Ashraf Ali Siddiqui looks at one of the premier tennis
French Open 2023 – Named after a celebrated French aviator Roland-Garros, the French Open is as physically tough as aviation itself and it drains the energies of its competitors as was evident by the repetitive medical timeouts the current champion Rafael Nadal was forced to take during the final match on last Sunday. Rated as the premier clay tennis tournament, French Open is a part of Grand Slam tournaments along with Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open. Its rigorous requirements of qualifying seven rounds and slow playing surface have made it into a gruelling exercise.
French Open began in 1891 and is held annually during the end of May and early June and is often subjected to rain-caused delays. It attracts all top seeded players and winning it is considered a feather in the cap of any player. In recent years however it is often observed that few top-seeds avoid competing here owing to the tough conditions of playing on clay. This year both top players Roger Federer and Andy Murray were conspicuous by their absence.
In 1925, the French Championships became open to all amateurs internationally and was designated a major championship though its clay courts slowed down the ball and produced a high bounce when compared to grass courts or hard courts. The playing conditions proved disadvantageous for big servers and serve-and-volley players such as Pete Sampras who despite his huge serve and record of winning 14 Grand Slam titles, failed to win the French Open. Other notable players who won multiple Grand Slam events but never won the French Open include John McEnroe, Venus Williams, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors and Virginia Wade. McEnroe and Edberg lost their sole French Open finals appearances in five sets.
It was the 127th edition of the French Open and the second Grand Slam event of 2023 that was held in Paris between 18 May and 11 June 2023. The French Open total prize money for 2023 was Euro49,600,000, an increase of 12.3% compared to 2022. The French Tennis Federation aimed for a more even distribution of remuneration between players and significantly increased the prize money for first-round losers in the women’s and men’s singles draws and the amounts awarded in the qualifying, wheelchair tennis and quad competitions.
Novak Djokovic now stands alone among men with 23 Grand Slam title. After all those years of chasing rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Djokovic is on top of the list of most major championships for a man. Djokovic did it by beating Casper Ruud 7-6 (1), 6-3, 7-5 in the French Open final. The first set was tight until 6-all, and then Djokovic simply took over, dominating the tiebreaker — as he often does — and the second set, before grabbing 12 of the last 13 points to seal the victory. That allowed Djokovic to break his tie with Nadal at 22 majors. Federer, who announced his retirement last year, is next among men with 20, while Djokovic’s idol, Pete Sampras, is fourth with 14.
And to think: Sampras set that mark by winning his last Slam in what turned out to be the last match of his career, the 2002 U.S. Open final. Here we are, just 21 years later, and not only did three guys surpass Sampras, but Djokovic moved way past him. Serena Williams finished her career last year with 23 majors, the most for a woman in the Open era. Margaret Court won 24, some during the amateur era. Djokovic’s win also moved back into the top spot of the ATP rankings, jumping from No. 3 to replace Carlos Alcaraz at No. 1. Djokovic beat Alcaraz in the semifinals.
The women’s singles title in Paris was won on Saturday by Iga Swiatek who defeated Karolina Muchova 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. That gave Swiatek two trophies in a row at Roland Garros and three in the past four years. She also won last year’s U.S. Open and is just the third woman to start a career by going 4-0 in Slam finals. The Weekender