Top 10: Roland Garros 1.0

5 Jun

The 2011 French Open has come and (almost) gone. A glorious fortnight of tennis provided some of the stories of the year, as well as creating great anticipation for both Wimbledon, and the US hard court summer swing which follows it. Among the noteworthy happenings include the failure of the top American players of the last decade, Serena and Venus Williams, along with tour veteran Andy Roddick to compete in the tournament – all withdrew prior to the start of Roland Garros due to injury. Hopefully this has provided them with some extra time to prepare for the abbreviated grass court season, and will we see them perform well on a surface better suited to their respective games. Additionally, the fashion contest which plays out in the first week of the tournament, lived up to expectations with not only Maria Sharapova looking great, but Bethanie Mattek-Sands also drawing attention with her warstripe-painted face, as did Novak Djokovic’s Sergio Tacchini retro looking shirt. I personally appreciate the poetry of Roger Federer in red playing against a clad in blue Rafael Nadal in the final tomorrow.

These along with more serious stories like Virginie Razzano competing at the French Open shortly after losing her husband to an extended battle against brain tumor, and tennis-serious stories such as Amelie Mauresmo attempting a comeback in the mixed doubles – thwarted by her not having been part of doping control programs over the past two years – and the hiring of Anastacia Myskina by Svetlana Kuznetsova to occasionally help her out as coach all made headlines over the French Open fortnight.

Premier Service

However the top 10 stories of the French Open 2011 starts at number ten with the service motion. Roland Garros is considered to be the major at which the serve is of least importance – the clay surface is after all viewed as the ultimate service motion neutralizer. Yet the serve turned out to be the shot of the French Open starting with the five setter played between John Isner and Nadal. The tall American managed to keep himself in a the match by serving fantastically, he eventually won two sets in tie breakers via his serving ability, coming within one set of dumping the defending champion out of the tournament in straight sets. Other serve success stories include Maria Sharapova’s excellent run at the French Open. Her much tinkered with service motion was working to full effect and played a definitive role in her semi final run at a tournament played on a surface hardly beneficial to her less than excellent motion and hard-hitting game. Probably the most apt citing of the difference a great serve can make in a match would be the consistency and general excellence of the Federer serve in snapping Djokovic’s 43-match winning streak. No doubt about it, when things got tight in a Federer service game, his serve was the shot that enabled him to hold. It served him well in the couple of tie breakers too. No pun intended.

The French Open

At number nine is the success of French players at the Paris tournament. Marion Bartoli, a player entertaining to watch due to her ninja serve and  unconventional double fisted grip on both sides, made an excellent semi-final run by beating among others the German, Julia Georges, considered a dark horse for the title, and former champion at Roland Garros, Svetlana Kuznetsova. The French men too provided some excellent tennis to watch. Gael Monfils, flamboyant as ever, reached the quarter-final, while countrymen, Gilles Simon and Richard Djokovic lived up to their top 20 rankings to make the round of 16. An interesting point to note, is the extreme variety in the style of play of the French players. As mentioned Bartoli’s double handed grip is quite unconventional, as is the one handed backhand as played by Gasquet fast becoming. Monfils’ and 3rd ranked Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s showy style of play, punctuated by their extreme athleticism is the contrasted by Simon’s quiet counter punching game. The number of French players ranked in the top 100 illustrates the good move by the French Tennis Federation to provide support to talented players without interfering too much in their coaching setup. This in stark contrast to many other federations that are being asked all the more questions about their tactics and spending habits in churning out baseline hogging juniors, all checking the three shots stereotypically required – a solid serve and powerful forehand, along with a double-handed backhand, while few actually enjoy long-term success as professional players.

