French Open Review

From football back to tennis now and a late review of how the French Open panned out. There has always been speculation about Djokovic’s game on clay and every tennis player in the last 10 years has been unfortunate that they’ve had to come up against Nadal but it was inevitable that at some point, a player as great as him was going to win the career Grand Slam. As if he wasn’t good enough on his own the luck seemed to be with him when it came to the draw. Federer withdrew before the tournament started and Nadal withdrew halfway through the tournament. That meant Djokovic had a reasonably easy run to the final, he still had to beat some good players, but he didn’t have a real challenge and never looked in trouble until the final. The luck was not with him when it came to the weather though, which was unfortunate not just for him but the audience as well. He was getting made the priority as the World No. 1 but that didn’t work to his advantage. He was on and off the court all the time and then often not only playing against his opponent but also playing against time.

His final opponent Andy Murray had a much more grueling time getting to the final, starting out with 2 five-set matches before becoming a bit more comfortable beating big servers in Karlovic and Isner before overcoming the crowd to dispatch French favourite Gasquet. For the most part he also dominated Stan Wawrinka in the semi-final. The defending champion had a good tournament but came up against a superb Murray and couldn’t replicate his perfection of the previous year. Wawrinka put up a valiant display to get the third set after being 2-0 down but Murray rallied superbly to get the job done in 4. Djokovic’s semi-final paled in comparison as he dominated in 3 quick sets, but you can’t take anything away from Dominic Thiem. The Austrian benefited from from the kindness of the draw but he played his best tennis and beat some very good players. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the coming months and years, as he rescued two match points against Federer in Stuttgart to win his first grass tournament of the year. He’ll definitely be someone to look out for at Wimbledon.

The final itself was of the highest quality between the two best players in the World at the moment. Unlike Stan last year though, Murray plays a very similar game to Djokovic, both pride themselves on service return and impenetrable defense. Wawrinka beat Djokovic last year with pure aggression. His power and accuracy was ridiculous for most of that match and is one of the few people to really win the battle of the mind games against Novak. For a while it looked as if Murray might be able to do it. The notoriously slow starter did the opposite and came out firing on all cylinders and took Djokovic by surprise. He forced him into mistakes we don’t usually see from Novak’s racket and took the first set with some comfort.

Murray though is always in a mental battle of his own and when Djokovic stepped up his game in the 2nd set Murray seemed to go to pieces. The overhead camera was yet again the source and target of his frustration as it had been throughout the tournament. What I don’t understand is how it manages to annoy him but nobody else. It’s there for every player yet he’s the only one who it ever bothers. Then a reporter trying to do an interview with someone in one of the players camps during the match set him off, shouting at both him and the umpire to “get him out”. All the while Djokovic was just phasing it out, improving his game all the time, getting Murray more and more frustrated. Every rally was long and it favoured Djokovic massively. Murray was trying other tactics but nothing worked. Novak both comfortably and emphatically won the 2nd and 3rd sets and despite a little bit of pressure, more from himself than Murray I feel, he won the final set and match, completing the career Grand Slam and etching his name in history.

Murray does have Grand Slams to his name and is in an unfortunate era to have to compete with Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, but he is becoming known as the nearly man now, getting to a lot of finals but falling to the better player every time on the biggest stage. He plays the same style of Djokovic and it beats most people, but he’s just not as good a player in every aspect of the game. It’s small margins but small margins that count in every single point and match of their rivalry. Djokovic is getting close to Federer’s Grand Slam record and the calendar Grand Slam this year, and although I will always prefer Federer, Djokovic could become the greatest of all time in the next few years.

To a continuing giant of the sport to a falling one, Serena Williams yet again failed in her quest to overtake Steffi Graf and become the woman with the most amount of Grand Slam singles titles. She fell at the last hurdle at the Australian Open to Kerber, and she fell at the last hurdle again on the clay, this time to Garbine Muguruza. Muguruza is another powerhouse making a name for herself over the last couple of years. Similar to Serena, she is used to bullying her opponents off the court with consistently big hitting. She won the tournament in the best way, struggling at times but getting better as the tournament progressed. Williams did her usual, acted really odd and complained about a lot while playing like it was her first time on the court until she remembered she could play tennis and is better than everyone else. Credit to Muguruza though she didn’t let her get to that stage. She dominated on the important points, took her chances, and was ultimately the better player on the day.

A joyish occasion for Spain as they also won the doubles with Feliciano and Marc Lopez edging out the legendary Bryan Brothers. All in all it was a dismal French Open for the people in Paris when it came to the weather and organisation, but there was a lot of high quality tennis played and a lot of home grown talent on display from their point of view.

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