Cinderella Stories of the 2020 French Open
Despite the French Open usually occurring in June, the pandemic pushed this year’s French Open to the chilly month of October in Paris. Players from all over the world came together to compete for the winner’s trophy in the final Grand Slam of the year. However, there were a few notable absences from this year’s tournament. Starting on the women’s side, Naomi Osaka announced a few days prior to the start of the tournament that she will not be participating following her U.S. Open victory last month. Another notable absence is Ashleigh Barty, last year’s French Open champion. She said that it was a very tough decision, but she did not want to take any Covid-related risks. And Bianca Adreescu, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, did not make an appearance in this year’s French Open due to persistent injuries since last fall.
On the men’s side, one of the major absences was Roger Federer, who has been having knee troubles. In addition to Federer, Nick Kyrgios, similarly to Barty, decided not to play due to the pandemic. Fernando Verdasco registered a false positive test for COVID-19, deeming him ineligible for the tournament even though he was perfectly healthy.
This French Open had many Cinderella Stories. Starting on the men’s side, there were the usual suspects Djokovic and Nadal, but there were also many young players proving themselves and getting very far in the year’s tournament. Though no underdogs won this year, there has definitely been a shift in men’s tennis away from the traditional “Big 3” narrative of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.
The two Cinderella stories that stood out were 20 year-old Sebastian Korda of the U.S. and 19-year-old Jannik Sinner of Italy. Sebastian Korda’s father, Petr Korda, won the Australian Open himself in 1998; looking to replicate his father’s successes, Sebastian Korda took on the French Open at full-steam. In addition to winning three matches to qualify for the French Open, Korda went on to defeat Andreas Seppi, 21st seed John Isner and Pedro Martinez on his road to the Round of 16, where he eventually lost to his idol Rafael Nadal. Teenager Jannik Sinner had an even more successful tournament than Korda, getting all the way to the quarterfinals. On his road to the quarters, Sinner defeated 11th seed David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and 6th seed U.S. Open finalist Alexander Zverev, eventually also falling victim to Rafael Nadal.
Although there were many underdogs surpassing expectations in this year’s French Open, the final was much less of a surprise. Top-seeded Novak Djokovic took on second seed Rafael “The King of Clay” Nadal. Owning up to his nickname, Nadal defeated Djokovic in the final 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 for his 13th French Open title. , This is Nadal’s 100th French Open win and 20th overall Grand Slam title, having not dropped a single set in the entire tournament on his road to victory.
On the women’s side, there were just as many surprises. Starting off, a major headline occured when Serena Williams, following her first round win, withdrew from the tournament due to an achilles injury. Serena’s withdrawal opened the doors for many underdogs in the women’s draw. The three most memorable names of the women’s draw this year were Nadia Podoroska, Martina Trevisan and Iga Swiatek. Starting with Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, this was only her second Grand Slam main draw appearance. At 131st-ranked in the world, she had to qualify for this tournament, and then went on to beat Greet Minnen, 23rd seed Yulia Putintseva, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Barbora Krejcikova and 3rd seed Elina Svitolina. She ended up losing to Iga Swiatek in the semifinals, who became the eventual champion. Martina Trevisan of Italy was another qualifier that had a miraculous run at the French Open. Trevisan has had a very difficult past, overcoming an eating disorder that stalled her tennis career for four years, beginning in 2010. In 2014, Trevisan came back to the tour at a ranking of 590 in the world. Now at number 159 in the world, Trevisan reached the quarterfinals. In addition to her three qualifying matches, Trevisan went on to defeat Camila Giorgi, Coco Gauff, 20th seed Maria Sakkari and 5th seed Kiki Bertens, eventually losing as well to the champion Swiatek. With Podoroska and Trevisan both getting to the quarterfinals, it was the first time since 1978 that two qualifiers had advanced this deep into the draw. Iga Swiatek of Poland, the third underdog story of the women’s French Open, conquered the entire tournament field. The 19-year-old won her first ever career Grand Slam, having not lost more than five games total in any match she played during the tournament. Dismissing every opponent she went up against, Swiatek defeated 15th seed Marketa Vondrousova, Su-Wei Hsieh, Eugenie Bouchard, first seed Simona Halep, Martina Trevisan and 4th seed Sofia Kenin. Coming into this tournament, not many people thought that Swiatek, who just graduated from high school, would be holding up the winner’s trophy, which she accomplished in miraculous fashion.
The French Open has been successfully completed with its two victors, Iga Swiatek and Rafael Nadal. However, there were complaints during the tournament by players who were dissatisfied with the tournament’s handling of precautions for Covid-19. The organizers of the French Open insisted on having fans on site, and due to the recent peak in COVID cases, they had to reduce the number from 20,000 to only 1,000 fans per day. Because these spectators were not being tested, players felt uncomfortable and preferred the action plan the U.S. Open used a few weeks ago, where they allowed no fans. Additionally, the players had to stay in the hotel Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, where other guests were allowed to stay as well. Players expressed discomfort with their situation, since they had to share elevators with a number of non-player guests.