2013 French Open tennis, the 112th edition (May 26 – Jun 9, 2013), traditionally got underway on outdoor clay courts. The second Grand Slam tournament of the year, by the very nature of its playing surface, provides a huge challenge to players’ physical strength, stamina, skill and temperament and above all their mental toughness all through the fortnight long tourney.
About a month or so in advance of this important ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) event, the players vying for top honours, lock their horns in tournaments played on similar surface at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome to get used to the conditions ahead of tossing the ball up at Roland Garros. Playing on clay is a slightly different ball game where ball comes on off the pitch a little slower compared to what it does on other Grand Slam venues of grass courts at Wimbledon and hard courts at Australian and US Open.
This year’s French Open was characterised by several interruptions owing to rains and absence of a ‘decision review system’ (hawk eye) that saw many a time the affected players getting annoyed and frustrated. Yet some of the fabulous matches were on view both in the men’s and women’s singles events in the run up to the summit clash. The one that easily stood out as a vintage tennis was the semi-final between Rafael Nadal (#3 seed) and Novak Djokovic (#1 seed) – 4 hours 37 minutes of simply breathtaking and awesome display of pulsating tennis and fluctuating fortunes, and stretched to 5 sets. This was apparently the match of the tournament. It was a pity the two had to meet before the final and one had to bow out.
In the final, Nadal was pitted against his Spanish compatriot, David Ferrer (31) (#5 seed) who had reached this stage without conceding a single set in earlier matches. Nadal was, however, bidding for a record 8th French Open title while Ferrer was playing in his first Grand Slam final. Nadal obviously started as a favourite.
It was a clash between the two Davis Cup team-mates who knew each other’s game inside out. Long rallies, corner to corner running around by the two and often finishing with down the line shots were the key features of this match. Occasional drop shots by the two were also seen to be chased down by each to find winners. Nadal’s ability to play the important shots as if they were a matter of life and death, made all the difference in the end. Ferrer was never allowed to wrest the initiative from him and once he got the measure of his opponent, the contest was effectively over in three straight sets: 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Coming back to the court in February this year after a layoff of seven months on account of injuries, Nadal has demonstrated, yet again, that he’s the player to beat on clay. Nadal has lost just once in his 59 matches at Roland Garros – a fourth round loss to Sweden’s Robin Soderling in 2009. A win here this Sunday meant he has registered 60 wins – more than any other player in French Open history.
A day earlier on Saturday, the women’s singles final between Serena Williams (#1 seed) and Maria Sharapova(#2 seed) (reigning champion) was their first meeting on clay. The last time Sharapova won against Serena was in 2008. Obviously, Serena started as a favourite and as the match progressed she seemed to be in irresistible form and was simply unstoppable, winning the match and the crown by demolishing her opponent in two straight sets.
At the conclusion of this tournament, the clay king Rafael Nadal has retained his crown and has also walked away coolly with the prize money of US Dollar 23,00,000 while David Ferrer pocketed US Dollar 11,50,000. Serena Williams too, by dethroning Maria Sharapova won the crown and a similar prize money as her men’s single’s counterpart. Maria lost the crown and had to be satisfied with the prize money similar to what Ferrer received.