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5 Things I Will Not Miss Now That the 2012 French Open is Finally Over… 33

Posted on June 12, 2012 by JA Allen

Bad weather was a constant in week 2 of the 2012 French Open

It was thrilling to watch Maria Sharapova capture her first French Open title, garnering a career grand slam, sinking to her knees on Court Phillippe Chatrier.

The French Open represented the last jewel in her grand slam tiara, having won titles at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows and Melbourne.

Equally as compelling was Rafael Nadal’s resurgence to capture his seventh French Open Crown.

These were two of the great moments of the tournament.

Yet, of all of the grand slam tournaments held throughout the tennis season, the least favorite for this avid tennis fan and author, is the French Open. Watching matches on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros leaves one feeling gritty and drained.

Viewers must endure unending, painful encounters on the red dirt where the participants grunt and grumble—often an induced by-product of countless strokes ending when one of the players runs out of gas.

Held annually in Paris, there is normally about as much mystery concerning the outcome of the men’s final as there was when Columbo prowled crime scenes looking to uncover the guilty party.  In the end there was never any doubt but that the rumpled, bumbling detective would figure out “who done it!”

The only time since 2005 that the winner of men’s final has ever been in doubt was when Rafael Nadal was not playing—which happened once in the past eight years.

So who needs to watch it, you ask?

Rafael Nadal tortured Novak Djokovic for four sets during the 2012 French Open.

Unless you are some sort of a sadist who gets your kicks out of seeing how inept Nadal can make the guy on the other side of the net look—just watching the scores blink by on your computer screen is good enough.

As for the ladies – making the French Open final has been a crapshoot from start to finish since Justine Henin retired from the sport in 2008. This fact alone makes it much more exciting than the men’s draw but fifty times as frustrating.

Talk about parity! There is parity in the top 50 in the women’s game when it comes to the slams since Serena Williams suffered her foot injury in 2010.

Perhaps Sharapova’s rise to the top of the rankings will mark the end of this current trend.

As for the French Open itself—here are five things no one will miss.

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The Best Ever: Rafael Nadal Wins His Seventh French Open Title 11

Posted on June 11, 2012 by JA Allen

2012 French Open Final - Djokovic vs. Nadal

This year’s French Open men’s champion had much riding on the outcome.

Rafael Nadal entered the grounds of Stade Roland Garros to defend his only Grand Slam title of 2011.

Diminishing Nadal’s tennis aura throughout 2011 was the Serb Novak Djokovic who needed to win this title in Paris to complete his career grand slam—just as Roger Federer attempted in 2006 and 2007 when Nadal turned the great Swiss back, denying him his due.

No other man in the history of the Open Era has dominated a surface more than Rafael Nadal on clay.

Greatest of his achievements on the red clay, however, have come on Court Phillippe Chatrier where Nadal has suffered defeat only once since 2005.

Nadal’s journey to seven Grand Slam titles on the clay has been one of almost total domination starting back when the World No. 2 was a teenager…

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2012 French Open: Who Will Shine, Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams? 38

Posted on May 25, 2012 by JA Allen

The French Open gets underway on Sunday with Sharapova one of the favorites.

Finally, grand slam No. 2 gets underway Sunday, May 27, 2012 in Paris.

Thankfully, it marks the end of the ever-increasingly dull, dusty and predictable clay court season for the men.

While watching men play tennis on clay is second only to watching the grass grow, the women have presented far more entertainment on the clay in terms of survivors—overlooking the shrieking, sliding and assault of injuries.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova enter this year’s French Open as the early favorites according to the latest news centered on the ladies draw for the second grand slam of the season.

Of the two, most look to Serena Williams to conquer the clay this season. The fact remains, however, that Serena Williams has not done so for a decade. The last time the younger Williams sister won the French Open title was in 2002. It turned out to be her only trip to the final, falling short in each of her other nine attempts.

Sharapova, on the other hand, has never yet made a final on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros.

The reason pundits and fans find Williams the most probable champion is because there is no viable clear-cut favorite on clay. Roland Garros has crowned highly improbable champions every season since Belgian Justine Henin first retired for in 2008.

