French Open Marked By Record-Breaking

Rafael Nadal bested Novak Djokovic to win his record seventh French Open title Monday. On Saturday, Maria Sharapova took the women's title, earning a career Grand Slam — an elite achievement in the sport. Mary Carillo, an analyst with the Tennis Channel and NBC, joins Melissa Block to recap the final matches.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

At the French Open in Paris, there were tantrums, thrown rackets and soaking rains that forced an overnight delay. In the end, Rafael Nadal made history today by winning his record-breaking seventh French Open title. He beat Novak Djokovic in four sets. Nadal joined Maria Sharapova, who won the women's title on Saturday. And she made history of her own, joining the elite group of players who've earned a career grand slam by winning Wimbledon and the Australian, French and U.S. Opens.

To talk about the results, I'm joined by Mary Carillo, analyst at the French Open for the Tennis Channel and NBC, and a former professional tennis player herself. Mary, welcome to the program.

MARY CARILLO: Hi. So nice to be here. Thank you.

BLOCK: Now, when we Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in the last three grand slam finals, Nadal lost. What gave him the edge in Paris?

CARILLO: Yeah. Well, the clay. I mean, this is a surface on which no one plays the way Rafa Nadal has, and he was trying to break his tie with the great Bjorn Borg. But Nadal, you know, he'd been losing so many times to Djokovic in the last 12 months, and it looked like he was finally going to pull it off against Novak in the Australian Open this year. On the hard courts of Melbourne, he was up 4-2 in the fifth set, and then the match ended up going just shy of six hours, Djokovic came good. So, you know, I think Rafa was very, very happy that he got to play Djokovic here on the clay.

BLOCK: In the end, do you think the rain delay overnight worked in Nadal's favor? He had been struggling a bit in the fourth set, right...

CARILLO: It sure was.

BLOCK: ...when they (unintelligible)?

CARILLO: That's exactly what happened. I mean, nature was in a very melodramatic mood over the weekend.

(LAUGHTER)

CARILLO: And there was a lot of wind, and then a lot of rain came. And at the time, Rafa was up two sets and a break, and it looked for all the world like he was going to go through this entire French Open championships without dropping a set. But then it started getting wetter and wetter, and it became a mud track. And Rafa's ball, he puts so many RPMs on the ball. He hits with so much spin. And on a dry clay court, people are normally trying to reply to his shots from around their ears.

But now, it became a wet track, and the ball wasn't jumping off the court any longer. And not only that, Novak Djokovic, who'd been serving so poorly for the first couple of sets, started serving much better. So now, Rafa's replies were coming in shorter. Novak was taking over the court, managing it better and won eight straight games in a row. So by the time the rains finally came, Nadal was very, very happy to get off that court and start over again today.

BLOCK: And something happened overnight that turned things around.

CARILLO: Well, it stopped raining.

(LAUGHTER)

CARILLO: Only lasted - it only took 49 minutes for this thing to finally get resolved.

BLOCK: This morning.

CARILLO: Yeah.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk also about the women side, Mary. Maria Sharapova, who won the women's title in Paris, she has struggled very publicly - she's talked about this publicly - on clay in Paris, but she managed to pull it out this year. What happened?

CARILLO: Well, Maria has - you're right. She referred to herself not that many years ago at the French Open as a cow on ice. She's six-foot-two. She's got a high center of gravity. She had always struggled on this surface. And look, she's been working hard. She had shoulder surgery that's taken her a couple of years to recover from because it's so affected her serve, which is such a big part of her arsenal, so all credit to her. I mean, she won a major on the surface that had really confounded her for many, many years.

And, you know, so now, unlike the men side, where it's sort of become a two-man race, Maria Sharapova becomes the sixth different champion in the last six grand slam championships. So she's, I think, well - she's in a very good position to do some damage at Wimbledon, which is a surface much better suited to her. She won it for the first time when she was only 17.

BLOCK: What does that say, that there have been that many women champions?

CARILLO: There's no great rivalry in women's tennis these days, so it's a bit of a grab bag. It's a very different thing, the men and the women these days. You know, the men you can count on, seeing the same couple of guys on the last weekend of play. With the women, it's, you know, it's anybody's ball game.

BLOCK: Mary Carrillo, it's great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

CARILLO: ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, it was great to talk to you.

BLOCK: That's Mary Carillo, who was covering the French Open for Tennis Channel and NBC Sports.

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