Okay, kiddies. Roland Garros and the claycourt season are over for the year (well, apart from that weird post-Wimbledon fake-claycourt season, but no one who is anyone really plays that.) We're off the red and onto the green - off the dirt and onto the lawn. But before we depart Paris altogether, let us take a moment and think of what we have learned.
1. Rafa Nadal is the greatest clay court player. Ever. I don't think this is particularly contentious - however, when you consider all the hoops that Federer had to jump through to prove he was the greatest of all time, I think this bears some thinking about. Rafa has long since beaten that streak of most consecutive clay court wins (I think Vilas had it before, and I think Rafa's streak ended up at 81 or something crazy, which beat the record by about 30.) However, the one stat Rafa has yet to chase is the Bjorn Borg feat of six Roland Garroses.
Let's be fair on the kid. He is 24. I think he has more than one title in Paris left in him yet. And if you put today's Rafa up against Borg in his prime, my money is on Rafa. So I'm handing over the greatest claycourter ever crown... now. Actually, I handed it over about three years ago, but let's make it official here.
2. Some streaks can only be appreciated when they're broken. 23 Slam semis. That's about five years of being in the semis in every Slam. Well done, Roger Federer. It may have ended, but I think we can safely that this is one stat that is safe for a while. For five years, at least.
And you still have your quarter final streak. 24 and counting. Is that a record?
3. You don't have to be a baby to make massive career strides. Much as I was being all nationalistic and pulling for Stosur, Francesca Schiavone's win was massive, and she's nearly 30. This was a huge achievement for her, and I think it really is the icing on the cake for this story in women's tennis. When you've got players who are not young in tennis years achieving greatness, I think that is special. This is a win for the Kimiko Date Krumms of the world. But most of all, it's a win for a lovely player who deserves it.
And on that note...
4. Francesca Schiavone has one of the best smiles in tennis. She and Marcos Baghdatis. Gotta give it to them.
5. Robin Soderling was not a one final wonder. I don't know if anyone expected Soderling to come close to replicating what he did last year. He may not have played the best final ever, but let us not denigrate his journey to the final. He played some truly excellent tennis. And considering he was the one that a) beat Nadal here last year and b) broke the Federer Slam semi streak... can you deny that the Yoker seriously has something, particularly here in Paris?
Now, what else have you got in your bag of tricks, Soddy my friend?
6. Sam Stosur is a force to be reckoned with. Like Soderling, she did not exactly play the final to end all finals. But you can't fluke beating Henin, Serena and Jankovic in a row. Sam Stosur is going places. She is this year's Soderling (well, Soderling is this year's Soderling, but she's the other one.) She backed up and bettered her performance of last year despite being in the most obscenely difficult quarter I have ever seen. This can only give her confidence and things are only looking up.
7. Don't trust the Russians. Sveta. Dinara. I am looking at YOU.
Much as I don't like it when I don't get my Fed-in-the-final fix, I thoroughly enjoyed this year's Roland Garros - and, unusually, I enjoyed the women's side more than the men's. Maybe it's because I am, at this stage of my life, more emotionally invested in men's tennis, but I really enjoyed the openness of the women's draw. It was a real anybody-can-win thing, and hell, anybody did. I would be upset about this with the boys (I like Fedal on top) but in the women, I dig it.
Wimbledon, over to you.
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago