Things learned from RG women's event

 - Ian Chadband

Ashleigh Barty won a thrilling tournament full of youthful surprises.

Barty Vondrousova trophies final Roland Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Another superb edition of the Roland-Garros women’s singles tournament ended with a much-acclaimed and well-deserved maiden Grand Slam triumph for Ashleigh Barty

Here’s what we learned from an event full of surprises, breakthroughs and youthful brio.

Barty’s here to stay

The women’s game is searching for new luminaries who have the class and staying power to become perennial champions, the multiple Grand Slam winners who help the sport’s profile thrive.

It’s early days, of course, but in Barty, the 23-year-old Australian who won her first Grand Slam in such style against Marketa Vondrousova on Saturday, Roland-Garros looked to have been the launchpad for one such figure.

What makes Barty stand out is the intelligence she displays on court, her ability to think on her feet and adapt her strategy as she goes along. It’s just a hunch but the suspicion is that this exceptional talent - and exceptional person - will go on to lift multiple crowns. And with a game so suited to grass, could that process start as soon as Wimbledon?

The young ones are coming

Not that it looks as if Barty or anyone else for that matter is going to find domination easy to come by in an era where the young guns are starting to fire.

Here, we saw a thrilling breakthrough of the extraordinarily assured 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who knocked out the champion Simona Halep and gave the new champion Barty a scare in the semi-finals too.

We also saw 19-year-old Vondrousova announcing herself in the grand tradition of Czech left-handers by reaching her maiden final - and, delightfully, she did it with a smile too.

Then there was the rise of another American, Sofia Kenin, who knocked out the great Serena Williams, in the third round.

Gabriela Sabatini, a former teenage prodigy herself, enjoyed watching the rise of these new faces. “I haven't seen them before and I'm surprised the way they play,” she told her press audience here. “Physically, they are much stronger and I really like the way some of them play, and their charisma.”

Serena’s quest becomes ever harder

Of course, the sport would still love to see Serena Williams earn that 24th Grand Slam singles title to equal the all-time record but Roland-Garros only demonstrated that it really isn’t going to get any easier for the American to reach that landmark as a 37-year-old mother.

Her conqueror here was 20-year-old Kenin, one of the powerful US brigade who are not in the slightest fazed by either her reputation or old on-court aura. There’s still the utmost respect there for Serena from her pursuers but the fear may be disappearing.

We’ll get a better idea of where Serena is on the title trail after her stop-start campaign rolls into Wimbledon, where her game is best suited to earning her an eighth title there, but it’s still a harsh fact that she hasn’t won a single tournament since her comeback following the birth of her baby Olympia. Her third-round exit this year also represented her worst return in any of the five Grand Slams she’s contested since her return.

Osaka’s feeling the pressure

One of the most poignant exits in the tournament was when Naomi Osaka, seeking a third successive Grand Slam title, bowed out so tamely to Katerina Siniakova in the last-32 after having laboured to beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Victoria Azarenka in the opening two rounds.

Her whole tournament had been a struggle and the Japanese opened up, quite courageously, about how it really hadn’t been fun for her to compete with that world No.1 tag weighing so heavily that it gave her stressful headaches.

“I have had a feeling different to the other Grand Slams, or every other Grand Slam that I have played, because usually I find it very freeing and fun, but this time around I was kind of tense the entire time,” Osaka revealed quite candidly.

It was a reminder that being the world’s best comes with special pressures and the wonderfully talented Osaka, whose lead at the top of the rankings has been cut to just 136 points, is now facing a difficult period in her career when, perversely, losing the No.1 ranking could just prove the release she needs.

France can dream about Parry

Once again, the hosts got nowhere nearer ending their singles title drought in both the men and women’s events. It’s now 36 years and counting since Yannick Noah won the men’s title in 1983 and 19 since Mary Pierce took the women’s crown in 2000.

Yet on the women’s front, tournament director Guy Forget was not alone in hailing the efforts of 16-year-old Diane Parry, who for a second year running demonstrated her serious potential as she made it to the second round.

Diane Parry 2019©Philippe Montigny / FFT

“Diane Parry is a young player in whom we believe, owing to her ambition and her play, which resembles Amélie Mauresmo’s,” said Forget. “When sometimes we worry about the future of French tennis, we can have hopes. We have a player like Diane and can be optimistic.”

Defending the title gets no easier - just ask Simona

In a tournament of shocks, none registered higher on the Richter scale than defending champion Halep's remarkable defeat by teenager Anisimova in the quarter-finals. It was just another demonstration of how difficult it is to successfully defend the women's crown with the feat now not having been achieved since the third of Justine Henin's straight titles back in 2007.

Halep's defeat has also sent the former world No.1 tumbling down to No.8 in the rankings, which is the first time she's dropped out of the top five since May 2017 - another sign of how difficult it is to keep your foothold at the top of today's competitive women's game.