As the saying goes “form is temporary, class is permanent”… and so it proved once again at Roland Garros.
In the men’s singles, No.1 seed and clay-court maestro Rafael Nadal defeated his arch-rival, Novak Djokovic, to land a record ninth French Open title.
Whilst in the women’s tournament, former Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova overcame one of the WTA’s rising stars, Simona Halep, to win for the second time in the French capital.
Here are the post-Paris betting views of my tennis betting analyst…
Nadal defies “underdog” status to hold off Djokovic
Bizarre though it may seem, the majority of layers had the 8-time French Open champion as the outsider of two in his battle with Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic 5/4, Nadal 11/8 and 20/1 bar – that was the rough shape of the pre-tournament market.
Despite coming into the 2014 championships with a record of 59:1 (that solitary loss a R4 defeat against Robin Soderling in 2009) there was a view that the Spaniard was vulnerable on his favourite surface – clay.
And the evidence was there for all to see.
Recent early losses in Monte Carlo (Ferrer) and Barcelona (Almagro)… and then a final defeat to Djokovic in the Rome Masters.
However, beating Nadal over three sets is one thing. Defeating the Spaniard over five sets, is quite another.
Which proved to be the case.
And after routine wins in the first week (Ginepri, Thiem, Mayer, Lajovic) the “Pearl of Manacor” backed it up with convincing wins over David Ferrer (QF), Andy Murray (SF) and then an ultimately well-deserved victory over Djokovic (3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4) after dropping the first set.
And so Nadal left Paris with a record 9th title in the same major tournament (Rafa’s now 66:1 at the French Open)… a 14th Grand Slam title of his career (equal with Pete Sampras)… and the reputation as the best clay-courter in history further underlined.
Hard to imagine that going into the tournament, questions were being raised about the Spanish player. Not any more. Well, not until next year anyway.
And what of the Serb, Djokovic?
Hard to think what else the No.2 seed could have done in his attempt to become the third player of his generation (after Roger Federer 2009 & Rafael Nadal 2010) to complete a career Grand Slam of major titles.
Twice he has now contested the final of the one remaining tournament he needs to win to complete the set – the French Open – and twice he has had the misfortune to face Nadal. Losing first time around in 2012 and now again in 2014.
Djokovic remains by far and away the biggest threat to Nadal… but the ability to beat the Spaniard in lesser events has yet to be transfered to the courts of Roland Garros.
Whilst Federer had to wait for Rafa to fall on his racquet (that huge shock-loss to Soderling five years ago) in order to bag his sole French Open title… Djokovic unquestionably has the talent to defeat Nadal on dirt. He just hasn’t. Yet.
Arguably the only factor in his quest is time… but as a 27-year-old, Djokovic could well have 3, 4 maybe 5 further chances at the title.
And the challenge of the rest of the ATP Tour…
As much as it was a refreshing change to see Ernests Gulbis make a first Grand Slam SF (and in the process secure a Top 10 world ranking) there’s no escaping the fact that three of the last four players in the men’s draw were the ‘Old Guard’… Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.
And of the quartet of players who have dominated men’s tennis for the past 40-plus Slams… Roger Federer was the only one missing. And he, of course, lost to Gulbis.
The French Open 2014 did little to change the world order at the very highest level of men’s tennis.
Yes… the loss of Federer further signalled his inevitable decline but did many others step up to the plate, Gulbis aside?
There are several good, young prospects around… not just Gulbis but guys like Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov (although none of them managed to beat a higher ranked player in Paris). Their time will come though.
The real disappointment came from the more established alternatives.
Del Potro is excused on account of injury (and a Grand Slam win in the US Open 2009) but Berdych, Ferrer, Tsonga, Gasquet… maybe even Wawrinka. Ever worth backing again to win a major? No. That would be the short answer.
Even the middle rank of players like Monfils, Cilic, Isner, Dolgopolov… these guys are gradually turning from players with ‘potential’ into slightly exposed sorts.
There’s no doubt we’re maybe 18-24 months away from a major change in the world order. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this new tennis landscape is made up.
Sharapova prevails in Paris as Serena falls early
There were doubts raised (and not just by this tennis tipster) that Serena Williams was no certainty to win the French Open.
For sure, there was a very good case to be made for the 17-time Grand Slam winner defending her title at Roland Garros.
But by the same token the 32-year-old isn’t getting any younger and there are some bright new names around on the WTA Tour.
One of them being the girl who beat her, the 20-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza.
And it was another, Simona Halep, who almost took the title
But having impressively made the final… Halep ran into Maria Sharapova on a ‘good day’ – as after failing to convince en route to the final, the Russian played more in keeping with her Grand Slam winning pedigree to sneak a three-set verdict over the Romanian.
Another case, like Nadal, of a class performer proving their worth on the day.
The win was Sharapova’s 5th major title and although clay has long been viewed as her weakest surface… her 2nd win in Paris (2012 & 2014).
Undoubtedly Halep will come again.
But like the men… continued doubts about well-known players like Radwanska, Stosur, Jankovic, Ivanovic and Kerber mean that the women’s game remains in a state of flux – no change there then!
Updating the ATP Tour stats after last week…
And after last week’s round of action, the verdict is…
Who’s Hot… Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova & Simona Halep.
Who’s Not… Serena Williams & Stanislas Wawrinka.
This week the action takes place in Halle (Germany) and London (England) as the short grass court season begins.
Most of the big names will be in action as Wimbledon starts on June 23rd.
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