Here we go again, you know the drill. As always, all credit for this idea goes to Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated for his fifty Slam parting thoughts. I just like having a chance to chat even more shit about the past fornight of tennis than I already have all day every day on Twitter.
Please enjoy some photos of me in an outfit that I posted to Instagram a month or two ago that have absolutely nothing to do with tennis and the content of this blog post x
PS: Now I’m home for Summer, more regular Instagram and blog content resumes shortly. I couldn’t start with anything other than tennis.
Let’s just get this one out the way: court scheduling. A few days into Roland Garros I realised I hadn’t been writing down my thoughts to come back to for this blog post, the very first point I wrote was ‘court equality’ because for the first week, you couldn’t fault the French Open. They’d done it perfectly. An even 2:2 ratio for men’s and women’s matches on the big show courts, so I wanted to applaud them.
As we all know, that changed at the latter stages of the tournament. After a rain washout on Wednesday (which tbh was in my favour because I was packing and moving back home for the Summer), Wednesday’s schedule got pushed to Thursday and the women’s semi finals (originally meant to be on Thurs) were moved to the Friday, men’s semi day. Except, each match was played at 11AM on the second and third biggest show courts, rather than the centre court of the tournament. The crowds looked pathetic. I watched Konta Vondrousova on the new Matheiu court and the crowd looked like that of a little ATP Challenger in a grey, drab, random part of Britain. Vondrousova made the finals and that final was her first time playing on the main showcourt at RG.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the final was then delayed by about an hour and a half because the Djokovic Thiem semi final of Friday was cancelled way too early in the day and postponed til midday Saturday. Even though, by Friday evening, it was a wonderfully clear, bright and sunny eve in Paris. Again, this actually worked in my favour because I left my house for Goodwood about half an hour before play was cancelled for the day and I wasn’t going to be able to watch it had it not been postponed, but I’d rather it hadn’t.
I get that the FTF couldn’t do much else about the semi finals day scheduling because they sell the tickets to the men’s semis as two separate sessions, but they should never have done this in the first place. Some feminists would’ve rather had one of the men kicked off Chatrier to make way for the women and just refunded anyone who bought a ticket to that men’s semi final but yes, that is a bit too much. The problem lies with the plan of selling men’s semi final tickets separately so now with some hindsight I hope they never do it again – selling the men’s matches separately but not the women’s also devalues women’s tennis. Anyway, that was ok with me – I mean, they couldn’t do much else because it was too late and the men’s semi final had already sold out and been promised at a certain day/time on a certain court but I just hope it never happens again – until they cancelled the rest of the second semi final and refunded everyone. Should’ve just refunded them a day ago and let the gals play on Chatrier. Anyway, it was outrageous and sexist and everything that’s wrong with inequality in tennis. My take is that it was awful, they never should’ve sold the men’s semi final tickets in this way and unfortunately there was almost no other way they could’ve scheduled all of the semi finals just because of the way they sold the tickets. Now, with hindsight, I hope this never happens again and they never sell tickets in this way again. Moving on…
WELCOME TO THE BARTY PARTY!!! 23-year-old Australian ABSOLUTE ANGEL Ash Barty won the women’s singles title. I love Ash so much. It warms my heart that Australia gets to have a champion as wonderful as her, and warms my heart that she gets to be celebrated by the country so much now. She is the absolute most perfect champion they could ever have – humble, hard-working, such an Aussie with her ‘ripper’ and ‘beauty’ remarks in every post-match interview, she has Aboriginal roots. A few years ago Ash hit pause on her tennis career to go play Big Bash Cricket and played for Brisbane Heat for a bit. Three years ago, she returned to the sport of tennis ranked 623 in the world (I think that’s it? Off the top of my head) and tomorrow, she becomes world number two. And is hot on the heels of world number one Naomi Osaka, with her favourite part of the season on her best starting tomorrow.
When I was in Australia, I remember having to do a couple of projects on Cathy Freeman, the Indigenous Australian, Olympic Gold Medal-winning Sprinter. And I can’t stop thinking about how the ~kids of tomorrow~ are gonna be doing the same about Ash. They so will be, she is one of those champions who deserves to be celebrated and held in high regard. Could not have been more happy for her and I’m sure everyone else felt the same. The outpour of support she had online from her fellow players just tells you all you need to know about what a woman Ashleigh Barty is.
