Tag Archives: Roland Garros

Is Jelena Ostapenko Bad For Women’s Tennis

In a French Open women’s draw void of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. The WTA tour desperately needed its top players and biggest names to show up. Instead, what it got was a 20 year old Latvian named Jelena Ostapenko.

Who Is Jelena Ostapenko?

Prior to the 2017 French Open, Ostapenko had very little success in majors. In 2015 she made it to the second round of Wimbledon and the US Open (the only two major draws she was in.) In 2016 she went out in the first round of each major but made a small breakthrough in 2017 getting to third round of the Australian Open earlier this year. She came into Roland Garros with a world singles ranking of 47 and a doubles ranking of 34. Little did everyone know that this dark horse would be the one to get through the women’s draw and end up in the final, defying all odds and expectations. While such an achievement deserves to be applauded, many critics of the sport are pointing to Ostapenko’s meteoric rise as something that is wrong with women’s tennis.

What’s The Problem?

In most major sports in the United States, fans crave underdog stories. If an eight seed in the NBA wins a series or even a game the sports world goes wild. If a lowly MLB team has a huge turnaround and becomes a contender everybody is excited about it. In fact, there is even an entire sporting event built around Cinderella storylines and upset victories in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. How then could this possibly be a bad thing for women’s tennis? It all has to do with the nature of the sport.

In any of the major sports leagues in the United States (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA) teams represent cities, states, or regions. Plus, they are comprised of numerous players each having they own following. In professional tennis, for most of the year the players are competing as individuals. Each pro tennis player represents their country of origin and is backed completely by that country, but even so, international star power can be hard to come by for someone hailing from a smaller nation. Not all players can generate international buzz. For example, a consistent top player such as Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, or even Angelique Kerber can draw international fans with TV appearances, commercials, and press conferences. Before this year’s French Open, most sports fans probably didn’t even know who Jelena Ostapenko was. They still may not.

Not A New Issue

The same thing has happened in women’s tennis for a while now. In 2010 Francesca Schiavone won the French Open and then made it back to the final the year after. In 2012 the former champion wasn’t close to as competitive as she had been the previous two years and hasn’t made it past the fourth round of a major since 2011. The same thing happened in the 2016 Olympics when Monica Puig won gold. Before her stunning victory she had only made it to the fourth round of a major once and hasn’t made it past the third since. Some other women who appeared to be on the verge of becoming perennial contenders and then seemingly disappeared are Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, and Eugenie Bouchard. All of whom were expected to be the next big thing in women’s tennis but have failed to live up to the expectations.

Monica Puig

It’s interesting that this could be a bad thing for a sports league considering how all of the major US sports are desperate to create parity, but the WTA is more in need of lasting star power. They need a dependable, likable face of women’s tennis to carry the torch after Serena, Venus, and Sharapova retire. This is difficult to find when the players contending for major wins seemingly rise and fall like the tide.

The WTA would certainly prefer some of the more well-known players such as Caroline Wozniacki and Eugenie Bouchard to be the ones making it to the finals. If Ostapenko can continue to make a name for herself and contend for major titles regularly, she could end up being huge for the women’s game. However, if she is just another flash in the pan women’s tennis will continue to struggle to build a foundation that general audiences will want to tune in to see.


2017 Men’s French Open Tennis: Can Anyone Prevent “La Decima”?

La Decima – The meaning of “Tenth” in Spanish. Soccer fans, especially Real Madrid fans, are familiar with these two words as their club recently won a 10th Champions League Title (the biggest title in European soccer).

However, Rafael Nadal may bring new meaning to these words to the tennis world. Ironically, Rafael Nadal is an honorary member of Real Madrid. He looks to make “La Decima” his own by winning his 10th French Open. While he has not won the French Open since 2014, let’s take a look at his recent results and the other contenders.

This year, Rafael Nadal is 13-1 on clay (Lost to Dominic Thiem in Italy). He has won Monte Carlo and Barcelona. While this may not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed tennis since 2004, the only startling statistic is that he only beat one top 10 player on clay so far. He bested #9 Dominic Theim of Austria 6-1 6-4 on the 30th of April. Nadal is 4-3 against playing a Top 10 player in the world. Gael Monfils (Was #7, now #16) and Milos Raonic. His early rounds will be “boring” if you aren’t a Nadal fan because of how quintessential his game is. However, with his recent injury problems, later rounds going best 3 out of 5 sets may give the other players in the draw some hope.

While Nadal seems to be the favorite to win. There are several players that may get the way of his coveted tenth French Open title. Here are the most likely candidates looking to prevent history from being made.

The Top Class

Andy Murray, World #1. While that ranking may mean he is the “best in the World”, he is only 16-7 this year and has only won one title (Dubai). Since his loss to #2 Novak Djokovic in Qatar in January, he is 11-4 with no wins against any Top 10 player. In fact, the highest ranked player he has beaten this season since Qatar is #15 Lucas Pouille. We know Andy can produce positive results, as he has won 3 Grand Slams and made the French Open final last year. However, with his nagging injury problems, it would be a surprise to see him in the final. Look for a great match-up in the third round with Juan Martin Del Potro!

Novak Djokovic, World #2 and defending French Open Champion. Since his only title this season in Qatar, he is 20-6 and has yet to beat a top 15 player since. With new injury problems forcing him out of recent tournaments, grinding it out on the clay may be tough to do for several rounds. Now that he’s wearing Lacoste, perhaps the crocodile will give him some French inspiration to defend his title! The Fourth round will be his first real test against Lucas Pouille, a  young Frenchmen on the rise!

Stan Wawrinka, World #3 and 2015 French Open Champion. While his record of 20-8 is almost parallel with Murray, he has 1 title this season in Geneva on clay. Tennis fans know that for some reason, Stan can never play his 100% best until it’s a Grand Slam. It’s why people think Murray is worlds better than him but their par in Grand Slam titles, with Wawrinka actually having won a French. We look for him to have a very successful tournament. Would love to see 3rd round against Fabio Fognini!

The Other Guys

#5 Milos Raonic. Injury problems have kept him from reaching his full potential so far this season, until recently. He heads into Roland Garros with a 19-6 record. He has reached two finals this year, withdrawing against #15 Jack Sock in Delray Beach and losing a close two set match on clay to #7 Marin Cilic in Istanbul. His serve, forehand, and great movement for a big guy will keep him in most matches. If he can make it, a fourth round battle vs Dimitrov could be an exciting match.

#6 Dominic Thiem. The youngest top 10 player and most active. He is 29-12 with a lone title this season that he won in Rio. He made it to the Semifinals last year at Roland Garros, and is on pace for a similar result this season if he continues to grow as a player. He is Rafael Nadal’s lone loss on clay this year so look for him to make an impact in the draw. A semifinal appearance could be in the cards.

#7 Marin Cilic. He has a clay court championship this year which puts him above most of the playing field. Similar to Raonic, his forehand, flat backhand and big serve will keep him in a lot of matches. However, it’s tougher for him against a top five opponent to keep his movement and point construction fluid.

#8 Kei Nishikori. Since Brisbane in January, he has no wins over any top 25 players. Injury problems, which seems to be a big thing for these top 8 players, has taken a toll on Nishikori’s season. Maybe he can piece it all together and stay healthy for a deep run at Roland Garros. His best result at the French is the Quarterfinals in 2015. His backhand is something that any tennis player wishes they could hit just for a set, along with his “Brick Wall” mentality.

#9 Alexander “Sasha” Zverev of Germany who is the youngest player in the top 25 (20 years old) and won Munich this year on clay. His down the line backhand and big inside out forehand, accompanied with his 140mph serve, will always make for a difficult match for his opponent. Some experts thought Zverev would be a legitimate threat to win the title. However, he went out in the first round to former top ten player Fernando Verdasco.

Impact Players

#10 David Goffin. He made it to last year’s Quarterfinals and has had mixed results on clay this season. He beat Thiem and Djokovic in Monte Carlo but lost to #42 Karen Khachanov (20 years old) of Russia in Barcelona in the Round of 16. His touch game, paired with his ability to place the ball and slice will make him formidable against a top 10 player on clay.

#11 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria who made the Semifinals of the Australian Open this year. The next “Federer” to some of the media because of his backhand and mirror image on other strokes, he has failed to make a Grand Slam final at the age of 25.

#12 Jo Wilfried Tsonga of France who has made two French Open Semifinal appearances in 2013 and 2015. So far he has not lived up to the “Next Great French Hero” as he has only made one Grand Slam Final (Australian Open 2009). However, he’s always a fun player to watch as his movement is quick and his strokes are strong.

#18 Nick  Kyrgios of Australia is the second player in history to beat Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in their initial meetings. His mentality can push him to the heights of a Grand Slam champion but it can also hold him back from beating a top 50 player.

