When the clay finally settled in Paris, a dominant champion grew his legacy while a new queen took her rightful place at the top of the tennis world.
What the men's draw lacked in drama and suspense, it gained with the awe of watching one baller pick apart all pretenders with surgical precision: Rafael Nadal. Though whispers of an upset began brewing when the defending champion lost early in Rome, the Mallorcan Matador silenced all speculation with his herculean effort these past two weeks, dominating the entire men's draw (making his semifinal Marquee Matchup a mismatch with Novak Djokovic), claiming his fourth consecutive Roland Garros championship (tying Bjorn Borg's record) without losing a set (first since Borg in 1980) and saving his most devastating performance for the final where he thrashed a lethargic Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the most lopsided Grand Slam final since 1977. And for the third year in-a-row, he prevented the world no. 1 from becoming the sixth man ever to claim the elusive career Grand Slam and keeping a perfect 28-0 record in Paris. Oh yeah, Rafa also turned a ripe old age of 22.
And what about Fed? Well, the top-ranked Swiss made his way through the draw with relative ease but hit some turbulence in his semifinal against Frenchie Gael Monfils. But no signs pointed to the what would become Fed's worst Grand Slam performance ever, only winning four games and losing his first 6-0 set since 1999. In a year where he has only one title to his name so far, Estoril, Fed seems to be suffering a crisis in confidence after his preparations for the season were disrupted after contracting mononucleosis. The 26-year old's favorite time of the year, however, starts now and he'll be looking for a record sixth consecutive Wimbledon title in a few weeks time. But with the state of his game in shreds after a sound beatdown by 2-time finalist Rafa, his dominance at the All-England Club will be challenged not only by his Spanish nemesis but from the all-courter Novak Djokovic. (BTW - is it me or did Fed look half-a-step slow on Sunday?)
Nole, for his part, lived up to his third seeding making the semifinals for the second straight year where he ran into the Spanish steamroller. Expect the Serb, though, to rebound nicely on the green grass of London where he made the semifinals last year. Centre Court seems a fitting place for the 21-year old to begin making his big push towards the top ranking.
Gael Monfils and Latvian Ernests Gulbis became the breakout stars of the French Open this year. La Monf, the former top-ranked junior, became the first Frenchman since Sebastian Grosjean in 2001 to make the semifinals at their native Grand Slam stealing a set from Federer, hanging with girlfriend Dominika Cibulkova and entertaining the home crowd with his explosive athleticism and jubilant celebrations. Ernests won as much praise for his lovely locks and nerdy cuteness as he did for his big game, making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal and taking old friend Novak Djokovic to his 3-set limit.
All hail the (new) queen! Ana Ivanovic made 2008 Roland Garros her coronation ceremony as she earned her maiden Grand Slam title by defeating Dinara Safina and ascended to world no. 1 on the WTA Tour - the first Serbian to ever hold the top ranking (that ringing you're hearing are the sponsors calling Ana!) She also played the best women's match of the tournament, going the distance with countrywoman Jelena Jankovic in their semifinal Marquee Matchup with no. 1 on the line and showcasing the most lethal forehand in the women's game and much improved defensive skills. A semifinalist last year at Wimbledon, it'll be interesting to see how Ana transitions to the grass and how she deals with the new pressure and expectation of a world no. 1.
The breakout star on the women's side, Dinara Safina, seemingly conquered here mental demons this fortnight defeating 3 top ten ballers on her way to the final including former no. 1 Maria "Shriek"apova after being a set, a break, and then match point down in their fourth round battle. Unfortunately the Russian had little left in the tank after two tough weeks on the terre battue, competing valiantly in the finals but eventually folding. Dinara, like her brother Marat, is not a grass court lover by any means and has already pulled out from Birmingham this week with a back injury. Don't expect a similar scenario for Dinara in London that she had in Paris.
Another baller who also pulled out of Birmingham this week is Jelena Jankovic. The Serb is still dealing with the brown-nosing right arm injury she received during the French Open. Regardless, JJ still made the semifinals winning the second set and going up a break in the third before eventually succumbing to Ana's more courageous play.
And what's there to be said for the efforts of Maria "Shriek"apova, Venus + Serena Williams, and Svetlana Kuznetsova? Not much, but we can be sure that at least the first three ballers will be feeling a whole 'lot better once their feet hit the grass. Sveta, well, we never know what fun (or misery) she'll bring to the party.
(image via Getty)