10 Takes From This Year’s French Open - UBITENNIS
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10 Takes From This Year’s French Open

10 topics worth further discussion following the 2018 tournament.

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Rafael Nadal (Zimbio.com)

From Rafael Nadal’s 11th Roland Garros title to Simona Halep’s first, here are ten storylines from the French Open that deserves more discussion.

Nadal’s supremacy

1) “Undecima” for Rafael Nadal, unfathomable.  86-2 at Roland Garros, with a 22-0 record in semifinals and finals.  His ability to win the pressure matches and pressure points on this surface is unprecedented in this sport, and some would suggest in any sport.  As Dominic Thiem’s own coach, Gunter Bresnik, told Christopher Clarey of The New York Times even before Sunday’s final, “He is, for me, the best competitor I ever saw in any sport.”  His last two matches were perfect examples. Nadal saved all six break points he faced against Juan Martin Del Potro on Friday, then broke to win the first set and ran away with the match.  Similarly on Sunday, he broke Dominic Thiem at love to win the first set, and broke Thiem’s will in the process. Rafa’s enduring success in big moments on clay should be marveled at.

Halep’s triumph at last

2) Simona Halep didn’t achieve success as the majors as quickly as Nadal, but her story is more relatable and inspiring.  She lost in the final at the French Open last year despite being up a set and break against an unproven player. How does she respond?  She reaches the quarters at Wimbledon just one month later on her weakest surface. She loses that quarter-final in a tight three-setter, when a win would have made her the new number one in the world.  How does she respond? She makes the semis and finals just one month later in Toronto and Cincinnati, respectively. She loses an emotional first round against Maria Sharapova at the US Open. How does she respond?  She earns the number one ranking just one month later with a run to the final in Beijing. She loses her third major final in Melbourne after saving match points in two earlier rounds. How does she respond? She wins the very next major, despite being down a set and a break in the final.  Simona’s ability to continually pick herself back up so soon after each crushing loss should also be marveled at.

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Djokovic’s run

3) Some are hailing Novak Djokovic’s run to the quarters as another step forward in his comeback.  But I disagree: if anything, this fortnight was a step backward for him. Losing a major quarterfinal to a man who had never before won a match at any Grand Slam event will stun for some time to come, and will rattle his confidence on such occasions going forward.  Most disturbing for Djokovic during this tournament was his attitude. Novak’s frustration level during many of his matches was startling, especially considering it often came out at times where he was ahead. Rafael Nadal has talked about the need to enjoy the suffering when on court.  Djokovic appears far removed from enjoying competition on the tennis court, and far removed from the player who two years ago held all four major titles.

Serena’s return

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4) Serena Williams not being seeded at Roland Garros was quite absurd.  Does anyone believe she was not one of the 32 most likely players in the draw to win the tournament?  I get that she came in with few matches and few wins, but she’s still a 23-time major champion. Even so, she advanced to the fourth round, with two victories over top 20 seeds.  She may have gone much farther had she not gotten injured. And as many have pointed out, I’m sure the seeded players themselves would also agree Serena should be seeded, so they’re guaranteed to not face her before the third round.  Just ask Ashleigh Barty. It’s time the majors exercise some discretion, and some common sense, when it comes to seedings. Serena will not be ranked high enough for an automatic seeding at Wimbledon. Your move, All-England Club.

The best-of-five debate

5) Lots of heated debate these past two weeks on twitter as to whether the men should continue to play best-of-five at the majors.  I would suggest a compromise (a foreign concept nowadays, I know).  Both the men and women play best-of-five at ALL tournaments (majors and non-majors), but sets are played to five with a tiebreak at 4-4 of every set (including the final set).  Ad scoring remains, as no-ad eliminates too many pivotal and dynamic points from the match.  This would address many issues without losing what makes the sport great.  You would still get the drama of five-set tennis, but you speed up play and make each point within a set more meaningful.  Match times would be close to the current best-of three-format, with approximately the same number of games required to play out a match (in both the minimum and maximum possibilities).  It seems archaic that men and women have different scoring systems and play for different lengths – does any other sport do that?  Women should be fully treated as equals beyond equal pay (which they deserve regardless of the scoring systems used), and be given the same amount of court and TV time.

The 25-second rule

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6) I’m more curious than ever to see how the introduction of the service clock in the main draw of this year’s US Open will play out.  Too many players have abused the rule regarding time allowed between points for too long. The men seem to be the worst offenders here.  Nadal regularly goes beyond the 25 seconds allotted from the time the score is announced to the time the serve is struck. And the number of times Djokovic and Cilic bounce the ball before serving has become comical.  While I’m all for speeding up the sport, I don’t see these players making any drastic changes to their pre-serve rituals, especially Nadal. Are officials ready to penalize them beyond warnings, and beyond the loss of a first serve, for such infractions?  And will a visible clock on court just create more controversy? If umpires are liberal as to when they call the score, such as not immediately calling it after a prolonged point, that doesn’t remove discretion from this issue. And if fans are still making noise when the clock gets to zero, will the server be penalized?  I still have more questions than answers, but let’s either consistently and transparently enforce the rule, or get rid of the rule altogether.

