|Sculpture, Centre Georges Pompidou|
10. So this is what it feels like to win: The now-legendary Esther Vergeer totally dominated the women's wheelchair events for so long that it became unnecessary to check results--Vergeer won everything. The champion retired this year, however, and--while we may have expected to see a more familiar name on the last line of the draw--it was German teacher and athlete Sabine Ellerbrock who won the French Open.
9. My inky flowers can beat your golden flowers: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, her arm heavily tattooed with flowers she recently referred to as her "Zen garden," put the hurt on 2011 champion Li Na in the second round. Mattek-Sands, whose big game has been repeatedly hampered by injury, pretty much played "Li Na style," and she did everything better than Li, beating her 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
8. The charm of Paris--better if shared: Lucie Hradecka, who--with partner Andrea Hlavackova--won the women's doubles title in 2011, won the mixed doubles title this year with partner Frantisek Cermac.
7. What's Paris without a floor show?: Tennis is sport, but it can also be theatre, and nobody knows that better than France's Marion Bartoli, who always puts on at least one memorable performance at every big tournament. She didn't waste any time at Roland Garros, delivering her show in the first round. Bartoli and Olga Govortsova played for 3 hours and 12 minutes, not counting several rain breaks. There were plenty of double faults, match points saved, and very lengthy games. From the Frenchwoman, we got what we expected--repeated fist pumps, shadow-swinging, jumping up and down, stern glares to the box. Bartoli won 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. As for the show--you either like it or you don't. I do.
6. Fighting Italian stays in the fight: I don't think many observers thought that Sara Errani would make it to the semifinals this year, but that's exactly what the 2012 runner-up did, and she took out Sabine Lisicki and Agnieszka Radwanska along the way. Errani would go on to lose in the semifinals to Serena Williams.
5. Did those women miss their flights?! What were all those players from the USA doing hanging around in Paris after the early rounds had been played? American women made up 25% of the round of 16--who would have thought it? In addition to Mattek-Sands, there were Serena Williams, Jamie Hampton and Sloane Stephens. Varvara Lepchenko made it to the third round, in which she was defeated (for the first time) by Angelique Kerber.
4. Is that a helicopter I hear overhead? Just when you think she's too "out of it" to make a return, Jelena Jankovic shows up playing some really good clay court tennis. She won the tournament in Bogota, and made it to the final in Charleston (and took a set off of Serena Williams). Jankovic also made it to the final 16 in both Stuttgart and Rome. At Roland Garros, she made it to the quarterfinals, won a bagel set against Sharapova, and then lost her mind again and went out of the tournament. But really, what can you expect from the 2008 Stuttgart champion who chose the red Porsche as her prize because it matched a pair of her heels? That's my JJ.
3. Nothing to prove on clay: Defending champion Maria Sharapova ended this year's tournament as the runner-up, but she did so in style. Sharapova took out Zheng Jie, Sloane Stephens, Jelena Jankovic, and Victoria Azarenka. Not bad. The Russian had to once again meet her nemesis, Serena Williams, in the final, but Williams' 6-4, 6-4 victory was hardly a beat-down. Sharapova wasn't as good as her opponent, but she was very good, and she showed, yet again, that she has solved her clay court issues.
2. We're Russian, too!: The biggest Russian victory at this year's French Open took place in doubles, as Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina beat top seeds and defending champions Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 7-5, 6-2 to win the championship. Errani and Vinci were the favorites, but it shouldn't come as a surprise to fans that the team of Makarova and Vesnina was able to pull this off. Both excellent doubles competitors, the combination really seems to work for them.
1. "Patience on red clay" gets a new meaning: Think about Serena Williams' lone Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, sitting atop a shelf all those many years with no one to talk to. No silly anecdotes, no shared war stories--why, those shiny flat Venus Rosewater bidules don't even speak French! But Williams does, and so does her Wilson Blade.
For the past year, Williams has been learning a lot about how to be patient on a clay surface and carve out points she can win quickly on grass and hard courts. And since her only other French Open win took place in 2002, she has also had to exercise a lot of patience in terms of adding at least one more Paris victory to her list of incredible accomplishments. She did that today, beating defending champion Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4.
Move over, seasoned Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, and make room for a a shinier version. There's plenty to talk about now.