There were a lot of big names missing at the Rio Olympics – especially on the men’s side.
But it was a fabulous event just the same.
Here’s a sample of pics taken during the tournament.
Among those featured are Eugenie Bouchard, Canadians Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, Venus Williams, Fabio Fognini, Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daria Kasatkina, Andy Murray and many more.
There’s a special collection of epic Barbora Strycova moments in there, too.
When your uncle and coach is the tournament director, you probably won’t have trouble getting practice-court time at the event he’s running.
But Rafael Nadal’s practice session at the Mallorca Open Tuesday caused somewhat of a logjam.
There are three practice courts on site at the tournament. But on Tuesday – with so many players still in the event – they were down to two for several hours. A doubles match had to be relocated from the stadium court to one of the designated practice courts. The reason was that singles match suspended the previous evening because of darkness had to be completed.
The match, featuring top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, needed to resume on the stadium court. As it was, there already was a doubles match scheduled on that extra court.
That dropped the available practice courts down to two.
When Nadal and his team (including tournament director Toni) took over another court, the total number of practice courts available to the players was down to one, one coach on hand told Tennis.Life.
With 39 players in action on on a busy Tuesday, that’s not nearly enough.
He’s using this time to get in some early practice on the grass while staying at home in Mallorca. And it’s not as though there are grass courts around every corner on that Balearic island.
Still, the tournament director put the needs of his nephew above the needs of a second-year tournament. It’s a tournament that still is in the growing pains stage and, in competition with the Premier tournament in Birmingham, needs to develop a reputation amongst the players as having good practice conditions as they prepare for Wimbledon.
It’s not the end of the world. But it’s not a great look, especially as women’s tennis generally always takes a back seat in Spain. You need only look at the number of WTA Tour events that have tried, and failed, to gain a foothold there.
For many years, the sight of Rafael Nadal going through his first paces on grass at Queen’s Club the day after winning the French Open title was an annual rite of passage.
That won’t happen this year.
The 10-time French Open champion is taking a pass on the tournament, which takes place next week.
Here’s the official quote from the tournament’s press release:
“Very sorry to say that I am not going to be able play Queen’s next week. I am sad to make this decision because I love Queen’s; I won the tournament in 2008 and every time I reached the Wimbledon final it was after playing Queen’s. I was hoping to take some days off and then be ready, but at 31, and after a long clay court season with all of the emotions of Roland Garros, and after speaking to my team and doctor, I have decided my body needs to rest if I am going to be ready to play Wimbledon. Sorry to all the great fans in Britain and to the tournament organizers. Hope to see you at Queen’s next year.”
It’s a very smart move for Nadal, who would seem to have as good a chance as anyone to win Wimbledon and do the double, as he did in both 2008 and 2010 after not dropping a set in his run to the French Open title.
But it’s a shame for the tournament, although it does still have a stellar field.
Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 2016 finalist Milos Raonic remain in the field. They’ll be fine.
Diego Schwartzman also has pulled out of the tournament, which allows Brit Kyle Edmund to get direct entry.
Edmund had been given a wild card. Hmmmm, that means there’s a wild card out there for the taking.
In a few weeks, when Wimbledon rolls around, the end of the blue period will be upon us.
But until then, we are not yet done with the Nike Blue – Paramount Blue, officially – that was ubiquitous during the clay-court season.
It was a step above the yellow and green neons that fought a valiant battle for supremacy on the Nike players during the Indian Wells-Miami swing a couple of months ago.
But the French Open was absolutely overrun with it.
Here is just a small sample of the protagonists. They ranged from the juniors, to the pro players – even to legends like John McEnroe and Conchita Martiez.
There were two varieties for the women. The basic kit matched up with the shorts worn by the men.
Some of the women were chosen to wear the non-patterned Maria Sharapova kit : Russian juniors Olesya Pervushina and Anastasia Potapova, American Anastasia Anisimova, Croat Alja Tomljanovic and Canadian Françoise Abanda.
But the vestiges from the battling neons era remained.
Where are the blue socks?
It was all about the shoes and socks.
We asked several Nike players why the heck the shoes didn’t match. None of them had an answer; they just wear what they’ve given, or paid to wear.
But one did point this out: “The socks don’t match, either!”
There was a little of the green neon around the trim of the shirts – and of course the Swoosh. But the sock/shoe wardrobe malfunction was definitely out-of-the-box thinking.