Where is hawk-eye?

7) In the year 2018, there’s still too many instances where umpires and players stare down at marks on the court and argue over whether a ball was in or out.  If hawk-eye is not exact enough to be utilized on the clay, can’t the technology be further advanced with the proper investment? And even if hawkeye is not perfectly precise on clay, perhaps it should still be utilized.  At least it would be a definitive ruling. And even if players argue the mark on the court doesn’t agree with hawkeye, it’s harder to fight with a computer than a human. It’s been reported that the use of hawkeye on clay is an agenda item at the upcoming ATP Player Council meeting prior to Wimbledon, so let’s see what comes out of that.

Umpire should have the ultimate say

8) Why are players allowed so much say as to when a match is stopped due to rain or darkness?  This call should be made by the chair umpire and tournament officials, and decisively so. Rafael Nadal should not be able to pack his bag and effectively decide himself that it’s raining too hard to play.  Caroline Wozniacki should not be able to stop play for several minutes while arguing it’s too dark to continue. Officials need to take the power back here. If a player doesn’t want to continue, start the service clock and penalize them if they’re not at the service line in time.  Players won’t like it, but they’ll oblige accordingly.

The empty seats

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9) Something should be done about the amount of empty seats on the lower levels of the show courts in Paris at the start of play.  This happens not only on days with 11:00am starts, but even days with 2:00pm starts. I understand how important lunch time is to the French, but if they’re not going to arrive on time, move the VIP seats a bit higher so the empty seats will be less visible on TV.  Or alternatively, start play at a later time on the show courts, and only schedule two or three matches per day. The players scheduled first on are robbed of a good atmosphere for their matches. Wimbledon doesn’t have this problem. The US Open is adjusting their show court starting times this year for this very reason.  The French should follow their lead.

The troublesome tarp’s

10) Last year at Roland Garros, David Goffin slipped on the rolled-up tarp at the back of the court while chasing down a ball.  The injury Goffin suffered to his ankle caused him to miss six weeks of his season, including Wimbledon. A year later, the tarps still sit at the back of the court.  Why? This is an incident that could easily happen again, and could easily be prevented if the tarp is moved off the court and instead stored nearby. And for that matter, why do we still have the signs that stand at the feet of the line judges?  How many times have we seen players trip on them during the clay court season? In Monte Carlo this year, Thanasi Kokkinakis was on crutches after tripping over one of these signs. The answer as to why they haven’t been removed is, of course, money: advertising space is sold on them.  But why continue to unnecessarily put the players at risk of injury? Stick a few extra crocodiles on the walls behind the courts and prioritize the players’ health.

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David Goffin Slams Hostile French Open Crowd

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A fan at the French Open spat out their chewing gum at David Goffin during a tense first round clash at the tournament on Tuesday. 

Goffin, who is a former quarter-finalist in Paris, described the reception he received from the crowd as ‘total disrespect’ during his clash against home player Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. A 20-year-old wild card who recently claimed his maiden Tour title in Lyon. The Belgian managed to oust the home player 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, after more than three-and-half hours of play. 

During one stage of the match, Goffin was seen holding his hand to his ear towards the rowdy crowd. A gesture he felt he had the right to do considering the atmosphere.

“When you are insulted for three and a half hours, you have to tease the public a little,” The I quoted Goffin as saying.
“Clearly, it goes too far, it’s total disrespect. It’s really too much. It’s becoming football, soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and there will be fights in the stands.
“It’s starting to become ridiculous. Some people are there more to cause trouble than to create an atmosphere.
“Someone spat out their chewing gum at me. It [the match] was getting complicated. That’s why I wanted to stay calm. IfI started to get angry about it, it could have destabilised me.”

The French Open crowd has a reputation for being highly animated during matches with there being numerous examples throughout the years. Nicolas Jarry received booing when he walked on the court to play Corentin Moutet after an incident between the two earlier this season. 

“This is repeated a lot in the locker room and among the ATP authorities. We’re going to have to do something about that,” Goffin continued.
“I think it only happens in France. At Wimbledon, obviously, there’s not that. Or in Australia either. And at the US Open, it’s still rather quiet. Here [at Roland Garros], it’s really an unhealthy atmosphere.”

However, former French Open junior doubles champion Mpetshi Perricard has praised the support he got from the fans during his match. It was only the second time in his career that the world No.66 has played in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament.

“It was really nice to have so much support,” he said.
“I had a lot in Lyon as well, but that was different because here the guys are really with you from first to the last point. It’sreally very pleasant to have such an audience.
“I like it that they encouraged me. It helped me when I was broken in the fourth [set], and I would like to thank them for it. It’s really fantastic to have these guys there.”

