Vive la French Open! A Recap of The 2019 Tennis Tournament
Now that the red dust of the Roland-Garros clay courts is finally settling, it’s hard to believe that the two weeks are finally over, and destined for the record books. When it all started two Sundays ago, EIC On The Move host Raul Manzano was in attendance as a special guest of Lacoste, and after attending special lunches and parties, he flew back to Manila; and the round of 16 in both the men’s and women's draws had not even happened. That is the kind of test of attrition and fortitude these tennis slams are all about. So it’s easy to see the crowned champions; and fail to appreciate the gauntlet they had to endure to come out victorious.
Single's champion, Ashleigh Barty
In the women’s draw, Australian Ashleigh Barty is the new, first-time slam champion. And beyond the fact that it’s been 46 years since the last Australian woman, Margaret Court, was crowned champion; it was interesting to note that Ashleigh had given up on tennis a few years ago and turned to cricket. You can be sure that spectator Rod Laver, the Australian living legend, was happy she found her way back to the sport, and has now cemented her career for Down Under posterity.
Czech Marketa Vondrousova was on the other side of the net during the women’s final, but if one player emerged as this year’s new discovery and tournament darling, it would be 17-year old American Amanda Anisimova. She may have lost to Barty in the semi-finals; but she did play her role in signaling the resurgence of American Women’s tennis, as three of the eight quarter finalists were Americans. While the French Tennis Federation was criticized for moving the semis to the outside courts when weather had wreaked havoc on the schedule, that was quickly forgiven as Barty turned Saturday into a glorious Aussie day.
In the men’s draw, the two highlights leading to the final had to be the semi that pit Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer. Unfortunately though, while Federer had moments of brilliance, the clay courts have never been his stronger surface, and he was dispatched in straight sets. The other semi of current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 4. Dominic Thiem turned out to be the better ticket. This was five sets played over two days, and Thiem beat the odds to come up the winner, and enter his 2nd consecutive French Open final — he lost in straight sets to Nadal in 2018.
This is Rafa’s 12th French Open final, and from the get go, the first set on Sunday was clay tennis from another planet, with Thiem drawing first blood with a break, but Nadal showing the kind of resilience and determination that have been his trademarks by immediately breaking back, and eventually taking the first set. But when Thiem took the second set, all bets were off, and it was evident, this was a different Thiem from the awestruck player of last year.
But like an enraged beast awakened, Nadal then zipped through the third set, surrendering only one game. After three hours and one minute, the fourth set and a twelfth French Open title was in Rafa’s pocket. Commentators consider these twelve titles in a single slam tournament a record that looks unlikely to ever be matched.
Rafael Nadal wins his 12th men's singles title
Grand Slam titles remain a major determining factor of tennis greatness — these are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. Federer has amassed 20, Nadal now has 18, and Djokovic remains pegged at 15 (having surpassed Sampras’ 14 just earlier this year at the 2019 Australian Open). Roger won his first slam in 2003, Nadal in 2005, and Djokovic in 2008.
Thiem, Zverev, Tsitsipas are the Young Guard people talk about today; but the curious thing is how every three years or so since 2010, we’ve talked and mentioned the likes of Murray, Warwinka, and Del Porto breaking the stranglehold of the Royal Three — but the Three are still there, taking the lion’s share of slam titles. How much longer that will continue to transpire is now anyone’s guess. Pundits have been taking about their advancing years for sometime now, but it’s still these three left standing, giving victory speeches. At 33, Rafa just doesn’t know how to quit, or release the viselike grip he has on the French Open trophy.
Photos from Roland-Garros