They should all have been wearing Nadal’s shoes. And it would have been perfect.
As well, they are also 10 French Open, winning championship shoes. They could even have kept the personalized “Rafa” and No. 9 on the backs of them – just for good karma.
The only outfit that matched the shoes was the black version of the kit, worn by Genie Bouchard.
On a related note, the two junior girls’ finalists and all four girls in the doubles final were tangled up in Nike Paramount blue. So you can see where the future is headed once they all graduate to the pro tour.
ROLAND GARROS – Purely on a tennis and physical level, it was perhaps the easiest French Open Rafael Nadal has won.
Emotionally, it was on another level entirely.
The 31-year-old from Mallorca pulled off “La Décima” Sunday. And in doing so, he dominated the one opponent most gave at least a puncher’s chance to stop him in 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka.
Wawrinka has the game to beat Nadal. And he was unbeaten in his three previous Grand Slam finals. Nadal’s solution to that was thorough: make sure the man had absolutely zero chance to impose that game.
Who knew? After a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 victory, it turns out “Décima” was short for “decimation”.
“This tournament I have been playing great during the whole event since the beginning. So have been, I think, a perfect Roland Garros for me,” Nadal said. “So it’s not that I am playing more or less aggressive. I am playing well. And when you play well, you have the chance to play more aggressive, no?”
Conditions a perfect “10”
The conditions on Sunday were tailor-made for 10: blazing hot temperatures made for a quick court, just the way Nadal likes it.
It seemed Wawrinka wasn’t running on all cylinders physically after a four hour, 34-minute semi-final victory over world No. 1 Andy Murray two days ago. But he shot down that notion.
Wawrinka said he had completely recovered from the Murray match. It was a case of the mental affecting the physical.
“Everything’s connected. If the mind hesitates about what you want to do, the legs are late and then, it becomes difficult. You’re always sort of in-between,” Wawrinka said. “When you play Rafa, if you hesitate even half a second, or even less than that, it’s already too late.”
This version of Rafael Nadal might well be the finest version yet. The way he played Sunday – throughout the fortnight, really – it was hard to imagine anyone on the other side of the net having a ghost of a chance.
“For sure he’s playing the best he’s ever played. But not only here. I think since the beginning of the year. You can see he’s playing more aggressive, staying more close (to) the line,” Wawrinka said. “That’s why he’s winning so much again.”
No solutions for Swiss
Wawrinka tried to wake his racquet up by banging his head with it a few times. He made a racquet sculpture that wouldn’t have looked out of place next to the Louvre Pyramid.
“I was trying to find a solution. Trying to play better. I was trying to play the game I wanted to play. I was trying to do something different. But again, today, as I say, there is not much to talk about the match,” he said. “I played against the biggest clay-court player ever. He won his 10th French Open today, so that’s something huge, also.”
Nadal won nine French Opens and 14 Grand Slam titles overall with a backhand that served more as a placeholder for his big, spinning, powerful forehand than a dangerous weapon on its own. And he won them, with the exception of the 2010 US Open, with a serve used more to start the point than create havoc in and of itself.
New, improved, post-drought Rafa
In this 10th championship run, Nadal’s weaponry was virtually complete. He dropped just 35 games in seven matches. It was clear to all who witnessed it that the best clay-court player in the history of the game actually has gotten better, after a three-year Grand Slam title drought.
The Spaniard spent more than half an hour Saturday just ripping first serves in his final full practice. More often than has been his preference, he broke 200 km/hour. The serving upgrade was long overdue. But as in everything he does, Nadal runs on his own timetable.
The Slam drought was partly health-related, to be sure. But it was also clear through Novak Djokovic’s domination of their rivalry (he held an 11-1 record against Nadal between the 2013 US Open and this year’s Madrid event) that the Spaniard needed to retool for this latter stage of his career.
If the game between the supreme roster in men’s tennis right now is catch up and adjust, the field had caught up – particularly the two-handers with great returns of serve. So Nadal adjusted. He didn’t do it by adding new weapons. He did it by taking the shots he already possessed up a notch.
Wawrinka felt the ire of that French Open dry spell Sunday. As one of the French commentators noted, it was a “monumental and inexorable butt-kicking.” (It sounds even more dramatic in French).
