Posted: Sunday June 5, 2011 2:36PM ; Updated: Sunday June 5, 2011 4:41PM
Jon Wertheim

Fifty thoughts on the French Open

Story Highlights

Rafael Nadal keeps rolling at Roland Garros, where he is now 45-1 in his career

A fascinating semifinals and finals helped rescue the women's French Open field

Juniors winner Bjorn Fratangelo is reason for hope after another U.S. flameout

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Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (right) was the eptitome of grace when his 43-match win streak ended in the French Open semifinals against Roger Federer.
Virginie Bouyer/DPPI/Icon SMI
2011 French Open
Day 15
Day 14
Day 13
Day 12
Day 11
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Previous Coverage

Some scattered thoughts from the 2011 French Open, delivered stateside:

• Rafael Nadal won his sixth French Open title, matching Bjorn Borg's record, while improving to an otherworldly 45-1 lifetime at Roland Garros. Long live the king.

• Li Na could do for tennis what Yao Ming has done for basketball. Every sports organization -- from baseball to the UFC -- wants a beachhead in China. Tennis now has a Grand Slam champion. That's a hell of a head start. One of you joked that she should change her name to Li Williams. For the all examples of players failing to meet the moment, Li peaks at the majors.

• Roger Federer won't be winning a five-set match on clay against Nadal at this stage of his career, but his resurgence over the past fortnight bodes well for the next 10 weeks.

• Francesca Schiavone came a match from replicating last year's feat. But who can recall a player who competes with so much unfiltered joy. Just a delight to have around. And, far as we're concerned, the more prominently she figures in the WTA cast, the better.

• The United States' struggles at Roland Garros are well-documented. Eighteen Americans entered this year's main draw -- nine men and nine women -- and zero made it past the third round. But there's hope for the future in 17-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo, born and raised in Plum, Pa., who won the boys' singles title.

• Because of all the other swirling stories -- and the women's final barely 12 hours away -- Novak Djokovic was deprived of the sendoff he deserved. For six months, he won with grace. And when the streak was finally broken, he lost with grace as well. A shame that his 43 matches only encompassed one major. (Note to self: next time I want to go six months without losing, start the streak in late spring!) But who doubts there aren't a bunch more Slams left for him to win?

• Heading into the tournament, the conventional wisdom was that the women's game is in disarray and as many as a dozen players could win. To some extent this was born out, not the least when the top three seeds lost in Week 1. But we were left with a Chinese champion beating the defending champion, with Maria Sharapova and a quirky player from the host nation the other two semifinalists. That's not so bad.

• We eagerly await the Williams seeding report for Wimbledon. Seems to me the top players should WANT them seeded as high as possible. Otherwise they'll lurk in the early rounds.

• Daniel Nestor bolsters his case for the Hall of Fame (and even GOAT doubles player?) by teaming with Max Mirnyi to win the title.

• Czech mates Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka took the women's title.

• For a self-described "cow in ice," Maria Sharapova did herself proud reaching the Wimbledon semis. But one suspects that when she reflects on her career, this one will be recalled as a Slam that got away. (Same, to a lesser extent, for Svetlana Kuznetsova.)

• He didn't quite replicate the feat of counterpart Na Li, but Aussie Open-losing finalist Andy Murray, is back in business. OK, he didn't have to beat a murderer's row to get to the semis. But his game -- AWOL for months -- has been relocated.

• The criticism of Caroline Woznaicki and her ranking is not only justified but, in a weird way, a triumph for women's tennis. Hear me out. When the top-ranked player -- who's never won a Slam -- not only loses in a major, but falls in Week 1 by the abysmal score of 6-1, 6-3, it warrants discussion. Sorry, that's the rules of sports. When the San Antonio Spurs amass the best record in the NBA and then crash out in the first round of the playoffs, it's duly noted. When an undefeated boxer is knocked out, the validity of his record is questioned. When a golfer other than Tiger Woods leads the PGA money list, it raises eyebrows. If we dismissed Wozniacki's asterisk along the lines of, "Hey, she's trying her best," it would demean the WTA. Bigotry of soft expectations and the like.