#29 Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina who won the Silver Medal at last years Olympics in Rio looks to make a splash. His big hitting game is something that no player wants to face early on in the tournament.

Bouncy House Candidates

These players can produce wonderful results against big time players but could also drop out within the first three rounds of any Grand Slam. Regardless, they always provide a match to see as their game or personality is intriguing.

#21 John Isner of America. “Mr. Serve” should be his nickname. He and #23 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia serve their way into some great matches and out of some pressure situations. If you want to see a masterclass serving display, look no further than these two players. On the other hand, don’t expect much else of a match unless these two completely revitalize their backhands to compete against the top five in a best of five sets.

#24 Richard Gasquet of France. Had his deepest French Open run last year into the Quarterfinals. His one-hander dazzles all viewers of his game but not having a win over a top 50 player on clay so far provides some concern for his fans.

#28 Fabio Fognini of Italy. He has the power and game to win against Tsonga, Nishikori and oust Andy Murray in straight sets on Clay this year. However, he is also capable of losing against non top 150 players. He went a full 3 sets in Madrid vs Nadal.

At this year’s French Open, look for several players to make some noise and potentially even beat out the top players. Check out the Vegas odds below and enjoy the tournament!

Nadal 4:5
Djokovic 3:1
Wawrinka 10:1
Murray 11:1
Alex Zverev 11:1
Thiem 11:1
Nishikori 33:1
Del Potro 40:1
Goffin 50:1
Tsonga 50:1
Kyrgios 50:1
Cilic 66:1
Monfils 66:1
Raonic 66:1
Dimitrov 66:1
Steve Johnson 750:1

5 reasons You Should Watch This Year’s French Open

Professional tennis has not enjoyed nearly the same viewership in recent years as major team sports such as football or basketball. General sports fans are typically unaware of anything happening in the sport unless it appears as a top story on ESPN. That being said, what tennis lacks in viewership, it is more than capable of making up in story lines and intrigue. With the French open just about to begin, the tournament offers numerous aspects that all fans can appreciate. Here are five reasons all sports fans should pay attention to this years French Open.


It’s no secret that the clay court season has not started out well for the two top players in the world. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic (numbers one and two respectively) have been bounced before reaching the final of both Mutua Madrid and Rome. In both tournaments Murray was beaten by an unseeded player, losing to Borna Coric in Madrid and Fabio Fognini in Rome. The fact that the top players are vulnerable opens the door for several other players looking to contend. Among these names are Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Stanislas Wawrinka.

The New Class

Over the past decade, the top four players in the world have monopolized grand slams. In fact, a player named Murray, Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal has only won a major five times since 2006. This may be about to change due to the new crop of talented young players looking to usurp the world’s best. Two guys that have had success so far this spring are Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. Thiem made it to the final of Madrid (losing to Rafael Nadal) and got to the semi-final of Rome (losing to Novak Djokovic). Zverev has defeated an impressive array of opponents this spring including Marin Cilic, Thomas Berdych, Stan Wawrinka, John Isner, and Novak Djokovic. This is a pretty solid list considering three of these players are former grand slam champions. Zverev is coming off his first ever masters 1,000 tournament win after defeating Djokovic in Rome. Both of these players along with others such as Nick Kyrios, Lucas Pouille, and Jack Sock are ready to make it big in the second major of the year.

Wide Open Draw

In years past, the big four have reigned supreme in the men’s draw and Serena Williams has owned the women’s side. This year things are a little different. As mentioned before, both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are struggling which means almost anyone in the top 25 has a chance to make a deep run.

On the Women’s side Serena Williams is out, Sharapova didn’t make the cut after returning from her suspension, and Angelique Kerber (number one in the world) has also played some poor matches as of late. In addition, the red clay slows the ball down which takes away the advantage of power hitters. This could work out well for quicker and more defense oriented players such as Agi Radwanska or Carla Suarez-Navarro.

Americans On Clay

Does anybody out there want an underdog to root for? If so, cheer for any of the American Men’s tennis players at the French Open. American men have had a traditionally difficult time on the clay. In fact, nobody has even made it close to a final from the good ole USA since Andre Agassi won it in 1999. Americans typically struggle on the slower surfaces like clay since their games are usually predicated on big serves and aggressive ground strokes which are both neutralized by the dirt. The surface makes pace easier to return and favors players that grind and continue to get the ball back in play. America’s best hope in this tournament is most 14th seeded Jack Sock. Sock has the same style of play as most Americans but moves better than some of the taller guys like Isner or Querrey.

