10 things we learned at French Open
PARIS -- Just as you begin to get a little comfortable and a little familiar with the language -- for instance, when a waiter says "Non" several times and shakes his finger repeatedly in your face, it means the requested menu item is not available -- it's time to say au revoir to Paris and the French Open.
So, as we stuff our luggage with dirty laundry, here are 10 things to take away from the women's side over the past two weeks at Roland Garros.
No. 10: In Woody Allen's great movie, "Midnight in Paris," Owen Wilson declares that Paris is better when it rains. He is wrong. Paris is not better when it rains. The museums become more crowded, picnic spots are miserable and, worst of all, French Open matches get delayed. The clay surface does respond well to rain, so it could have been worse, but the first week was more like Wimbledon than Roland Garros.
No. 9: Have we seen the last of Venus Williams, at least as a dominant player? Perhaps. Bothered by a bad back that severely limited her once-famous serve, the nearly 33-year-old lost in the first round against Urszula Radwanska. The match lasted nearly 3½ hours and ended with sunlight fading rapidly from the court -- and perhaps figuratively on Venus' career.
No. 8: Bethanie Mattek-Sands is returning to form. Injuries and a significant lack of playing time had the American considering retirement last summer. But after changing her diet due to 26 food allergies -- yes, 26 -- she has recovered her health and game. The 28-year-old won the upset of the tournament by beating No. 6-ranked Li Na and advancing to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for just the second time in her 14-year career.
No. 7: So is Jelena Jankovic. The former No. 1 still hasn't won a major, but she has returned to the radar, rising back to No. 18. She reached the quarterfinals here before losing to nemesis Maria Sharapova.
No. 6: The relationship between Victoria Azarenka and clay is getting serious. A while back, the 2013 Australian Open champion said she wasn't married to clay; but she said here at the tournament that their relationship has improved to the point at which they have moved into together. After losing a close semifinal match against Sharapova, Azarenka said her and clay will continue living together and she expects to improve on the surface.
No. 5: Serena Williams might be American, but she considers herself almost Parisian. That's because she owns a home here, trains with a French coach and speaks the language. She has also now won the French Open title twice. Asked to name her favorite book or movie about Paris, she replied, "There is a movie called -- you will have to look this one up -- "Mama, There's a Man in Your Bed." Has anyone seen that one? Yeah, it's very funny, actually."
No. 4: Jamie Hampton's real name is, oddly enough, Jamie Hampton. After one early-round victory, Hampton complained that, for some reason, everyone always calls her "Julie" and "Julie Hamilton." An American reporter even addressed her as Julie in a subsequent news conference. But the 23-year-old might have made a name for herself by upsetting 2011 Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova to reach the fourth round. She had a poor outing in her subsequent match, but Hampton likely improved her computer ranking to 42 with her strong tournament.
No. 3: Both Serena and Maria think the other has a body advantage. Asked about Serena's powerful serve, Sharapova replied, "If I was built like her, I think I would be able to hit a big serve like that, too." Serena, meanwhile, said, "I'm a lot smaller than Maria, so I don't know how I'm able to serve so big."
No. 2: The future looks bright for American women's tennis. Mattek-Sands beat Na, Hampton upset Kvitova and four American women reached the fourth round of a major for the first time since the 2004 U.S. Open. Sloane Stephens, 20, is the most promising of the younger players, having reached the fourth round here two years in a row (along with being one of the few players to beat Serena in the past year), while Louisa Chirico, who reached the junior finals here, and Taylor Townsend are two more up-and-comers. As Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA player development program said, this tournament marked the turning point.
No. 1: Of course, the best of the Americans is also the best player in the world. Serena might be 31, but she is playing the best tennis of her career. She has won 31 straight matches. She has won three of the past four majors. She is 74-3 since losing in the first round here last year. She dropped only one set here this tournament. She won the semifinals 6-0, 6-1 in just 46 minutes. She won the final by slamming three aces past Sharapova at 118, 121 and 128 miles per hour. And now she goes to Wimbledon, which is her best Grand Slam. She could end the year tied with Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with 18 majors.