Issue #8 | Roland Garros Wrap Up

Issue #8 | Roland Garros Wrap Up

Photo by Anne-Christine Poujoulat AFP via Getty Images

For the last two weeks, I’ve jumped out of bed two hours before my wife, stumbled downstairs groggy and crusty eyed, and made a beeline to feed our three cats in hopes to buy myself a couple hours of peace and quiet. A hangry cat alone is no joke, three hangry cats need to be dealt with immediately. However, once they’ve licked every crumb from their respective bowls, the ensuing Friskies induced food comas would buy me a short window of peace. From there I could direct my energy to the already brewed pot of coffee that I had preset the night before and take in as much of the French Open as I could before becoming consumed by Zoom calls and actual nine to five work. But, this morning hit a little different. Sadly, the French Open has concluded and today would feel somewhat empty. Don’t get me wrong, I still fed them cats though, I’m not trying to hear that noise at five in the morning.

As the tennis world continues to evolve at breakneck speed, the French Open delivered a blend of expected outcomes and some jaw-dropping surprises—especially for this fan. The two week whirlwind and sheer barrage of tennis to take in was exciting as I frantically bounced from channel to channel, trying to keep up with the kaleidoscope of matches and drama unfolding in the respective draws. 

As the first week wrapped and the draws began to distill, I’d sharpen my focus, zeroing in on my personal favorites who made it to week two, while at the same time, keeping an eye on the popular contenders, anticipating the inevitable upsets. And this year, Roland Garros would not disappoint. Admittedly, I’m still struggling to find some rhythm as a writer, so this isn’t a comprehensive review of the entire event in its entirety, but merely a handful of key players and key moments that are top of mind for me post tournament. 

Iga Swiatek - Dirt Dominate 
Photo by Emmanuel Dunand - AFP via Getty Images

I'm not sure what more needs to be said about Iga Swiatek's reign over the clay court season. Sure, she hit a minor speed bump with a three-set loss to Rybakina in Stuttgart, but since then, she's been unstoppable. With stellar performances in Madrid and Rome, she strolled into Roland Garros full of confidence, and rightly so. Aside from her second-round match against Naomi Osaka, where Osaka served for the match twice, Swiatek did what true champions do. In what would be the best match of the women’s draw, Swiatek dug her ON sneakers into the Chatrier clay and clawed her way out of a hole, robbing me of the potential of a dream matchup between Naomi Osaka and Jasmine Paolini (more on both later).

From that point on, Swiatek dominated everyone in her path. She relentlessly dished out baseline beatdowns and hit cross-court groundstrokes with laser precision, match after match. She served up a double bagel to Anastasia Potopova (who is formidable) in less than an hour. She made light work of two recent Grand Slam champions—Marketa Vondrousova in the quarterfinals (6-0, 6-2) and Coco Gauff in the semifinals (6-2, 6-4). Swiatek would then coast to a 6-2, 6-1 victory in the Roland Garros final over our beloved Jasmine Paolini, winning her third consecutive Roland Garros title, her fourth French Open, fifth Grand Slam, and that’s all on the heels of winning the Dirty Double in Madrid and Rome mind you. It’s safe to say Swiatek owned the clay season. 

At the core of the game of tennis are the forehand and backhand, the two shots you hit the most when you play. And right now, no one is hitting the forehand or backhand better than Iga Swiatek. She’s been untouchable when it mattered most, and it starts and ends with the often flawless execution of her groundstrokes, her footwork, her ability to move her opponents and her uncanny ability to turn defense to offense. I’ve heard people call Swiatek’s tennis boring, but when you really look closely, Swiatek is playing the game exactly as it was intended to be played.

Iga Swiatek is the world number one, on her Jay Rock vibe, doing what world number ones are supposed to do: Win. Win, win, win, win. And until someone actually topples her, we can’t be mad at the world number one living up to her billing. For now, Swiatek stays eating. Tiramisu and championship photoshoots. No makeup needed.

Jasmine Paolini - Standing Tall
Photo by Tim Goode - Getty Images

I don’t ever not need a reason to write about Jasmine Paolini. She’s been my favorite player for years, and this season, she’s been spectacular. As her self-proclaimed number one fan, I wasn’t the least bit shocked to see her maneuver her compact frame into the finals of the French Open. For four years, I've been predicting this ascension, and now, my inner prophet is basking in vindication. Jasmine Paolini was “THE” Cinderella of Roland Garros, earning her way into the finals in both singles and doubles, solidifying an already stellar year and her status on the women’s tour.

Paolini, the twelfth seed, navigated a few tricky early round matches. She faced off against Daria Saville and Hailey Baptiste, opponents she hadn't previously bested. She then triumphed in a seesaw three-setter against former Grand Slam champion Bianca Andreescu, who it’s good to see back on the scene after a ten-month hiatus due to a back injury. Paolini also dropped her first set against a rising Elina Avenesyan in the fourth round, before finding her rhythm and cruising through the next two sets with relative ease.