#12. It happen-ed. Remember at the start of the clay swing when Rafa lost in back-to-back semi finals in Monte Carlo and Barcelona? Everyone suddenly had question marks around Rafa and everyone was doubting whether he’d even he able to manage the clay dominance and win his 12th RG this year. Then, Rome happen-ed. He won the title, bagelling the man who was arguably the Roland Garros favourite this year in the final. His first title since Toronto last year, and first of the season.
And now here we are, we are in Paris. And Rafa has just won his 12th title here. If you don’t get what I keep subtly referencing in this section, it’s the below wonderful part of his press conference in Rome, I think either when he reached the semi final there or when he’d won it, and he was acknowledging that this was different to what had happen-ed in Monte Carlo and Rome.
The one thing I can’t get over about yesterday’s win (other than the obviously mindblowing fact that he’s won the same Major TWELVE WHOLE TIMES!!!) is the fact that he’s two Slams away from equalling Roger Federer. They’re now at 20-18. It’s the closest Rafa has ever been. It’s the ultimate factor in the GOAT debate. And all I want is for them to retire on equals tbh.
Speaking of Roger Federer. This was his first clay season in three years, and his first RG in four. And it went pretty bloody well. I had never even seen Roger play on clay. Like, even on TV. The first non French Open match I ever watched on the clay was the Rome 2016 final against Murray and Djokovic, and I believe Rome 2016 was Roger’s last clay tournament before this year. The first French Open match I even watched (well, from memory) was the 2015 final between Djokovic and Wawrinka. Though, I discovered through my Timehop that I may have actually watched the Djokovic Nadal semi final that year, I’ve just got zero recollection of this.
In short, it’s been a very long time since Roger played clay because I was barely watching tennis back then. And my god, was it the right decision. He only lost two matches, to the two best players on this surface by miles. He made the quarter finals of the two Masters 1000 events he played on clay (pulled out of Rome before he could play his next round so technically not a loss, and also a smart decision to preserve himself for the French) and the semi finals of the only bloody Grand Slam on this surface!! At age 37!! Nearly 38 in August!! Not having played on this surface in three whole years!! It’s his best Slam result in the last year!!
I know he lost in straight sets to Rafa in their semi final, but for the first two sets he put up an amazing fight and they had so many mini-battles in every game, such long games as they fought to hold and break. Roger really stayed with Rafa for a bit. Also, that was the first time they’d played each other on clay since before I watched my first ever tennis match in my whole entire life. Whether or not he plays on the clay next year, or ever again, you cannot criticise a single part of Fed’s performance on the clay this year. With all factors considered, the whole clay swing, especially the French Open, has been an incredible achievement for him. And amazing preparation for the grass, in the lead up to his favourite Slam.
The criticisms of Katie Boulter were downright nasty. You know the meme or whatever it is where people say someone broke their back carrying the industry? Katie Boulter almost literally broke her back carrying Great Britain to victory in the Fed Cup tie in April (that I went to!!) – she’s been out with a back injury ever since because that’s how much she put into winning the tie for our country and getting us out of whatever this World Group Zone Playoff stage is. And when she kept herself in the Roland Garros draw long enough to be able to claim half her prize money once she ‘officially’ pulled out, she was heavily criticised for doing it to get the money. Money she earned for being ranked high enough to make the main draw of a Grand Slam.
Basically, there’s a rule in place where, if you do not withdraw from a Slam before the official draw is made and everyone is put in place of who they’re gonna play, then you withdraw AFTER that but before playing your first round match, you claim half of the first round prize money you would’ve made, your spot goes to a lucky loser and they then get the other half. It was done to prevent people playing purely to make the money when they were obviously injured, and then retiring a few games into the first round match, because this happened a lot at Wimbledon I think in 2017. You might think doing it for the money is greedy but tennis is such an expensive sport to play and those ranked lower down barely make any money at smaller tournaments, you need to be ranked at least in the top fifty if not higher to even breakeven in this sport, let alone get anywhere near being able to make a profit.
I just couldn’t believe the amount of British journos shit talking Katie Boulter for this when SHE BROKE HER BACK CARRYING GREAT BRITAIN TO FED CUP VICTORY!!!!! She literally only has this back injury that forced her to pull out of Roland Garros because she was playing for Britain, so British people need to stop slagging her off when what she did was completely within the rules and she earned that money by being ranked high enough to make a Slam draw. It made me so mad. Celebrate your Fed Cup hero ya idiots.
