Cool pictures sometimes happen by chance, as with this one taken by accident of the doubles team of Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin at Roland Garros. They were playing Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez (no relation) while Canadian junior Félix Auger-Aliassime was on Court 5 in the third round of the boys singles. Framed through the trees behind the court was a view of the video screen showing the French doubles pair who would fail to convert six match points and go on to lose. Then, of course, the Lopez chicos won two more matches and wound up as the 2016 Roland Garros doubles champions.

Photo by: Peter Figura
Photo by: Peter Figura

The fact that the Lopez boys captured the doubles was the cherry on the cake on a Saturday when their compatriot Garbiñe Muguruza won the women’s singles title, beating defending champion Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4.

That was a good result for women’s tennis as concern grows that the sport needs some renewal at the top. This writer recalls seeing Muguruza saying good-bye to some friends at last year’s US Open and there was an undeniable warmth and genuine feel to how she reacted with them.

She’s obviously a fine tennis player as well – athletic, strong and with a natural grace about her on court. By beating Williams she has created increased intrigue about whether the 34-year-old world No. 1 can beat Father Time and win her 22nd and maybe 23rd Grand Slam titles to equal and surpass Steffi Graf for the Open Era record.

Photo by: Peter Figura
Photo by: Peter Figura

There’s no doubt Novak Djokovic was a deserving winner of the 2016 men’s French Open title. Talk about paying your dues – the 29-year-old Serb had been in the final three times, the semifinals four times, and has been the most dominant player in the game over the past five years. Yet he was still unable to win the French Open, seemingly jinxed and star-crossed whenever it came to trying to get his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires. How could anyone be so good, excellent on clay and a winner of six Australian Open titles but not a single one in Paris at the French Open?

It didn’t make sense but now that’s old news after his 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Andy Murray in Sunday’s final.

Here’s an interesting thought. With all the dire weather that forced Djokovic to play Roberto Bautista Agut in a two-part match on Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week and then Tomas Berdych on Thursday and Dominic Thiem on Friday, would he have chosen that ‘crowded schedule’ option over one with ideal weather but with nine-time champion Rafael Nadal – who had to withdraw after the second round with a wrist injury – still in the tournament and likely his semifinal opponent?

It says here he would have picked playing four days in a row against opponents he knew he could manage over having to face Nadal, who has been playing much better this year than when Djokovic beat him 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in the 2015 quarter-finals. It’s not just playing clay-monster Nadal, it’s the whole physical-psychological-emotional strain that match-up involves and the potential hangover effect it could have had for the final if he won.

Sad as it was for a not 100 per cent Nadal to be upset in the 2009 round-of-16 by Robin Soderling, it certainly opened the way for a deserving champion, Roger Federer, who might otherwise have never won ‘the French’ and completed his career Grand Slam. Similarly with Nadal out this year, Djokovic, who unlike Federer would have been favoured to beat the Spaniard, had a much more serene path to the title. Gracias Rafa!

The Canadians

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This picture of Denis Shapovalov is not there because he deserves any more or less attention than any of the other Canadians at the French Open this year – but just because it captures the spirit of the players representing the Maple Leaf at Roland Garros.


Milos Raonic made his return to Roland Garros after not playing in 2015 following foot surgery. He reached the 2014 quarter-finals and lost to top seed Novak Djokovic. All went well this year until he injured his left hip part way through his third-round match with lucky loser Andrej Martin of Slovakia.

Who knows whether it was the hip and/or the heavy, slow conditions and/or a red-hot world No. 55 Albert Ramos-Vinolas that made the difference in the round-of-16, but Raonic lost 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 to the Spaniard and finished one match short of a potential quarter-final against No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka.


Genie Bouchard looked good in a 6-2, 6-2 first-round win over Laura Siegemund. The German had been an in-form player and Bouchard put her away with clinical efficiency.

Her second match against No. 8 seed Timea Bacsinszky was a disappointment. Bouchard led 4-1, lost 10 games in a row and then rallied to within a point (twice) of levelling the second set at 5-all before going out 6-4, 6-4. There were positive signs – one being that her previous loss in Rome two weeks earlier had been 6-1, 6-0 to Barbora Strycova but this time against Bacsinszky she battled back in the second set. That’s one encouraging sign going forward.

As regards Bouchard’s 6-2, 6-0 loss to qualifier Elise Mertens of Belgium on Monday in s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, there are reports that she was ill so it’s difficult to say much about that result.


The 2016 French Open was something of a coming-out for Félix Auger-Aliassime. The 15-year-old Montrealer is an undeniable prodigy and Tennis Canada officials had been deliberately doing what they could to keep him out of the spotlight the past year or so to avoid distractions from his tennis.

