By Roger Childs
It’s a pity that Covid-19 has robbed the French Open of its usual colourful atmosphere. Just a few hundred spectators have been able to watch each game, instead of the thousands in previous tournaments, and masks are obligatory this year. Players have also had to place and fetch their towels instead of throwing them to the ball kids. Nevertheless the lack of fans has not impacted on the quality of the play on court. There have been some great matches through to the semi-finals.
Kenin should pick up her second grand slam
The women’s final is on tonight, our time, and matches Australian Open winner and US Open finalist, American Sofia Kenin against Polish teenager Iga Świątek. The 19 year old has been the big find of the tournament, and, as well as qualifying for the women’s final made it to the doubles semi. Świątek thrashed Argentine Nada Podoraska 6-2, 6-1 to qualify in the singles, but will be hard pressed to beat Moscow-born Kenin.
The American overcame the experienced Petra Kvitová in her semi 6-4 7-5. The Czech had her chances to come through, but, often after getting into winning positions, played loose shots to lose the initiative.
Kenin is a hard hitting payer and her placement skills are top class. This will be her third grand slam final in 2020 so nerves shouldn’t be a problem. Świątek is a quality player with an excellent all round game and impressive retrieval skills. However it is hard to see her beating her more experienced opponent. However, the American can be temperamental and occasionally in the past frustration has led to some racquet abuse. Sofia Kenin will definitely need to keep her emotions in check to win her second major.
The top two men match up
Rafael Nadal has won an incredible 12 French grand slams and seems set to make it a baker’s dozen. He beat the talented Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-3 7-6 in his semi-final and will shape up against world number one Novak Djokovic in Sunday night’s final. The Serb seemed to be cruising to a straight sets victory in his semi against Stephanos Teitsipas when the Greek made a dramatic comeback. However, Djokovic moved the pace up a notch in the fifth set to win it and the match 6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1.
The final does pit the two best players in the world against each other and the result is hard to pick. Nadal is often referred to as The King of Clay and 12, possibly 13, titles at Roland Garros is a record that may last forever. He is a superb player on the red dust with a strong serve, powerful ground strokes and brilliant retrieving skills. He will not give up his dominance on the clay lightly.
Djokovic could do it, but will need to be at his very best. He has a wonderful array of strokes ranging from delicate drop shots to speedy cross-court winners. Another of his strengths is his ability to quickly move into a higher gear when necessary and take control of a match.
However, his opponent is very experienced and, being very much at home on the clay must be favoured to win yet another French Open title.