RG17: highlights of the women's draw
They billed it as the 'open' French Open, and so it proved: all eight women's quarter-finalists were seeking their first singles Grand Slam title.
Without Serena Williams on the scene this year’s Roland-Garros was hailed as one of the most unpredictable French Opens in recent memory – a theory well and truly proven by a gluttony of story lines, shocks and scintillating matches over the Parisian fortnight.
Here are the defining moments that made the tournament so captivating….
World No.1 Angelique Kerber opened her French Open campaign off the back of a turbulent clay-court season. The German had also failed to lift a title so far this season, and was given a nasty opening round draw in the form of former Top 10 player Ekaterina Makarov. Nevertheless, the emphatic manner of the 6-2, 6-2 defeat was particularly poignant.
There we were – second match of the tournament on Court Philippe-Chatrier and we waved goodbye to the top seed.
“Right now I think that I have to find myself again and just try to forget the clay court season as soon as possible,” claimed the two-time Grand Slam champion. “Then reset and start from the grass courts again.”
A welcome return
A beaming smile graced the courts and crowds of Stade Roland-Garros as an emotional but overjoyed Petra Kvitova had completed an astonishing return to the game.
At the end of last year the amiable Czech was cruelly sidelined having sustained career-threatening injuries to her playing hand in an horrific knife attack at her home in Prostejov.
Five months of grueling rehab culminated in Kvitova’s heart-warming comeback. “I knew this day would come,” revealed the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion. “I'm really happy that here, the dream comes true. It wasn't easy, but I'm happy that I worked through this and I can play tennis and I can be in the draw. I'm lucky I'm a positive-thinking person.”
Kvitova defied her lack of match practice to overcome world No.86 Julia Boserup in the first round, before narrowly falling to Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-6(5), 7-6(5).
It didn’t matter, she had already won “the biggest fight”.
Mary Pierce was the last French woman to be crowned champion in Paris. 2000 now seems a long time ago but seventeen years later there was plenty of optimism in the home ranks.
Kristina Mladenovic was pushed 9-7 in the decider by Jennifer Brady at the first hurdle, she ousted 2016 quarter-finalist Shelby Rogers 8-6 in the third set, before toppling defending champion Garbine Muguruza in an enthralling contest. It was a spirited, gritty, valiant run to the last eight, a sign that she could edge nearer to the title in 2018.
Caroline Garcia was another Frenchwoman to flourish this fortnight and was also taken to 9-7 in the third round by Su-Wei Hsieh. A victory over compatriot Alize Cornet earned a quarter-final with second seed Karolina Pliskova, where she was edged 7-6(3), 6-4.
“I was not feeling any negative pressure,” said Garcia with a fresh perspective. “Before I would have a lot of negative thoughts. I was super determined, and able to push out these negative thoughts.”
We were spoilt for choice with a series of matches providing the high-calibre drama from first day to last.
In the second round, Daria Kasatkina navigated past fellow fledging protege Marketa Vondrousova 7-6(1), 6-4 to offer a view into the future with a high quality duel. And in the semi-finals Simona Halep hauled herself back to prevail 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0 against fifth seed Elina Svitolina, saving match point without even realising she was on the brink until afterwards.
And then there was a certain Jelena Ostapenko, who became embroiled in a collection of fascinating matches; how different things might have beenhad one set gone the other way. First up was a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback against American Louisa Chirico. Another set deficit was cancelled out in the last 16, with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over 2010 finalist Sam Stosur. By that point Latvia was captivated and large screens were showing her matches in Riga city centre.
Ostapenko enhanced her title credentials by dismissing former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki from a set behind 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. The dream final was clinched 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 against Timea Bacsinszky in another prolonged display of her burgeoning talent.
The tournament swept to an almighty crescendo, with the final becoming the finest blockbuster. Simona Halep brought the magnificent defence, Ostapenko brought the relentless all-out-attack. 54 winners and 54 unforced errors succinctly summarises the fearless approach from the Riga rocket.
“I was losing 6-4, 3-0, and then in my mind I said, ‘I'm just going to enjoy the match, and I will try to fight until the last point,’" Ostapenko said. "I stayed aggressive and the match turned my way. My dream came true.”
Ostapenko eventually won the absorbing clash 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to hold her maiden tour-level trophy aloft. The magnitude of the occasion failed to intimidate the Latvian, her full-throttle aggression was rewarded as the records begun to tumble. What an effort, what a surprise, what a fortnight.