Twists and Turns, Dramas and Controversies: The tale of the 2021 Roland Garros

June 14, 2021

Unseeded Barbora Krejčíková shocked the world to win her first singles Grand Slam title as Novak Djokovic broke Spanish and Greek hearts en route to his 19th Grand Slam title.


Men’s Draw

Current World No. 1 – and now two-time Roland Garros champion – Novak Djokovic has won his 19th Grand Slam title, which has to be the sweetest on out of all for the Serbian. At no point in the tournament did he look convincing enough to go all the way, especially after scraping through a five-setter against Italian Lorenzo Musetti where he clawed back from two sets down, and an uncharacteristic showing against No. 9 seed Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-finals.

But the best was yet to come against the third seed and 13-time Roland Garros champion, Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. After Rafa took the first set, Novak took his game to another level; the Spaniard had no answer for Djokovic’s long, probing groundstrokes that helped the 34-year-old toy with the “King of Clay” and book his place for Sunday’s final in four sets.

Stefanos Tsitsipas made the most of what was otherwise a tough draw. The World No. 5, after breezing past his first four rounds, faced a familiar foe in second seed Daniil Medvedev. The Russian, too, had a smooth sailing up to that point and had a better head-to-head record against his Greek opponent, but Tsitsipas dominated the World No. 2 as he ran out with a 6-3 7-6 7-5 victory. Alexander Zverev, another young gun and the current World No. 6, awaited Tsitsipas in the semi-finals, the winner getting a shot at his first grand slam final.

And what a spectacle it was! Two players of similar playing style, both favouring the baseline, both looking to stretch his opponent; it was a fascinating encounter as the balance of the game swung from one player to the other with each game. In the end, it was Tsitsipas who, after winning the first two sets, lost momentum as Zverev pegged him back to level it up at two sets each, but the Greek had enough left in his tank for one final push and sealed his first Grand Slam finals berth.

After a shaky start to the final, the Greek grew into the match as he kept Djokovic at arm’s length for the entirety of the first set before taking the set 7-6 in a tie-break. While everyone expected Novak to fight back, Tsitsipas took control of the second set from the onset – something that looked too good to be true – as he took a two-sets-to-love lead against the World No. 1.

But that’s when Djokovic is at his best, isn’t it? Down and out, just a small rope to hang onto for dear life, and that’s all he needs. The Serbian roared back into the match, and the deeper he took it, the more likely it looked that he would seal it off. Tsitsipas huffed and puffed, but had no answers to Djokovic. In the end, the Djoker sealed the titanic clash in five sets with a 6-7 2-6 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory – his second grand slam of the year, and one short of equalling Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both of whom have 20.


Also Read – Naomi Osaka: From a shy youngster to a global voice.


Women’s draw

As has been the case for the last decade or so, the women’s circuit, especially in the major tournaments, has been consistently inconsistent, which has resulted in shocks and mixed outcomes. The same proved to be this time around as well, with only one top 10 player making it to the last eight stages.

Seeded players like Markéta Vondroušová (No. 20), Kiki Bertens (No. 16), Johanna Konta (No. 19), Bianca Andreescu (No. 6), Angelique Kerber (No. 26), and Garbiñe Muguruza (No. 12) all crashed out as early as the first round. Naomi Osaka‘s (No. 2) withdrawal from the tournament after her spat with organisers following her boycott of press obligations sparked widespread debate.

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, too, pulled out in the second round, but her reason was an injury scare, unlike Naomi’s. By the end of the fourth round, only the eighth seed Iga Świątek remained as the sole representative of the Top 10 club, as Aryna Sabalenka (No. 3), last year’s finalist Sofia Kenin (No. 4), Elina Svitolina (No. 5) and Serena Williams (No. 7) all were knocked out.

Krejčíková beat Cori Gauff, while Maria Sakkari disposed of defending champion Iga Świątek to set up a semi-final clash between the two. Elena Rybakina couldn’t replicate her performance against Serena as she narrowly lost out to Pavlyuchenkova, with Slovenian Tamara Zidanšek beating Spaniard Paula Badosa to make it to her first Grand Slam semis.

Maria had the upper hand throughout the match, but the Czech held on as she had to take it 9-7 in the final set to seal her maiden Grand Slam singles final berth, while Zidanšek’s fairytale story came to an end at the second last hurdle. Anastasia Pavlyuchenko looked in complete control as she sealed her win in straight sets 7-5 6-3.

Following the footsteps of former Czech Grand Slam winners, unseeded Barbora Krejčíková had a dream run to the final where she defeated 31st seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 2-6 6-4 and made history when on Sunday, with Doubles partner Kateřina Siniaková, she won the women’s doubles title to become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win both titles in the same year.

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