Two days left to one of the most anticipated tennis tournaments of the year – Roland Garros 2017, second of the Grand Slams this year and world’s premier clay court event will begin on 28th May. Both female and male singles tennis players will be competing for the Prize Money of €1.2 million, while the runner ups will pocket €1 million.
Sadly, we won’t be seeing some big names at this year’s French Open, with Roger Federer skipping and focusing on preparation for Wimbledon, Serena Williams withdrawing after announcing pregnancy, and Sharapova getting denied a wild card.
Regardless, this year’s Roland Garros is going to be quite exciting, with Rafa aiming for his 10th title and Simona Halep becoming Grand Slam favorite for the first time in her career. A lot of great players are in the run as well, so we’ll be watching premium-quality tennis during the following two weeks.
The main draw of the Roland Garros kicks off this Sunday, 28th May, and it is supposed to end on Sunday, 11th June, when the Men’s Singles final is planned to take place. The first round will last from 28-30th May, second round on 31st May and 1st June, third round will take place during the 2nd and 3rd June, and the fourth round on 4th and 5th June.
Quarter-finals are set for 6th and 7th June, Women’s Semi-finals on 8th while Men’s Semi-finals on the following day. The Women’s Final is planned on 10th June and Men’s Final on 11th.
This year Rafael Nadal took his 10th Monte-Carlo Masters and 10th Barcelona Open title, and is set to do what many thought would be impossible – to win his 10th Roland Garros Title. Nadal holds quite a few impressive records at this tournament, including all-time record for men’s singles wins (70), astonishing 9 titles (second in line is Björn Borg with 6), an all-time record for 5 consecutive singles titles, with 39-match winning streak (which is another all-time record) and all-time record for 56 matches played on the Centre Court (Steffi Graf holds the same record in the women’s singles draw). It will also be his 13th participation at Roland Garros this year.
With a lot of super-stars being absent, however, there are still plenty of hot-shots participating, some of them being Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic, the world No2, beat Andy Murray in the final and took the title last year - his first Roland Garros title and the title with which he completed his Career Grand Slam (winning all four Grand Slam titles). However, 2017 Djokovic looks a lot different than 2016 dominant and unstoppable Djokovic, first characteristic being the complete lack of motivation. Troubling 12 months are behind him with much turbulence and setbacks, including the loss of No1 ranking to Murray and winning only two titles during this time. The decision to split with his whole coaching team came as a surprise to many, as well as the decision to take Andre Agassi as an advisor for the tournament.
The 2015 men’s singles champion, Stan Wawrinka, is another player to look out for this year, although he lost to Cuevas in Monte-Carlo and Paire in Madrid, he pushed Roger Federer in the Australian Open at the beginning of the year, so he proves to be a warrior who chooses his battles carefully. Anyway, his motivation will be winning the fourth Grand Slam title in his career.
The current No1, Andy Murray never won the French Open title before, so he arrives in Paris with the hope to win. However, his physique isn’t showing much confidence, as many noticed him looking slimmer than ever. After the surprising defeat in the fourth round of Australian Open this year, he struggled with illness, injuries and other setbacks from much lower-ranking players.
Other players we’ll definitely keep close attention to are 23-year-old Dominic Thiem, who battled and lost against Nadal in Barcelona and Madrid Open, and defeated him in the Quarter-final of the Italian Open this year, only to lose against Djokovic; and the 20-year-old Alexander Zverev, who defeated Djokovic in the Italian Open final and made it to Madrid Open Quarter-final.
David Goffin is another player who’s been playing really impressive tennis recently and the participation of players like Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic & Nick Kyrgios will definitely make the tournament more exciting.
As for the women’s singles, there are a lot more superstars absent this year – three-times champion Serena Williams, two-times champion Maria Sharapova, and one-time champions Li Na (2011) and Francesca Schiavone (2010).
