This week, we discuss the aftermath of 2014 Roland Garros in a Changeover Chat, a quick back-and-forth exchange between the writing staff at The Changeover. For previous Changeover Chats, click here.
Lindsay: Hey Amy! It’s been a while since we had a Changeover Chat, but after that crazy French Open it just feels necessary. So, let’s just dive right in and start by talking about the women’s tournament. Besides Sharapova — we’ll get to her in a minute — who were you the most impressed with?
Amy: The obvious answer to that question is Simona Halep, who stormed her way to her first Grand Slam final, and hopefully permanently silenced everyone who thought she wasn’t a big match player. I feel like she really got saddled with this reputation for not performing at slams, and it was unfair, since her ascendance was relatively recent. She took advantage of having a great draw as a top four seed. We’ll be seeing her in more slam finals if she keeps playing like that.
Lindsay: I completely agree, Amy. She reminds me so much of Kim Clijsters — which is not a very creative thing to say, I know, but it’s true. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens now that she has points to defend, but luckily she will have good draws and little to defend at the bigger events, so I bet she still ends the year in the top five. She is so smart and her court instincts are just superb. It’s so much fun to watch her play tennis, so I hope she continues to build on this.
Amy: I was also really impressed with Garbine Muguruza, who beat Serena Williams, and gave Maria Sharapova a run for her money.
Lindsay: I’m very curious to see if Muguruza can back up this performance with consistent week in, week out results. She has such a powerful and tactical game, but it can also go off the rails.
It was interesting because I think that from the semifinals on, all of the player really impressed — the favorites won, but the underdogs really asserted themselves. I left the French Open thinking more of Bouchard, Petko and Halep than I had before.
Amy: Absolutely. On the flip side, who were you disappointed in on the women’s side?
Of course, it was shocking to see Serena go out to Muguruza so meekly, without any sign that she was dealing with an injury.
Lindsay: It was indeed shocking, but I have a hard time saying I was disappointed in Serena, mainly just because of all she’s accomplished. She had a bad day, and she’s older and it’s going to be harder for her to fight through her bad days.
Amy: That’s true. And she’s simply more vulnerable to upsets like that on clay.
Lindsay: Looking back through the draw, I think Jelena Jankovic really missed a great opportunity for a deep Slam run. I had picked her to make the semis based on her draw — knowing full well that she could disappoint — and disappoint she did. She lost pretty meekly to Errani in the fourth round, and as we know, Errani was destroyed by Petko in the quarters. Losing to Errani on clay isn’t an embarrassment by any means, but it was still a great draw, and those aren’t that easy to come by.
Amy: I also have to mention Li Na, who lost in the first round to Kristina Mladenovic.
Lindsay: Yeah, that’s pretty inexcusable. But we know it’s all or nothing with her.
Ana Ivanovic was the biggest dud, in my opinion. She had such a great clay season, and then was killed by Lucie Safarova in the third round. I know that Ivanovic has a hard time with Safarova, but most of their matches came when Ivanovic was struggling. With her confidence and recent form, she shouldn’t have had a problem with the Czech.
Amy: I also expected more from Cibulkova, who lost in straights to Stosur.
Lindsay: Yes, Cibulkova was a dud. So was Kerber in the fourth round against Bouchard. Little to no resistance.
What about from the first week? Were there any impressive performances from the early rounds? For me, Taylor Townsend definitely comes to mind.
Amy: Ajla Tomljanovic had a big week, routining Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round.
Lindsay: Absolutely, her future looks bright as well. On the other end of the career spectrum, it was great to see Svetlana Kuznetsova have a nice run. It was unfortunate that she was a bit injured in her quarterfinal against Halep, but still nice to see her find her form. She definitely makes the late stages of tournaments more exciting.
What was the worst women’s match you saw all fortnight?
Amy: Hmm, that’s a tough one. Since you mentioned it, I thought the Halep-Kuznetsova quarterfinal was hard to watch because of the aforementioned injury. What was the yours?
Lindsay: Serena’s first-round match against Alize Lim was pretty ugly — Serena wasn’t playing great, but Lim just couldn’t do anything about it. It was a similar situation with Ana Ivanovic in the first round against Caroline Garcia — I thought that was going to be a great match, but it was not.
As for the best matches — I mean, that final was pretty great. It’s one of the rare matches that I actually want to watch again.
Amy: The final was great. I also enjoyed watching Petkovic dismantle Errani. She used an aggressive game plan I don’t understand why more players don’t use against Errani — demolishing her serve and punishing every short ball. It wasn’t the most competitive match, but it was one of those really impressive clinical performances.
Lindsay: It really was great. Let’s discuss Sharapova for a moment — what were you most impressed by her throughout the two weeks, and where do you think she goes from here?
Amy: Somehow, she lived up to all the hype everyone has given her about being great on clay. She really is fantastic on that surface. She was in a tough situation for the entire clay season, fighting so hard to stay in the top 10, and she just showed us all the trademark resilience she has had throughout her career. She’s had her ups and downs, but she’s still good enough to rack up more slams, even when it doesn’t look pretty, tennis-wise.
