The recently concluded French Open saw Rafael Nadal lift a record-extending 13th title in Paris and a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam crown.
Aside from Nadal’s love affair with Paris, this year’s French Open threw up some other interesting narratives, including the birth of a new star in Poland's Iga Swiatek.
As the dust settles after the final Grand Slam of the year, here's a look at the journeys of three players in the men’s draw whose performances at this year’s French Open caught the eye.
#3 Hugo Gaston delights the French crowd
2015 Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka locked horns with unheralded 20-year-old Hugo Gaston in the third round. It looked like smooth sailing for Wawrinka when he convincingly won the first set 6-2 in just 27 minutes. But local hope Gaston had other ideas and played some inspired tennis to win the next two sets 6-3.
The Swiss 3-time Major champion managed to survive the Frenchman’s onslaught to take the 4th set 6-4 and level the match, but Gaston was in no mood to depart Paris that early. The local boy delighted the crowd with his unique brand of tennis as he served Wawrinka a 'Bagel’ in the deciding set to record the biggest victory of his short career so far.
With one major scalp under his belt, Gaston then set his sights on the World No.3 and reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem. The Austrian won the first two sets 6-4 but Gaston lost neither determination nor focus.
Fully aware that he couldn't afford to involve himself in a slugfest from the baseline, Gaston opted to change up his tactics. The Frenchman played some incredible drop shots to force Thiem out of his comfort zone and take the next two sets and force a decider.
However, Thiem raised his level in the final set to see off Gaston and survive a massive scare. Despite the defeat, Gaston won the hearts of the local fans and as a result of his brilliant run to the fourth round, he jumped 82 spots to be ranked 157th in the world.
Gaston's French Open campaign will act as a source of inspiration for young players who dream of competing on the big stage.
#2 Diego Schwartzman breaks quarter-final curse
The diminutive Argentine was the talk of the town after he defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in their quarter-final clash at Rome in September. Although he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final, he was tipped to be one of the dark horses at Roland Garros.
Diego Schwartzman sailed through the French Open draw, winning his first four rounds without dropping a set to set up a quarter-final clash with Dominic Thiem.
The Argentine, in only his second Roland Garros quarter-final, looked in inspired form as he took down Thiem in a five-hour energy-sapping marathon to seal a spot in the semi-final of a Major for the first time in his career.
One could argue that Thiem was exhausted after his match against Gaston but that does not take anything away from Schwartzman, who had to show plenty of resilience to bounce back from a two-sets-to-one deficit.
Schwartzman was defeated by Nadal in straight sets in the semi-final but he won as many as 12 games, the most the Spaniard dropped against any player at this year’s French Open.
The run in Paris earned Schwartzman a spot in the ATP's top 10 for the first time in his career and the Argentine will hope to carry the momentum into the remainder of the season.
#1 Jannik Sinner's Grand Slam breakthrough
The 19-year old Italian, who won the NextGen ATP Finals last year, made his Grand Slam breakthrough in Paris.
Sinner showed just why he's being touted as one of the most promising players on tour, dismantling David Goffin in the first round before stunning US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev in the 4th. Sinner dropped just one set en route to his quarter-final clash with Rafael Nadal.
Sinner, in his first Grand Slam quarter-final, showed no nerves and matched the Spaniard shot for shot in the first two sets. Although he was beaten in straight sets, Sinner can take heart from the fact that he won 11 games against Nadal -- four more than World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.Published 14 Oct 2020, 17:27 IST