The 2019 French Open witnessed Rafael Nadal reign supreme at Roland Garros once again, but there is much to ponder from what has proved another intriguing Grand Slam.
The second major of the season saw British No 1 Johanna Konta enjoy a strong campaign in Paris, a maiden Grand Slam champion in Ashleigh Barty and teenagers impressing in the women’s game along with scheduling controversy.
Before tennis switches focus to the grass-court season, here, we pick out some of the bigger talking points…
Nadal proves he is ‘King of Clay’ as he bears down on Feds
It is easy to forget that Nadal began the clay court season with three consecutive semi-final defeats on his favourite surface.
But since then he has defeated world No 1 Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open in Rome and then proved a class above, even for a brave challenge from Dominic Thiem, to win a record-extending 12th French Open title. If Nadal’s body can
hold out, and he rarely seems to struggle on clay, then another couple of titles at least appear a probability.
Nadal at Roland Garros: By the numbers
93 Wins39-Match Win Streak (2010-15)38-Set Win Streak (2016-18)26-1 vs Top 1024-0 in Finals & semi-finals17 Sets Won 6-015 Straight appearances12 Titles6-1 vs No 12 Losses (Robin Soderling, Novak Djokovic)
Nadal now has 18 Grand Slam titles, just two behind Roger Federer and his record 20-title haul. Djokovic is a further three back on 15, after his bid to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the second time in his career was ended by young Austrian Thiem in the semi-finals.
Rafa chasing Roger
Nadal is two Grand Slams behind Roger Federer for all-time men’s singles lead (20-18).This is the closest Nadal’s been to Federer’s total since 2004 Australian Open (2-0).
This year’s semi-final line-up featured Djokovic, Nadal and Federer all in the last four at a Grand Slam for the first time since the French Open in 2012. Who is to say we won’t see a repeat at Wimbledon next month?
In 2014, the likeable Australian, then aged 18, stepped away because of the demands of the sport. During her break, she played professional cricket for Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League.
But since returning to tennis almost three years ago to the weekend, the former Wimbledon junior champion has been on a path to the top of the women’s game. The fact Barty, who is now ranked second in the world, has won a Grand Slam title is not a surprise but that it has come on clay is.
She had been thought of as a potential Grand slam Champion on faster surfaces, particularly grass, but not clay.
Konta is a contender again
There is no doubt that Konta can reflect on a hugely impressive clay-court campaign. Two tour-level finals and the semi-finals of the French Open is not to be ridiculed.
However, it is hard to not reflect on what was ultimately a missed opportunity in her semi-final against Marketa Vondrousova. Everyone will have seen or at least heard about her poorly executed drive volley on her first set point, when leading 5-3 in the first set.
The 28-year-old then lost the next four games to lose the set and once again faltered when leading by the same scoreline in the second set as she suffered her third Grand Slam semi-final defeat.
Konta insisted she had nothing to regret after the match and the British No 1’s serve is back to the height of its powers and she no longer relies entirely on her powerfully-hit ground strokes. She will hope to enjoy the same type of success on the grass courts as she looks to make the next leap in her career.
The main outcry came with the decision to play both the women’s semi-finals, originally scheduled for Thursday, on Friday on the smaller show courts and at the earlier time of 10am (BST). Konta was critical of the decision by the tournament organisers, while WTA chief Steve Simon described the move as “inappropriate and unfair”, and former women’s world No 1 Amelie Mauresmo branded it a “disgrace”.
A large reason why the organisers found themselves in such a predicament was because both the men’s semi-finals, which take place on a Friday, were ticketed as different sessions thus handcuffing organisers to keep the matches on the main Philippe-Chatrier Court.
Organisers might be forced to look at their decision-making on this for next year to avoid further embarrassment, which was also obvious when play was cancelled for the day on Friday, despite the complex being bathed in sunshine at the time.
As it turned out three of the four semi-finalists were at that stage of a Grand Slam for the first time, while Konta was the first British woman to feature in the last four since Jo Durie in 1983.
17-year-old Amanda Anisimova and 19-year-old Vondrousova will also both leave the French capital more prominent in people’s consciousness. American starlet Anisimova, in particular, appears to be here to stay after reaching the second week for the second straight slam.
Having led by a set and 3-0 against Barty in the semi-final she is also likely to be driven on by a sense of a missed opportunity and the realisation she can compete with the best.