Young stars conquer the clay: Roland-Garros 2024 recap

Whilst at first glance, the recent 2024 Roland-Garros may have looked fairly routine and uninspiring, with both favourites securing their respective singles titles, there were plenty of encouraging signs for those hoping for an exciting summer of tennis ahead.

At the start of the men’s draw, all eyes were naturally on the old guard, as tennis fans around the world tuned in to see the players that have dominated the sport for a generation.

Rafael Nadal returned to his second home, where he has been crowned champion a staggering 14 times, but a tough first-round draw in world number four Alexander Zverev saw the Spaniard defeated in just over three hours (6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3).

Legends Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray too faced each other in round one, with the former advancing in straight sets (6-4, 6-4, 6-2), before succumbing to a second round defeat to Russian, Pavel Kotov (7-6(5), 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(5)).

And for reigning champion Novak Djokovic it ended in heartbreak. Despite early success in spectacular five-set thrillers against Lorenzo Musetti (7-5, 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0), and Francisco Cerundolo (6-1, 5-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3), the three-time French Open champion was forced to withdraw prior to his quarter-final with Casper Ruud, following a meniscus tear in his right knee.

The win saw 21-year-old Alcaraz become the youngest man to win Grand Slams on each of the three surfaces

Djokovic’s absence meant the draw opened up for 27-year-old Alexander Zverev, whose consistency saw him through quarter- and semi-final encounters with Australian Alex De Minaur (6-4, 7-6(5), 6-4) and former French Open finalist Casper Ruud (2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2).

The bottom half of the draw saw the inevitable semi-final between the two current hottest prospects in the men’s game, Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, who had both cruised their way into the final four dropping just a set each en route. After trading sets twice to take the game the distance, it was Alcaraz who advanced to the final (2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3), setting up a clash with the German who had knocked him out of the tournament in 2022.

This time there was no stopping the Spaniard however, whose aggressive forehands and lethal drop shots proved too effective over the course of the five-set encounter (6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2).

The win saw 21-year Alcaraz become the youngest man to win Grand Slams on each of the three surfaces, with only the Australian Open left to conquer in his search to become just the ninth man to complete a Career Grand Slam.

In the women’s draw, Jasmine Paolini reached the final in impressive fashion, beating former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals (6-2, 4-6, 6-4), before delivering a convincing 6-3, 6-1 victory over 17-year-old future star Mirra Andreeva, in the semi-finals.

It was Iga Swiatek who stole the headlines again in Paris however, continuing to dominate on her favoured surface. After an enthralling second-round battle with Naomi Osaka (7-6(1), 1-6, 7-5), the Pole never looked back and won all her remaining games in straight sets to lift her fourth French Open title.

In doing so, the 23-year-old notably saw off Anastasia Potapova in just 41 minutes, and then defeated seed number five Marketa Vondrousova (6-0, 6-2), to reach the semi-final stage. Facing the US Open Champion Coco Gauff, Swiatek looked comfortable, winning 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the final against Jasmine Paolini.

In the final, Swiatek’s offensive game again proved too effective, with Paolini able to win just three games (6-2, 6-1). Swiatek, who has now spent over 100 weeks at world number one, will now hope she can translate success on clay to the grass courts of Wimbledon, before returning to Paris in search of Olympic Gold.

Elsewhere in the tournament, a thrilling ladies’ doubles final saw Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova get past Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini after a first-set tiebreak (7-6(5), 6-3), and in the men’s doubles, Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic beat Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori (7-5, 6-3).


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