Next, Paolini clashed with former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a three-set match that didn’t phase me at all. I knew Paolini could handle Rybakina’s rally power as long as she kept her out of the center court. By making Rybakina dance back and forth across the baseline, Paolini clinched the decisive set and the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. In the semifinal against seventeen-year-old Mirra Andreeva, who had stunned Aryna Sabalenka in the quarters, Paolini dismantled Andreeva’s backhand, gliding to a 6-3, 6-1 victory and setting up a final showdown with the world number one, Iga Swiatek.

On paper, Paolini wasn’t supposed to beat Swiatek, but I definitely thought she had a shot. Paolini started strong, breaking early to go up 2-1. But Swiatek, with the best groundstrokes in the game, flipped the script. Instead of Paolini unsettling Swiatek, it was Swiatek who disrupted Paolini’s rhythm, cruising to a two-set victory and her fifth Grand Slam title.

Paolini’s fortnight also saw her reaching the doubles final with compatriot Sara Errani, hot off their doubles title win in Rome. However, they were bested by the powerhouse duo of Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova, falling 6-7, 3-6. Paolini thus ended her Parisian adventure with two finals but no titles.

Yet, these two weeks were far from a loss for Paolini. In truth, she was the tournament’s biggest winner. She leaves Roland Garros with a validated self-belief and a new number seven world ranking, affirming what I’ve always known, she belongs in the top ten. She’s always been this good. Always. She exits the French Open with a legion of new fans, newfound stardom, and nearly $2 million, bringing her well deserved 2024 bag up to $2.8 million, doubling her career earnings in a mere six months.

Jasmine Paolini has been one of the hardest-working women in tennis, she loves being a professional athlete, and she loves the game. Her infectious joy and upbeat demeanor on court is undeniable. I’m overjoyed to see the game finally showering her with the love, recognition and success she so richly deserves. 

Naomi Osaka - 99 Percent
Photo by Franco Arland - Getty Images

In a thrilling match at the 2024 French Open on May 29, Naomi Osaka came within a few points of toppling the world No. 1 and three-time French Open champion, Iga Swiatek. The battle, which lasted just shy of three hours, saw Swiatek pull off a remarkable comeback to win 7-6(1), 1-6, 7-5 under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier. Osaka, a former world No. 1 herself, had Swiatek on the ropes, leading 5-3 in the final set and even holding a match point. However, the world number one, renowned for her resilience and precision, saved herself from the brink and ultimately clinched victory.

Osaka’s return to top-tier tennis, just nine months after giving birth, has been extraordinary. Ranked 134th in the world, Osaka displayed the form that made her a four-time Grand Slam champion. Osaka was relentless in her approach to this match, as her aggressive play, and incredible ball striking had Swiatek, who was on a 13-match winning streak, extremely pressed. Osaka’s performance on the clay courts of Roland Garros, a surface she traditionally finds challenging, was particularly impressive, channeling her dominant abilities, pushing Swiatek to her limits.

The first set was a rollercoaster, with Osaka managing to push Swiatek to a tiebreak. However, Swiatek was able to lock in when she needed to the most and take the tiebreak 7-1. Not to be deterred, Osaka stormed through the second set, winning 6-1, and continued her aggressive play into the third, where had a comfortable 5-2 lead.

In tennis though, winning the last point is the only thing that really matters. At 3-5 down, Swiatek displayed the tenacity and mental fortitude that has become her trademark, saving a match point and winning the final five games. “I honestly didn’t believe I could win. But it didn’t change the fact that I just tried to do work to play better,” Swiatek said post match. Her ability to switch gears under pressure was crucial in turning the tide.

Osaka, reflecting on her performance, acknowledged the missed opportunity. “I cried when I got off the court but then I realized I was watching Iga win this tournament last year and I was pregnant. It was just my dream to be able to play her. When I kind of think of it like that, I think I’m doing pretty well,” she said. Despite the loss, Osaka’s match against Swiatek highlighted her potential to return to the top of the game and was hands down the match of the tournament. For Osaka, the match was both a significant step in her comeback and a reminder of the journey ahead. Her powerful serves and punishing groundstrokes brought her within inches of beating the world’s best player.

From my perspective, there’s only one thing missing from Osaka’s game at the moment, the one thing that cost her this match. Patience. Knowing how well, and how confidently she’s striking the ball, and knowing where she’s been in this game, I can only imagine that, when you’re feeling unstoppable, you can become a bit reckless. For Osaka, the key is to play with that confidence, and to give herself a bit more margin, that’s it. Don’t hit the tight shot, hit the right shot. All shots don’t have to be hit at one hundred percent, sometimes ninety-nine percent will do just fine. And that just takes a little patience.

