As the first week of the French Open draws to a close, there really is only one major piece of news on everyone’s lips – the untimely exit of Roger Federer.
The former world number one lost his fourth round tie in five sets against 18th seed Ernests Gulbis – the first time he has failed to reach the last eight of the competition since 2004.
It was a result that no one expected, and the composure that the Latvian showed to dispose of the Swiss number two should be applauded. Gulbis, who has always shown vast potential but been let down by his temperamental form, described the win as one of the most important of his career.
For Federer it was yet another reminder that the old master is human. Whilst there still remain elements of the majesty that has made him such a celebrated tennis player across the world, the fact of the matter is that he is now seen as beatable, and the more often he is beaten by underdogs the clearer it becomes that he will no longer be a consistent force to be reckoned with on tour.
Aside from Federer’s exit, the men’s tournament has largely gone as expected in the first week, with Rafael Nadal sweeping through to the fourth round without too much trouble, and Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and Andy Murray booking their places in the quarters ahead of next week.
The stage remains set for a final showdown between Nadal and Djokovic, but for the Spaniard to be in the running for what would be his ninth French Open title, his back must drastically improve. The Spaniard has been quite candid about the fact that his back has been bothering him at Roland Garros this year, and given the form that Djokovic is in, it seems unlikely that the Serb will let Nadal off the hook this time.
Whilst it seems likely that Nadal and Djokovic will contest the final this year, over in the women’s side of the draw, the tournament is far more open. Both Serena Williams and Li Na have been knocked out, and with Agnieszka Radwanska also out of the running this year, Maria Sharapova would appear to be the favourite heading into the second week.
The Russian overcame Samantha Stosur in what turned out to be a pretty stern contest, and the 2012 champion will be well aware that with Williams and Na no longer in the competition, she has a fantastic chance to add to her trophy cabinet.
One thing’s for sure, the women’s side of the draw is shaping up to be a very exciting second week, and there are sure to be plenty more twists and turns before we get to Saturday’s final.
As far as the men are concerned, we’re likely to see a number of heavyweight clashes over the next six days, and with the intriguing subplot of Rafael Nadal’s back to add some soap opera to proceedings, there are lots of reasons to stay tuned to events in Paris this week.
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