On the other hand, Garbine Muguruza ,who won the Women’s Singles French Open title last year over Serena Williams (her first and only Grand Slam title), is participating, but it has been reported that she picked up a neck injury at Italian Open, where she made it to the Semi-final. Besides that, she only had two wins on a clay court during the whole season, and no title in 2017 so far.
It looks like that the tournament’s favorite would be Simona Halep, who won the Italian Open and Madrid Open titles, and made it to Quarter-final of the Miami Open this year. She was a runner-up in 2014 when she lost to Sharapova, and last year she made it to the fourth round. Being favorite at a Grand Slam must have added quite a pressure, but judging from her Twitter account, the young Romanian can’t wait to participate.
Current No1, Angelique Kerber, made it to Semi-Finals of Dubai Duty Free and Quarter-finals of Miami Open this year. Her best result at French Open was in 2012, when she reached the Quarter-finals, she didn’t win any titles this year so far, and her clay court results have not been that impressive.
WTA’s No3 Karolina Pliskova made it to Quarter-finals of the Australian Open and Italian Open, Semi-finals of Miami Open and Indian Wells this year. However, her clay court performance wasn’t brilliant so far, she might get to Semi-finals this year. Her best result on this tournament in the past was reaching the second round (2014 and ’15).
World’s No6, Elina Svitolina, was this year’s Italian Open runner up and Dubai Duty Free champion. In 2015 she reaches the French Open Quarter-final and lost to Ana Ivanovic. This year she also showed results in tournament like Istanbul Open (champion), Taiwan Open (champion) and Brisbane International (Semi-final).
Other WTA players who will make the tournament more interesting are: Kristina Mladenovic (rank: 14), Venus Williams (rank: 11), Johanna Konta (rank: 8), Svetlana Kuznetsova (rank: 9).
French Open was the first Grand Slam to join the “Open” era in 1968, and since it did, it looks like it’s just not meant for Frenchman to win the French Open anymore. Yannick Noah was the first and only Frenchman to win the singles title in the Open Era. Sergi Bruguera won the title two years in a row in ’93 and ’94 and since then, Spaniards have dominated the Roland Garros courts – a total of 15 men’s singles titles in the Open Era. As mentioned before, 9 out of 15 of these titles belong to Rafael Nadal, and other contributors are Andres Gimeno (1972), Carlos Moya (1998), Albert Costa (2002) and Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003).
The second tennis player after Nadal with most singles titles is the legendary Björn Borg, who won 6 singles titles, 4 of which were consecutive between 1978-1981 (Nadal equaled his record of 6 titles back in 2011). Borg still holds the record for the number of consecutive sets won on this tournament – 41 (between 1979-1891).
Three other players share the 3rd place when it comes to the number of multiple men’s singles titles: Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl and Gustavo Kuerten (3). In 1982 Wilander amazed everyone after he became the youngest ever male Grand Slam singles champion. His finals match is still a record as the longest ever final match played on French Open – 4 hours and 42 minutes (he won against third seed Guillermo Vilas).
Wilander and Lendl took turns to win the title between 1984 and 1988. Lendl secured his position as No1 after defeating McEnroe in 1984 final at Roland Garros. The final match between them two still holds a record for the longest final in term of games (post-tie-break) – 51 games.
The Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten Guga also won three titles – in 1997, 2000 and 2001, and these were his only Grand Slam titles. He became world No1 in 2000, and retired 8 years later after dealing with numerous injuries between ‘02 and ’05, and struggle with fame and pressure.
As for the women’s singles, foreigners took the same number of total titles from the Frenchwomen (15), but instead of the Spanish, the Americans are the ones to dominate. The only female French player to win the tournament was Mary Pierce and she did it in 2000. Her second-best results on this tournament were in 1994, when she lost in the final to Arantxa Sánchez, and in 2005 when she lost in the finals to Henan.
Female player with most Roland Garros singles titles is Chris Evert (7), who also holds the women’s singles record for the number of consecutive wins at this tournament– 29 (between 1974-’81), and in 1986 became the oldest female singles title winner up to that point in Open Era (she was 31 years-old and 5 months).
