Tennis

French Open 2015: Five things we learnt

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One of the most memorable French Open championships came to a close on Sunday with a fitting finale against Stan Warwinka and Novak Djokovic.

Much like the rest of the tournament, it was a dazzling display with a stunning victory for the underdog.

Here we take a look at the five moments to take away with us.

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Stan Wawrinka is not a one-slam wonder

After Wawrinka won the Australian Open at the start of 2014, the tennis world was injected with an air of excitement, as it was only the second time a major had been won by anyone outside the Big Four since 2005, and the first time since Juan Martin Del Potro won the US Open in 2009.

So when last year’s French Open came around, eyes were on the newly crowned Swiss No. 1 to see what waves he could make in the second slam of the year.

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We were left slightly deflated, then, when Stan went out in the first round to Garcia-Lopez. Inconsistency plagued Stan’s game and, although he was capable of beating the world’s best, he seemed to suffer surprising defeats to the likes of Mikhail Kukushkin and Gilles Simon. Unless he could find some consistency in his abilities, it seemed unlikely that he would be able to repeat his grand slam success.

Coming into this year’s French Open championship, Wawrinka had failed to defend his title in Monte Carlo after losing to Grigor Dimitrov. He went on to lose to Dimitrov again in Madrid and then to Federer in Rome in straight sets.

When the draw was announced for the clay slam, he was far from the favourite, going in as the eighth seed. Having lost in the first round last year, few pundits were predicting a deep run for the Swiss player who was once again in Federer’s shadow.

However, only dropping three sets throughout the tournament, Wawrinka managed to mirror his Australian Open victory by defeating both the top two seeds to lift the trophy.

En route to his victory, Stan looked in incredible form. He dismantled his compatriot and second seed, Roger Federer, with ease, dispatching him in straight sets in the quarterfinal.

After defeating an inspired Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on his home turf, Wawrinka went on to outclass the world number one and top seed, Novak Djokovic.

In just three hours and 12 minutes, Wawrinka had thwarted Djokovic’s attempt to capture his first elusive French Open title and became the first man to lose in the first round before returning a year later and lifting the trophy since Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2003.

Stan was able to defy the odds and successfully clinch his second Grand Slam title, lifting him out of the one-hit wonder group that has claimed so many great players as members, including Richard Krajicek, Carlos Moya and Andy Roddick. 

What’s next for Stan in 2015? All eyes will be in his direction when the grass court season gets into full swing next week.

Serena Williams is Primed to Take Calendar Grand Slam

The then-19 time Grand Slam champion was heavy favourite to come in and take this year’s French Open title as usual. But that is not to say that it was certain she would win in Paris, as last year’s slip-up against Garbine Muguruza in the second round proved.

But, although there were times when the world number one looked shaky due to a bug she had caught, Serena demonstrated her typical determination and dominance over her opponents. Williams was pushed to a deciding set five times but this only made her work even harder for victory and she proved why she has had such longevity on tour.

She has now claimed 20 major titles, which moves her to third in the list of Grand Slam winners, with only Steffi Graf and Margaret Court ahead of her.

And if the flu can’t even stop her at her least favourite slam, it seems more likely than ever that Serena could be set to accomplish one of the most difficult achievements in tennis. If she can go on to take Wimbledon in a few weeks time, she will hold all slam titles simultaneously for the second time in her career (affectionately dubbed the Serena Slam) but if she can go on to win the US Open as well, she will have achieved the calendar Grand Slam, something that only three other women have done in the history of the sport.

The closest she has ever come was way back in 2002 when she won the French, Wimbledon and the US Open but she has never won the Australian and the French in the same year. With the rest of the women’s tour suffering from inconsistency and unable to defeat Serena even when she’s under the weather, it seems that this could be the perfect year.

The biggest test will be Wimbledon and overcoming last year’s shocking defeat to Alize Cornet. But if Serena can gather herself in time for the grass court season, then the US Open should be a breeze, given that she has enjoyed the most success on hard court, winning 12 grand slam titles at the Australian and US Open combined.

