Queen of Clay

To no one's surprise, Iga Swiatek of Poland (left) won the French Open tennis tournament yesterday. It was her third win there in four years. She is 22 years and 10 days old.

The surprise was that she was playing Karolina Muchova (MOOK - ovuh, I think) of the Czech Republic in the final. Muchova, 26, was unseeded in the tournament, but she has had a knack for upending top-ranked players in her career. She beat both Maria Sakkari of Greece and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus to make it to the final match. Yesterday she came out with the jitters, losing the first set badly, but she rallied to take the second set from Swiatek and was tied 4-4 in the third before succumbing to the champ.

This morning our time, we get the men's final, and that one pits one of last year's finalists, Casper Ruud of Norway, against the Serbian rocket launcher Novak Djokovic. Ruud is 24 years old and has never won a Grand Slam tournament; the Djoker is 36 and has taken home the top trophy from Paris twice before. The Serb is going for his 23rd Slam title, which would be the all-time record. The other guy with 22, Rafael Nadal, has won the French 14 times, including last year, but he's at home recovering from hip surgery at the moment.

For the second year in a row, a brilliant men's semi-final match was wrecked when one of the players' bodies gave out. On Friday, Djokovic and 20-year-old Spanish phenom Carlos Alcaraz were going at it in an epic contest that featured rallies and shots that will go down in tennis history. Everyone was having a marvelous time, with the match tied at 1 set apiece after more than two hours, when suddenly Alcaraz started cramping up. First his hand, then his legs. He pushed through but he wasn't the same, not even close. He lost the next two sets 6-1 and 6-1.

Last year, Nadal and the German Sascha Zverev were locked in a similarly excellent battle when Zverev turned an ankle, badly. He was sent home in a wheelchair; Nadal went on to take the top prize. On a brighter note, Zverev made his way back to the semi-finals again this year, which is quite a recovery given how bad his wheel was trashed. He lost to Ruud.

Djokovic is clearly favored to win today, but he did something bad to his forearm during the Alcaraz match, and it's possible that that could impair him. It's hard to tell how bad the problem was, given that shortly after it happened, he was playing a guy in the throes of cramps and was not tested any further.

Ruud has become an excellent clay court player, and he's been charging through opponents in Paris. He will likely not go down easily. 

Roland Garros, as it's known, has been a hot, windy, no-nonsense venue for the elite tennis players, some of whom will have played seven matches there. But they don't get a break now that the big French show is shutting down. The play shifts to grass courts immediately, with the major Wimbledon tournament cranking up in London just three weeks from Monday.


  1. Playing on the perfectly flat and level tennis surfaces around portland makes playing on clay a challenge. Tried it once. It was above my skill level.

    1. In the late '60s and early '70s I used to hang around Lincoln Park in Jersey City. They had at least a dozen public clay courts, and miraculously, at least half of them were still playable. I had a few friends who were good on them. I never quite had the discipline for the game, on any surface, although by the end of my time there I would jog around the park for a couple of miles.

  2. Just for giggles this weekend, I parlayed Swiatek, Djokovic, and Manchester City. The three-way parlay only paid +102. Yuck.


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