The Variables

Ranking eight on this list is the number of variables in a tennis match. Roland Garros 2011 has displayed that everything from the tennis balls used, windy conditions or bad scheduling can potentially influence the outcome of every match. The change from Dunlop to Babolat tennis balls at the French Open this year, has been considered an advantage to hard-hitting players. In addition the frequently windy conditions on court Philippe Chatrier while a negative for most players, is particularly detrimental to flat hitters of the ball, with the lower error for margin on their games being accentuated by the wind. Finally the frequently questionable scheduling at Roland Garros can significantly impact a tennis match. When players have to sit around for innumerable hours waiting for a game to begin, timing meals and warm ups correctly can ascend to an art. In addition the suspension of a match can affect the entire dynamic and momentum thereof, or provide a less than fit player with a much-needed recuperation period. Then of course players have to adapt to the surface they’re playing on, and the opponent they are playing against. Players that manage to progress to the 2nd week at a major should certainly be credited for being able to manage all the various facets of preparing for and playing a tennis match well.

The Big Four

At number seven is the success of the top four men’s tennis players with all four reaching the semi finals as their seeding indicates they ought to. The ability to be top-notch week in-week out is a quality to be lauded. This provides fans with potentially great matches in the semi’s and finals and draws plenty of media attention to tennis. Murray vs Nadal, Federer vs Djokovic and now finally the by now classic match up of Federer vs Nadal are high profile enough for even the most casual tennis fans to be watching the final few days of tennis at the French Open.

Exodus

The failure of many of the top seeded women’s players to live up to their ranking ranks at number six. While it is probably not the best scenario for women’s tennis to have it’s number one player continually have to dodge questions on the validity of the rankings, due to her losing prematurely at one of the major tournaments of the year, it did provide us with several of the best stories of the tournament, the home favourite Bartoli put in a good run, veteran Sharapova completed her comeback, Francesca Schiavone continued her love affair with Roland Garros for a few matches longer, and Li Na might have just provided us with a huge percentage of Chinese tennis players ranked in the top hundreds in a few years. All-in-all the current unpredictable nature of women’s tennis, though not capable of providing a Nadal-Federer calibre match up, does bring quite a few beneficial and enjoyable aspects to the tennis on display. (It also makes everyone that hazarded a guess at picking a winner look a little stupid, which I of course love…)

Stay tuned for an update, which will include the top 1 to 5 stories of the 2011 French Open.

Just a quick explanation on the lack of recent entries – I’ve been writing exams and as a result unfortunately not found the time to write. Even watching the tennis has required some careful strategic planning on my part. I will however be yours for a considerable while after this, including throughout Wimbledon – hope you’ll stick with me 🙂

Then please share this blog if you have any tennis aficionado friends on Twitter or Facebook. StumbleUpon shares are amazing since it’ll then recommend my blog to other tennis fans. Buttons for these can be found at the bottom of this specific entry’s page. (Click here and then scroll down.)

Finally please share your insights via commenting. All feedback is read and appreciated very much by me. S.

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6 Responses to “Top 10: Roland Garros 1.0”

  1. aaronmarciano June 5, 2011 at 8:41 AM #

    An enjoyable article of the past fortnight of Roland Garros.

    The premature losses of the women has been seen in all grand slams to the point where it’s become a routine. Though I like the opportunities and the open doors it creates. We’ve seen that with all the semi finalists this year.

    I reckon the schedule should be reviewed. Although it’s exciting for fans to have a match completed the next day, within those hours between, a lot can happen to the players. I wonder what would’ve happened had Del Potro kept playing against Djokovic in the third round.

    Also the french players have been impressive this year. A lot for them to be proud of. Though you’ve forgotten Caroline Garcia who played spectacularly in the first hour against Sharapova. Although she may be a part of your top five.

    I’ll be following your posts post grand slams and also during wimbledon and US Open, so i’ll be looking forward to more. 🙂 Thanks for providing an amazing blog for tennis fans to read.

  2. Grand Slam Gal June 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM #

    Great insights in this article 🙂

    Bring on some lights for Roland Garros, no one wins when play is stopped due to to bad light!

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