A note on all of the withdrawals. They were extra disappointing this year because there were so many from players who were expected to do big things. The woman who was arguably everyone’s pick for the title, Kiki Bertens, retired in an early round match due to (how do I put it nicely?) stomach issues. Ykno? Petra Kvitova also withdrew, always a contender for the Slams, as did Felix Auger-Aliassime. Felix was going to do some absolute damage in this draw, trust me, but playing in Lyon the week before messed him up. It’s just a shame, but I’m not gonna get into the what ifs now. Just can’t wait to see these three back tearing it up on the grass.
Goodbye, bullring. Court one, aka the ‘bullring’ will be no more. This was the last year that the court would be played on, and even exist, to make way for the new Simone Matheiu court, which was built and used this year, and for the extended Chatrier corrt. There isn’t enough space between them anymore so court one will be knocked down to make more room, and whilst it’s a bit sad it is definitely needed. The crush that ensued on one of the days (when Wawrinka Dimitrov was moved to the bullring from Lenglen) was awful, watching from Twitter was terrifying so I cannot imagine being a part of it. But it’s almost as if the ~tennis gods~ knew this was its last year, because some incredible four and five setters were played out on that court as a bit of a last hurrah. Dimitrov Tipsaveric, Edmund Chardy – some proper battles went down on the bullring court this year. Not that I’ve ever been, but it looked like one of the most amazing courts to watch tennis on. Round, close to the action, See ya later bullring, thanks for the memz x
Speaking of epic battles – let’s talk Herbert and Mahut. Separately. As singles players. The iconic, sweet doubls duo are taking some time apart at the moment because P2H wants to focus on his singles, and both of them came up with some pretty good (and eerily similar) showings in that department here at their home Slam. On the first Sunday of the tournament, Nicolas Mahut came back from two sets down to beat Marco Cecchinato, last year’s semi finalist, 2-6 6-7(6) 6-4 6-2 6-4. It was incredible and emotional. And then, his (now former) doubles partner Herbert did the same a day later, coming back from two sets down against Medvedev, who is really announcing himself as a tough player on tour, and winning 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5. Incredible. I love these two so much. P2H lost in the next round in an epic five set battle against countryman Paire, one of the matches of the tournament, and Mahut lost in the third round in a close four setter to Mayer. And Mahut’s son, who I spoke about in last year’s French Open parting thoughts, was the star of the show again. Warms my heart. I hope these two can have some good success in singles but come back to play doubles together again too.
And speaking of amazing doubles pairings, Murray and Soares split. I’m pretty upset about this one. I looovveeeedd Jamie and Bruno as a doubles pairing, but I totally get the decision. Few doubles pairings even last as like as these two did, and given that they haven’t had a year as successful as 2016 (when they got together) or 2017 then it understandable that they need to try new things and see if they can win Slams and big titles again by shaking it up. And Bruno is teaming up with Mate Pavic which is going to be a ridiculously talented team. Excited to see what’s to come for these two but a bit sad they won’t be a team anymore.
On on-court coaching. This Slam got me thinking a bit more about the impact of on-court coaching and the debate we seem to always have a lil bit around OCC. I think it makes the Slams more special. Men have the extra sets hurdle to overcome, women have no OCC here like they do on the WTA tour. Of course, I’d much rather things be equal and everyone play best of 3 in week one then everyone play BO5 in week two but that’s a discussion for another day. But it’s so interesting to see how different players fare without the option to call their coaches onto court. Pliskova did a lot worse here than people expected, and is one of the WTA players everyone expects to have already won a Slam by now, and is someone you could argue relies a lot on on-court coaching on the WTA tour. In contrast, Muguruza seems to do better at Slams and just wins them out of nowhere after having little form on the normal tour – we always point out the odd relationship she seems to have with her coach Sam, and how weird their OCC chats are, so she’s someone who seems to do better without having the option there.
