With the French Open being one of the four Grand Slam Competitions in both the ATP and WTA tennis schedule, along with The Australian Open, Wimbledon and The US Open, it holds some of the highest prestige in the tennis calendar, as well as the most influence on points and rankings.
This year’s competition will start on the 22nd May, concluding on ‘Final Sunday’ on the 5th June, promising the highest quality tennis on show, with the best players in the world competing for a top prize.Played at the illustrious Stade Roland Garros, the French Open is one of the most physicallydemanding tennis tournaments, due to the climate and difficulties with the surface.
The red clay provides slow, unpredictable tennis due to the high bounce, meaning big serve and volley players rarely flourish at the event. Famous champions such as John Mcenroe, Pete Sampras or Venus Williams have never won the French Open, due to their focus on the fast, serve game.Therefore Roland Garros accommodates to a certain type of player, with less of a focus on serve, but more on control and base line play.
Past flourishers in the French Open include Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borj and Justin Henin, along with last year’s winner Rafael Nadal.Five time winner Nadal has dominated the men’s event in recent years, winning five of the last six years due to his exceptional capabilities on clay.
Only losing one match at the competition to Robin Söderling in 2009, the eventual runnerup, Nadal reclaimed the world number one spot by winning the competition in 2010, exacting some revenge on 2009 finalist Söderling. Nadal became the only the second man to claim five titles at the French Open in 2010, with the red clay surface benefitting Nadal’s game and allowing him to dominate.
If Nadal wins this year’s event, he will equal Bjorn Borg’s all time record of six crowns, and from the form he showed last year in not droppinga set, his chances are strong.
This year however may prove especially difficultfor Nadal, with Serbian Novak Djokovic playing the best tennis of his career. Racking up a hot set of consecutive wins, Djokovic will be looking for his first win at the French Open this year, after losing out in the quarter – finals last time round. Fresh from his victory at the 2011 Australian Open – and as of March 2011 his rise to number two in ATP World Rankings, his highest position to date – Djokovic will be confident as ever in securing victory.
In the women’s singles, Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam event by securing the 2010 Women’s single title, beating heavy favourite Samantha Stosur in straight sets. Schiavone will be returning from her quarter-final exit in Australian Open in January, despite a memorable win in the fourth round; with Schiavone winning the longest match in Australian Open women’s Grand Slam history, timed at nearly 5 hours.
Competition will be hot, however, as Danish#1 seed Caroline Wozniacki fights for her first Grand Slam victory, despite being top ranked since October 2010. Wozniacki bowed out in the quarter finals in 2010 to Schiavone, losing by straight sets to the eventual winner. In order to establish her position as world number one, victory at Roland Garros is pivotal, regardless of competitionfrom the likes of Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters.
When looking at the doubles, sisters Serena & Venus Williams made history last year by securing their fourth consecutive women’s doubles Grand Slam victory (and 12 combined), a feat which has never been achieved before.Although obtaining top seed for women’s doubles, an injury in July 2010 to Serena meant she has been out of action since, and this position lost.
This, though, leaves the door open for the likes of Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta, who won in Australia in January, will be looking to build on their success this time round.The men’s doubles was won by Daniel Nestor and Nimad Zimonojic in 2010; however USA brothers and top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan will be in fierce competition to build on their 2011 victory in Australia, and secure yet another doubles title to their already impressive record.
So with over a million Euros as prize money up for grabs, the French Open promises to be as exciting as ever. So make sure you don’t get too caught up in the real exercise, and save some time to watch the professionals show you how it’s done.
By Toby Gray
Make sure you listen to the Sports Hour on Nerve Radio for all the French Open build up and the pick of the sports news in Dorset and further afield.