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The French Open Offers Twists and Turns to Tennis

| Sports | June 15, 2017

Spectators have seen surprising finishes from recent championship games this past season. The Chicago Cubs kicked it off by overcoming a 3-1 deficit against the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series for the first time since 1908. The New England Patriots followed suit, coming back to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28, after trailing 28-3 in the third quarter.

Tennis fans were treated to a similar set of shocking outcomes with this year’s French Open. The women’s singles saw an upset right out of the gate when top-seeded Angelique Kerber was ousted in the round of 128, losing 6-2, 6-2 to unseeded Ekaterina Makarova.

This left the door wide open for any female tennis player to take the French Open title. So, Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia decided to do just that. The 20-year-old’s road to the championship wasn’t easy. She faced Caroline Wozniacki (11) in the quarterfinals, winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Ostapenko eventually had to take on Simona Halep (3) in the final round, taking a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Ostapenko made history in several ways with her win. She became the first unseeded player to take home the French Open title since 1933, and the first Latvian player to ever win a major tournament. She also jumped 35 spots in the WTA rankings, where she now sits at 12.

As Serena Williams sits out the rest of the year due to her pregnancy, the WTA leaderboard is becoming a free-for-all for first place. Kerber remains at the top, despite her first round loss. Halep, meanwhile, was rewarded for her trip to the finals with a two-spot jump, where she is now second.

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Wimbledon, which begins July 3, will serve as a stage for more potential upsets in the women’s bracket. Ostapenko will no longer be the underdog, and will have to prove her French Open win was more than a fluke. Undoubtedly, she will be facing every players’ best game when she takes the court. If she can make noise at Wimbledon, it will cement her place as tennis’ rising star.

The men’s side of the French Open had a more predictable champion. Rafael Nadal (4) took home his 15th Grand Slam singles title by defeating Stan Wawrinka (3) 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. The rounds before the championship, however, provided many twists and turns.

Wawrinka made it to the final round by defeating top-seeded Andy Murray in five sets in the semi-finals. Novak Djokovic’s (2) Grand Slam slump continued in the quarterfinals, where he lost 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 to Dominic Thiem (6). Djokovic’s last Grand Slam win came at last year’s French Open, where he defeated Murray.

Djokovic’s recent play begs the question, “Is he no longer in his prime?” The concern began in the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he lost in the first round to eventual silver medalist Juan Martin del Potro. This excusable loss was followed by a second-round ousting in the Australian Open to unseeded Denis Istomin, a defeat for Djokovic that is much harder to explain.

All of the chatter of a decline could’ve been silenced if Djokovic had been able to pull off a win at the French Open. His loss to Thiem only served to make the discussion louder and more plausible. Djokovic falls to fourth place in the ATP rankings and needs a solid showing at Wimbledon to dispel any notion that he is no longer the best men’s tennis player in the world.

Nadal’s French Open victory allowed him to slide in to second place in the ATP, a position he hasn’t been in since October 6, 2014. Murray still sits atop the leaderboard with 9,890 points, a full 2,605 points ahead of Nadal.

A win at Wimbledon will only give Nadal 2,000 more points, so it will be impossible for him to catch Murray in the near future. If he can overcome his opponents throughout the rest of the year, however, Nadal will find himself atop the ATP for the first time since June 23, 2014.

It is a tumultuous time in tennis, much to the delight of the sports’ fans. With tournament outcomes so uncertain for both men and women, it is impossible to predict who will be left standing after the final round of Wimbledon. The excitement mounts as everyone waits to see what surprises the tennis season serves up next.

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About Keir Chapman

Keir Chapman began his career in sports journalism as Sports Director for iCLU Radio in Thousand Oaks. After graduating from California Lutheran University in 2013, Keir used his experiences as a writer and a college basketball player in a weekly blog for the New York based athletic gear company, True Athelite. Now, Keir makes weekly appearances on the Doug and John show on KHTS as Mr. Sports and is happy to contribute to the Santa Clarita Gazette.

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