RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
It was an epic weekend of tennis at the French Open in Paris. The men's final featured a big upset, and on the women's side, Serena Williams took another step closer to another historic milestone. For more, we reached Sports Illustrated writer Courtney Nguyen in Paris. Welcome to the program.
COURTNEY NGUYEN: Thanks for having me.
MONTAGNE: And let us begin with the men. Novak Djokovic dispatched his old nemesis Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and looked to be cruising to his first ever French Open victory, and then what happened?
NGUYEN: And then he ran into an absolutely red-hot Stan Wawrinka, a player who on any given day can beat any given player. He's just not always a consistent guy, so we don't really write him into these final matches or think that he's going to make a big run. But Stan Wawrinka played one of the best matches he's ever played in his career to upend Novak Djokovic in what felt like a to-be coronation ceremony before the serve, who was looking to complete his career slam here at the French Open.
MONTAGNE: And tell us more about him. I mean, he's not young - 30 years old - for a tennis player, but this is his second major in the last year and a half. What's he done to up his game?
NGUYEN: I think so much of it when it comes to Wawrinka, he's always had the skills. He has a huge forehand, a beautiful and powerful one-handed backhand, big serve, good mover. For him, it's all been mental. And for Stan Wawrinka, he's never really - well, he's spent most of his career not truly believing that he belonged with the elite. But ever since pairing up with Magnus Norman as a new coach, a former player, a top player, it just changed everything about the way Stan Wawrinka approaches the game. And he's still up and down, he's still inconsistent, but again, two majors in a year and a half, I mean, he's put himself into the elite.
MONTAGNE: And now to the women's side. Serena Williams, now she clinched another title despite not feeling her best in this tournament. How hard did she have to work to win?
NGUYEN: Serena said it herself. She said this was one of the toughest majors that she's ever had to win. It's her 20th major, which is just an incredible milestone in and of itself, but it puts her just two away from catching Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 majors. Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 is just four majors away. And we say just as though it's so easy to win, you know, the Grand Slams these days, but Serena makes it look like that, especially with the way that she did it here in Paris. She was never playing her best tennis. She had the flu, she looked down and out every single match, and she found a way to win, and it's just incredible. She's 33 years old, and she's still ruling this tour with an iron fist.
MONTAGNE: And any lesser-known players who surprised you this tournament?
NGUYEN: Yeah. I mean, you have to look at Lucie Safarova, who was a finalist in the women's tournament. She put together an absolutely incredible two weeks. She beat defending champion Maria Sharapova; she beat 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic, a number of quality players day after day after day. She didn't drop a set going into the final. And this was a player - she's 28. She's not as young, kind of like a Wawrinka, who, for so long, we kind of believed in her more than we thought Lucie believed in herself. And she came through, played great matches, was so clutch and pushed Serena Williams to three sets in a final, which is not easy to do.
MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much.
NGUYEN: No problem. Anytime.
MONTAGNE: Courtney Nguyen is covering the French Open in Paris for Sports Illustrated.
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