Congrats Rafa Nadal for winning the French Open 2020. The incomparable Champion has now won 20 Grand Slam titles. A 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 comprehensive defeat of Novak Djokovic gave Rafa his 13th French Open title. The two champions had battled each other 8 times in Grand Slam titles and had split 4 wins each. Rafa is now 5-4 ahead in Grand Slam Finals. He has equalled Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles and looks all set to have his own record very soon. Rafa has now won French Open four times without losing a set. An amazing performance indeed.
I present to you my review of this year’s engrossing tournament. I propose how the 4 semi-finalists progressed to the semi-finals, which were the upsets of the tournament, the engrossing matches in earlier rounds, the comeback wins, and who are the emerging stars the world can hope to see more in future years.
I start with Comeback wins. There were as many as 4 in the 1st round itself. 127th ranked Lorenzo Giustino started and finished his French Open by losing a set at 0-6. In 1st round, he came back to win the 5th set 18-16 against higher-ranked (69th) Corentin Moutet. He then lost in straight sets to Schwartzman, losing the third set 0-6. Tsitsipas lost his 1st two sets to Munar and came back to win in five. So did Rublev versus Querrey. In another terrific match, Jurij Rodionov came back from two sets down versus higher ranked and home favorite Jeremy Chardy after being two sets to love down and facing match point in the third to win the 5th set 10-8. That’s because unlike the other Grand Slams, there is no tie-breaker in 5th set at the FO.
Now let us look at Upsets. In the 1st round, we had as many as seven. Marco Cecchinato had reached the SF of the 2018 French Open, defeating none other than Novak Djokovic in the QF. However, he had never won a single match at any other Grand Slam. Marco upset the highly-rated Alex de Minaur in straight sets. Technically the highly rated Jannick Sinner’s defeat of Goffin in straight sets qualifies as an upset as well. Borna Coric was upset by Norbert Gombos in 4 sets. 4th seed Medvedev lost to Fucsovics and continued his unhappy record of never progressing to the second round at the French Open. Monfils, the world number 9 lost to the big-serving Alexander Bublik. Fognini who had been thought to be the possible 4th round opponent of Nadal lost to Kukushkin. Nishioka took out the highly rated and 19th ranked Felix Auger Aliassime in the 1st round as well.
In 2nd round upsets, we saw 213th ranked American Sebastian Korda defeating John Isner. His father Petr Korda has been a former AO champion. Roberto Carabbeles Baena took out Denis Shapovalov in 5 sets, winning the final set 8-6.
In 3rd Round upsets, former Champion Stan Wawrinka lost to 20-year young star Hugo Gaston, a former AO doubles champion, ranked 239 in the world who had never won a match at any Grand Slam event. In an emotional match expected to be a thriller, Stan ha comfortably defeated Andy Murray in the 1st round. The last time they had met here was in an amazing 5 set semi-final in the 2017 edition of the French Open. He must have thought he would go on to play Thiem but Gaston had different ideas. In another 3rd round upset, 187th ranked Daniel Altmaier took out the 7th seeded Berrettini in straight sets.
In 4th round upsets, Sascha lost to Sinner in 4 sets while Gaston stretched Thiem to five but could not complete what would have been a huge upset. Thiem however lost his QF to Schwartzmann in five sets, so Gaston’s marathon may have slightly contributed to Thiem’s loss of energy in the fifth.
Emerging stars. Sinner easily leads the list. The young 19 year was awesome and reached the QF with ease, taking out older and higher-ranked competitors, including Goffin and Sascha. He was even serving for the 1st set against Rafa after breaking him and he broke Rafa in the beginning of the second set as well before losing in straight sets. Gaston, who is ranked 237, created a flutter with his unorthodox tennis and he came back from 0-2 sets down to win the 3rd and 4th vs Thiem and only lost in the 5th. His future will be keenly watched but it is Sinner who could be a real threat to all in the coming years.
We now come to how the 4 semi-finalists progressed. Top-seeded and World Number one Novak had straight-set wins vs Ymer, Berankis, Galan and Khachanov before dropping a set to Busta in the QF. Rafa had straight set wins in all five matches vs Gerasimov, Mcdonald, Travaglia, Krda, and Sinner. Tsitsipas lost his 1st two sets of the tournament before winning in five in the 1st round vs Munar. He thereafter had straight-set wins vs Cuevas, Bedene, Dimitrov, and Rublev. Finally Schwartzmann, who had a dramatic 5 set win ves Thiem in the QF had straight-set wins vs Kecmanoviv, Giustino, Gombos, and Sonego.
Review of semi-finals.
Djokovic and Tsitsipas had met five times, with Novak winning three times. 4 of the matches were on hard-courts which they split, while Novak won their only match on clay. Novak won the 1st two sets before Stefanos with fearless tennis won the next two. However, Novak remained calm and raised his game in the 5th to prevail in a thrilling 5 setter win.
Nadal had won his 1st 9 matches versus Diego, before his shock defeat in the QF of the Rome Masters 2020. At the FO, they had met once and Diego had managed to win one set. It was Rafa’s 13th SF here and Rafa had won all the earlier 12, with only Federer and Novak winning a set against him. The trend continued and Rafa won against Schwartzmann in straight sets.
This meant that a dream Finals was set up. So far the two legends have met each other in 8 Finals and have won 4 each. 6 of the matches went to four sets, one went to five and there has been only one straight-set win, that by Novak at the AO. Rafa has won twice each at the FO and the US Open. Novak has won one each at the US Open and Wimbledon and two at the AO.
In the finals, much to the dismay of Novak fans, It was a total display of GOD level tennis by Rafa. The first set was 6-0 and the second set not much different, and Rafa won it at 6-2. Rafa had just 8 errors and the level of play was simply breath-taking. It was both a power game as well as a tactical one and not even a seasoned player like Novak who had won 8 of their last ten matches had no answer. In the 3rd set, Novak tried to fight and once even got a break back to keep it at serve till 5-5. However, once again Rafa broke and served it out with an ace. Unbelievable performance indeed.
What next for the Champion. He is now at 20 Grand Slam titles, same with Roger Federer. In 2021 he will certainly move ahead, leaving the Swiss great behind. He has now won 999 matches on the circuit, and one more will make him the 4th to win 1000 matches after Connors, Lendl, and Federer. One thing he would love is to win the Australian Open in 2021 which would make him the 1st of the trio to win minimum of 2 Grand Slams at each of the four Grand Slams. The way he is playing, he certainly can do it.
Congrats Rafa once again and wishing you many more successes in your incomparable career.
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films, and music.
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