By: Luca D’Amico-Wong
If you’re one of the people who like to bet on favorites, it’s pretty safe to say that you made a lot of money during this year’s French Open, at least if you bet on the men. With the quarterfinals set, there is just one player outside of the top eight seeds who made the cut – Pablo Carreño Busta, who defeated Milos Raonic in a tough five-setter on Sunday.
The women’s side is a completely different story. Even without competition from Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber has failed to prove herself as the number one player in the world, and lost quite easily in the first round. You’ll find some new names in the quarterfinals, including unseeded 19-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, who made it past the third round of a grand slam for the first time in her career. In fact, a first-time French Open champion is certain on the women’s side.
Here’s the rundown of the five biggest upsets so far:
US Hopes Crushed Once Again
While the United States backed out of the Paris climate agreement, the American players backed out of the French Open, including Venus Williams, who lost in the fourth round. The Williams sister seemed on track for a good showing in Paris, but Timea Bacsinszky was simply too much for her, marking the second time in two years that Timea defeated Venus in the fourth round of the French Open.
On the men’s side, the furthest anyone got was the third round; John Isner and Steve Johnson accomplished that feat. Of course, while it might be an upset on paper, it’s not that surprising. American players aren’t really known for their prowess on clay, and after the generation of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, and Jimmy Connors, no one other than Andy Roddick has come in to fill the gap. American tennis hopes are fading fast, and until a youngster like Frances Tiafoe or Taylor Fritz comes along, it’s safe to say that there will be no men’s grand slam champions for the US anytime soon.
Rome? Forget About It
Alexander Zverev’s first Masters 1000 victory in Rome was quickly overshadowed by his first-round loss to Fernando Verdasco, perhaps the biggest upset on the men’s side so far. Zverev might have let his Rome win over Novak Djokovic get the better of him as he lost in four sets to the Spaniard. The German seemed confused and unable to cope with the lefty’s heavy topspin forehand, and he paid the price. We can’t put all the blame on Zverev, though. He’s still young, and if this season’s any indication, he’ll have an incredibly bright future; of course, he’ll have to step it up when it matters most. After all, Rafa Nadal only had two French Open titles by Zverev’s age, but hey, who’s counting?
It didn’t end there for Verdasco as he edged past Pierre Hugues-Herbert and dominated Pablo Cuevas en route to the fourth round. It seemed like it was all going right for the Spaniard after he bageled Kei Nishikori in the first set, but the Japanese was quick to recover, and he won the next three sets quite comfortably, booking himself a spot into the quarterfinals.
Kerber’s Woes Continue
In arguably the greatest upset of the tournament so far, Angelique Kerber put in another dismal performance as she was shocked in the first round by Ekaterina Makarova in two simple sets. Not to detract from Makarova’s performance, but it’s not as though she played the greatest match. In fact, the Russian fell by the exact same scoreline just one round later.
This hasn’t been the greatest year for the German, to say the least, as she became the first top-seeded woman in the Open Era to lose in the first round of Roland Garros. Add this loss to her disappointing 19-12 record so far this year and you’ll see that Kerber simply isn’t cut out to be the number one player in the world. With the absence of Serena Williams due to her pregnancy, it seems like there will be a new number one soon, perhaps in the form of Karolina Pliskova or Simona Halep.
Battle of the Spaniards
We’re set for an all-Spanish quarterfinal as Pablo Carreño Busta and Rafael Nadal will battle it out for a spot in the semifinals. This marks the first time since the 2015 Australian Open that two Spaniards have found themselves in the quarterfinals of a grand slam. While that may not be that long of a wait, it’s certainly surprising considering the incredible talent that Spain has produced in the likes of Nadal, Verdasco, Ferrer, and others. Could Carreño Busta be the one to continue that legacy?
While Rafa’s path may have been quick and easy, Carreño Busta’s has not been so simple. To get here, the Spaniard had to take out big-serving Milos Raonic, the sixth-ranked player in the world. While the Canadian’s serve may be somewhat neutralized on the high-bouncing clay courts, it’s no easy task to deal with it, and the Spaniard found about that the hard way as he battled past in five sets, being a bit fortunate to win the last set 8-6 after he squandered six match points before finally claiming victory.
Carreno Busta has been having a phenomenal year, and he currently finds himself tenth in the Race to London, a quite impressive feat for a player who entered the top 40 of the ATP rankings for the first time just last year. While he’ll have a tough task ahead of him against Nadal, perhaps nothing short of impossible, he’s proved himself to be a contender at any tournament he plays, and it should be a fun match to watch.
Goffin Vs. Tarp
All jokes aside, David Goffin suffered an ankle injury against Horacio Zeballos that forced him to retire the match. We were all set for an exciting Goffin vs. Dominic Thiem rematch of the Australian Open fourth round, but it was not to be as Goffin suffered a nasty fall, twisting his ankle on the way down. Controversy has arisen over the decision to place the court cover at the back of the court, and with the French Open already suffering from last year’s critiques and more rain delays this year, opinions of the tournament and its organizers are going increasingly downhill.
Luckily for the Belgian, initial reports suggest that the is not severe, meaning that there are no torn ligaments or broken bones. We wish him a full and speedy recover, and we hope that he can return to the tour soon to continue the great year he’s been having.
While this first week of tennis may have gone with the chalk more than others, there were a fair share of upsets to be seen, and the rest of the tournament should be a thrill to watch. Let’s hope for the best, and come Sunday, we’ll see who will raise the trophies in Philippe Chatrier.