Terrific Twenty For Serena, Super Safarova, Slumping Simona: French Open Women's Recap

It was a rather odd year on the terre battue this year, although the final result was no shock. Players were getting bit by the flu bug, top seeds were falling like flies through the first three rounds, and the women’s semifinal of the bottom half of the draw had two unlikely participants. Despite all that, it was still a tournament that did not fail to disappoint as Serena Williams captured an illustrious 20th Grand Slam title putting her amongst the realms of the all-time greats and only the third woman to achieve that, along with Margaret Court and Steffi Graf. In the tournament, there were many winners but today, we’ll only discuss a few of them while also discussing the “losers” of the tournament as we close the curtain on another phenomenal French Open.

Champion: Serena Williams: The American is always willing to put herself up to a challenge isn’t she? In all but the first round and quarterfinal and dropped the opening set in four of five matches leading up to the final. Was it nerves? Was the flu bug really that bad? Well the latter question was answered when she said she didn’t practice the day before the final because of of illness. The first question is something we’re never going to find out though; Serena hardly let’s us know if she’s nervous. Well one things for sure is that the nerves of getting to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert are long gone. The gap between winning her 17th and 18th major was a year apart winning them both at the US Open. Since then, back-to-back Grand Slam titles this year has shown that she’s well on her way to cementing herself as the greatest women’s player of all time. Her third title on the clay was all the evidence we needed as she completed the career Grand Slam a third time now and overcame multiple adversities to take the title. Despite dropping all the sets, the quality of play of the world number one was still at the peak when she dominated. During the sets she dropped, it was evident that something was wrong as her opponents would take advantage of that. After that, it was domination once again, other than Bacsinszky though. Bacsinszky was up a set and a break before the infamous “Serena Scream” allowed her to get fired up and in the zone. She took ten games on the bounce in that semifinal to close it out and closed out the final with six straight games on Safarova; highly impressive stuff from the American. We usually recap how her matches have gone in the tournaments, but we’ll let her trophy do the talking this time around. As coach Patrick Mouratoglou said, “Twenty, is a nice round number.” Let’s not get too hung onto 20 now Mr. Mouratoglou, 21 might be around the corner.

Winner: Lucie Safarova: At 28 years old, there might be more to look forward to on horizon rather than leaving behind the distant memories of the past for the Czech. In the last year she has made the Wimbledon semifinal and was now runner-up at the French Open, not many tour-level pros get to even say they’ve set foot onto the hallowed grounds of Centre Court or Philippe Chatrier, let alone play on it for a Grand Slam final. Safarova has also gained something more than just to look forward to as well, she gained fans. The Czech was relatively unknown for about the past year and a half despite those achievements being overshadowed by the likes of two-time Wimbledon champion and countrywoman, Petra Kvitova and the rising stars of the tour. She was astounding on the clay, which is oddly her weakest surface despite her all-court game. The stat that stands out for this writer is that she was 6-0 in tiebreakers, showcasing that she plays her best tennis for the most important points. Her serve is very underrated as it is not one of the most talked about shots in the game. The lefty serve can create acute angles and her power is underrated as well Technically, Safarova is a champion at the French Open as well; she won the doubles title with Bethanie Mattek-Sands so she'll be bringing home some silverware back home.

Winner: Ana Ivanovic: The woman who lost to Lucie Safarova in the semifinal also turned out to be one of the winners of this tournament as well. It’s been a long, long, wait for Ivanovic to get back to a major semifinals... 7 years and 28 majors to be exact. Just like Safarova, this was very much a surprise to see Ivanovic in the semifinals with her poor year and this tournament being played on her least favorite surface as well. Something finally worked for the Serb this tournament which has not all year, it was the serve and forehand. These two shots are bread and butter for her because when they’re on, she’s one of the toughest women to beat on tour. With not much to lose, she played aggressive throughout the tournament despite being tentative against Safarova. That’s what she needs to continue to do for the rest of the year if she wants to get back on par with the level she was playing at last year.,

Loser: Eugenie Bouchard: The clay season has not been kind to the darling of Canada. After a semifinal showing in Paris last year, the City of Love brought nothing but agony for her. Her opening and only match against Kristina Mladenovic showcased why a player with her play style (aggressive, early ball-striking) needs confidence to thrive. With that kind of hitting style, you have to be ready with your footwork to go out and attack. Also, she has to be ready to come out swinging with quick reaction time on both sides. It’s not fair to say that she didn’t do those things in her first round loss to Kristina Mladenovic, but it is fair to say that she isn’t doing it well enough. The grass has brought better memories for the Canadian, maybe this year will too.

Loser: Simona Halep: The defending runner-up looked anything but in her hope to recapture the magic that got her to the French Open final. It all looked off for her against Evgeniya Rodina in her opening match. She looked flat, groundstrokes weren’t there, and she was forced to play defense more than she liked. That is very unlike the Romanian whose baseline game reminds yours truly of Novak Djokovic in the men’s game; forehand is the wing that breaks down more often than not, backhand is superb, and has the ability to turn her defense into offense. We’ll never know if Halep was hit by the flu bug that was hitting the women at an unparalleled rate in Paris, but when you’re hit off the court by a 33-year old journeywoman, questions will obviously be asked about what happened.

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