October 4, 2020

The New Normal

We're now halfway through this year's French Open, and we're at no shortage of gripping stories. Young stars breaking onto the scene, qualifiers heading into the second week, and top seeds toppled -- those may not be headlines entirely foreign to Grand Slams, but this year they seem to pack a special kind of punch, and at least one has come in a uniquely 2020 way.

Let's start with the big upset of the day -- Simona Halep, the champion in 2018 and a heavy favorite to win the title again, stunned by nineteen-year-old Iga Swiatek, who she'd dropped just one game to in the same round last year. (The irony, of course, that Halep had just drubbed Amanda Anisimova, the woman who ousted her in the quarters last year.) It was by far the biggest win to date for the young Pole, who'd already taken out last year's runner-up Marketa Vondrousova and a newly in-form Genie Bouchard this week, and could put her in position to make her first Major semifinal. The oddsmakers, anyway, now think she could take home the whole thing.

Standing in her way, though, is qualifier Martina Trevisan, who is playing in her first main draw here this year. A Junior semifinalist eleven years ago, her career was sadly put on hold by an eating disorder that took her out of the game for four years. On her return she hit a career high ranking of just #144 in the world back in 2017 and is a shade off that now. But things are certainly turning around for the 26-year-old Italian. This past week, she beat Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari and, in the fourth round, fifth seed Kiki Bertens, who made the final four in Paris four years ago. She's already played seven matches this tournament, and it will be tough to keep her streak going. But she's been impressive so far and could put up quite a fight in the next round.

On the men's side the big shocker today may have come after the fourth round match between Alexander Zverev and Jannik Sinner was over. Sinner, who opened his first Roland Garros run with a win over David Goffin, booked his ticket to the quarters with a four-set win over the U.S. Open finalist, but the scoreline doesn't tell the full story. Zverev later said he'd been sick since he played Marco Cecchinato on Friday, suffering 100 degree fever and cough during the match. The German didn't say when he was last tested for COVID, but guidelines ask those with his symptoms to quarantine for a week and after his less-than-responsible behavior over the summer, you'd hope he'd be a little more cautious. How Sinner will be affected remains a question -- luckily tennis is by nature one of the safest sports in this time -- but hopefully his Cinderella run won't be clouded or cut short based on illness.

Whether we've seen the fresh faces of tennis begin to emerge or get a gut reality check on safety protocols, it sure seems like we're in a new world for this sport, and we'll all have to get used to some changes. We can only hope that the more persistent story will be that of new-found success and bringing the sport to a new level. After all, at the end of the day, the performances we've seen from these young talent deserves to shine through.

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