French Open 2012: 7 Most Compelling Storylines This Year
We are almost done with the French Open.
With Maria Sharapova winning it all in the women's singles and a highly anticipated Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal final match still awaiting, this year's Roland Garros tournament has almost drawn to a close.
As usual, there have been huge surprises and major disappointments; in some cases, the obvious has happened.
The women's side has been tougher to predict than the men's: the women's final saw the second seed against the 21st seed, while the men's final will be between the world's two highest-ranking players.
Here are the biggest storylines of the tournament so far.
Are We Entering the Twilight of Serena's Career?
Razzano played very well, but it was still shocking to see Serena lose to a woman who was not even in the Top 100 in the world when they played.
Williams made many errors, and even stated that in the press conference afterwards, "I made so many errors today which is a game that I have been playing in the past."
She hasn't won a slam since Roland Garros in 2010, and now people are starting to wonder, how far Williams can go on in her career, given that she is already 30.
Maybe it is not the end, but it is entirely possible that she is going to go downhill, so can we label this part of her career the "home stretch"?
David Goffin came into this tournament as a lucky loser, but he really made a name for himself as the tournament progressed, beating Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, France's Arnaud Clement and Poland's Lukasz Kubot.
He then surprised people by throwing a scare into Roger Federer, winning the first set before ultimately losing the match in four sets. Goffin is a really solid player with steady groundstrokes, a good serve, and legs that can get him places.
The Belgian is someone who could be really good in the future—at least on clay.
Yaroslava Shvedova is the other. You may not have heard of her until she beat Chinese Li Na, the French Open defending champion.
Trying to become the first qualifer in French Open history to get to the semifinals, Shvedova then lost to the No. 4 seed, Petra Kvitova.
Shvedova looks like someone who can turn some heads.
Those Who Failed to Meet Expectations
Number one seed Victoria Azarenka had huge expectations placed upon her shoulders after winning the Australian Open just a few months ago.
She was expected to do very well at Roland Garros this year, some even giving her a shot to win the whole thing. However, the Belarusian bowed out in straight sets in the round of 16 to Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova.
After the match, Azarenka sarcastically said she was going to kill herself, leaving herself open to speculation about her mental makeup as Wimbledon approaches.
On the men's side, the biggest disappointments were players who were not high seeds, such as Feliciano Lopez of Spain and Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
Both of them are considered to be very good on clay, but both fell in the first round (Lopez lost to Florent Serra and Melzer lost to Michael Berrer.)
Alexandr Dolgopolov also did worse than expected, losing to countryman Sergiy Stakhovsky in the first round.
Yet Another American Men's Failure
How the American men did:
- Ryan Harrison lost in the first round to Gilles Simon in four sets.
- Brian Baker beat Xavier Malisse in the first round but went on to lose in the second round to Gilles Simon in five sets, getting crushed 6-0 in the final set.
- Andy Roddick lost to Nicolas Mahut in the first round in four sets.
- James Blake got destroyed by Mikhail Youzhny in the first round, losing in straight sets: 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
- John Isner beat Rogerio Dutra Da Silva in straight sets in the first round, but lost in the second round to Paul-Henri Mathieu in five (the fifth set was an 18-16 thriller).
- Donald Young lost to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the first round. He was thoroughly outplayed, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 6-1.
- Sam Querrey lost in four sets to Serb Janko Tipsarevic.
- Jesse Levine beat Benjamin Becker in straight sets in the first round in straight, only to lose to Canadian Milos Raonic in straight sets.
Not so great a showing from the American guys in this tournament. Clay isn't their surface of choice, but still, this was a dismal tournament.
David Ferrer's Resurgence
What a run. David Ferrer is an absolute beast on clay, and he really showed that at this year's French Open.
In the first four rounds, he cruised past Lukas Lacko of Slovakia, Frenchman Benoit Paire, Russian Mikhail Youzhny and compatriot Marcel Granollers—all in straight sets—setting up a showdown with Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.
The Ferrer-Murray match, however, was not as good as it was expected to be. Though a high quality of tennis was played, the Spaniard took it in four sets.
The result for Murray? More weight imposed on him by the media. The result for Ferrer? A spot in the semis to play Rafael Nadal.
Though Ferrer started off really well, Rafa proceeded to dominate, winning the match 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 and advancing to the final.
Nevertheless, it was a great tournament for Ferrer.
A New Champion?
Sara Errani is the story of the tournament.
The Italian not only won the women's doubles title with partner and fellow Italian Roberta Vinci, but she also got to the women's singles final.
Errani, the No. 21 seed, had an extremely tough road to the final.
Four of her prior six matches were against seeded players: Ana Ivanovic (13), Svetlana Kuznetsova (26), Angelique Kerber (10), and Samantha Stosur (6).
Though she did lose in the final to Maria Sharapova, Errani acquitted herself well against the world's No. 1-ranked player.
In this tournament, Errani showed great groundstrokes, talent and endurance. Since she is one of the stronger players on tour, she can bully some opponents on clay.
Her serve, however, needs improvement.
Hopefully we see more of her.
Same Old Champions
Maria Sharapova captured her first French Open title this year, completing a career Grand Slam.
There aren't many words to describe her performance in which she dropped only one set during the entire tournament—losing a tiebreak at that—to Klara Zakopalova.
She beat Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2 in the final, capitalizing on many chances. From the beginning of the Open, it seemed like she had a big chance to win the whole thing, looking unstoppable from round one on.
Congratulations to her.
Meanwhile, on the men's side, Nadal and Djokovic get ready to face off in their fourth consecutive Grand Slam final. Though Djokovic won the previous three meetings, Rafa comes into the match looking like the favorite.
He is looking like is 2008-self, only with more power on his shots.
Djokovic, on the other hand, is looking a bit weaker than he did last year, even though he didn't get to this stage at Roland Garros in 2011.
Expect this to be a great match.