By Brodie McPhee
Another spring and another fantastic Rolland Garros is finished. It took an extra day, but it was a dramatic couple of weeks that saw two worthy champions rise to the top of the red clay heap.
It was an emotional victory for Maria Sharapova, as she became the first ever woman to complete the career slam (all four major titles) having only won one each time. This was her first major title since the 2008 Australian Open, and major shoulder surgery. Making it even more special is that clay has hardly been her best surface in her career, and Sharapova herself has called herself a “cow on ice” while playing on the surface. With improved serving has come great confidence. Her ability to continually hit through heavier conditions overwhelmed all seven of her opponents. Sharapova returns to the number 1 ranking with the victory in Paris. Overall, it is a fantastic moment for the WTA to have such a wonderful ambassador back and winning, as humble and powerful as ever.
While it was a familiar story on the men’s side, Rafael Nadal made history winning his seventh Roland Garros title on Monday, after the final was delayed due to rain. Nadal has played Djokovic in the past four grand slam finals, and was finally able to overcome him, losing the past three meetings. This is also the third time he has prevented someone from holding all four major titles at one time, as well as Novak Djokovic’s own “career slam”. With the record, he breaks Bjorn Borg’s record for six Roland Garros title, and earns the name “King of Clay” without a shred of doubt. Nadal has still only lost once at Roland Garros. This bumps his all time grand slam championships to 11, five behind Federer’s record of 16.
Special note needs to be made of some of the players who pushed on deep into the tournament. Sara Errani had a career tournament, making the final and upsetting three different grand slam winners on the way, and also won the doubles championship with partner and friend Roberta Vinci.
Were David Ferrer born in a different generation, he may have been a Roland Garros champion. Possibly a multiple time champion. His intense concentration, amazing defense and excellent movement and fitness is incredibly impressive. As much as there can be made for Nadal playing “every point like it is his last”, he can still have moments of lapsed concentration, or questionable tactics. It is so incredibly rare to see Ferrer go on a walk about. It could be late in the fifth set, and he looks nearly identical to the beginning of the first set. It’s truly impressive, and the fact that all tennis fans can look on in admiration says a lot about his character and skill.
WTA Surprise of the Week: Sloane Stephens
Only just recently turned 19, this young American is a player to watch. Power is an incredible asset on the WTA tour, and it was this power and confidence on the clay that helped her reach an incredible fourth round of Roland Garros. Junior results are rarely meaningful, and power players can take more time to develop as they continue to grow. Sloane Stephens has to be one to watch for the future as her ranking rises and she continues to improve her timing. She plays a very different style compared to compatriot Christina McHale, and I’ve said it before, I hope to see both young Americans and both young Brits Laura Robson and Heather Watson continue to grow and take the WTA and top 20 by storm over the next several years.
ATP Surprise of the Week: David Goffin
A lucky loser is a player who is defeated in the final round of qualifying, but randomly makes it into the main draw due to a late withdrawl from another player. David Goffin went from lucky loser to lucky winner, as he turned a final round qualifying loss into a fourth round loss to Roger Federer. The coming out party for the young Belgian might just give him the confidence and ranking boost to continue causing surprise damage on slower surfaces. A fantastic story.