Goffin will be hoping to get more support in his second round match against Alexander Zverev on Thursday. He is making his 13th main draw appearance in Paris at the age of 33. 

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Holger Rune Beats Evans in Straight Sets and Moves into Round 2

Danish 13th seed praises improved mentality; aims to get back to the top five

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Ubitennis/Francesca Micheli

Thirteenth seed Holger Rune came through in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 over Dan Evans in cold indoor conditions under the roof on Suzanne-Lenglen and goes on to face Italian Flavio Cobolli in round two.

The defeat for Evans meant that there are now no British men left in the singles draw after disappointing first round losses for Andy Murray and Cameron Norrie.

Rune, who once shared a practice session with Evans, admitted it took time to figure out his opponent’s game style: “It’s not that I know his game inside and out. He likes the slice obviously, and he’s a very good grass court player as well so he plays pretty flat over the net. So, yeah, it took a lot of time to adjust.”

Rune, a two-time former quarter finalist at the French Open, broke serve with the score tied at 4-4 in the first set and then served out to take the opener. A single break of serve was enough again in the second, while he had to dig much deeper in the third set when he went 4-2 down but managed to maintain composure to win the last four games to seal victory. The 21-year-old was very satisfied with his first-round performance and was pleased his intense practice sessions had been paying off.

“It was a good start, I think. Very solid match from start to finish. We had a good preparation, I would say. We had obviously time after Rome to really prepare with my game and physically and mentally, as well. I think we used the time right. So now is just to perform and put everything together. We are working always on my game. I think my game is good. My physicality felt great today, so it’s a thing we have really been working on to be able to stay out there and not feel fatigued and feel explosive even after hours of playing, and I definitely felt that today.”

Rune finished the match with eight aces, and more than double the number of winners (44 to 21), while Evans struggled with his serve making less than 50% of first serves in play along with five double faults. Whilst approaching the net numerous times throughout the match, he was passed sixteen times by some wonderful strokes off both wings by his Danish opponent. Rune was impressed with his mentality afterwards: “Mentally I just had to stay composed. You know, there is always challenges in the matches. Today was a call here and there. I thought I stayed composed. Been working on that, as well.”

Rune, who won 75% of points on his first serve definitely felt like he is on the right path to get him back inside the top five of the rankings: “I feel like I’m kind of back on track, have stability in my team, which is nice in my life. So, it’s going in the right direction. I’m improving on court. Now it’s just about getting that few match wins under the belt, to get some rhythm and gain some confidence in the matches as well. Then, I believe, you know, I’m fitter than last year. I’m playing better and improved. I just need to put everything together.”

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Casper Ruud Downplays French Open Chances After ‘Best start’ To Season

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Casper Ruud says he doesn’t rank himself among the favourites for French Open glory despite a successful clay swing.

The Norwegian comes into Paris with two titles under his belt after winning the Barcelona Open in April followed by the Geneva Open last week. He also reached the final in Monte Carlo, the semi-finals in Estoril and the fourth round in Madrid. Ruud is without a doubt a threat on the surface, especially at the French Open where he has finished runner-up the past two years. 

Although the world No.7 is keen to distance himself from any talk about being a title contender despite his credentials. This year’s men’s draw is being described by some as the most open in recent years with Novak Djokovic yet to find his top level consistently. Meanwhile, Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner have both been troubled by injury issues.

This season has been the best start for me, the best kind of five months that I’ve ever had to begin the year,” Ruud told reporters on Sunday.
“Then Madrid and Rome were two disappointing results for me, and that’s also a little bit why I decided to go to Geneva. 
“I wanted to build up some momentum playing matches again. Obviously winning the tournament is a good feeling. It gives you confidence, but it feels like it’s anyone’s tournament and anyone’s game really. 
“If you look at it’s been several different winners on the clay this year, and in the three Masters 1000 alone there’s been three different winners.
“To me even though Novak hasn’t had the best year as he typically has or at the same level, I think he is still the favourite. He is the No. 1 seeded, and he has 24 slams under his belt, so if there’s anyone who knows when to find their peak and form, it’s probably him.”. 

As for his chances of claiming a maiden major title, Ruud says he doesn’t want to consider himself a favourite as it would put too much pressure on him to perform. He is the seventh seed in this year’s draw.

I wouldn’t put myself in the list (of title favourites) because I don’t want to kind of put pressure on myself, but I would put Novak up there definitely.” He said.
“It’s not a big if, but depending on how Carlos, Jannik, and Rafa feel, I feel like those three are also worth mentioning. If they are injury-free, I would consider them, well, four then. I would go with four guys. 
“It’s tough to kind of leave any of those out due to the fact that Rafa has won here 14 times and then Jannik and Carlos have been the sort of best of the younger generation in the past year or two. So I think that’s a good list of four.”

Ruud will begin his French Open campaign against Brazil’s Felipe Alves.

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