showed his full array of shots. Against Troicki, he also showed how he can come to the net to finish off points, something that he didn't do enough of against Nadal.

    Judging from how he played at the Roland Garros, Murray has a great chance to go deep once again at Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 03:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia serves during the men's singles semi final match between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day thirteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 3, 2011 in Paris, France.  (P
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    He ran through his draw with ease, even when facing Del Potro, but the four day rest that he had when Fogini retired was not to his benefit.

    Because of his break, Djokovic couldn't equal John McEnroes record for consecutive wins, and against Federer in the semifinals he came out sluggish and rusty.

    Nevertheless, the way Federer was playing, it was hard to see the Serb winning that match, even if he had played against Fogini.

    He won't be too disappointed about the defeat to Federer, but how will he react if he never again reaches the level that saw him start the season with a  41-1 record?

    Yes, the Serb will still win the majority of his matches, and yes, he will probably win more titles this year, but knowing that you may never reach the top of your game again can be discouraging.

Rafael Nadal

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 05:  Champion Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with the trophy following his victory during the men's singles final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland on day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    This was a great win for Rafa and it vindicated his character that he never gave up. His first match was a huge scare and Nadal admitted throughout the first three rounds that he couldn't win the tournament playing the way he was.

    The Babolat balls did not help his cause either. It's strange that Babolat would create tennis balls that don't help their number one promoter, Rafael Nadal, but helped all the big hitters (most importantly Federer). What great sponsors they are.

    Even so, the Spaniard dug deep and picked up his game when he had to, especially against Soderling and Murray. His forehand picked up in these matches, and he hit the ball along the lines and dipped it into the court with vicious topspin.

    Will this tenth grand slam finally give the Spaniard his confidence back? Nadal said it would, and if he can win a grand slam without playing his best tennis, it bodes well for the rest of his year.

The Men's Final

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    PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 05:  (L to R) Runner up Roger Federer of Switzerland and Champion Rafael Nadal of Spain pose following the men's singles final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland on day fifteen of the French Open at R
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The final was thoroughly enjoyable. It had a lot of great moments and some of the fine shots that we always expect from these two heavyweights.

    Federer started like a man on a mission, but he couldn't hold that level of play for long enough stretches in the match. Nadal did not play his best overall, and he had already played his best match of the tournament against Andy Murray. Even so, he hung in there and brought out his best when he needed it most.

    This fourth final at the Roland Garros between the two was probably the most competitive. It included more total games than in the other finals between the two, and the Swiss was actually able to break the Spaniard five times.

    Some points still stand out, like Federer's two exquisite drop shots to take the third set and Nadal's two passing shots, one after the other, to eventually break Federer in the first set.

    Many if's and but's were flying around when Federer missed a drop shot to win the first set, but credit is due since he fought like a champion.

    In the end the Spanish Matador was too much for the FedExpress, and he was overpowered in the final set.

    At the trophy ceremony the two gave their usual speeches. As always, Nadal apologized to Federer, and as always the Swiss laughed. It was a great picture, and one that we hadn't seen for a long time.

    There is a saying that goes "the more things change, the more they stay the same." I never understood that saying until now.

    On the three previous occasions that the Spanish-Swiss duo met in the French Open finals, they then went on to meet in the Wimbledon final. If that is the case this year as well, I can't wait.

    Bring on Wimby for another memorable final!