Grand Slam tennis tournaments serve both to raise questions and supply answers. By that yardstick, the French Open, which concluded here Sunday, was an almost unqualified success.
On the surface, the identities of the two singles champions, Ivan Lendl and Chris Evert Lloyd, hardly came as a surprise. Although Evert did upset Martina Navratilova in the women's final, she had done the same a year ago and has won the French championship seven times. Lendl's victory, after the early departures of Mats Wilander and Yannick Noah, was about as close to routine as a Grand Slam championship can be.
But several other players made enough impact during the two weeks to raise questions not only about Wimbledon, which begins in two weeks, but about the months to come.
On the men's side, two players generally unnoticed before the tournament made large impacts. One was Sweden's Mikael Pernfors, the losing finalist.
He can play. His upset of four seeded players was no fluke. He has never played on grass before -- "I tried it for about five minutes once" -- so it is difficult to say how he will do at Wimbledon. But Pernfors, 22, played on hard courts all through college, winning two NCAA championships while at the University of Georgia, and is going to be a factor in men's tennis for a while.
The same can be said for Andrei Chesnokov, the 20-year-old Soviet who wiped out Wilander in the third round and reached the quarterfinals. He, too, will get his first taste of playing on grass at Wimbledon and may find it tougher to deal with than Pernfors. Still, Chesnokov is a player to watch. He is quick, gets to every ball and plays with extraordinary savvy for having so little tournament experience.
There were others: Henri Leconte's loss in the semifinals disappointed the French, but he seems to be finding a little more consistency. He will celebrate his 23rd birthday July 4 and might well still be playing at Wimbledon that day, when the men's semifinals are scheduled.
Aaron Krickstein went out in the second round, but in his stirring five-set loss to Wilander the 18-year-old American showed signs of life that have been lacking for a long time. Although Wimbledon isn't likely to be a showcase for him, the summer could be fun before it is over.
Finally, there is the intriguing case of Johan Kriek. He came to Paris so his wife could shop and played his way into the semifinals on a surface he has always hated.
The United States is scheduled to play Mexico in a Davis Cup match on that surface -- clay -- in July. Until Paris, Krickstein, Jimmy Arias (who sprained an ankle and couldn't play) and Eliot Teltscher (who lost in the third round to Boris Becker) were the candidates to play singles. Now, Kriek must be seriously considered by rookie captain Tom Gorman.
As for Wimbledon, the tournament might be more wide open than it has been in 20 years.
John McEnroe will not return from his hiatus until August. That leaves no favorite.
Lendl hates grass as much as he loves clay. Becker loves grass but will undoubtedly find the role of defending champion burdensome. Wilander has never done well at Wimbledon. Neither has Noah, who withdrew from the French after three rounds with an injury. Jimmy Connors, back after a 10-week suspension this week, probably cannot win two months shy of 34.
Some names to watch in addition to the aforementioned nonfavorites: Tim Mayotte and Paul Annacone, hard-serving Americans who have prospered at Wimbledon; Kevin Curren, last year's runner-up, and Kriek. Want a dark horse? Try Leconte.
In short, any of a dozen players could show up in the men's final.
Alas, the same isn't true on the women's side. Steffi Graf will turn 17 before Wimbledon starts, but that isn't likely to make her an accomplished player on grass.
She is so unsure of herself on that surface that she is planning to play in the junior tournament at Eastbourne, the traditional Wimbledon warm-up. Hana Mandlikova? Maybe, because she is always capable of pulling the kind of upsets she did to win the U.S. Open last fall. Pam Shriver will try again and Helena Sukova and Claudia Kohde-Kilsch play serve-and-volley games suited to grass.
In all likelihood, though, when the grass settles after the semifinals, it will be Lloyd-Navratilova for the 70th time, with Navratilova the prohibitive favorite to win a fifth straight title.