• For all the ink and pixels and airtime devoted to the WTA underachievers -- from Ana Ivanovic to Sam Stosur -- how about some props to the achievers. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been steadily ascending and reached the quarters. Andrea Petkovic is not ready to wins majors but she is a bona fide top tenner. Petra Kvitova looks like the real deal. Gradually we're winnowing pretenders and contenders.

• How's this for a bit of cultural exchange? The French help with some junior development. We help them with fan behavior. There were matches held on Philippe Chartrier for which the stands looked to be about 10 percent of capacity. We're talking rows and rows of empty sears. Surely there is a way to let the patricians in the sponsor tents know how unseemly it is to have these choice tickets and then not use them. We eagerly look forward to the upgrades to the venue. But it's all for rien if the stands are empty. Just disgraceful.

• The shabby treatment tennis receives from the good folks at Comcast/NBC/Kabletown (that joke never gets old) has been well-chronicled. Airing live events on tape delay is the modern-day equivalent of the Flat Earth Society. Three quick points: 1) From a business perspective, I don't get it. If tennis rates so poorly, why even bid on it? And how short-sighted is the French Federation to permit a broadcast "partner" to diminish the property by declining to air some of the most compelling matches live? 2) In anticipation of Wimbledon, can we not come with a coherent plan of attack a bit further in advance? It was, frankly, embarrassing, that, with all the platforms and all the permutations available, the networks were still scrambling and sending out press releases on the eve of the matches. 3) I urge you not to conflate with NBC beancounters with the NBC crew and talent on-site. One of the great shames here: NBC does a terrific job at the events. The Ted Robinson/John McEnroe/ Mary Carillo trio is as good as it gets. The production and direction is first rate. Graphics. Research. You name it. It's the folks in the suites at 30 Rock that are triggering the ill will.

• Speaking of suppressing information that wants to be free....A lot of you complained about the transcript embargo. We'll see how this plays out at Wimbledon. Until that's resolved, I steer you to the player interviews on the French Open site. If the postmatch news conferences contained a fraction of this "quote gold" we'd all be in good shape. A sample:

Q. [Who would you most like to share] a good bottle of wine with?

Gael Monfils: I don't drink, so that puts a damper on things. But if I was to share a Magnum of Fanta, I'd choose Jo (Tsonga).

Q. To take to see your favourite band?

Gael Monfils: Hmmm...I really wouldn't mind going to see some rap with Svetlana (Kutznetsova). She's a great chick, she's fantastic. I love her.

Q. To hit on girls with?

Gael Monfils: Jo, again. He's not the biggest flirt but we have an excellent track record.

• Bless Djokovic and his streak. But this is as good a time as any to highlight Esther Vergeer, whose title pushed her undefeated streak to 17 straight Slams and more than 400 consecutive matches.

• Scott Lipsky of the United States and Target-shopper Casey Dellacqua of Australia won their first Grand slam title Thursday when they beat defending champions Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 7-6 (6), 4-6, 10-7 in the mixed doubles final.

• The best tennis player in the NBA? ... Allegedly it's Dirk Nowitzki.

• Marooned in the U.S. last week, it was a pleasure reading the daily dispatches of John Branch and Chris Clarey in the New York Times.

• Gael Monfils is like the Dwight Howard of tennis. He's probably not champion material. But he's fun to have in the cast. And the sport is legitimized by his athleticism.

• One of you brilliantly started to call Wozniacki and Monfils "Arrid Extra Dry" award winners. Get a little closer! "I don't care how fast you are, or how well you defend, you can't win a major singles title from back there. How do you expect to defeat your opponent if you're not close enough to see them? I know the tours want their players to get closer to the fans, but I don't think that's what they had in mind."

• Anyone else about ready to short their shares (David Einhorn style!) of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga? Such a fun player to watch when he's on. But the combination -- not unrelated -- of a shaky body and shaky confidence is really conspiring against him.

• Props to Tennis Talk for this update on Roger Federer and a proposed racket change.

• Remember Clijsters' 65 unforced errors against Arantxa Rus? It would have been 66 had she not pulled off the single luckiest winner in recent memory. Check this out.
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