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“This year’s French Open the best in years” – Rusedski
This year’s French Open was the best in years. Part of the reason was the new, quicker tennis balls which allowed players to play more aggressively. The women’s event was wide open. There were about 8 possible winners on the women’s side, while on the men’s side it was all about Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Everybody thought they would be in the finals, but don’t write off Roger Federer just yet.
From a British perspective it was all about Andy Murray and he had a dream draw to the semi-finals. He didn’t make it easy by hurting his ankle in the 3rd round but came through to the semi-finals against Nadal.
From the beginning Nadal struggled with his first match going to 5 sets against the big serving American John Isner. It was his first ever 5 set match at the French Open. Despite struggling the first week he was winning, which is the sign of a great champion. He talked openly about not playing well enough to win the title with his form from the first week, but said by the quarter finals onward he could be back to his best (which he was).
Federer on the other hand was in sublime form from round one and was on a crash course to meet Djokovic in the semi-finals. Djokovic was continuing his unreal winning streak and was playing great to set up that match. Unfortunately he got a walkover to the semi-finals which meant he had 5 days off before playing Federer. Also he could not tie John McEnroe’s record of 42 wins to start a season because of the walkover he was still on 41 wins. I believe the walkover hurt his momentum and gave Federer a real chance to end his superhuman run. In the end Federer ended the streak and continued to look like the dominant force he once was. Also Djokovic missed out on being the new world number 1, because if he made the finals he would have reached his dream.
By the quarter finals Nadal looked like the old Rafa, destroying Soderling in straight sets. Soderling being the only man to ever beat Nadal at the French open. Thus we had Murray vs Nadal in the other semi. Murray played really well and kept his attitude in check and also played very aggressively and threw everything he had at Nadal. But with the king of clay back to his best there was only going to be one winner. Murray on the other hand can be very proud of his run and is starting to play the right way if he is going to win a grand slam one day. His part time coach from team Adidas, Darren Cahill, is making some great strides with Murray on and off the court.
What a final, Nadal vs Federer. It was the 19th time they have met in a final and the 8th time in a grand slam final. Nadal was happy to play Federer rather than Djokovic because he knows the tactics to beat Federer. On the other hand Nadal cannot figure out what he needs to do to beat Djokovic at the moment. So Nadal was looking forward to the finals and all the tennis experts picked Nadal to win and tie Borg’s record of 6 French Open titles. Federer played great tennis to start with but Nadal had all the answers to Federer and won in 4 tight sets. For Federer it was disappointing to lose having played so well, but he will be very excited about his prospects for Wimbledon. Nadal never once lost concentration or belief and is back to his best form.
On the women’s side Li Na became the first Asian player to win a grand slam. She beat the defending champion Francesca Schiavone in the finals. Most people would have never picked this final. It was also the first time in the women’s event that all 4 top seeds had been beaten before the quarter finals. Li Na will now become the biggest female athlete in China and possibly the world.
What a tournament. Bring on the grass.
This past week I was in Canary Wharf helping to launch the new British Tennis app empowered by Thomson Reuters. It was great fun; there was a mini tennis court to play with people as well as a speed serving machine to see who could get the fastest serve. Lots of people were there to participate and I really enjoyed taking part. What a great day! Check out the app to follow the grass court season.