French Open 2011: Rounding Up Our Final Thoughts
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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