The women’s final was a display of tenacity and commitment. Garbiñe Muguruza becomes the first Spanish woman to win the title since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1998. Muguruza was on a mission and there was nothing that Serena Williams could come up with to stop the onslaught. Although Williams had appeared sluggish in the previous round, there were no signs of nerves on her part in the final. In fact, the match was a showcase of powerful and precise shot-making. “She came to win,” claimed Serena after the match. And that she did. A lob winner on match point secured a 7-5 6-4 win, a rise to number 2 in the rankings and a place in history. After the match, a teary Muguruza proclaimed, “I can’t explain with words how much this day means to me. You work all your life to get here!” Their head to head record now stands at 3-2 in favour of Williams, both of whose losses to Muguruza have been on the clay at Roland Garros.
Steffi Graf’s name will continue to be mentioned until Serena equals or surpasses her tally of 22 Grand Slam titles. Serena remains on 21 for at least a while longer and her next chance will come in a month at Wimbledon, where the surface has traditionally favoured her game. She may meet Garbiñe in the title match, the same player she defeated in last year’s final. Could this be the dawn of an exciting new rivalry at the top of the women’s game?
Tennis writers are running out of superlatives to describe Novak Djokovic, so perhaps facts and stats might serve as the best way to bring the point home. This was his 12th time at Roland Garros and coincidentally his 12th Grand Slam win, bringing him to within five of equalling the record set by Roger Federer. Djokovic’s first French Open title completes his very own “Nole Slam”, making him the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slams simultaneously. He also joins the select few who have completed the career Grand Slam. By reaching the French Open semi-finals, he has already guaranteed himself a spot at the end of year championships, the earliest in the season this has ever been achieved. He has more ranking points than the number 2 and number 3 player combined and only seems to be getting stronger. Next week he will be spending his 203rd week as world number one, 99 weeks short of Federer’s record of 302 weeks in the top spot.
In the eagerly anticipated final, Andy Murray came out of the blocks ready to bring it to Djokovic and stunned him with some aggressive play to take the first set 6-3. Djokovic was nonplussed and seemed to move up a gear effortlessly. Harder, faster and more accurate shots, combined with a seeming wane in Murray’s self-belief led to a 6-1 6-2 6-4 shut-out of the Scot in the ensuing sets. The fact that he was able to overcome the first set blip and able to so easily brush aside the number 2 player is testament to his confidence and dominance. After the match the Serb teared up, thanked the crowd for their love and support and claimed that it was the biggest moment of his career.
Dominic Thiem’s Grand Slam breakthrough came in impressive style. The 22-year old former European Junior Champion entered the event on a hot streak, having won in Nice the previous week, and continued his form in Paris, taking out three Spaniards plus the in-form Alexander Zverev and David Goffin on his way to a first major semi-final and a spot in the world’s Top Ten.
Australian Sam Stosur seems to play some of her best tennis on clay. Feeling no pressure whatsoever, unlike when she plays in front of her home crowds, the 2010 finalist progressed to her fourth semi-final here. On the way, she took out world number 6 and 2014 runner-up, Simona Halep of Romania, and will now be back in the top 15. Dutch 55th-ranked Kiki Bertens also made a run all the way to the semis, only to be denied by Serena Williams. American Shelby Rogers (world number 108), Yulia Putintseva (55) of Kazakhstan and Bulgarian Tzvetana Pironkova (108) were all surprise quarter-finalists, along with unheralded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas (55) in the men’s draw.
The second Grand Slam event of the year got off the ground without two European powerhouses, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova. After the news about Federer and local showman Gael Monfils, who was also sidelined due to injury, living claycourt legend Rafael Nadal added to the disappointments, announcing his withdrawal from his beloved tournament before his third round match, citing a left wrist injury.
Adding to this was the carnage of the seeds in the women’s draw during the first week. Injury hampered the recent comeback of Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, forcing her to eventually pull out of her first round match. German Angelique Kerber failed to repeat the brilliant form that took her to victory in Melbourne, going down in three sets at the first hurdle to Bertens. Double Wimbledon champ and top ten staple Czech Petra Kvitova also lost early, although the clay has never been her favourite surface. Crowd favourite Ana Ivanovic was only able to show off her eye-catching new look for three rounds, as she was sent home by Ukrainian up-and-comer Elena Svitolina.
Another miss was the weather. Delays and damp conditions hampered progress of the event and made playing conditions less than favourable, as spectators rugged up in the stands. In cold and soggy conditions that sorely tested the spirits of the players, fans and tournament organisers, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and Romanian Simona Halep lost their rain-interrupted matches beneath dark skies and before a virtually empty stadium.
There was more silverware for Spain as Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez teamed to win the men’s title. The pair saw off the fancied Bryan brothers in a tough three set final, thus winning their first ever Grand Slam title. Much to delight of the local crowd, French pair Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic won the women’s doubles title, their fourth tournament victory of this clay court season. In the mixed doubles, the Swiss Miss Martina Hingis teamed with Indian Leander Paes to take the crown in a super tie-break over her doubles partner, Sania Mirza of India and Croatian partner Ivan Dodig. Notably, Hingis’ feat now completes her set of victories in all Grand Slam events in Doubles and Mixed Doubles. Were it not for her loss to Iva Majoli in the 1997 singles final, or to Graf in the infamous 1999 final, she would have a career box set of Grand Slam titles.
French boy Geoffrey Blancaneaux was victorious in the boys’ event, while Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland took the girls’ trophy. Yshai Oliel (ISR) and Patrick Rikl (CZE) won the doubles crown, while that of the girls went to Paula Arias Manjon (ESP) and Olga Danilovic (SRB). The strength and dominance of European players looks set to continue well into the future, judging by the results in the Juniors’ tournament, as its players dominated the draws and honour rolls.