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With Venus Williams' exit, a new Slam champion is guaranteed in Paris
None of the 12 remaining women has won a Grand Slam singles title
Published Jun 04, 2017
When Venus Williams lost to Timea Bacsinszky in the fourth round of the French Open for the second consecutive year, there were two takeaways, depending on your point of view:
—There are no Americans remaining in the singles draws at Roland Garros
—We are guaranteed to have a new Grand Slam singles champion
The first point is the obligatory response in the United States, although I’ve never understood why. It’s not as if the U.S. lords over the sport like it may have generations ago, and the game have never been more global. That fact was emphasized by the unprecedented third-round run by Ons Jabeur, a 22-year-old from Tunisia, in Paris last week.
Jabeur also lost to Bacsinszky, who is one of 12 remaining players in the women’s singles draw (the fourth round will be completed on Monday), and none of them have ever hoisted a Grand Slam trophy. It’s an incredible story, and one that makes sense considering the favorite-free nature of this year’s women’s tournament. We declared the event "wide open" coming into Roland Garros, and the play—inspiring in some corners, head-scratching in others—has borne that out.
Sunday’s play was again a mix of both. All four remaining Grand Slam singles champions lost their matches, and all in three sets:
—2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza lost to Kristina Mladenovic, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
—2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur lost to Jelena Ostapenko, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4
—Former French Open and U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova lost to Caroline Wozniacki, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2
—Seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Venus Williams lost to Timea Bacsinszky, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1
Muguruza’s defeat was one many saw coming, as long as Mladenovic, the crowd favorite and top-seeded Frenchwoman, could contain her nerves. She went out and played the best match of her tournament. No Stosur loss should be considered shocking at this stage of her career. Kuznetsova came into this tournament in strong form and was a title contender in many eyes, but Wozniacki has re-entrenched herself as a threat on all surfaces (the former No. 1 was ranked outside the Top 75 not long ago, due to health and performance) and might come out of today as the biggest winner of all.
But Venus’ loss was the most surprising of them all. While it wasn’t unprecedented, of course, the 36-year-old entered today’s match on a roll, having not lost a set at Roland Garros, and she rallied from 5-1 down in the first set to take it 7-5. It was the kind of momentum swing that would torpedo most players, particularly those without the experience of going all the way at a major.
But Bacsinszky is nothing if not resilient. You know that if you’re read her emotional backstory, and today’s performance only adds to her legend. Two years ago in Paris, Bacsinszky had Serena Williams all but defeated, but the 25-year-old Swiss collapsed in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 semifinal loss. It was her best chance to taste Grand Slam glory; the only positive for Bacsinszky is that there could be some silver lining to take away from that stinging loss.
Perhaps we saw that silver shine today, against Serena’s sister. Although Bacsinszky was but two wins from the title back then, she may be closer than ever to earning to her maiden major now, even as a quarterfinalist. Then again, Mladenovic—Bacsinszky’s quarterfinal opponent—can say the same thing. She's never been beyond the quarters of a Slam, and the 24-year-old recently climbed into the Top 15 for the first time. She was a trendy pick to win the tournament, and that could become a reality.
Ostapenko and Wozniacki, who will collide for a spot in the semis, will both view this week as their greatest chance to win a major. And let’s not forget Elina Svitolina, Petra Martic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Simona Halep, Caroline Garcia, Alize Cornet, Veronica Cepede Royg and Karolina Plisokva: all will play tomorrow for a spot in the final eight—and, at the same time, a once-in-a-career opportunity.
Six days before its conclusion, we can say with certainty that there will be a new Grand Slam champion in tennis.