Five biggest surprises of Roland-Garros 2021

We’ve been spoilt with a plethora of shocks, comebacks and breakout triumphs this fortnight

Lorenzo Musetti, Roland-Garros 2021, last 16© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Two weeks have zipped by in Paris thanks to another thrilling edition of Roland-Garros.

Champions have fallen, classic matches have engrossed the sporting world, while a host of fresh faces have impressed towards the latter stages. Here are some of the main surprises from Roland-Garros 2021.

Musetti magic nearly dismisses Djokovic

Lorenzo Musetti’s swagger and artistic game has been turning heads for a couple of seasons now, but the Italian truly announced himself in Paris.

The 2019 Australian Open boys’ champion picked off David Goffin and Yoshihito Nishioka in straight sets before a hot-shot laden five-set triumph over his compatriot Marco Cecchinato.

The 19-year-old’s Roland-Garros debut then moved onto Court Philippe-Chatrier to take on world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

For two sets the world No.76 hammered the ball, but also clipped shots with finesse and daring disguise. All of a sudden the top seed was on the ropes. Unfortunately, Musetti’s tank emptied and he retired at 6-7(7), 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0, ailing physically.

Welcome to the major stage, a debut to remember from Musetti.

The half of opportunity

So composed and so assured, Kazakhstani youngster Elena Rybakina dismissed 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 in the fourth round.

The bottom half of the women’s draw was suddenly the land of opportunity with Rybakina, 2011 quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Bianca Andreescu’s conqueror Tamara Zidansek and Paula Badosa making up the last eight.

All four played world-class tennis and had claimed statement victories, but this talented quartet was still a surprise considering the calibre of the higher seeded players in their sections.

Pavlyuchenkova prevailed to make a maiden major final, with all four leaving Roland-Garros with their heads held high.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Roland Garros 2021, first round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Thiem falls at the first hurdle

Two-time finalist Dominic Thiem admitted prior to his campaign that he was struggling for a spark.

The 2020 US Open champion reached the semi-finals in Madrid in May, but fell early in Rome and Lyon on the road to Roland-Garros.

Pablo Andujar had toppled the returning Roger Federer in Geneva, but it was still a major shock to see Thiem relinquish a two-set lead for a 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 defeat in the first round against the Spanish veteran.

The world No.4 was frank and honest afterwards, insisting he is highly motivated to find his form again very soon.

Gauff keeps on gaining and gaining

The warning signs were there. American teenage sensation Coco Gauff lifted the trophies in singles and doubles in Parma, Italy, ahead of jetting to Paris.

The 17-year-old, sharpening her competitive skills in UNO card games with her parents, flourished on the major stage to surge into a first Grand Slam quarter-final.

Junior champion in 2018, qualifying round two in 2019, second round in 2020, what a rise in her favourite city.

Gauff broke all sorts of milestones again, particularly as the youngest woman to reach a major quarter-final since Nicole Vaidisova at Roland-Garros 2006. The world No.25 was also the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final since Venus Williams at the 1997 US Open.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this incredible talent anymore.

The final toast for Krejcikova

A player who has reached the peak in doubles, there was no question Barbora Krejcikova was always a versatile talent. 

However, last October at Roland-Garros 2020, the Czech wasn’t even in the singles top 100 – at world No.114, where she advanced to the fourth round. 

A second week ticket wasn’t a shock, but Krejcikova, who saved match point against Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals, wasn’t a pick from many to lift the title.

What a superb and inspiring run from the 25-year-old, paying tribute to her mentor Jana Novotna, taking it all in her stride as a Grand Slam singles champion.