Eight takeaways through eight days of the French Open

Serena-Williams-French-Open

Serena Williams of the U.S. screams during her third round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Sofia Kenin of the U.S. at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Christophe Ena / AP)

We’re halfway through a fortnight at Roland Garros, and while defending champions Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are still alive and well, the draw has certainly seen its share of surprises and breakthroughs.

Here are eight takeaways through the first week in Paris:

Injuries derail Canadian contingency

The second slam of the tennis season was simply not meant to be for the Canadians.

Milos Raonic and Felix Auger-Aliassime both withdrew prior to the event.

While Raonic had been out for some time, Felix Auger-Aliassime was coming off a finals appearance at the Lyon Open. Unfortunately, an abductor strain he suffered during that 250 event forced him out of Roland Garros. Auger-Aliassime has risen to 22 in the rankings and is the only 18-year-old in the ATP top 100.

Fast-rising WTA star Bianca Andreescu returned to the French Open, playing her first match since late March. She gutted out a long three-set win over Maria Bouzkova before her shoulder acted up again. She withdrew ahead of her second-round match. Andreescu is still a ridiculous 32-5 on the season, and is in prime position to make further strides up the rankings this year.

Lacking match practice on clay, Eugenie Bouchard couldn’t hang with Lesia Tsurenko, falling 6-2, 6-2 in the first round. If social media is an indicator though, she is eager to get back out there.

One Canadian is still in France as Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski is the country’s doubles hopeful. She’s in mixed-doubles action with Mate Pavic, and she is also competing in women’s doubles with Xu Yifan.

At age 37, Serena is understandably mortal

Serena Williams remains just one Grand Slam shy of tying Margaret Court’s elusive record of 24, as she fell in the third round of Roland Garros to fellow American Sofia Kenin.

While we’re not that accustomed to week one losses at slams from Williams, the French Open has been the toughest slam for her throughout her career. She’s won just three times at Roland Garros in 17 tries, and was flummoxed twice by Belgian Justine Henin in heated, controversial matches.

Physically, Williams was likely not ready to face the challenge this year.

“It crossed my mind every day [to pull out], but I’m here. And to do the best that I can do,” said Williams, following a challenging first-round win.

Williams now has extra time to get more match play and prepare for the grass season and her most dominant slam, Wimbledon.

Meanwhile, the moment was unforgettable for Sofia Kenin.

Rafa is the favourite, Novak has been more dominant (so far)

In his quest to win the calendar slam for the second time in his career, we’ve witnessed straightforward and vintage play from the world No. 1.

Novak Djokovic steamrolled the competition in week one, going a perfect 9-0 in sets, while only dropping 24 service games total.

He meets a surprise fourth-rounder in German Jan-Lennard Struff next, where he will once again be a heavy favourite.

Eleven-time French Open champion and the undisputed “King of Clay” Nadal had all sorts of questions about his form on the surface after falling short of the finals in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

But he righted the ship by capturing the Masters 1000 event in Rome prior to Roland Garros.

Nadal has had only a brief scare, dropping a set to former top-10 player David Goffin.

Should we really worry over his form when he’s producing shots like this?

Expect him to coast to the semifinals, where one of Wawrinka or Federer could be lurking.

Naomi’s slam streak finally ends

She has one of the most complete games on the tour, but Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka understandably had question marks heading into the French Open.

She’d never won a clay court title and had never advanced past the third round of Roland Garros. While she fought her way through her first two matches to extend her Grand Slam winning streak to 16, she finally succumbed to Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-2.

Don’t let the early exit fool you though — she is the real deal.

Women’s seeds remain all too fallible

Sixteen of 32 seeds were out by the third round of the French Open on the women’s side.

Notable contenders Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova flamed out, while veterans Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber also didn’t win a single match.

The tour remains ripe with depth and talent, and if you’re a top player having an off-day, expect to get sent packing.

The defending champion Halep is the highest-ranked player left in the field.

Fearless teens make their mark

Three teenagers reached the round of 16 of a slam for the first time since the 2009 US Open, all on the women’s side.

American Amanda Anisimova, a mercurial talent who strikes a picturesque ball, is the youngest at 17 years of age. With her win over Irina-Camelia Begu, she joined Marketa Vondrousova (19) and Poland’s Iga Swiatek.

Swiatek, who is making her main-draw debut, won the girls’ junior French Open doubles crown a year ago.

A free-swinging Federer ‘delivers’ amidst bold fashion choices

Back at the French Open for the first time since 2015, Roger Federer has positioned himself into the second week of competition with little difficulty so far.

Competing with what he calls a “clear mind,” Federer has played his ruthless, attacking brand of tennis in Paris, making it look just a little too effortless.

He’s 12-0 in sets.

He also turned heads early on with his fashion choices, sporting a bold brown Uniqlo outfit.

That led to a humorous, tongue-and-cheek exchange with Yorkshire journalist Jonathan Pinfield.

With only one slam win at Roland Garros 10 years ago, Federer isn’t being viewed as a premier contender, but he can still play some jaw-dropping tennis and remains one of the biggest-ticket draws in tennis.

Sloane is soaring

While some of the top clay court threats like Bertens, Pliskova and Petra Kvitova all suffered exits via illness, form or injury, 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens has quietly elevated her tennis.

The American has had mixed results in 2019 so far and is without a title, but when Sloane is on — look out.

She was in the finals of Roland Garros last season and looks to be peaking at the right time.

A straight-sets win over three-time slam champion Garbine Muguruza should only boost her confidence for another potential finals run.

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