The Slam streaks ended for Osaka and Djokovic. I wrote ‘Naomi can’t lose’ as a point for this post on the morning of the day she lost, but her Slam match winning streak did come to an end on 16, as she lost to then doubles world number one Siniakova. It was a bloody good streak, especially for a 20/21 year old (my age!! scary) and tbh, there were many, many times where she could’ve lost a lot earlier and almost didn’t make it out alive, so her 16 match winning streak is all the more impressive. Then there was Novak, losing to Thiem in the semi final after a 26 Slam match winning streak. He came two wins away from doing the ‘Nole Slam’ for second time in three years – holding all four Slams at once. A mindblowing achievement. To think, a year ago he lost to Cecchinato in the quarters and rushed into the now infamous Interview Room 2 and hastily said he might skip the grass season. And here we are, we are in Paris x Ok jokes but wow, it takes a lot to beat these two in a Slam now. The streaks might have come to and end but it took a lot to stop them.
Serena’s early exit. On the sam day that Naomi Osaka lost to Katerina Siniakova, Serena Williams lost to Sofia/Sonya (still don’t get what that’s all about) Kenin in the third round in straight sets. A tough loss, but considering the big lack of matches Serena’s had this year, and the injury she’s had, making the third round still wasn’t a bad showing. She said in her press conference that she does feel she hasn’t had enough matches and might play a warmup tournament on the grass before Wimbledon. Queue me screaming EASTBOURNE EASTBOURNE EASTBOURNE every day until she announces her decision. Pls Serena. It’s like a half hour drive from my house and I finally have a car now. Make my dreams come true. I can do you lifts now x.
Anyway. This calls into question even more whether she’ll be able to equal or better Margaret Court’s 24 Slam record (which is all bullshit anyway and shouldn’t count because of how different / easy easy bloody easy it was to win them back then. Do I think she’ll do it? One million percent. Y’all really think Serena will retire on 23 Slams? In your dreams. I’m still sticking with the prediction I’ve had all year that she’ll at least equal it and get her 24th by the end of the year. And she won’t retire without breaking the record, no matter what. Let’s just focus on getting her to Eastbourne for my sake pls.
She might’ve lost in the quarters but for her first Slam title defense, Halep handled it pretty well. Ok, she lost to 17yo Amanda Anisimova in the quarter finals, but for her first time defending a Grand Slam title – a Slam title that she fought so hard to finally win – she handled it so well. She dropped sets in her opening two matches but found a way to speed through the third sets in the end, and her first round was against Ajla Tomljanovic who is incredibly talented. She then tore up the draw in her next two rounds, only to fall at the Anisomova hurdle. But still, I was very, very impressed by the way Simona handled this entirely new situation.
KONTA KONTA KONTA!!! I can’t believe I didn’t do this one sooner. Omg. Konta got to a Slam semi final for the third time in her career but this one felt the most significant. She’s had a bit of a dip since making the Wimby semis two years ago, and she’s finally back at it. After having never won a main draw match at the French Open ever (which everyone kept reminding her which she hated), she won five to make the Semis, where she lost to Vondrousova in straight sets after being a break up in each. God, I am so proud of her. I cried when she beat Sloane 6-1 6-4 in the most immaculate performance ever in the quarters. And she’s had an amazing clay season altogether. Since that Fed Cup tie in the Copper Box over Easter Weekend (which again I went to!!) she’s just been going up and up and up. And now we return to her better surface and all the tournaments in her home country, so expect even bigger and better things from JoKo. Fun fact: She’s from Collaroy in Sydney but moved to Eastbourne when she was 14. I’m from Brighton, moved to Dee Why in Sydney (the suburb next to Collaroy) and then back to Brighton – the biggest city near Eastbourne. So we are kindred sprits x
Ole ole ole ole. Delpo, Delpo. Juan Martin del Potro, everyone’s fave big friendly giant, returned for the clay! None of us, not even him, expected that he’d make a comeback on the clay or even be able to play this part of the season, so to get to an incredible, tight quarter final against Djokovic in Rome and then to the quarters here was unreal. I am SO HAPPY for Delpo and I hope he has the best, injury-free season ever from here on out. OLE.
