Biggest Takeaways from 2015 French Open
In the 2015 French Open, two of the game’s all-time greats entered the tournament with hopes of continuing their dominance. When the orange clay had settled, each faced drastically different results.
In the men’s bracket, Rafael Nadal’s run of five consecutive French Open titles ended with a loss to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. The result, coupled with his recent injury woes, raises questions about the Spaniard's longevity.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams defeated Lucie Safarova for her 20th career Grand Slam win, ranking her third all-time in singles championships.
These two diverging career paths, plus three more takeaways, made for a memorable 2015 French Open.
King of Clay Dethroned
No player has dominated a single tournament like Nadal has at the French Open. His 14 Grand Slam titles put him in a tie with Pete Sampras for No. 2 all-time, and nine of those titles came at Roland Garros.
Bjorn Borg is second in French Open wins with six, and no other player has more than four. Other than Nadal, no one has won a single Grand Slam tournament more than seven times.
At age 29, Nadal has not yet reached a typical retiring age. Injuries have plagued him in recent years, though, and he has just one non-French Open title since 2011 (2013 U.S. Open).
Amid talk of his decline, Nadal remained optimistic in his post-match comments, according to ESPN.com's Peter Bodo. "I was doubtful about myself the 11 years that I have been playing here," Nadal said. "I won nine and lost twice. Doubts are good in life."
Nadal is No. 10 in the ATP men’s world rankings, his lowest rank in more than a decade. With his performance off clay surfaces in decline for years, his defeat in France is another troubling sign that his best days are behind him.
Serena Williams Continues to Shine
With Nadal playing the part of the fading star, Serena Williams remains on the ascent.
At age 33, she is playing arguably the best tennis of her career. She has now won three consecutive Grand Slams and seven of her past 12. Having won the 2014 U.S. Open, she could claim her second “Serena Slam” with a win at Wimbledon in July.
She is four wins away from tying Margaret Court’s record with 24 Grand Slams, and with her current form she could reach that mark sooner than later.
Williams is ranked No. 1 in the ATP women’s rankings and has held the year-end top spot each of the last two years. In a competitive women’s tennis landscape in which nine different players have won a Grand Slam since 2010, Williams’ run is especially remarkable.
And speaking of competitive balance…
Stan Wawrinka Wins His Second Grand Slam
Since 2006, we've seen 38 men’s Grand Slam tournaments, and the same four players have won 34 of them.
Apart from those 34, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic have each won one, and the other two have been won by the 2015 French Open champion—Stan Wawrinka.
Wawrinka’s second Grand Slam does not exactly stake him a claim to the men’s tennis throne—one that has been passed around by Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and, to a lesser extent, Andy Murray. But it does bode well for the sport that a new face can (hopefully) regularly contend for titles.
From 2005 to 2012, Wawrinka advanced to a Grand Slam quarterfinal just twice. Since then, he has two wins, two semifinal finishes and three quarterfinal finishes. Ranked No. 4 in the ATP rankings, he should be expected to contend for more titles in the foreseeable future.
American Men's Singles Struggles Continue
Take a second look at that list of Grand Slam winners, and another trend sticks out.
There are still no Americans.
In what’s been sort of a worn storyline for some time now, no American man has won a Grand Slam since Andy Roddick’s U.S. Open win in 2003. And a glance at the ATP rankings does not hint at a contender coming anytime soon.
Six Americans are ranked in the top 100: John Isner (No. 18), Jack Sock (No. 31), Sam Querrey (No. 39), Steve Johnson (No. 51), Donald Young (No. 57) and Tim Smyczek (No. 72).
Only one of the six (Isner) has ever been ranked in the top 10, and that ranking came in June 2012. Isner is also the only one of the group to ever reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, and at the age of 30, he is on a downward trend.
Sock, Johnson and Young are all 25 or younger and could eventually emerge from the pack. Sock won the junior championships at the 2010 U.S. Open and has had success in doubles, winning the 2014 Wimbledon Championships with Vasek Pospisil and the 2011 U.S. Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin.
Johnson was a two-time NCAA men’s singles champion at USC but is still looking for his first win as a professional.
It has been a long time since an American has excelled in men's singles competition, but with American Tommy Paul's win in the boys' singles French Open championship, the future looks bright.
End of an Era for Men's Doubles?
The Americans’ struggles were not limited to the singles bracket this year.
A win would have been the Bryans' third French Open win and their 17th Grand Slam title. Todd Woodbridge also has 16 Grand Slam doubles titles, but with two different playing partners.
The Bryan brothers have won at least one Grand Slam in each of the past 10 years but have not won yet in 2015. They’ll have two more chances to keep the streak alive, and with the lack of success among American men’s singles players, their country will be counting on them.