Lindsay: Indeed. For me, I just really admire how she can win when she’s far from her best, which is no small feat. I hope she can do well at Wimbledon — she hasn’t had a good run there since she made the final in 2011.
Now, let’s go with the men. I felt that overall, the women’s tournament was much more impressive and entertaining than the men’s. So … should we start with disappointments?
Amy: David Ferrer — he folded completely in that match against Nadal after playing two good sets.
Lindsay: That was pretty pathetic. For me, Tomas Berdych sticks out. I know Ernests Gulbis was in the zone in their quarterfinal match, but he just had nothing.
Amy: Roger Federer was also pretty lackluster in his match against Gulbis, particularly in that fifth set.
Lindsay: Yeah, and then Ernie himself was a dud against Djokovic. Men!
Amy: Also, I’m disappointed that Djokovic didn’t give Nadal a better run for his money in the final.
Lindsay: I agree about Djokovic, though he wasn’t feeling well, so I feel like I can’t be too hard on him. But it just wasn’t a fun final to watch at all.
Tsonga was probably the worst. He didn’t even show up against Djokovic. Monfils was pretty awful in his match against Murray, despite winning two sets. The Frenchies, man.
Amy: Stan Wawrinka has to be mentioned in the disappointments category.
Lindsay: Wawrinka was clearly a disappointment — he has just struggled since Monte-Carlo.
Amy: I do think we have to recognize that Wawrinka is a streaky player. I never got the sense that he would suddenly start making deep runs at every tournament. Still, losing in the first round is disappointing. I hope he recaptures the magic on grass or hard courts, but he’s another player like Li Na where it’s all or nothing.
Lindsay: We need more players around who can push the Big Four (or whatever’s left of it), and when Stan’s on, he certainly can.
Amy: How about those who impressed us?
Lindsay: Hmmm … I was probably the most surprised with Donald Young. He simply crushed Feliciano Lopez, and then played really well against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a loss. He looks very fit and strong, like his body has finally matured enough to play the physical style of tennis required on the pro tour these days.
Amy: This was a good run for Andy Murray on his worst surface. He didn’t really bring it for his semifinal match, but it’s still nice to see him reaching the late rounds at the French Open.
Lindsay: Yes, Murray did well, and I think he should be the favorite at Wimbledon now that his form’s back. But I’m still not over how poorly he returned against Rafa. It was embarrassing.
Of the young guys, it was disappointing to see Dimitrov and Nishikori crash out early. But Raonic carried the torch well. I never would have thought his first Slam quarterfinal would come on clay, so kudos to him.
Amy: Dusan Lajovic made the fourth round. That was unexpected, even though he had a great draw.
Lindsay: Isner beat Robredo, which was impressive. But then he didn’t push Berdych at all, which was disappointing. So I’m on the fence with him.
What about matches that stuck out? I think the Monfils/Fognini and Monfils/Murray matches are memorable, and not necessarily for the right reasons.
Amy: I honestly can’t remember anything that was all that engaging from the men’s side. I did miss a few days of the action because I was moving, but this year’s tournament seemed undeniably void of good tennis on the men’s side.
Lindsay: Yeah … it was pretty weak.
Amy: I think Murray played really well against Verdasco, and that was a high quality match.
Lindsay: Yeah, I mean, I agree about the men’s tournament. Gulbis and Murray were the biggest surprises, but it’s not like they were involved in any classics.
Amy: We certainly need to talk about Nadal.
Lindsay: Yes. I’m honestly not sure what else to say. In my opinion, this was one of his more impressive wins at Paris, considering his April form and the lack of confidence he’d displayed since his Australian Open loss. But at the same time, it wasn’t his best tennis by far, and with Ferrer crumbling, Murray not showing up, and Djokovic physically fatigued, there were no great obstacles in his way.
But, I mean, nine. That’s a lot. He’s pretty good.
Amy: Yeah, it didn’t seem like he was tested that much in actually winning the tournament, but considering all the drama of the pre-RG clay swing, it was very impressive how straightforward his win was. And yeah, his record at RG is truly ridiculous.
It’s both hard to believe he’s only lost once at RG, to Robin Soderling, and hard to believe that Soderling managed to do so, given the fact that he was ranked 25 in the world at the time, and given how many others have failed to do it. I recently rewatched that match, and it took an insane performance to beat Nadal.
It’s hard to even discuss Rafa’s RG success, because nothing else really compares to it, and the legend keeps growing every year. It almost feels like everything’s been said about it.
Lindsay: Agreed. So, I guess, now we move our focus to grass season, which has already begun! Taking the French Open results into consideration, who are we focusing on heading into Wimbledon in less than two weeks?
Amy: I’ll be interested to watch the usual suspects at Wimbledon — Federer and Murray, who are both great grass players. Both seemed to round into decent form at Roland Garros. How about you?
Lindsay: I think my eyes are more on the younger generation on the women’s side. I’m curious to see if Muguruza, Bouchard, Tomljanovic, Halep, etc. can continue to step up at the big events. So far, I see the right attitude from all of them (hence why Stephens isn’t on this list), and I think that given the right draw, we could see them all playing on Manic Monday and possibly beyond.
Of course, maintaining form and momentum through a surface change isn’t easy, so we’ll just have to wait and see, as always!