I’ve made this point before and I’ll make it again – it’s funny how the WTA doesn’t have the huge NextGen campaign that the ATP do, yet the young WTA players do waaaay better. This year, 18yo Marketa Vondrousova and 17yo Amanda Anisomova made the semis. The final between Marketa and 23yo Ash Barty was the youngest in I think over a decade. The world number one and two are 21 and 23 years old and have won the last three Slams. The WTA don’t need an over-hyped, big constructed marketing campaign for their young / 21-and-under players like the ATP do. Because their young women are already the now gen. Go girls x
In a similar vein – what do you prefer? The conventional top four or a bit of variety? This year, the final four men left in the tournament who made the semi finals were the top four seeds / top four ranked men in the world – Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Thiem. It was the first time this has happened in an ATP tournament in over seven years. In massive contrast, the women’s semi final lineup contained Ashleigh Barty, Johanna Konta, Amanda Anisimova and Marketa Vondrousova. I’m ngl, I can’t find what the latter three were ranked coming into this tournament, but Ash was the only top ten player left amongst the last four, the others were outside the top 25. I’m absolutely loving this huge contrast between the two tours, it’s letting us have the best of both worlds. We get to see what’s supposed to happen on paper – the top four players being the last four standing – but also we get to see real life, because in reality it’s never gonna go how it should’ve done on paper. As Sloane Stephens said in press this fortnight, draws are made to fall apart. And it’s really fun watching the difference between one draw ‘falling apart’ and one sticking to the script.
Kiki, do you love me? The women’s doubles title was won by homegrown hero Kristina Mladenovic and her partner Timea Babos, the win making them the top women’s doubles team in the world and cementing Kiki as the top women’s doubles player in the world. It was also a win for this generation’s OG tennis couple, Kiki and Thiem, with both of them taking to Chatrier yesterday to play their own respective finals. Whilst Thiem didn’t come away as a winner from his final like Kiki did, it’s still nice to see both of them doing bits and continue to support each other in the process, especially a day or two after some other tennis couple breakup news. But let’s not talk about that.
Sticking to the dubs, two unseesed teams made the finals on the men’s side. Germans Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies beat French pair Jeremy Chardy (!!) and Fabrice Martin. I read something on Twitter saying something about how Krawietz and Mies played and/or won a challenger like the week before this Slam started, so what a massive boost for them winning a whole entire Grand Slam here. Stories like these are great for the sport. You love to hear it x
With Rafa closing in on Roger’s Slam count, just how significant was AO17? Nobody will ever forget that absolute magical miracle of a Grand Slam. Throwback finals galore – Fedal on the men’s side and Williams sisters on the women’s side. Nobody expected Federer and Nadal, then ranked something like 17 and 9 in the world, to have come back from months of injury layoff and make the final of their first Grand Slam back, especially when we were so used to every men’s final ever being a Djokovic Murray showdown back then. Whoever won, it didn’t really matter, it was just incredible to see something we never thought we’d see again (in my case, I’d never ever seen a Fedal match at this point) and when the match went five sets we knew that whatever the outcome, we’d all got what we wanted, and both men deserved to be winners that day. But, Roger won. Had Rafa won, they’d now be tied 19-19 on Slams, instead of Fed being ahead on 20 vs Rafa’s 18. Just how significant will that magical, miracle final prove to be in the long run? It’s significant as is, for other reasons, but it could be the one match that really determines their overall Slam counts against each other in the end.
Fan favourite Lucie Safarova retired. One half of Team Bucie, the women’s doubles pairing made up of herself and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who I love so much, Safarova retired after she and Dominika Cibulkova lost their doubles match to Sofia/Sonya (srsly!!) Kenin and Andrea Petkovic. She did plan to retire with Bethanie by her side but BMattek had to pull out of the French pretty last minute with her ongoing injury problems. She made the finals here in 2015, and almost made it to the Career Grand Slam in doubles, just missing out on Wimbledon. It’s a big loss for tennis, both for the fans and her fellow players, who all showed a big outpouring of love for her. She was one of those gals who everyone adored, and I hope she has the happiest retirement ever.
Nike’s marketing team delivered as always. Posted shortly after Rafa hit the winning championship point, this video advert is one of my most favourite things ever. I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but enjoy it again anyway.
The match of the year. Wawrinka Tstisipas. Over five hours, an absolute classic of a match. Contender for the match of the year already. It’ll be very hard to top. And I’m so proud of my OG fave Stan the Man for coming through that epic and really announce himself as being back. Wouldn’t put it past him to win the US Open come September. Just had to leave you all with this match as my main parting thought from the tournament, because it was the best ever.
And there ya have it! Everything I thought about RG19. See you in a few weeks for the Wimby edition x