New champions are crowned. And you know what, only one person was left in my prediction’s list.
It’s none other than the King of Clay- Rafael Nadal. Rafa, who celebrated his 24th birthday on June third, ended his 2010 clay season with a loud big bang. He won all his matches in Monte Carlo, in Rome, in Madrid and in Paris. Let me do the math and that is equal to 22 matches in a row and only two of them are played in three-sets.
I was expecting Rafa to get a little tired coming to Paris. Of course, I want him to win the title but I kept my expectations low. During his French Open finals with Robin Soderling, all my assumptions that Rafa was thrown out the window. Rafa was the dragon slayer in clay and outplayed (defensively and offensively) Soderling in straight sets (6-4, 6-2, 6-4).
Rafa has numerous reasons to celebrate this victory;
1) This is his fifth French Open title and the seventh Grand Slam win.
2) He returned as the ATP Number One in the world.
3) His seven consecutive matches in Paris soil were all played in straight sets. Even the thunderous serves/forehands of Soderling were not enough to dethroned Rafa. This is surely a memorable post-birthday-gift for himself.
“Question: You always defend very well, but today you are against a guy who has a very big game. Your defense seemed even better than at some times in the past. How did you…”
“RAFAEL NADAL: Was very difficult to play against Robin. I think he’s a great player. But at the same time, very difficult to play against because he has a big serve, very flat shots are long from the baseline, very good shots from both sides, forehand and backhand, and is very difficult to control.”
“It’s almost impossible to have the control of the points against him. Today I felt great physically. I felt perfect mentally, too. I run. My movements was much better today than the rest of all the tournament.”
“So I am very happy how I played today, because I play with very good tactic, I think, and the movements was at my best level today.”
4) It was a successful ‘sweet’ revenge. Robin Soderling was the only person who gave Rafa his first loss in clay slam back in 2009. But yesterday on LIVE TV, Rafa did not only acted the expected. He was totally in control of the match all throughout.
Both men ended their first service games with an ace. In fact, Soderling has his big moments (booming serves, remarkable forehand winners and some excellent footwork) but his shaky level of confidence devoured him as the match heated up.
That’s fine though. Being a runner-up in two consecutive years putting much pressure to the GOAT and the King of Clay were all worth remembering.
The day after the main draw was released, I had no expectations with the Swede. However, Soderling made me realize expectations were nothing in clay. After watching his first round with France’s Laurent Recouderc, I immediately knew Soderling was once again a dark horse in the race.
On the women side, Francesca Schiavone entered a milestone of her career. This 29-year-old Italian veteran upset commentator’s big favorite Samantha Stosur of Australia (6-4, 7-6) and became the first seeded player outside the Top 10 to win a Slam since 1933.
“Question: You said yesterday that the most intelligent will win the final, so you are. (Laughter)”
“FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE: Yes, I am. (Laughter)”
Schiavone came to French Open with a clay title in Barcelona. She was not clearly the crowd’s favorite. In fact, if she did not play Maria Kirilenko in the fourth round, I haven’t watched a match of hers in LIVE TV.
In the quarterfinals, Caroline Wozniacki was absolutely powerless with Schiavone’s aggression. Schiavone was quite in trouble when she faced Elena Dementieva in the semis but she survived. The beautiful Russian in blue chose to retire due to injury after she lose the first set, 6-7.
In the finals, Francesca Schiavone played tennis like there’s no tomorrow. She successfully put the Australian in frustration, putting pressure in Stosur’s shots all throughout.
French Open 2010 is a slam of unpredictability. I have my ups but just like a popping bubble, strings of losses came next. Apart from the debate whether the event should be moved from Roland Garros, this is the type of slam that every round has something huge to talk about.
As early as the first day, it was already a bad day for some of the seeds.
1) Dinara Safina, the 2008 and 2009 finalist, suffered a first-round upset (6-3, 4-6, 5-7) as Japan’s Kimiko Date Krum turned the tables in her favor. This was absolutely a special victory for Krum. Even when she’s 39 and playing Safina with an injury, the former world number four still managed to hit 37 winners over Safina’s 12.
