The Reuters global sports blog
This year’s French Open was all about making history and breaking records. Roger Federer broke Jimmy Connors’ previous record of most Grand Slam match wins, which was 233 wins. Federer broke Connors’ record when he won his 2nd round match and will continue to extend this record.
Novak Djokovic was trying to be the first man in The Open era to hold all four majors at the same time and win his first French Open title; the last man to do this was the great Rod Laver in 1969.
Rafael Nadal was trying to break the record he holds with Bjorn Borg of most French Open titles won, which is held at 6. Was number 7 on the cards?
On the Ladies side, Maria Sharapova was trying to become the 10th woman in tennis history to win all 4 majors. Maria was bitterly disappointed last year when she lost in the semi-finals to Li Na after being the favourite to win the event.
My first visit to the French Open has so far been an eye-opener and not just because of Rafa Nadal’s first round struggles.
I’ve been to Wimbledon and all I remember is vast queues and too many people in a small area. I expected Roland Garros to be similar given it is the smallest grand slam venue but so far there have been no problems in that regard.
The sun is beating down, the Rue d’Auteuil is abuzz with vocal ticket touts, children clutch their over-sized tennis balls hoping a tennis player – any tennis player or even anyone who looks like a tennis player– will grant them a precious autograph.
The French Open is officially underway at Roland Garros but for now the leafy suburb near the Bois de Boulogne has the feel of a royal gala awaiting the arrival of a monarch. This tournament doesn’t really start until Rafa Nadal returns to the courts he once made his own.
The Spanish world number three was on breathtaking form at the Monte Carlo Masters, dropping just 14 games in his five matches, and became the only player in the Open era to win a tournament for six straight years.
Received wisdom heading into the Australian Open was that the combined effects of fatherhood and a record-breaking number of grand slams would reduce Roger Federer’s hunger for success to the point where mere mortals on the tour need fear him no longer.
Instead, the message remains: Beware of the GOAT.
The possibility no one seems to have considered is that the Wimbledon title that saw him overtake Pete Sampras as the most successful player in grand slams, coupled with the certain knowledge he now possesses that there are far more important things in life than tennis, might take every ounce of pressure off his shoulders and make him a more formidable opponent still.
Temper tantrums are more or less a thing of the past for Dinara Safina, who said on Tuesday that her rise to the world number one spot had been helped by her efforts to stop her angry mid-match outbursts.
Ditching most of the rages — which culminated at last year’s Roland Garros with some unsuspecting flowers near the court being decapitated — seems to have worked for the Russian as she stayed on track for a maiden grand slam title by reaching the French Open semis (although she did break one racket along the way).
It wasn’t supposed to be a question of ‘if’ but rather how convincingly Rafael Nadal would clinch his record fifth successive French Open title.
But the baseline behemoth, for so long indestructible at Roland Garros, turned out to be mere flesh and blood, mere forehands and backhands as his unbeaten record at the capital of claycourt tennis came to an inglorious end.
If anyone deserves to make a successful comeback to top flight tennis it is Jelena Dokic.
When most players want a second bite of the cherry, it is because they enjoyed their careers so much the first time round and realised how much they missed it when they began to pursue other interests. If in doubt ask Martina Navratilova, (a blink and you’ll miss it singles return in 2004), Martina Hingis or even Kim Clijsters (who has had enough of changing nappies, perhaps).