Comment | Thoughts On Roland Garros 2019

Words on Nadal, Barty and other players who defined the fortnight

Court Simonne Mathieu
Grigor Dimitrov serves to Marin Cilic on court Simonne Mathieu | Crosscourt View

By Stephen Higgins | 10 June 2019

I don’t think we will ever see another player dominate a grand slam like Rafael Nadal. With his 12th French Open title, the Mallorcan now holds an obscene 93-2 record at Roland Garros.

It’s easy to forget that Nadal struggled through the clay court swing until he found top form in Rome. The win over Novak Djokovic in the final there propelled the 33-year-old to Paris with a large reservoir of confidence. The Spaniard dismantled the draw once again at Roland Garros and was particularly special against Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem.

Isn’t it great to see Ash Barty as a major champion? Too many players have too few shots around the top of the WTA Tour. It’s fantastic to see the bubbly Australian, who can slice, create angles and own the net, get the greatest reward of all.

Ash Barty
Ash Barty moves to world no.2 after capturing her first major | Crosscourt View

To be fair, there are a number of players with variety on the fringes of the top 10 including Anastasija Sevastova, Bianca Andreescu, Su-Wei Hsieh, Dasha Kastakina and the finalist, Marketa Vondrousova. Let’s hope that this is the start of a trend that echoes the glorious era when Justine Henin reigned supreme.

Throughout this tournament, and the final itself, I thought about how incredible Dominic Thiem is. The Austrian is a magnificent player. He has weapons everywhere, is supremely fit, handy around the net and has admirable resilience and desire. The 25-year-old has already beaten Nadal, Djokovic and Federer this season but he wants, and deserves, more. I look forward to seeing Thiem as a major champion sooner rather than later.

What is it with the Czech Republic and producing superb tennis players? Apart from Vondrousova’s outstanding fortnight, Katerina Siniakova made the fourth round and Karolina Muchova knocked Anett Kontaveit out of the tournament.

Karolina Muchova
Karolina Muchova knocked out the much fancied Anett Kontaveit in the first round | Crosscourt View

We all know about Petra Kvtiova and Karolina Pliskova. This country of 10.6 million has six players in the WTA top 100, 11 in the top 200 and 19 in the top 500. Outstanding.

The semi-final did not go the way she would have hoped, but I’m happy to see Jo Konta back where she belongs. Given her world class serve and backhand, it was a bit ridiculous to find her ranking in the 40s back in May. A former semi-finalist at Wimbledon, the Brit should be a significant factor throughout the grass court swing and, she’ll hope, at SW19.

Another player back in the big time is Stan Wawrinka. The 34-year-old looks healthy again and those gigantic groundstrokes haven’t gone anywhere. Wawrinka’s titanic match with Stefanos Tsitsipas was the match of the tournament and he might have gotten more out of the clash with Federer with more energy in the legs. It’s great to see the Stanimal roaring again.

Stan Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka now looks healthy after undergoing serious knee surgery in 2017 | Crosscourt View

I hope we see Sloane Stephens return to the form that brought her major success in New York. The American is definitely a streaky player but her overly passive rallying against Konta in the quarters was questionable. The 26-year-old has extraordinary weapons in her arsenal. It would be nice to see her use them a bit earlier in rallies as we head towards the American hard courts.

One of the saddest quotes I read throughout the fortnight came from Kei Nishikori on the ATP site after he was blown out by Nadal in the quarters:

“I think I've got to keep trying to work, to finish in straight sets, but that means I'm not maybe good enough tennis-wise and also mentally. So I’ll just keep working. I think that's going to be the next step, because I'm always stuck in the quarter-finals in Grand Slams, and I think [the] next goal is to be in semi-finals or a final.”

The Japanese has lost in the fourth round or quarter-finals of a major 16 times. It must be so difficult for the guys just outside the major contenders to keep working and believing. They’re better than 99% of the tour. Unfortunately, that remaining 1% are never in the mood to share.