With the 2019 French Open in the books, it's time to look back at some of the biggest storylines on the women's side from the past fortnight in Paris.
Ash's first badge
Ashleigh "Ash" Barty took quite an interesting route to get here, taking 18 months off to play professional cricket four and a half years ago. She's far from the first woman to take a hiatus from tennis and come back strong, but her absence came much earlier than usual given that she's still just 23 years of age. With her love for the game having returned, Barty came back to the court three years ago and hasn't looked back since, riding an upward trajectory that's now culminated in her first Grand Slam title and an ascent to the world No. 2 ranking. The Australian's game is less conducive to clay courts than it is to grass or hard courts, so this could be just the beginning for Barty, especially with a bit of a power vacuum near the top of the women's game at the moment. She benefited from the draw opening up but certainly deserves credit for taking care of business, dropping only two sets all tournament while taking out five Americans on her quest to the title.
Next gen has arrived
Younger women haven't exactly been starved for success with 21-year-old Naomi Osaka winning each of the last two Grand Slams preceding this one, but the 2019 French Open was especially kind to the next generation of women's tennis. In addition to 23-year-old champion Barty, the finals featured 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova, and 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova didn't bow out until the semifinals. The women's game is as wide open as it's been in years with Serena Williams finally slowing down, and a number of talented youngsters are chomping at the bit after watching women younger than 25 take home six of the last nine Grand Slam titles (after winning only two of the previous 16).
While numerous Grand Slam titles are undoubtedly forthcoming for these youngsters, don't be surprised to see experience prevail at Wimbledon. Serena's serving prowess will make her an even tougher out on the grass, and adjusting to the surface will be tricky for younger players who usually grow up playing exclusively on clay and hard courts nowadays.
Will Serena win again?
It might be time to ask this question seriously after Serena bowed out in the third round with a 6-2, 7-5 loss to fellow American Sofia Kenin. Sure, clay has always been Serena's least-favorite surface, but her three previous French Open titles suggest Williams has what it takes to win at Roland Garros, especially in a field as wide open as this one. Her nine-tournament Grand Slam drought since winning the 2017 Australian Open ties the longest mark of Serena's career, which came between her first Grand Slam title in 1999 and her second in 2002.
Early-career Serena was blocked by older sister Venus Williams and Jennifer Capriati, who combined to win seven of the nine Grand Slams during that drought. This time, it's been more about what Serena hasn't done and less about her competition, with eight different champions in the last nine Grand Slams. The 37-year-old Williams sat out the first four tournaments of this drought due to the birth of her child and has made two finals in the last five, so it's not time to press the panic button just yet. But if she doesn't take home one of the final two slams of 2019 at either Wimbledon or the US Open, it will be time to seriously consider the possibility that she may not win another.
Osaka is human
Osaka came in with a 14-match Grand Slam winning streak but never got it together in this tournament, narrowly escaping defeat in each of her first two matches before finally falling to Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-2 in Round 3. The third-round result equaled her previous career best at Roland Garros, and she's never been past the third round at Wimbledon, either. While her baseline power game translates perfectly to the hard courts at the Australian and US Open, Osaka's mediocre movement was a glaring deficiency on clay. Though movement shouldn't be as much of an issue on the grass at Wimbledon, the world No. 1 doesn't have the same aura around her when she's not on hard courts.
Konta back in form
Ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 2017, Johanna Konta didn't perform at quite the same level for much of the past two years, but the 28-year-old Brit has rediscovered her A-game. After reaching the final of the Italian Open in the lead-up to Roland Garros, Konta made it to her third career Grand Slam semifinal before falling to Vondrousova. Those results have propelled her back up to No. 18 in the world heading into the grass-court season, so Konta should get plenty of buzz at her home slam Wimbledon, where she made the semifinals in 2017. Of the four French Open semifinalists, Konta and Barty have the best chance of following that result up with a similar one at the All England Club.
Race for No. 1 heating up
With few points to defend at Roland Garros, Osaka was able to hold onto the No. 1 ranking despite her early exit, but we could well have five women enter Wimbledon with a chance to claim the top spot. Barty's French Open win has her at 6,350 ranking points, close enough to Osaka's 6,486 that the Australian could overtake her during the warmup tournaments to Wimbledon if things break right.
After that come Karolina Pliskova and Kiki Bertens at 5,685 and 5,345, respectively. Pliskova lost to Bertens in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2018 while Bertens then immediately lost in the quarters. They gained 240 and 430 ranking points, respectively for those results, so replacing those totals with a full 2,000 for taking home the title could push either Pliskova or Bertens to No. 1 if Osaka and Barty fail to improve significantly on their third-round exits from a year ago. Petra Kvitova is a two-time champion at the All England Club but was upset in the first round last year, so she will almost certainly make a significant climb from her current total of 4,925 ranking points.
Two players put in precarious positions by their early French Open exits are first-round loser Angelique Kerber and third-round exit Serena Williams. Kerber sits just behind Kvitova with 4,675 ranking points but is defending 2,000 from her 2018 Wimbledon title. Anything short of a semifinal run will likely send the German tumbling out of the top 10. Speaking of tumbling out of the top 10, Serena has already fallen to 11 and will be defending 1,300 of her 3,411 ranking points at Wimbledon as the 2018 runner-up.