“I try my best in all the events. That’s the real thing. But the feelings I have here are impossible to describe, compared to other places. For me, the nerves, the adrenaline I feel when I play in this court is impossible to compare to another feeling,” an emotional Nadal said after the victory, which took just two hours and four minutes.
Perfect Roland Garros touches
The tournament was well-prepared for this milestone win. That’s always a risk; there’s an opponent there who wants nothing more than for the commemorative banners to stay in storage another year.
The raised stand brought out onto the court for the trophy ceremony boasted a Roland Garros logo with the number 10. There were massive banners that covered the fans in the upper levels of the stadium congratulation Nadal on his achievement.
And in a surprise, the tournament commissioned a full-sized replica of the Trophée des Mousquetaires, one that listed all of Nadal’s victories and the years he won.
His uncle and coach Toni Nadal, for whom this is to be the final French Open with his nephew, brought it out to him.
Nadal nearly dropped it – a rare trophy faux pas for a man who has raised the hardware on this special court so many times.
And after Nadal insisted his uncle stay up on the stand for he photos, they stood side by side. Each was holding a full-sized trophy – twin symbols of a incredibly fruitful, symbiotic partnership that was celebrated on this day as never before.
Doubts erased – for now
“During that three years, I had doubts. Right now, I gonna have doubts even in a few days, because in tennis every week is a new story and that’s part of the beautiful thing of our sport. Life is not that clear,” Nadal said. “The doubts, I think, are good, because the doubts give you the possibility to work with more intensity, with being more humble, and accepting that you need to keep working hard to improve things.”
This was the third French Open Nadal has won without dropping a set. The other two came in 2008 and 2010. As it happens, he won Wimbledon both those years.
The French federation isn’t big on letting the fans know where players are practicing during their tournament. It’s something most tournaments around the world have recognized is a very popular part of the tournament experience – and indeed have made infrastructure changes to accommodate. But the trend hasn’t yet made its way to Paris.
Nadal was originally scheduled for Court 4 at noon, with Wawrinka on Court 3 at the same time. But even with the court change and an earlier start time, plenty of fans found him on Court 3.
Father Sebastian Nadal was sitting in the stands, watching.
He took a break for a bit to take a peek at the junior girls’ doubles final going on next door on Court 2.
ROLAND GARROS – Milos Raonic, the No. 5 seed at the French Open, played spoilsport in what turned out to be a true-to-form final eight.
The Canadian was upset, 8-6 in the fifth set after four hours and 17 minutes, by No. 20 seed Pablo Carreño Busta in the fourth round on Sunday.
But the other seven top seeds made it. And along with Carreño Busta, they make up a top-quality, if predictable, elite eight bracket.
Which is not to say that they all arrived here in thoroughly predictable fashion.
Here’s a look at their twists and turns through the first week of the tournament.
No. 1 – Andy Murray
The top seed went about it all bass-ackwards. He lost sets to players he probably shouldn’t have (Andrey Kuznetsov, Martin Klizan) and didn’t lose sets to players he maybe could have (Juan Martin del Potro, the powerful Russian Karen Khachanov).
But along the way the Brit appeared to rebuild some of the confidence lost along the way this season – just in time for the pointy end of the tournament.
Much was made of the new face in Team Nole, as Andre Agassi arrived with great fanfare shortly before the tournament began.
Agassi is reportedly gone now, but promises to be back when and if Djokovic needs him. While he was here, he watched Djokovic navigate some pretty good players routinely. Except for Diego Schwartzman.
The Argentine was right in there until his body failed him in the late going of their five-setter in the third round. He even led two sets to one. With Djokovic’s up-and-down results this season, it would have been an unlikely upset, but by no means an impossible one.
Whether his earlier rounds – he had, by most measures, a good draw – were enough preparation for what his quarter-final opponent will bring to the table is a question that will be answered on Court Suzanne Lenglen Tuesday.
Fitness for battle: 8
Quarter-final opponent:  Dominic Thiem
No. 3 – Stan Wawrinka
The only big (Swiss) cheese in the draw this year with the absence of Roger Federer, Wawrinka’s season has been below his standards. But while it’s a cliché to say a player peaks for the Grand Slams, the 32-year-old REALLY peaks for the Slams. Which probably is why he’s won three of them, including this one.
Wawrinka faced two of the more dangerous lower seeds in the tournament in Fabio Fognini and Gaël Monfils, and got through both in straight sets. Again with Fognini, the body didn’t cooperate.
