French Open Midterm Grades: Jannik Sinner, Iga Świątek Earn Top Marks at Rain-Soaked Roland Garros

The weather has wreaked havoc on the tournament’s schedule, but the stalwarts remain unfazed.
Sinner will face Grigor Dimitrov in the French Open quarterfinals.
Sinner will face Grigor Dimitrov in the French Open quarterfinals. / Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Halfway through, tennis’s second major is in need of a mood elevator. Maybe it’s the rain. Or a surface that brings out pugnaciousness. But this has been a combative French Open. Players are beefing with opponents and, more often, themselves. Players are rifling balls that hit fans. Fans are jeering players, leading to a silly and misplaced ban on bringing alcohol into the stadium. Players are chiding the media. The media is responding in kind. Again, a week of rain will test patience and charity.

As for the actual tennis … it’s been quite fine. Rafael Nadal did himself proud in the first round—and kindled hope that this was not the end. The stalwarts remain. Players like Novak Djokovic, Ons Jabeur and Naomi Osaka have found some magic again. The injury concerns of Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are evaporating. The Americans are holding their own.

Bring on Week 2. And if it’s accompanied by some sunshine, so much the better.

A

No. 2 seeds/Grand Slam contenders: Sinner and Aryna Sabalenka, your 2024 Aussie Open winners, are very much alive. Both have been through a lot since Melbourne. Nevertheless, they persist.

Iga Swiatek: Speaking of persistence … the two-time defending champion was a point from expulsion. Now, a fourth title is very much a possibility.

Djokovic: He may not have reached a title yet in 2024, but, so far, the defending champ is doing a fine Novak Djokovic impersonation in Paris.

Italia: The new tennis powerhouse is doing itself proud yet again.  

Olga Danilovic: Because Serbia needs some tennis success. … The 23-year-old qualified, won a debut match, took out contender Danielle Collins and then returned the next day to beat Donna Vekic in one of the event's most riveting matches. Danilovic ultimately fell to Marketa Vondrousova in the fourth round but staged an impressive run nonetheless.

Owen/@tennisnation: This is the best piece of tennis content you will read this week. 

Canada: Felix Auger-Aliassime advanced to the fourth round and Bianca Andreescu fell in the third, while resurgent Denis Shapovalov and Leylah Fernandez did themselves proud.

Zizou Bergs: Congrats to the Belgian on setting the standard for a post-match celebration.

Osaka fell to Swiatek in the second round at Roland Garros.
Osaka fell to Swiatek in the second round at Roland Garros. / Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

A-

Osaka: The 26-year-old will be stung by the match point she failed to convert, but any disappointment should be overwhelmed by the satisfaction about the state of her game. She came inches (literally) from knocking off Swiatek at Roland Garros and did so with the ferocious and precise ball striking in evidence when she won four hardcourt majors. As familiar as we are with her game, she was still, in a sense, the breakthrough player of Week 1. 

Alize Cornet: She lost in Round 1 but is always the consummate professional. The Frenchwoman played her final Roland Garros and zut alors, will her thoughtfulness (and, selfishly, quotability) be missed.

Richard Gasquet: Before falling to Sinner, the 37-year-old won a match in his final Roland Garros. And damn, will he be missed. In what beholder’s eye is this not beauty?

Pavel Kotov and his mom: The Russian slugger beat Stan Wawrinka to reach the third round, before losing to Sinner. She earned her Mother’s Day brunch.

Chris Eubanks and Stan Wawrinka: They lose in Rounds 1 and 2, respectively … But then Eubanks makes this impromptu gesture and Stan makes this impromptu gesture—one that took a few seconds and cost them little to nothing—and each wins fans for life.

B

Elena Rybakina: The fourth seed looks healthy and ready to contend for her second major, displaying such smooth and efficient power. But complaining about the questions asked in her press conference was unnecessary. For the people who say, She owes the media nothing! that’s not the case. She may not owe the public soul-baring, or even quotable, answers to (perhaps dull) questions. But she does owe a measure of courtesy to people just trying to do their jobs.

Terence Atmane: After rifling a ball into the stands and hitting a fan, the Frenchman should have been disqualified on the spot. (Apply the rules fairly, Angel Hernandez! Was it not just last year that a Japanese doubles player was defaulted for the same offense?) But wow, this apology. This is what accountability—and then some—looks like.

Arthur Rinderknech: The French veteran (and former Texas A&M star) was on the verge of beating a seeded opponent in Round 2. Then, he kicked the courtside signage in frustration after losing a point. He injured his left foot, retired and pulled out of doubles. This sport is hard enough without adding the element of self-sabotage.

Taylor Fritz was one of many players impacted by the rain at the French Open.
Taylor Fritz was one of many players impacted by the rain at the French Open. / Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

C

The rain: Nadal-like in its relentlessness.

The scheduling: Yes, the rain made life difficult. But you can’t have matches ending at 3 a.m. local time. Especially ones involving the star attraction. It’s goofy and makes the event look unserious. Worse, it distorts the integrity of the competition.

Wild cards: Of the players with freebies, few won a meaningful match, and none remain. (But, go ahead and decline to seed Nadal because it would be an affront to fairness to reward a player who didn’t earn the slot!)

Out, damned spot!: British players won zero matches at Roland Garros for the first time since 2000. (Spain of all countries, has scarcely been better—though it does claim Alcaraz, currently the betting favorite.)

Chileans: After encouraging run-up results, Nicolas Jarry and Alejandro Tabilo lost on Day 1 … dashing the hopes of a nation and making fools of some prognosticators.

Maria Sakkari: The last player to beat Swiatek at Roland Garros turns in another early round major clunker, losing to Varvara Gracheva in Round 1.

D

Empty suits and empty suites: Tennis has a serious optics problem and it’s especially pronounced here. The grounds are packed. There are no available tickets. But the stands in the big court are vacant. And the prime seats behind the baseline—the ones shown most often on TV—are about as jumping as Edward Hopper’s diner. Maybe the hedge fund crowd decided not to show. Maybe they’re drinking wine in a hospitality tent. Whatever. Those seats have to be filled. No other sports league would tolerate this. 


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Jon Wertheim

JON WERTHEIM

Sports Illustrated executive editor and senior writer L. Jon Wertheim is one of the most accomplished sports journalists in America.