Next in line is Streffi Graf with 6 French Open titles. In 1988, Graf became the only player in history (male of female) to win the Golden Grand Slam (all four Major titles and Summer Olympics title in the same year), and she is also the only player to complete a Super Slam in a non-calendar year (four Majors, Olympics and end-of-the-year WTA Tour Championships). Also, during the 1988 French Open final she defeated Natasha Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in the shortest-ever Grand Slam final ever, and the only double bagel in a Major in the Open Era. She participated a total of 16 times on Roland Garros, the first appearance being in 1983 at the age of 13, and the last in 1999, the year of her sixth title.
With 3 titles the following female players share 3rd position: Justine Henan, Margaret Court (who actually has two more titles prior to the Open Era, so 5 in total), Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, Monica Seles and Serena Williams. Seles and Henan won two consecutive titles of three – 1990-’92 and 2005-’07, respectively. At 16 years and 6 months old, Seles remains the youngest ever player (male or female) to win the French Open title. Margaret Court still holds the record for the most titles in total won at this tournament – 13 (5 singles, 4 doubles, 4 mixed doubles – both before and during Open Era). Steffi Graff and Arantxa Sanchez set two records: in 1996 they played the longest women’s singles final in terms of games (post-tie-brake) – 40 games, and in terms of time – 3 hours and 4 minutes.
Navratilova emerged as Evert’s prime rival in the second half of the 1970s and their on-court rivalry is considered to be one of the greatest in tennis history and sports in general. Between 1975 and 1987 they were taking turns on the No1 position, and between 1973 and 1988 they played 80 matches against each other, 61 of them being tournament finals. Navratilova dominated over Evert on grass and Evert dominated her on clay courts. In 1985 they met in the 1985 French Finalwith the head to head counter 33-31 in favor of Navratilova. Evert defeated Navratilova 6-3, 6-7, 7-5 and captured No1 position for the fifth and final time.
Michael Chang shocked the world when he beat the heavy favorite, three-times champion and world No1 player, Ivan Lendl, in the fourth round, at the age of just 17, weighting only 135 pounds (62kg). Chang was two sets down, experiencing leg pains, but he kept on going. However, Lindl didn’t attack, he didn’t start drop-shoting him, probably because he wanted to keep Chang in the game until he gets completely worn out. He took Lindl to the fifth round, struggling, but then surprised Lindl with an underhand serve and a passing shot, and it seemed that Lendl didn’t recover mentally from that. Later, Chang became the first American to win the tournament since 1955 and the youngest male singles champion to win any Grand Slam event.
Andre Agassi and Jim Courier met in the first all-American final at French Open since 1954. The match represented the beginning of a golden period for American tennis. After 3 hours and 19 minutes of extraordinary tennis, Courier took the match 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4. He consulted with his trainer and backed off the baseline while returning serves, while Agassi failed to adjust his game. Courier won his fourth in four career finals which moved him to a No4 position, while Agassi dropped to No5.
Steffi Graf took her 22nd Grand Slam and 6th French Open title after defeating Martina Higins 1-6, 7-5, 6-2. The match contained a lot of drama that started as early as the second set (Higins going over to Graf’s side of the court, as she wanted to point and show everyone where she felt the ball had landed; then it continued with a really long bathroom brake Higins had to take during the third set, and it concluded with Higins leaving the court after losing and crying in her mother’s. Her mother had to convince her to go back for the presentation ceremony, by the way.
2005 was marked with an amazing Semi-final match featuring Roger Federer and 19-year-old Rafael Nadal. Nadal defeated Federer in an intense Semi-final match, presenting impressive defensive play. The match is also remembered for Federer’s obvious frustration and mental collapse (he even banged his racket on his head at one point). Nadal later won in the final and it was the first in line of four consecutive wins, all against Federer in the final.