It's been a strangely fortuitous fortnight, but now that the dust has settled on the red clay of Roland Garros, we're reminded of how strangely fulfilling this years French Open has been. Here's what I'll remember of the past couple of weeks:
1) Rafael Nadal is not just good on clay. He's scary good. No disrespect to Bjorn the legend but there's only one thing that beats this bull from Majorca on clay - his knees. Soderling didn't play particularly badly. He could have made a few more of those huge inside out forehands but those are high-risk shots and not making them regularly enough in no way implies that you're playing badly. As it stands, Nadal is still 24, his knees look good enough and he's only a single French Open away from equalling Borg's six. Plus, he's got the Number One ranking and barely any points to defend over the rest of the season. If you're an ATP pro, Rafael Nadal is the man you want to be right now.
2) What does it say about the WTA when Italian journey-woman Francesca Schiavone, who turns 30 later this month makes her way through the draw and then plays the match of her life against a powerful opponent who had taken down Henin, Serena and Jankovic? It tells you a couple of things. Women's tennis is still more unpredictable than the men and we're not likely to see these kinds of upsets in the next two slams. It also serves as a shining example on how to seize an opportunity. Ms. Schiavone ground her way through the fortnight playing quality opponents and found herself against an unexpected opponent in the final. She knows that at 30, she's never getting a chance like this again so she goes out on Chatrier and plays the match of her life. Now, she'll always be a Grand Slam champion. Heartwarming.
3) Future Champions? Diminutive Argentine Agustin Velotti (all of 1.64m tall) won the Boy's Singles beating American Andrea Collarini 6-4, 7-5 while Elene Svitolina became the first Ukrainian winner ever beating Tunisian Ons Jabeur 6-2, 7-5 in the Girl's Final. That being said, Junior Grand Slam success is anything but a guarantee to equivalent success on the Senior tour.
4) Spare a thought for Novak Djokovic after his latest 'Melzdown'. Ever since beating Roger Federer on his way to the 2008 title in Melbourne, Nole has failed to make it to a Grand Slam final. The poor bloke might have been inadvertently cursed by his mother when she prematurely declared "the king is dead" in reference to Federer. Djokovic is superbly consistent year-round and his game is as compact and solid as anyones, but unless he starts playing for Grand Slam titles, he won't have a legacy.
5) Ah! How can Grand Slam thoughts be complete without Roger Federer? Finally the streak ends but he lost to a better player on the day and one hopes that he'll be more than ready and hungry for another Wimbledon title after losing his Number One ranking. He finished in the top four (or better) in 23 consecutive major tournaments! The most number of times Tiger Woods did this was five times and for Top 10 finishes, he did it eight times! No comparisons but I'm just providing some context.
6) When's the next time an American gets to win the Men's title? Your guess is as good as mine. When the last American standing in the draw is Robby Ginepri you figure there might be something wrong with an American on clay. Roddick doesn't stand a chance and the Isner/Querrey duo both have games better suited to quicker surfaces. With no promising juniors in sight (not that we need another Donald Young), this wait could be a long one.
7) The brilliance of the Williams! Venus goes out tamely to Nadia Petrova and Serena gets upset by Stosur. No problem. They go on to win their fourth consecutive major title! It's a Serenus/Verena slam! Now that's a streak worth building on.
8) For all the talk about seizing opportunity and grabbing chances, here's one for Jelena Jankovic. She's playing good tennis, due to face Serena in the semis. Williams gets upset in a shocker, Jankovic runs through Shvedova and all she has to do is go past Stosur to give herself another shot at that elusive grand Slam title. Then she wins a total of three games! I used to be a fan of her error-free tennis but I'm starting to think the clock may have run out.
9) Raise your hand if you missed Messrs. Nikolay Davydenko and Juan Marteeeeenn at this years French Open. They're established players capable of exploding on any given day. Would have been nice to see them try and stop the runaway Rafa train. Hopefully they'll be back sooner than anticipated.
10) And finally, we can cross the English Channel and get the strawberries out in bunches! Expect inch-perfect grass and inclement weather - it's Wimbledon time! Follow the warm-ups as Rafa heads to Queens and Roger heads to Halle for the Gerry Weber Open. It'll be impossible to match the Men's Singles Finals of the past two years but hey, never say never!