Trophy presentations in facemasks, specially designed balls for cold autumn weather, no handshakes at the net, empty stadia: the French Open 2020 was a Grand Slam like no other.
Normally held in May, Roland-Garros was delayed until the end of September to fit into the tennis calendar and avoid the same fate as Wimbledon, which was cancelled for the first time since World War Two.
The first week was held without fans due to Parisian COVID restrictions. The tournament is known for its loud partisan crowds who get behind the players. It was eerie to see iconic grandstands such as Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen deserted.
Fortunately, there were socially distanced spectators by the end of the second week to watch the latter stages of the Open.
A month before the tournament Nadal feared the worst
Despite all the upheaval, some things will never change. Rafael Nadal won The French Open for a jaw-dropping 13th time after defeating Novak Djokovic 6-0 6-2 7-5.
A month before the tournament Nadal feared the worst. The Spaniard normally plays his best tennis in warm weather, when his irresistible topspin forehand zips off the court. But any fears were put to one side as he came flying out of the traps. He played his Serbian opponent off the court.
Djokovic, disqualified from this year’s US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball, was magnanimous in defeat:
“He was not missing at all and getting every ball back, just playing tactically great. I felt well throughout the entire tournament. I thought I was in great form … He’s phenomenal. He played a perfect match, especially in the first two sets”.
Swiatek is part of a new crop of exciting young female players coming through including Naomi Osaka, Kenin, Coco Gauff
In the women’s draw, unheralded Iga Swiatek was crowned champion. In the 4th round, she steamrolled World No. 1 Simona Halep 6-1 6-2, and produced similar form to beat 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the final, 6-4 6-1.
The Polish 19 year-old’s aggressive all-court game proved too much for the rest of the competition. Against the American Kenin, she found joy with dropshots and strong net-play.
In her charming post-match interview, she hoped that her cat had been watching back home, and talked about how prior to the tournament, she was considering taking a break from tennis to study psychology at university.
“Before the French Open I actually wanted to do a gap year [from tennis], or maybe two years, to see how my tennis would develop,” she said.
“But right now when I’m starting to be more popular in Poland, and maybe I’m going to be a celebrity or something like that, I don’t think I’m going to have time”.
Swiatek is part of a new crop of exciting young female players coming through including Naomi Osaka, Kenin, Coco Gauff and others. Serena Williams was forced to pull out with an Achilles injury after the first round.
In the Women’s Doubles, Timea Babos and French favourite Kristina Mladenovic were champions. In the Men’s Doubles, the German pairing of Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies won their first Grand Slam title.
Alfie Hewitt beat Joachim Gérard 6-4 4-6 6-3 to claim his fourth Wheelchair Singles title in six attempts
Although most British players failed in Singles and Doubles, there were silver linings in other sections of the tournament. Alfie Hewitt beat Joachim Gérard 6-4 4-6 6-3 to claim his fourth Wheelchair Singles title in six attempts.
Hewitt then added a doubles title with Scot Gordon Reid. They defeated the top-seeded pairing of Gustavo Fernández and Shingo Kunieda in a close match: 7-6 1-6 10-3.
Attention will now be turning towards the Australian Open in January and a return to normality in the more distant future.
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