Against Monfils on Monday, everyone was hoping for a blockbuster. But these two good friends made it more like a fun match for beers in their local Swiss public park.
When it was over, Wawrinka looked as though he almost felt badly that Monfils couldn’t put up more resistance. He knows more than most that his great friend, at 30 but with a fragile body, won’t have many more chances to make a deep run at his home-country Slam.
“It was a mentally exhausting match, I think. We were both tense. And we know each other so well. We knew how important it was, for him or for me, to play well,” Wawrinka said.
On the worrisome side, the Swiss star’s back locked up from the beginning of the match. It’s what he calls the most fragile part of his body, always managed but never worry-free.
Fitness for battle: 7
Quarter-final opponent:  Marin Cilic
No. 4 – Rafael Nadal
It appeared the nine-time French Open champion was back for real in 2017 after a great start to the season. But who knew to what extent?
His French Open prep was vintage, although stubbornly deciding to play Rome despite already having won three titles looked like a bad call when he was on fumes by the quarterfinals. He lost to Dominic Thiem there, after beating him twice earlier in the clay-court season.
Raonic, slotted to be his quarter-final opponent, might have posed a few more challenges than Nadal’s young countryman Carreño Busta. Nadal is pretty much money when he’s playing fellow Spaniards. And Carreño Busta is coming off a draining, emotional marathon win while Nadal is fresh as a margarita amarilla.
Fitness for battle: 11
Quarter-final opponent:  Pablo Carreño Busta
No. 6 – Dominic Thiem
With his efforts during the spring clay season, and with fellow youngster Alexander Zverev winning Rome, it figured these two would be in the mix in the second week in Paris.
But Zverev flamed out in the first round against Fernando Verdasco. And so it was left to Thiem to make his seed. He did so very much under the radar, without dropping a set and ceding more than four games in only two of the 12 sets he played.
Had he faced David Goffin in the fourth round, rather than Horacio Zeballos, Thiem might have been tested more. But Goffin’s nasty ankle injury, suffered in the first set against Zeballos, took him out.
In the quarter-finals, we’ll find out if he has a Plan B, after getting just one game against Novak Djokovic in the Rome semi-final a few weeks ago. On the plus side, he won’t have to play him the day after he has to play Nadal.
Fitness for battle: 8
Quarter-final opponent:  Novak Djokovic
No. 7 – Marin Cilic
With Nadal, Djokovic and Thiem all in the final eight, no one is talking about Marin Cilic.
He’s used to that – especially in Paris, where he is a quarter-finalist for the first time in his career a year after losing in the first round, to No. 166-ranked Marco Trungelliti of Argentina.
Cilic has had a sweet draw, and hasn’t lost more than three games in any set. He caught a break in the fourth round Monday as opponent Kevin Anderson retired in the middle of the second set due to injury.
The last time Cilic faced Anderson was in the third round of the 2014 US Open. For what it’s worth, he won the tournament.
Fitness for battle: 7
Quarter-final opponent:  Stan Wawrinka
No. 8 – Kei Nishikori
In the third round, Nishikori caught a break when rain came to suspend his match with the younger, bigger, stronger Hyeon Chung of South Korea. When play resumed Sunday, Nishikori still looked dead on his feet, his stiff back – or something – limiting his movement to a major degree.
Somehow, he got through that one.
Then on Monday, he faced Fernando Verdasco and looked basically the same in losing the first set 6-0. Somehow, he warmed up the body parts and got through that one as well. Let’s face it, though, he got help from Verdasco.
This is kind of the story of Nishikori’s career; his inability to keep his body as strong as his will has held him back from … who knows what?
Fitness for battle: 3
Quarter-final opponent:  Andy Murray
And, finally, the outlier
No. 20 – Pablo Carreño Busta
No one gives the 25-year-old a shot against his much-decorated compatriot in the quarter-finals. Maybe not even the Carreño Busta family, for all we know.
The man himself said after his win over Raonic that if he didn’t think he had a shot, he wouldn’t take the court. He might get his behind kicked, he might pull off a miracle. But he can’t ask for more than playing the clay GOAT and his good friend on a big stadium court in the French Open quarter-finals.
Hopefully his family, who had to leave to catch a flight back to Spain in the third set of his match against Raonic, will fly back to see this one.