With little else to get excited about in the women’s game this season, here’s hoping history can be made and Serena can get one step closer to being the greatest female tennis player of all time.

Murray Is Close To Slam-Winning Form

When Murray crashed out of the French Open after losing a semi-final match to Djokovic, he was surprisingly positive about his performance. And he had every reason to be. Clay has been his worst surface in the past. Yet in 2015, he has claimed two titles (including a Masters) and managed to push the world number one to a tight five-setter, a better result than their last meeting in the Aussie Open final.

“My game is back close to where it needs to be to win slams” Murray told reporters, adding “Physically, I’m back there again, and now with the grass court season coming up, hopefully I can get myself an opportunity there and play much better going into the grass this year than I was last year.”

It certainly looks as though the gap is narrowing between Andy and Novak. Novak is 41-3 and for the year but after him, Murray is having the best season so far out of the top ten players, with a win/loss record of 36-6. And his two best slams are yet to come. 

Understated and cautious ambition. In Murray’s typical way, it sounds as though he has big plans for the latter half of the season this year.

Federer’s Spot Is Under Threat

Roger Federer had a pretty great 2014. He made it to the semi-finals of the Australian Open and the US Open and was runner-up at Wimbledon. He was also the runner-up in three Masters 1000 events and managed to win two of his own in Cincinnati and Shanghai. Federer was to face Djokovic in the World Tour Finals if it wasn’t for injury but he did manage to carry the Swiss team to Davis Cup victory.

All this success meant Federer finished the year ranked World number 2 but it also meant coming into 2015, he has a lot of points to defend. If he fails to repeat the successful season he had last year, it could mean a fall in the rankings. He’s already lost ground after going out in the 3rd round of the Australian Open and the third round of the Monte-Carlo Masters.

Meanwhile, his nearest rival Andy Murray is having a very competitive 2015 and is in a great position to make up ground after an underwhelming 2014 season. He has already bettered his Australian Open quarterfinal appearance last year and has equalled his semi-final performance in France. On top of that, he has taken two clay court titles for the first time in his career and is looking in perfect form to improve on his quarterfinal losses in Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

Even looking at the numbers already, the year-to-date rankings indicate that Murray, at 4,480, has already earned one and a half times the points Federer has earned this year, who is sitting at 2,825. Overall, Murray is still 2,375 points behind Federer but Murray has his sights set on that number two spot. One thing’s for sure, it will be one of the most intriguing storylines of this season and should make for a very tense chase indeed.

Tsonga Set To Go Deep At Wimbledon?

Passionate Frenchman, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga made steady progress through the French Open this year and didn’t draw much attention to himself as he clambered over relative unknowns to make it to fourth round. When he got to the second week of the slam without dropping a set, commentators were talking about how he was past his best and were largely citing his home-crowd support for his good performance.

But, always the unpredictable showman, Tsonga managed to make a far greater impression than anyone would expect on arguably his least favourite surface. When drawn against fourth seed, Tomas Berdych, the Frenchman was down in their head-to-head 2-7. But that didn’t matter.

Tsonga produced some inspired tennis to knock Berdych out in four sets. He went on to face fifth seed Kei Nishikori, a player who was enjoying plenty of success on clay having just won a title in Barcelona. 

Tsonga stormed to a two-set lead but Kei was not going to make it that easy for him. Nishikori took it to five and the odds were set to go in his favour as he was such a great five-set player. But Tsonga refocused and took the match 6-3 in the fifth before going out to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka in the semi-final.

Tsonga looked in cracking form throughout the French Open and was able to produce tennis that stunned some of the world’s best players. Whilst hardcourt is arguably his best surface, he has enjoyed a great deal of success on grass too, having twice made the semi-finals of Wimbledon and who could forget when he knocked out Federer in a stunning five-setter back in 2011.

It’s been a while since you would’ve been wise to consider Tsonga a potential threat in a slam but if he is able to convert this inspired form onto the grass courts, look for the entertainer to make the second week Wimbledon and potentially upset some top players.

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Topics:
Wimbledon
Serena Williams
Novak Djokovic
Tennis
Stanislas Wawrinka
Andy Murray

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