Roland Garros: A Quick History Lesson
The end of May means only one thing: it is time for the second grand slam of the year — the French Open. Before we attack the draw, we thought we would give a little historical context. In 1891, the French Championships was held and only the French competed at the venue until 1924, when they opened their doors to international competition. The current location, Le Stade Roland Garros, has not changed since 1928 and was named after Roland Garros, a legendary aviator, innovator, and World War I hero. The tournament was not held during World War II (1940–45) and for the two years after, was actually held after Wimbledon. It is the only grand slam to begin play on Sunday (tomorrow) and was the last grand slam to allot equal prize money to both men and women.
Roland Garros features red clay and if you remember from a previous note, this surface slows down the ball and causes the ball to bounce higher. For this reason, big serves and quick volleys are not as beneficial and most points consist of slow, intense rallies, which require physical and mental stamina. It is the grand finale of the European clay court season. Who will survive? Nikita is going to tackle ATP and Ajay is going to tackle WTA.
First half of the draw
Do you want my honest opinion when I saw that first quarter? I pretty much laughed, just like Rafael Nadal. Rafael Nadal is the king of clay. Don’t believe me? Read tennis note 7 and tennis note 8. I have been a Rafael Nadal fan for a decade but even I must admit, if Novak Djokovic does not win Roland Garros this year, I will be in a state of #ROFLGarros. That being said, Andy Murray could easily swoop in and take advantage because neither Djokovic or Nadal will escape the #quarterpocolypse without complete exhaustion. A few first round matches I will watch:
- Grigor Dimitrov  v. Jack Sock
- Andreas Seppi v. John Isner 
- Borna Coric v. Sam Querrey
I am curious to see if the five Americans in this half of the draw make it beyond the second round.
Second half of the draw
The second half is much cleaner but also has some potentially fun matches. In the end, I believe Kei Nishikori could reach the final. You should just watch his matches because he could face some fun opponents like Bellucci and Verdasco. I am really curious to see how Elias Ymer, Swedish teen, competes in his first French Open. By the way, there are seven teenagers in this touranment, the most since 2007. Fabio Fognini could avenge his 3 set loss to his third round Rome opponent, Tomas Berdych.
On the other hand, when Roger Federer’s game is on point, he can reach any final. However, Federer has to go through Monfils and depending on his health, this could be an epic match. Stan Wawrinka could also reach the final but then again, he lost to Garcia Lopez in the first round last year and guess who he could get in the third round this year: GARCIA LOPEZ!
Ernest Gulbis has had a terrible season but he has a pretty open path to at least make the fourth round. But when it comes to Ernest Gulbis, you never really know. After all, he beat Roger Federer last year in five sets and made the semifinal. Another great potential battle could be Thiem-Cuevas in the third round. Cuevas only has titles on clay and they come in the last year. Thiem just won his first title on clay in Nice. Isn't that nice? (Possibly the worst line I have ever said and yet when I was chatting with my friends earlier this week, I read nice and thought Nice.)
First Round Matches I will definitely watch:
- Elias Ymer v. Lukas Rosol
- Guillermo Garcia Lopez v. Steve Johnson
- Dominic Thiem v. Alijaz Bendene
- Novak Djokovic v. Rafael Nadal
- Andy Murray v. David Ferrer
- Kei Nishikori v. Fabio Fognini or Tomas Berdych or Jo-Wilfred Tsonga
- Stan Wawrinka or Guillermo Garcia Lopez v. Roger Federer or Gael Monfils
Do Not Ask Me Who I Think Will Win Roland Garros This Year. I Will Ignore You Until After Quarterfinals. I Hate Decision Making.
My final’s prediction is Halep v. Kvitova and if both come out swinging, this could be a phenomenal match! I have highlighted a few WTA opening matches that I think will be entertaining to watch (or will be complete blowouts, you never know with women’s tennis). Most of the top seeds should have an easy time getting through to the second round, but a few have some interesting opponents that might prove difficult. I wasn't expecting to come up with so many first round suggestions. So let’s see what I can say about all these matches.
The First Half of the Draw
Barbora Strycova vs Tsvetana Pironkova (First Meeting)
I saw Strycova play at the New Haven Open last August; she pushed Petra Kvitova around a bit before Kvitova just blew her away. Neither has had good results on clay this year, however Strycova did have a big win against Eugenie Bouchard in her opening match at Madrid. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I flagged this as an interesting match…
Sloane Stephens vs Venus Williams (First Meeting)
Remember back in 2013 Australian Open when Stephens beat Serena Williams in straight sets? She was thrust into the spotlight after, touted as one of the next great tennis players to come out of USA. Since then she’s been through multiple coaches (including Paul Annacone — this guy coached both Roger Federer and Pete Sampras) and has been on a slippery slope ever since. Stephens has posted some decent results this year, including a 3 set loss to Serena Williams in Indian Wells and QF appearance at Miami. But she’s playing against Venus Williams now, who has been playing her best tennis in quite some time. It’s been amazing to watch her the past year, seeing her fight through all the adversity that has come her way.