American women have had significantly more success on clay, however, most of that success belongs to one player: Serena Williams. In Serena’s absence it’s up to 11th seeded Venus Williams, 13th seeded Madison Keys, and 20th ranked Coco Vandewegh to carry the torch. Venus who is of course the sister of Serena as well as a former grand slam champion looks to build on her recent major success and get back on top while Keys and Vandewegh are both looking for their first major titles. The mix of former champion and young up-and-comers means there is still plenty of hope that an American woman can win the tile even without Serena.


Possibly the most grand of all the reasons to watch the French open this year is Rafael Nadal. Nadal, who has been king of clay for most of his career is looking to build on what already is an astounding legacy by adding yet another title. He already holds the record for most French open titles all-time with a one win lead over Max Decugis (Amateur era) and three wins over Bjorn Borg (Open era). Nadal already owns a spot among the greatest ever, but it would be that much sweeter to have an even ten titles.

This year’s French Open promises to be an exciting event complete with drama, fanfare and entertainment. With match play scheduled during odd hours do to the European time difference, and a less than reliable TV schedule in the United States, general sports fans don’t often pay attention to the French Open. However, if there was any year to start paying attention, it may be 2017.

Sharapova out of French Open, Bouchard rivalry out with it

For most of the clay court season one of the biggest stories has been Maria Sharapova. Returning after her 15 month suspension for doping, Sharapova has been frantically trying to find a way into tournaments. While she has already been granted wildcard entries to some tournaments, the biggest question was whether or not she would gain entry into the French Open. That answer came on Tuesday when news broke that Sharapova would not be granted a wildcard. This news comes as a blow for fans eager to see if the former championship could make noise in her first major back.

While many fans were excited to see Sharapova back in the spotlight, not everyone was so eager to accept her back. One of her harshest critics has been fellow tour player Eugenie Bouchard. Bouchard has gone on record as saying that Sharapova is “a cheater” and even went as far as to call for a lifetime ban of the former grand slam champion.

The Beginning Of A Rivalry

What had only been an indirect twitter feud turned into a rivalry when Bouchard defeated Sharapova in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open. The match ended with one of the most awkward handshakes in recent memory and Sharapova simply stating “well played.” After the match, Bouchard took another jab at Sharapova saying that she felt inspired by other players to win the match, indicating that many of them supported her comments.

While Sharapova not making an appearance in the French open is sad for her fans, the saddest part of this ruling is that her budding rivalry with Bouchard will be shelved for the time being. It is true that the two would most likely not have played head to head at Rolland Garros since the draw is so big, but at least the hope would have been alive.

Where Is The Intrigue?

Tennis is a sport built on the star power of its top athletes. This is the case for both men’s and women’s tennis. While the men’s side has Nadal vs Federer and Djokovic vs. Murray, the women’s game is missing a big name rivalry. In years past, players like Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Kim Clijsters were able to be competitive enough against each other to draw viewers due to their consistent performance. Adding a bit of fire in the form of a new rivalry would have been huge for the sport. Especially a rivalry with some legitimate bad blood between the players.

With Sharapova out, the most entertaining new rivalry on ice, and Serena Williams also missing the tournament, there isn’t a whole lot of intrigue left for casual fan. Whether you like or dislike Maria Sharapova, the fact that she is out of the draw inevitably makes the second grand slam of the year less interesting.

Sandgren Earns French Open Wildcard

Every year, one lucky American male tennis player is selected to receive a Wild Card entry to the French Open main draw. The Wildcard represents a huge opportunity for a player to by-pass the qualifying rounds and go straight into the draw. This year, the honor goes to 25 year old Tennys Sandgren.

The road to Roland Garros has not been an easy one for Sandgren. The former Tennessee Volunteer turned pro after his sophomore college season in 2011 after helping the Volunteers win SEC titles in consecutive years. Since then, he has played mostly challenger events and major qualifying tournaments. In fact, Sandgren has played in the qualifying rounds of 12 major tournaments but never been able to make it to a main draw until now.

To make things even more difficult, Sandgren suffered a torn labrum in 2014 and had to have hip surgery. In 2015 he had shoulder and wrist issues that also hindered his play.

Fast forward to 2017, and Sandgren has earned a bid to his first ever major tournament by accumulating the most points in the USTA wildcard challenge. Sandgren ended up with 135 points after winning the $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Savannah (St. Joseph’s/Chandler Savannah Challenger) and reaching the final of the ATP $100,000 Challenger in Sarasota, Fla.

