Photo : Martin Sidorjak
By Ben Lewis
The clay court season is now officially in the books, as the 126th edition of Roland Garros has come and gone in two thrilling weeks of tennis.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek added to her latest accolades, extending her match winning streak to 35 and winning a second career French Open.
Then there was Rafael Nadal… you know, that guy they say is pretty good on clay?
He won a record 14th Roland Garros crown, and stretched his major singles count to 22, two ahead of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for most men’s slams of all time.
No big deal.
As the tennis season now continues, here are four storylines to follow with Wimbledon around the corner, and our National Bank Open approaching in August.
Can Swiatek secure a Channel Slam?
Iga Swiatek’s run of tennis is nothing short of spectacular.
Since a loss to Jelena Ostapenko back on February 16th in Dubai, she’s been an unbeatable force of nature.
Swiatek has won 35 consecutive matches culminating in this latest Roland Garros triumph as she defeated Coco Gauff in a one-sided championship match, 6-1, 6-3.
The victory ties her with Venus Williams for the longest tour winning streak since 2000.
Iga saves her best brand of tennis in finals, where she has gone undefeated in her last nine, having not dropped a single set or more than even five games in those championship matches.
As players cross from France to the United Kingdom, Swiatek will look to carry over her sensational form to the grass and achieve a rare Channel Slam by winning Wimbledon.
Just 10 women in the Open Era have won at Roland Garros and the All England Club in succession.
Serena Williams was the last player on the women’s side to accomplish the feat, winning it in 2015, while Novak Djokovic won his first ever Channel Slam last year and landed one major shy of a calendar slam.
Swiatek has played Wimbledon just twice in her career as a professional, advancing to the round of 16 last season before falling to Ons Jabeur in three sets.
She also won the Wimbledon junior singles crown in in 2018.
Chances of a France-Canada Double
Three women’s players have achieved the France-Canada double over the past 15 years – winning Roland Garros and the National Bank Open crown in the same given season.
Romania’s Simona Halep, a fan favourite in Canada, memorably won her first career major in Paris at the French Open in 2018 as world number one.
She was able to continue her high level of tennis into the summer, where she was victorious in Montreal.
Coincidentally enough, the final in Quebec was a rematch of the Roland Garros championship match.
Halep and American Sloane Stephens would go toe-to-toe in one of the most memorable finals clashes in the tournament’s history. Halep eventually prevailed 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours, 41 minutes.
Serena Williams, undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of all time, has two France-Canada doubles to her name.
Though Roland Garros is her least successful slam, Williams still has captured three major titles in Paris.
In 2013, her French Open title preceded a win later that summer in Canada.
Former Belgian world number one Justine Henin, a supremely gifted talent known for her vast skillset and one-handed backhand, who won four of her five French Open crowns between 2003 and 2007.
Two of those titles in Paris preceded singles titles in Canada.
Will the Rafa-Paris Love Affair extend to Canada?
Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented success at Roland Garros remarkably continued once more.
The King of Clay defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the final to win his record 14th French Open title and 22nd career singles major.
The victory happened 17 years to the day of his maiden slam title in Paris, as Nadal, at age 36, becomes the oldest champion in the history of the event.
While Nadal has routinely shattered records at Roland Garros and on the clay court surface, his favourite hard court hunting ground of the Masters 1000 events has been the National Bank Open.
Nadal won his maiden crown in Montreal back in 2005, defeating Andre Agassi in an electric three setter.
That was the first of five titles from Nadal in Canada, and each time it has come following a French Open singles crown.
Americans Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula continue their rise
Apart from Iga Swiatek, the women’s draw suffered a myriad of early exits amongst its top ranked players.
The remainder of the top 10 field all bowed out before the second week of the event.
Former champions Garbine Muguruza and Barbora Krecjikova failed to advance past the first round, while prime contenders like Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa, and Maria Sakkari could not string together strong tournaments either.
One tandem of players that did produce a great showing were Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.
Gauff, an 18-year-old sensation who has dazzled on tour since breaking through qualifying at Wimbledon three seasons ago, became the youngest player to reach a women’s singles final since Maria Sharapova won her first ever major in 2004.
Gauff also shone in doubles, playing alongside Pegula as the pair made the finals, before falling to Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia of France.
The great results in Paris have risen the two to new career highs in the rankings.
Pegula has cracked the top 10 for the first time, following a strong run to the quarterfinals in singles.
Pegula should carry plenty of confidence coming to Toronto later this summer, as she advanced to the semifinals of the tournament last season.
Gauff is up 10 spots to a career high #13, and her class and humility in defeat in the finals showed she is mature beyond her years.
She will be defending quarterfinals points in Toronto this August, and her competitive spirit and athletic prowess should be more than enough to entice tennis fans.