Fitness for battle: 5
Quarter-final opponent:  Rafael Nadal
Nadal vs. Carreño Busta is on Court Philippe Chatrier Tuesday, while Djokovic vs. Thiem is on Court Suzanne Lenglen. You have to think the champion is going to come out of that group.
Nishikori vs. Murray and Wawrinka vs. Cilic will be Wednesday, with far less fanfare.
ROLAND GARROS – There was a time, not that long ago, that one of the 18 meetings between Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer match would have been in the latter stages of a tournament.
At this year’s French Open, it came in the second round. And it was a heartbreaker for Ferrer, who was a finalist here just four years ago.
Lopez’s 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory took three hours and 52 minutes and eemed to bring him little joy, even if it was the first time he’d beaten Ferrer on clay since 2008.
No doubt that was partly out of exhaustion. But these moments are bittersweet, now. The huge gang of amigos that peppered the top of the rankings for the last decade are getting old. Injuries are catching up to many of them.
Ferrer, Lopez and Tommy Robredo are 35. Fernando Verdasco is 33.
Here’s a list of the Spanish players with their career-best rankings, and their current rankings.
It’s a declining asset. And let’s face it, we won’t ever see the likes of this kind of volume from any one country again.
France in the same boat
France is in a similar fix at the moment. The French currently have nine players in the top 75. But save for 23-year-old Lucas Pouille, who is on the rise, their stock also is aging.
The country had an embarrassment of riches for so long. Four players from the same generation reached the top 10 : Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon. That, too, isn’t likely to happen again.
The game has become so global. There is so much money available to the very best; players from countries that didn’t even exist a generation ago are developing players and hitting the top of the ATP charts.
For Spain, though, there isn’t much in the pipeline. The country has two top-20 players beyond Nadal in Roberto Bautista-Agut and Albert Ramos-Viñolas (Carreño-Busta will join them next week). But both are 29, late bloomers. They likely have maximized.
Neither was much of a match for his all-world opponent Sunday in Paris as Bautista-Agut was quickly eliminated by Nadal. Ramos-Viñolas, after a good start, lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic.
Not much on the horizon
Spain has just two entries in the boys’ singles this week: No. 11 seed Nicola Kuhn and No. 14 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
If those names don’t sound particularly Spanish, that’s because it’s a different world in Spanish tennis these days. Kuhn, born in Austria but a resident of Spain since he was a kid, represented Germany in international competition until just a year ago. He finally made the switch despite the German tennis federation offering him plenty of incentive$ to stay.
Fokina is Malaga-born, to a Swedish father and a Russian mother. He turns 18 on Monday,
He’s quite the expressive fellow.
In the Spanish Armada generation, a lot of players exited the junior track pretty early and honed their craft on the Spanish Futures circuit. But only one other Spanish teenager beyond Kuhn and Fokina is even ranked in the top 900 in the ATP Tour rankings right now.
So if the next Spanish Armada – even a tiny flotilla – is on the horizon, no one can see it yet.
But it was pretty great while it lasted.
No wonder Ferrer had a rare moment of disgust as he left his Babolat stick in the dust after his loss to Lopez.
ROLAND GARROS – Who knows if Rafael Nadal will be holding the Trophée des Mousquetaires for the 10th time in his career, two weeks from Sunday.
But one thing’s for sure: he’s absolutely crushing the ball.
The Mallorcan might have run out of juice in Rome against Dominic Thiem a week ago, after winning Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid before he got there. He certainly wasn’t serving nearly as hard by the end of that week as he had been on his 15-match, three-title streak.
But having arrived in his Paris backyard after a brief trip home, he seems energized and chomping at the bit to get started.
Nadal always looks that way. He especially looks that way here. But for the first time in several years, he REALLY looks that way.
The men’s singles draw, which was made Friday, came out decidedly bottom-heavy.
In the top half are No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka. Neither of these two Grand Slam champions showed anything during the clay-court prep swing that would indicate they should have championship ambitions here.
In the bottom half, you’ll find Nadal. (He could meet the hard-hitting Jack Sock on the fourth round; the two practiced together Thursday). And you’ll find No. 2 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, and No. 6 Thiem in the same quarter.
Only one of those three, arguably the three best clay-court players in the draw, can make the final.
So if Nadal is go into double digits in Paris, he definitely won’t sail through.
First up will be the mercurial Frenchman Benoit Paire in the first round.