Losing the final 1-6, 6-3, 8-6 to Geoffrey Blancaneaux, 17, of France, especially after having three championship/match points, was a crusher but he showed too much the whole week to dampen optimism about his considerable long-term potential.


Above is a shot of Yannick Noah (maroon pants), the 1983 legendary French Open champion, holding onto a railing before hopping onto the court to console Auger-Aliassime.

Shapovalov, 17, reached the semifinals with an entertaining brand of tennis. He was by far the most inclined of the Canadian juniors to move forward and his volleying skills are impressive – as are the way he uses his left-handed game on the serve and groundstrokes, including his one-handed backhand.


The lanky Benjamin Sigouin, 17, is the wild card of the new trio of promising Canadian juniors. At 6-foot-3 he has an ability to pound the big shot and has a lot of untapped potential. He showed his grit by reaching the quarter-finals and pulling out a third round 5-7, 6-4, 13-11 victory over Alexei Popyrin of Australia.

The three Canadians seem to have a good camaraderie and handled themselves well with all the media commitments they had after their matches.

Some French reporters made a thing of the fact that Blancaneaux upset all three members of the Canadian Junior Davis Cup winning team from Madrid last October. But there’s no question Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and Sigouin would relish a chance to play Blancaneaux tomorrow – on any surface – and see if he could do that again.   


In doubles, Daniel Nestor and partner Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan reached the third round before the heavy hitting of Marcel Granollers and Pablo Cuevas knocked them out 6-3, 7-6(4). Nothing is certain but that could have been the 43-year-old Nestor’s 21st and final French Open. 

Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock, seeded seventh, were eliminated in the second round by 2014 champions Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin.

In women’s doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez were beaten 6-2, 7-6(5) in the second round by eventual runners-up Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

In girls singles, Charlotte Robillard-Millette was eliminated 6-0, 6-4 in the first round by Olga Danilovic of Serbia on a cool, damp, dreary day. 

In or out — that is the question


It seemed that every time you looked up during this year’s French Open, there was an umpire and a player (or players) hovering over a ball mark and having a serious discussion. The fact that, even with a mark, there’s still debate about a ball being in or out leads to questions about whether Hawk-Eye would make matters less complicated on the red stuff.   

La pluie, la pluie, la pluie


It was the rainiest Roland Garros on record – and the never-ending overcast skies and seemingly constant precipitation had the Seine River overflowing its banks. It was the worst weather on record in Paris at this time of year since the 19th century.

The first half of the second week there were all kinds of doomsday scenarios about when the tournament would end. Of course it did end on schedule and sun actually broke through the clouds just as Novak Djokovic was celebrating his historic victory. 

From the French media


French tennis followers are among the most sophisticated in the world, and the tennis media in France is thorough and imaginative at covering the sport.

Here are a few interesting items from the press during the fortnight in Paris:

  • Hardcore tennis fans will remember when Richard Gasquet upset world No. 1 Roger Federer in Monte Carlo in 2005. It seemed possible Gasquet was the next big thing but since that time the 29-year-old has been as high as No. 7 (2007) and has had 31 matches against players ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the world. His record? – a pristine 0-31!
  • L’Equipe, the French sporting daily, did an interview with former prominent French umpire Bruno Rebeuh. One question was about which player he would most like to see again. Rebeuh’s answer, “Andre Agassi. He’s the only player who gave me a really nice gift when I retired. He sent me 12 bottles of Chateau-Margaux ’82 from the States with a nice note.”
  • In another L’Equipe interview, retired player Fabrice Santoro was asked about the dirtiest tricks played on him during a match. He said the following about 2004 French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria of Argentina: “A bad guy. If there had been Hawk-Eye, he would have won fewer matches. He could, without any problem at all, circle the wrong mark on a clay court. He tried to mess with you. There was a kind of justice in the 2004 Roland Garros final (Coria lost after leading Gaston Gaudio two sets to love). It would have pissed me off if a guy like that had won a Grand Slam.”
  • L’Equipe interviewed John McEnroe and asked him why he had never coached a player. He responded by saying, “in 1993 I actually coached Boris Becker for five or six weeks. He wanted me to help him between Wimbledon and the US Open. But he wouldn’t listen to me! He has a strong personality – me too. A year later I started working with Sergi Burguera (1993-94 French Open champion), who was hoping to get better on hard courts. And he didn’t listen to me either (laughs). The next guy better listen.

Over to you Milos Raonic…

Paris postcard


A wine store in Paris 7ième decorated its window with tennis balls over the past two weeks – in honour of that event going on not that far away in Paris 16ième.

NOTE: Here you will find the podcast of the June 6th edition of Aces – special feature guest the colourful Frenchman Henri Leconte.