International Tennis Weekly #10: Wawrinka and Williams Are French Open Champions

It was Stan Wawrinka and Serena Williams who walked away with the singles titles at the French Open after an exicting fortnight of clay court tennis in Paris. Our thoughts on the French Open 2015 winners.

Stan Wawrinka

Stan Wawrinka with the French Open trophy

Stan Wawrinka Wins Second Grand Slam

Most people, me included, had picked three people to win the men’s singles title at Roland Garros – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. And after Djokovic thumped Nadal in emphatic fashion in the quarter-finals, the Serb looked like a sure bet to win the title. But he came up against an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka, who unleashed his backhand shot and his boxer-style shorts to walk away with the title – his second Grand Slam following the 2014 Australian Open triumph.

Wawrinka’s path to the final included a win over his more illustrious countryman Roger Federer in the quarter-finals in straight sets and over the home favourite Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the semi-finals. But it was his four-set win over Djokovic in the final that showed just how far the Swiss has progressed mentally in the past few years. Sure, Djokovic may have been a bit tired after having to beat Murray in a five-set semi-final that lasted over two days, but the Serb may have missed his best chance to win in Paris having conquered Nadal for the first time in seven attempts at the French Open. While the Swiss insists he is still not part of the Big Four, he now has the same number of Slams as Murray and is ranked No. 4 in the world.

Coming on the back of his now-pubic marital strife, Wawrinka was upset at the press in Paris during the early rounds when someone asked him about his marriage trouble. The Swiss did lighten up as he progressed through the tournament and he was happy to display his shorts at the press conference soon after winning the title. The tournament turned out to be disappointing affair for Nadal, who lost for just the second time in 11 visits to Paris. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back for the grass court and hard court season. Federer, in the seemingly easier half of the draw, did well enough to reach the quarter-finals and will now be hoping that he will do better at Wimbledon – a place where hopes and expectations on Murray will be high as well.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams with the French Open trophy

Serena Williams Wins Slam No. 20

While the top challengers tumbled out in the early rounds, it seemed like the title was all for Serena to take. But Serena struggled in the early rounds and was suffering from a flu in the second week which made her look visibly tired and exhausted during her semi-final match. And yet Serena showed there is no one mentally tougher than her when it comes to all of women’s tennis. More than 15 years after winning her first Slam (the longest span between Grand Slam wins in history), Serena needed five three-setters to win the event – her 20th Grand Slam title – now just two shy of Steffi Graf’s 22 and four short of Margaret Court’s 24 Slams.

The final started out to be a one-sided affair with Serena taking a 6-3, 4-1 (40-15) lead over the Czech Lucie Safarova, who was playing her first Grand Slam final. But with the help of a few double faults from Serena, the Czech stunned Serena and the crowd by bouncing back to take the second set in a tie-break. When Safarova went up a break at 2-0 in the final, many feared Serena’s lack of fitness and hard work over the past few months had finally got the better of her. But the 33-year-old dug deep to find another level of reserve to win the final six games in a row and complete the stunning win.

Wimbledon, where she has won 5 titles but says she does not like playing on grass much, comes next and the American has to be the certain favourite. It was a terrific fortnight for the Swiss Timea Bacsinzsky, who two years ago had stepped away from the game to work in a restaurant.She beat Madrid champion Petra Kvitova and marched all the way into the semi-finals while Safarova knocked out the 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic, who was playing her first semi-final at a major since her win here seven years ago. While big names like Maria Sharapova (beaten by Safarova in the fourth round), Eugenie Bouchard (beaten in the first round) and Caroline Wozniacki (also out in round one) struggled, some young names made a big impact in Paris. These included 20-year-old Alison Van Uytvanck, the world no. 93, 20-year old Elina Svitolina, from Ukraine, and 21-year-old Garbine Muguruza – all three of them making it to the quarter-finals.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands Scores a Double in the Doubles

On the doubles side, Ivan Dodig/ Marcelo Melo won their first Grand Slam title beating the Bryan Borthers in the final while Bethanie Mattek-Sands walked away with the women’s and mixed doubles title. The American Mattek-Sands combined with Safarova to win the title with a win over Casey Dellacqua/ Yaroslava Shvedova. The duo, who also won the Australian Open women’s doubles title in January, now have a chance to chase a career Grand Slam in women’s doubles – something only accomplished by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in 1985. Mattek-Sands also combined with Mike Bryan to win the mixed doubles title – her second mixed and his fourth mixed title, as they beat Lucie Hradecka and Marcin Matkowski in the final.

Djokovic and Serena Retain Top Rankings

Djokovic continues to retain the top spot in the men’s rankings while Federer and Murray hold on to the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.
On the women’s side, Serena retains the top ranking while Kvitova climbs two spots to No. 2 – back to her career-best as Halep remains at No. 3 and Sharapova drops 2 spots to No. 4 after failing to defend her title. Safarova’s runner-up finish sees her climb to No. 7 while Bouchard’s first round exit sees her drop to No. 11 in the world. Bacsinszky climbs to No. 15, Svitolina climbs to No. 17 and Van Uytvanck climbs to No. 46 – all career-bests.

Sania Mirza remains at No. 1 in doubles, followed by Martina Hingis at No. 2, Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova climbing four spots to No. 3, while Safarova and Mattek-Sands climb to No. 5 and No. 6 respectively. Wawrinka’s win sees him move up to No. 4 while Nadal drops to No. 10 – his lowest ranking in more then a decade. Tsonga climbs to 12, while Aussie youngster Nick Kyrgios rises to a career-best No. 25. In the doubles, the Bryans retain the No. 1 spot while Melo remains at No. 3 and Dodig jumps to No. 4.

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