Allison Riske vs Sara Errani (Riske leads 1–0)
I saw Allison Riske at the New Haven Open as well, she gave Magdalena Rybarikova a good run for her money, but ultimately lost. She has the potential to give Sara Errani a lot of trouble. Sara Errani, of course, is an extremely good doubles player and a good singles player as well. Lately she’s been in kind of a slump, given the rise of some of the other relatively new top players (like Halep and Bouchard) and the fact that she and Roberta Vinci split up in doubles must be affecting her as well. But there is no doubt that she is a great clay court player, so don’t be surprised if she does well this tournament.
Karin Knapp vs Caroline Wozniacki (Wozniacki leads 2–0)
Should be good warm up for Wozniacki. Knapp has posted some decent results on clay this year. Of course, Wozniacki is consistently better, so I don’t give Knapp much of a chance. But given the Wizard of Woz’s quarter, this will be a great way to get her prepared for what’s to come.
Vavara Lepchenko vs Madison Keys (Lepchenko leads 1–0)
Madison Keys! Out of all the American players commentators have talked about, Keys has come out of nowhere to be the face of the next generation of American women’s tennis. She is the only one to have posted consistently good results over the past year and a half. She has tons of power and can back it up with lots of speed and ball control. Hope she brings her A-game!
Kristina Mladenovic vs Eugenie Bouchard (First Time)
This all depends on which Eugenie Bouchard is on the court. Remember last year when she showed up on the scene and owned everyone? Two major semifinals (Australian and French) one major final (Wimbledon) and a Round of 16 appearance (US Open). And now…2015 Bouchard sucks and sucks and sucks. WHAT HAPPENED?? Let’s hope 2014 Bouchard is in Paris; of all the women on tour, she seems to have the greatest potential (at age 21 she’s already made deep runs in several tournaments). Time for her harness it. Oh, and please shake Mladenovic’s hand at the end of the match!
The Second Half of the Draw
Kirsten Flipkens vs Elena Vesnina (Vesnina leads 3–1)
Both have been wandering around the qualifiers lately and not progressing very far in any tournament). Maybe that means this will be a good match?
Alize Cornet vs Roberta Vinci (Cornet leads 4–2)
Now this could turn out to be an entertaining match! Both are decent players, but I give Vinci the edge since this is a clay tournament. Vinci has posted slightly better results lately but has declined a bit (same reasons as Sara Errani). I’ve seen Cornet play at the US Open and she’s good, but her serve is quite weak, and will be weaker on this surface too.
Samantha Stosur vs Madison Brengle (Stosur leads 1–0)
Remember when Sam Stosur won the US Open? That was almost 4 years ago. Since then she’s struggled with form while she’s had a few moments to shine (she came back to win Strasbourg today), by and large she’s been swept aside. But never count out a grand slam champion, because you never know when she’ll kick into a higher gear and blow through the competition. Madison Brengle is another one of those up-and-comers of American tennis. Not as successful as Madison Keys, but she had the best 12 months of the career so far, so there’s no telling what she will do here.
Kaia Kanepi vs. Maria Sharapova (Sharapova leads 4–0)
Is there anyone who can beat #claypova? If you consider the past few years, she has accumulated a record on clay that rivals the King of Clay. Now, the Queen of Clay is here to defend her title again — in the last 3 appearances she came away with 2 championships and 1 runners up trophies. Kanepi has pushed #sugarpova to 3 sets before, so this might end up being an enteraining match to watch. However, I still give the edge to MaSha; her track record on clay is something I cannot push aside. Expect her to advance deep into the tournament again.
Get to know Ajay
Hey guys! My name is Ajay. I have a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell and have been working at an engineering firm for the past 2 years. I got into tennis in high school; basically grew up watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal duking it out on the game’s biggest stages. It was really Roger Federer’s movement around the court and graceful tennis that really caught my eye. Not sure what I will do when he retires….but ever since then, I have been following tennis. After college, I started watching tennis beyond just the Grand Slams and have attended the US Open several times. I also have the pleasure of putting up with Nikita’s tennis obsession on a daily basis although my own routine is to check scores and watch replays so I guess I am in that category, too!