In 2008 Serbian beauty Ana Ivanovic stepped up large to claim the French Open crown and the No. 1 spot for the ladies. She quickly faded after leaving Paris when her game fell apart and her ranking slowly sank of sight.

Next up, Svetlana Kuznetsova skyrocketed from the field in 2009 to steal the championship away from fellow Russian Dinara Safina who also lost the final in 2008. But like Ivanovic before her, Kuznetsova could find no more magic after leaving the grounds of Roland Garros in 2009. Since winning in Paris, Kuznetsova has disappeared, her ranking slowly receding.

The feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone refused to lose in 2010 as she wrestled the championship away from a revitalized Samantha Stosur. The Aussie, after defeating the former French Open winner Justine Henin, followed by Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic, could not quell the determination of Schiavone to seize the championship—her first at age 29.

But in 2011, Schiavone was the one who suffered defeat from an improbable source—Li Na of China who was also winning her first major. Like the three champions preceding her, however, Li Na suffered from post-French Open syndrome. Her game suffered and her ranking fell.

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French Open Champions: Best 8 in the Modern Era 14

Posted on May 13, 2012 by JA Allen

Rafael Nadal has won 6 or the last 7 French Open titles.

More than any of the other majors, the French Open often produces a special kind of champion who loves to burrow down and blast his way through the red clay.

What is more, today, these French Open supernovas often manage to translate the skills that allow them to win on clay to other surfaces.

Winning on clay demands players excel in developing points using the brain as well as brawn—utilizing defensive skills, often as the launching pad for offense. The clay-court match requires playing with a huge measure of patience—hence, the phrase grinding it out becomes relevant in tennis.

Many professionals point to the lack of clay courts in the United States as one of the reasons for the reported failure of U.S. tennis during the past two decades.

The number of clay courts in the United States has dwindled dramatically. Today’s American youngsters learn to play almost exclusively on hard courts, foregoing the lessons imparted to their European and South American counterparts on homeland clay courts.

Of course, grass and clay courts are far more expensive to maintain which explains why these special surfaces are dying out in most places.

When you look at the ATP calendar, the clay court season lasts approximately two months—from April to the first week in June.

The grass season is even shorter—one month.  The rest of the calendar is played on artificial surfaces of various textures and rebound strength.

The French Open has been played since 1891. Starting in 1928, the tournament was played on the red clay courts of Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

Naturally, no tennis aficionado can talk about the greats of tennis history without mentioning the great Four Musketeers of French tennis: Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste who were responsible for the great enthusiasm the French have for tennis.

Since the modern era began in 1968, however, there have been only a handful of multiple winners of the French Open.  The top eight French Open Champions of the Open Era have won the title more than once since 1968.

If titles are equal, then the number of finals reached is considered. If all else is equal, the winning percentage becomes the final determining factor.

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Forecasting the Fortunes of the Top Seeds at the 2012 French Open 13

Posted on May 04, 2012 by JA Allen

The 2012 French Open gets underway on May 27, 2012

The clay-court season has offered few surprises so far for the men on tour.

Rafael Nadal has re-established his iron foothold on the red clay, offering his opponents a healthy dose of lethal backspin and Majorcan aggression. There is something about breathing red dust that instills Nadal with an air of invincibility few can overcome.

For the ladies, Queen Victoria Azarenka has bowed to few, trying to cement her grasp on the No. 1 ranking.

Losing only to Marion Bartoli at Indian Wells, Azarenka demonstrated no nervous tics or signs of relenting her perch at the top of the women’s game. That is, until she was buried under a siege of Russian ground strokes thrown at her by world No. 2  Marian Sharapova at Stuttgart.

Sharapova pulled the proverbial rug out from under Azarenka in Germany during the finals on Sunday, winning 6-1, 6-4.

The women’s top four players—Azarenka, Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska appear to have established some sort of stability for the ladies, although certainly not on a par with the men’s top four—Novak Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and  Andy Murray.

In a few weeks, both the men and the women will roll into Roland Garros for the second Grand Slam of the season.

Those at the top will continue to be favored to win, but there may be some surprises on the terre battue in Paris.

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