“I finally feel like I’m in a good spot and thankfully I’ve been able to stay healthy,” said Sandgren. “To be able to play a full schedule and feel strong and ready to go is a big deal for me. I am trying to take advantage of that.”

To make things even sweeter, his win in Savannah also gives him a career high singles ranking of 114th in the world. This is especially impressive considering that last year he was at certain points ranked outside of the top 300.

The wildcard entry represents an incredible opportunity for Sandgren to take his game to the next level and gain more of a following. When asked just what it means to have this chance, Sandgren said “It’s such a great opportunity at the French and I really want to pull from this experience and maybe snag a couple of wins. I want to go and compete and give it my best effort. To do that and be able to get a few wins would be pretty spectacular.”

Is Jack Sock the Best Hope for American Tennis?

The United States is still looking for a male tennis player to come along and revitalize the sport in America. Is it possible that Jack Sock could be the nations best hope for a major champion?

It has been well over a decade since an American man has won a major tennis title In fact, the last to do it was Any Roddick in 2003. Since that time, the sport of tennis in America has seen a decline in interest as sports like basketball and football have dominated. Tennis in the U.S.A. needs a male player to help revitalize the general public’s interest. That player just might be Jack Sock.

Twenty Four year old Jack Sock made the change from talented up and comer to contender in 2016 when he made the third round of the French Open. Since then he has not exited any major tournament before the round three. He has now become a top 20 tennis player (ranked 15th) and in the process overtaken John Isner as the top American in the world.

Sock started catching people’s attention in 2016 when he made the round of 16 at the US Open. He ended up losing to Joe-Wilfiried Tsonga in four sets. However, before his fourth round loss, he defeated seventh seeded Marin Cilic in straight sets. With this new found success, Sock looks to push himself to the next level and get closer to holding a trophy at a major tournament.

What makes Sock’s game special?

Sock’s game is centered around one thing: power. He wins by pushing people off the base line with heavy ground strokes and a serve capable of reaching 140 miles per hour. He then looks to attack and finish with his forehand. This one two punch has been the bread and butter of other American players in recent years such as John Isner, Sam Querrey, and Andy Roddick. If Sock’s game is similar to other Americans, then what sets him apart? Two things: his on court movement, and drive.


Players like the aforementioned Roddick and Isner relied almost entirely on their serve to win matches. If they had an off day serving, they weren’t able to supplement with their return game. part of the struggle for these players was that their movement was lacking (especially for the 6’ 10” Isner). Sock is still relatively tall at 6’ 3” but is more agile on the court and therefore capable of winning more points off of the return. He can also win in a variety of ways as opposed to strictly bombing serves. he is a solid defensive player and can run down more balls than many of his compatriots.


In addition to his physical skills, Sock simply won’t settle for less than number one. He has been known to practice even after matches and was quoted in February as saying that he won’t be content as just a top 20 player, he wants more. This attitude is refreshing when compared with some of the less driven players on the tour such.

“Not many people can say they’ve been the top player in their sport in all of the U.S. But my goals and aspirations are higher than top 20 in the world. I want to be top 10, top five. I want to win Slams and be No. 1 one day.” – Jack Sock

What stands in his way?

While Sock seems to be on the right track, there is by no means a guarantee that he will win a major. In men’s tennis, the big four still reign supreme. In fact, in the last ten years, only three players not named Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, or Raphael Nadal have won major tournaments (five events total). That’s an astonishing 35 out of 40 wins for the big four.

Aside from the big name players, there are also several young players posing potential challenges for Sock. 23 year olds Dominic Thiem of Austria and 23 year old Lucas Pouille of France are ranked ahead of Sock at ninth and fourteenth respectively. Two other young players looking to contend are 22 year old Nick Kyrios of Australia at seventeenth and 20 year old Alexander Zverev of Germany sitting in the twentieth spot. This combination of major champions and up and comers makes the road to the top extremely difficult.

What’s in store this year for Sock?

After getting to the third round of the Australian Open in February, Sock hopes to get farther at the French Open. Sock actually reached the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2015 and looks to break through to his first quarterfinal in a major. Making it to at least the quarterfinals of a major and getting into the top ten by the end of the year would be an achievable goal for Sock.

For years now, American tennis fans have been waiting for a legitimate contender. Now, they just might have one in Jack Sock.