They went about it in different ways but Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep were rightly crowned King and Queen of clay at the this year’s French Open at Roland Garros. For Nadal it was a largely uncomplicated tournament which saw him claim his 11th title in Paris but for Halep, after a number of near misses, it was vindication for all her hard work and her dedication to the sport she loves.
Dominic Thiem was Nadal’s opponent in the final, and he had won the last meeting, also on clay, just weeks before but despite playing very well he could not overcome the Spaniard this time. In fact Rafa was rarely troubled except against his good friend Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-final. Schwartzman took the first set in style and with a break in the second set the shock looked on until rain stopped play. Unfortunately for the Argentine this allowed Nadal to get himself together, recover the break, and the rest is history.
For Simona Halep it was fourth time lucky, and third time at Roland Garros after so many final defeats. She’d had a couple of tough matches leading up to the semi-final but a comfortable defeat over Garbine Muguruza made many think her time had come. That hope began to evaporate when her opponent, Sloane Stephens, quickly found herself a set and a break up and it looked like history was going to repeat itself. From nowhere though the Romanian found immense inner strength to recover and take the 2nd and steamroller Stephens in the 3rd, finally celebrating the Grand Slam win as well as her return to number one in the world.
The shock of the tournament came when Marco Cecchinato eliminated Novak Djokovic who continued to make his comeback. Serena Williams also made hers but ultimately withdrew due to an injury but will hope to be fit for Wimbledon, as will Andy Murray who returns to action soon. Unfortunately for him, Djokovic and Nadal, Roger Federer has already returned to number one in the world and is showing no signs of decline.