In the end, the match between Osaka and Swiatek was a classic display of tennis, showcasing resilience, skill, and the unpredictable nature of the sport. The fans that were able to get inside Court Philippe Chatrier witnessed a contest that will be remembered for its intensity and drama. For Osaka, it was a match that signaled her imminent arrival back to the upper echelons of tennis (I’m predicting top 50 by end of year), and for Swiatek, a reaffirmation of her dominance on clay.

All that said, I love this determined version of Osaka. She may have lost this match, but her message to the tennis world was clear. She’s fearless. She’s confident. Her demeanor says she has zero fucks to give and nothing left to prove to anyone but herself. I can't wait for hard court season, cuz mama's about to be a problem.

Carlos Alcaraz - Never a Doubt 
Photo by Dan Istitene - Getty Images

I wasn’t too worried about Carlos Alcaraz’s ability to dig himself out of a 1-2 hole, especially after watching him do it against Jannik Sinner in the semifinals. And although Alexander Zverev had been playing some great tennis, based on previous performances, I always believed Alcaraz had his number. I just hoped on this particular Sunday, on Phillipe Chatrier, my beliefs held up. Thankfully the tennis gods heard me, in fact they heard us all, as Carlos Alcaraz would take the reins from Rafael Nadal, and win his third Grand Slam title, and become the youngest player to win a major title on all three surfaces, and clay surf his way back to number two in the world.

By Grand Slam final standards, this was kind of an ugly match, a grind. This match always felt close, even though the scores of the fourth and fifth sets would indicate otherwise. By the numbers, Zverev played the more consistent match hitting 38 winners and committing 41 errors compared to Alcaraz’s 52 winners and 56 unforced errors. This battle would boil down to Alcaraz’s ability to exploit Zverev’s forehand, the weaker of his two groundstrokes, and make some headway on Zverev’s consistency from the service line. Alcaraz managed to disrupt the German just enough to do both, while having to conjure up a few circus shots at times to get his mojo back and permanently dictate the outcome.

Just as we’ve seen from Alcaraz in the past, he didn’t panic when he went down, he did what great champions do, he dug deeper within himself, and wouldn’t be denied. Alcaraz, despite getting treatment during changeover for some cramping in his left leg (oh no, not again), would keep the pain away, and run off 12 of the last 15 games of the match. 

“I know that when I’m playing a fifth set, you have to give everything and you have to give your heart,” Alcaraz said. “I mean, in those moments, it’s where the top players give their best tennis.”

As I stated in my June 7th post, winning Roland Garros has always been Alcaraz’s destiny, it was just a matter of when, he wasn’t going to let this moment pass. And now his name is engraved into history alongside other great Spanish players, the way it was always meant to be.

Coco Gauff - Leaving with Something
Photo by Mateo Villalba - Getty Images

After a disappointing semifinal loss to Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff was determined to “leave Paris with something.” The U.S. tennis phenom etched her name in tennis history, becoming the youngest player in nearly two decades to seize both a singles and doubles Grand Slam title by winning the French Open Doubles championship with partner Katerina Siniakova, one of the best doubles players on tour.

Gauff teamed up with the Czech powerhouse to clinch the on Sunday as the duo overcame the Italian pairing of Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini, triumphing with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 win in the finals, a sweet redemption after falling short in singles.

Gauff stated enthusiastically, "It's just one of those things that when you least expect it to happen, it happens." In a twist of fate, the 20-year-old Gauff and Siniakova, seeded fifth, had never played together before. Their partnership was a spontaneous masterstroke, born out of necessity when Gauff's usual partner, Jessica Pegula, had to bow out due to injury. "It was very last minute. I wasn't planning on playing doubles, so thank you, Katerina, for asking me," Gauff explained. "We decided to do it two days before the tournament started."

The freshly crowned world No. 2 in singles displayed impeccable prowess, not dropping her serve even once throughout the match. The final was wrapped up in a brisk one hour and 47 minutes, a testament to their dominant performance.

Gauff’s radiant smile lit up the court as she planted a victorious kiss on the Coupe Simonne Mathieu, the gleaming trophy symbolizing their triumph. And so, in a dramatic twist worthy of a tennis epic, Gauff, who had been reduced to tears after her semi-final defeat to Swiatek, finished the tournament not just with a smile but with a sparkle in her eye and a trophy in hand.

That’s a wrap on Roland Garros, we bid adieu to the spectacle on red clay filled with great matches, unexpected upsets, and triumphant moments. From the dominance of Iga Swiatek, who continued her reign on clay with grace, to the valiant performance of Carlos Alcaraz, whose tenacity secured his place in history, this tournament lived up to its potential. Coco Gauff's journey was a rollercoaster, culminating in a sweet doubles victory that left her smiling through another disappointing singles campaign. And Jasmine Paolini's Cinderella run proved that perseverance pays off, even if it doesn't always end with a trophy. As the clay settles and we part ways with the French Open, we turn our attention to the grass, our hearts full and our mornings a bit quieter—save for the demands of hungry felines. Au revoir Roland Garros, c’est magnifique.

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