2) The Sharapova-Ivanovic slayers in 2010 Australian Open were back in action. Argentina’s Gisela Dulko handed Belarusian Victoria Azarenka her third first-round French Open loss since 2006 (6-1, 6-2). Although playing regularly on the baseline left and right, Dulko successfully dismantled the injured 2009 quarter-finalist with two aces and fourteen winners under her belt.
Maria Kirilenko also did her part. For the second time in a slam this year, the alluring Russian took down defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round. While unforced errors piled up, Kuznetsova took the fall by only only four total won points (3-6, 6-2, 4-6).
Ana Ivanovic got bageled by Alisa Kleybanova in the second set of the second round. Unseeded and titleless since November 2008, Ana committed seven double faults throughout the match and only produced 48% in her first serves.
After a Slam’s first-round and second-round exits in USO 2009 and Australian Open 2010, this is Ivanovic’s earliest exit in French Open since 2005. It’s painful to say it but the unexpected Ana’s rebirth in Rome was nowhere to be found during her two matches in Paris.
4) Justine Henin (6-2, 1-6, 4-6), Serena Williams (2-6, 7-6, 6-8) and Jelena Jankovic (1-6, 2-6) were stunned by the eventual runner-up Samantha Stosur in back-to-back-to-back rounds. Thinking on this part makes me feel frustrated with Stosur’s loss to Schiavone during the finals.
It was nearly like a fairytale dream for Sam (just like Kim Clijsters’ comeback run in USO 2009). Stosur has not only upset a number of big and popular names but also the remarkable players in clay.
5) In men’s draw, the upsets of the seeds began in the third round. David Ferrer faced a third round exit in two consecutive years after a runner-up and semifinal appearance in Rome and Madrid (4-6, 0-6, 6-7).
Former Champion Juan Carlos Ferrero also ended his campaign at the same court and the same round where Ferrer got bageled. Ferrero was defeated in five by a dark horse and the only American left standing in the fourth round Robby Ginepri (5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6). Only two total points separated the two 147-145.
6) Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were ousted in back-to-back quarterfinals. Day ten, Robin Soderling tested the defending champion and the Swede came on top after four sets (3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4). I slept unconsciously after the second set and the next day, I wanted to kill myself upon reading the news, lol.
Hopefully, I can still watch this match in its entirety. This was absolutely a noteworthy match in the history of tennis. Soderling ended his twelve in a row loss to the Swiss and Federer was not in the Slam’s last four for the first time since 2005.
7) Day eleven, Novak Djokovic handed Jurgen Melzer his first semifinal in a slam after the third seed Serbian returned a forehand long during the 4-5 (Ad to Melzer) in the deciding. I have only watched the final stretch of the match in LIVE TV but without a lie, this was a very heart-pounding set.
Nole, who defended a title for the first time in Dubai, convincingly won the first two sets (6-3, 6-2) but the left-handed Austrian looked more confident after destroying Ferrer and the inspired qualifier Gabashvili (A-Rod’s slayer) in the previous rounds. For that reason, Melzer secured a front seat during the three last sets (6-2, 7-6, 6-4).
More Dark Horses & Ace Leaders
The 2010 French Open has allowed us to see a lot of seeded and unseeded dark horses along the way.
1) Robin Soderling– At 82, Soderling gets the top spot in Ace Leaderboard followed by Berdych (70) and Isner (55).
2) Jurgen Melzer– The ‘surprising’ semifinalist fired 44 aces and ranked fifth in Ace Leaderboard.
1) Yaroslava Shvedova -Apart from Schiavone, Shvedova was the next big revelation in French Open 2010. Reaching her first slam quarterfinal in singles, this 22-year-old from Kazakhstan bags the fourth place in Ace Leaderboard at 23.
Shvedova also reached the mixed doubles finals with Austrian’s Julian Knowle.
Other Winners in French Open 2010
Men Doubles– Daniel Nestor/ Nenad Zimonjic
Women Doubles– Serena Williams/ Venus Williams
Mixed Doubles– Nenad Zimonjic/ Katarina Srebotnik
Juniors (singles)– Boys: Agustin Velotti of Argentiina | Girls: Elina Svitolina of Ukraine
Wheelchair– Men: Shingo Kuneida (Japan) | Women: Esther Vergeer (Netherlands)
Grass season is next, any personal bets?