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Whether it's Roland Garros or La Jolla, French Open doubles champ says tennis offers plenty of challenges
Nideffer won her French Open doubles titles in 1981 and again in 1983—both towards the beginning of her career—and she's keen on seeing 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz do the same in singles.
Published May 22, 2022
WATCH: Tennis Channel Live make their men's and women's singles picks for Roland Garros.
It's not Roland Garros, but two-time French Open doubles champion Rosalyn 'Ros' Fairbank is still competing this week, playing the USTA National Women’s Senior Hard Court Championships at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, in California.
But Fairbank, who now plays as Nideffer, is still keeping track of the field at the clay-court Grand Slam, which begins on Sunday. She's especially high on the 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who comes in as one of the favorites following his big wins against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Madrid.
"He's unbelievable. The one time I did watch him, I couldn't find a weakness," Nideffer told TENNIS.com in an interview. "I thought, what is Nadal going to attack, what is he going to do playing him?
"And he's fitter than everybody else, because he's younger. He's got an amazing game."
There are advantages to being new on tour like Alcaraz, says South Africa's Nideffer.
Now 61 years old, Nideffer won her first doubles title at the French Open in 1981 and then captured it again in 1983—both towards the beginning of her career.
"For me, those first years were kind of fun years, because there's not a lot of pressure, other players don't really know you. The improvement up the rankings was fairly good," she said. "But once you get established at a certain level, you know, all the other players learn your strengths and weaknesses and then it is much more difficult to improve your ranking."
I couldn't find a weakness. I thought, what is Nadal going to attack, what is he going to do playing him? Rosalyn 'Ros' Fairbank-Nideffer, on Alcaraz
That also makes Iga Swiatek's current winning streak, currently at 28, even more of a surprise and accomplishment for Nideffer. But it's the player the 20-year-old 2020 French Open champion took the top spot from, the recently retired Ashleigh Barty, who she recognizes more of her own game in.
"I used to really enjoy watching Ash Barty. I was fascinated by her game, because most of the other players were big hitters, and she was able to counter that power and also attack," Nideffer said. "I felt her game was more like mine, more all-around and not all power, and that's fascinating—that she could win against those players."
Both have the consistency that elevates the top players from the rest, says Nideffer, who had 317 singles and 472 doubles wins in her career. She got as high as No. 15 in the rankings.
"I recognized that the players above me, they were getting deep into the draw almost each week, whereas I tended to have some great weeks and not-so-great weeks," she said.
But even during retirement, Nideffer says she's still working on her game.
"My problem is that I tend to play enough to win, and I tend not to go for big shots unless I have to, and then I get tight," she said, having reached the final of the women's Senior Nationals. "Part of what keeps me on court is I'm trying to conquer this, I'd like to get on court and just have fun, hit the ball.
"This week I started off thinking, I'm not going to go for huge shots—I'm going to keep the ball in play until I get an opening. The tricky part is I'm used to a harder ball than most of these players hit, so I tend not to move my feet, and then I get sloppy, and then it gets ugly.
"I'd like to be serving and volleying, but that's a little ambitious for a 61-year-old."
Whether playing at Roland Garros or elsewhere, the sport offers plenty of challenges.