Tennis: Fall at the French Open

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Germany's Daniel Altmaier plays a shot against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

For the first time in tennis history, the French Open is taking place in the fall. Through the first week and a half, players only had to battle their opponents, but they had to face tricky playing conditions as well. The athletes had to withstand 50-degree weather, heavy tennis balls, strong gusts of wind and several rain delays. These unprecedented circumstances led to several upsets and fascinating storylines.  

Heading into the second week of the tournament, only six of the 32 seeds remained in the women’s singles draw, as many of the oddsmakers’ favorites on the women’s side bowed out early. Karolina Pliskova and Victoria Azarenka were both bounced out of the tournament in round two, while the 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was eliminated in the third round to end her streak of six consecutive second weeks in Paris.  

The biggest upset of the event however took place when Polish teenager Iga Swiatek powered past top seed and heavy favorite Simona Halep in the round of sixteen. Swiatek struck 30 winners past the agile Romanian and only dropped three games en-route to the victory. The upset takes place just a year after Swiatek only managed to win one game against Halep in the same round of last year’s French Open. 

The 10th day of competition saw another massive upset in the women’s draw. World No. 5 Elina Svitolina was the only seed left on the top half of the draw, but was only able to hold serve once in her quarterfinal matchup with Nadia Podoroska. After dropping serve first in each of the two sets, Podoroska dictated play with her forehand and defeated Svitolina 6-2 6-4 to continue her Cinderella story. Ranked 131 in the world, Podoroska became the first qualifier in history to make the semifinals of the French Open, in just her second ever main draw appearance at a Grand Slam.   

Unable to extend her tournament like Podoroska, Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan’s Cinderella run was ended at the quarterfinal stage against Iga Swiatek in straight sets. Trevisan had a spectacular week, defeating a series of quality opponents in Camila Giorgi, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari and Kiki Bertens. Trevisan captured the attention of many during her life-changing week and will likely rise into the Top 100 when the new rankings are released.  

Heading into the 11th day of main draw action, Petra Kvitova and Sofia Kenin are the only two seeded women left standing. They are joined by Swiatek, Danielle Collins, Laura Siegemund and Podoroska.  

The men’s singles favorites have been far more consistent with ten seeded players advancing into the second week. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev all moved through to the fourth round.  

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner had a breakthrough tournament, advancing through to the quarterfinals. Sinner upset David Goffin in the opening round and Alexander Zverev in the round of sixteen to make his way to a quarterfinal matchup with Nadal. Sinner has showcased his incredible shot making ability and shown that he is ready to hang tough with the best players in the world.

  

Italy’s Jannik Sinner plays a shot against Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Diego Schwartzman carried his momentum into the French Open after making the final in Rome the previous week. Schwartzman advanced through to his first ever Grand Slam semifinal defeating Thiem in a five-set thriller in the quarterfinals. Schwartzman fought hard for every point and won countless extended rallies against this year’s U.S. Open champion. After five hours of competition, Schwartzman was able to squeak through as Thiem ran out of gas from all his match play.  

Djokovic and Nadal have rolled through their competition without dropping a set. Both players continue to chase history and add to their list of accolades, as they are aiming to surpass Roger Federer as having won the most major singles titles. Djokovic currently has 17 Grand Slam titles while Nadal sits at 19. If Nadal were to win his thirteenth French Open this year, he would tie Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam triumphs. On the other hand, if Djokovic could lift this year’s French Open, he would trail Federer by only two Grand Slam titles and become the first man ever to win all four majors twice. A Nadal and Djokovic final seems very likely as they both are playing exceptional tennis and are each aiming to become the greatest player of all time.  

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