The rain is putting a damper on things at Roland Garros. Delayed matches, half empty stadiums and the pungent odor of dead worms wasn’t what we expected on Sunday. Some things have gone to plan. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have coasted through their opening round matches–Nadal suffered a slight scare against German big man Daniel Brands. On the women’s side Serena Williams is showing no signs of faltering. Maria Sharapova thrashed Canadian youngster Eugenie Bouchard in a battle of now vs. future. The French continue to hate Victoria Azarenka, not sure they even know about Red Foo.
However, there were some suprises. Andy Murray created a twitter sensation from the sickbay. Former champ Li Na bowed out early, losing to an American also ran. In fact the Americans, men and women, have been a revelation thus far. Left for dead by tennis wordsmiths, chain smoking Parisian bus drivers and the casual fan, the representatives of the red, white and blue have been great. 14 of them–10 women and 4 men–advanced the second round, the most since 15 accomplished the feat in 2003.
And finally, Gael Monfils managed two scintillating performances, somehow blocking out the part of his brain that murmurs insane thoughts at the most critical junctures.
Time for a bit of a correction. Rain aside it’s been pretty good. Let’s dig a little deeper.
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The French Open has always held a sacred place in this tennis fan’s heart. Parisians aren’t like you or I. Fact is, they’re better. Whether it’s smoking cigarettes in the stands or vociferously booing players for no discernible reason, they do things their own way. Refined jerks add so much more to the sporting landscape with their hooting and demonstrative sighing than the casual fan. The game – nay, the world – would be worse off without them.
Here’s looking at you, Satan.
We head into the second major of the year with less questions to answer than expected. Rafael Nadal’s knees have withstood the rigors of the European clay court season. Serena Williams dispatched Victoria Azarenka with ease in Rome, proving the only person who stands a chance of stopping Serena from winning her second French Open title is Serena herself. The favorites have made an impressive case, one so strong that seeing someone other than Nadal and Williams leave Roland Garros with a garish trophy and fat check in hand will be quite surprising.
It’s the ‘others’ that will intrigue in Paris. The others being the group of players that have a shot – however fleeting – at knocking off the overwhelming favorites. On the men’s side three names come to mind, all with their own personal demons when it comes to taking down Rafa on clay, let alone at a major. Roger Federer will need divine intervention to win it all, and no, Robin Soderling is not walking through that door. Novak Djokovic is the only hope for the anti Rafa crowd and he’s coming off an uncharacteristic loss to Tomas Berdych. The Czech big man could be this year’s Soderling. Unfortunately the words ‘could be ‘ have been synonymous with Berdych’s career up until this point.
On the women’s side there is slightly more belief. Serena bowed out in the first round last year, losing to Virginie Razzano in one of the biggest upsets in French Open history. Azarenka will be there at the end, as will Maria Sharapova. Unfortunately for those two their head-to-head numbers against Williams are terrible (4-25 combined).
Two weeks in Paris awaits.
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The visual evidence indicated otherwise, but that didn’t stop him from responding to his vanquisher’s question with a smile and congratulatory pat on the stomach.
Coming in to their match against each other on Thursday night, both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer faced question marks regarding their health. As Federer departs for a lengthy hiatus that won’t see him back on the tour until May, the focus shifts to him, as the greatest player of all time stares mortality in the face. There’s an expiry date on excellence. Read the rest of this entry »
The idea is that it isn’t supposed to look easy. It being winning a grand slam, a task that demands an absurd amount of dedication. Novak Djokovic isn’t Roger Federer. We’re lucky for that.
Andy Murray had righted a wrong. After beating Federer in the semifinals–his first victory against the Swiss Maestro in Grand Slam competition– Murray couldn’t be overlooked. This was a 50/50 final. I boldly (code:drunkenly) claimed the Muzzah would win in four sets. Twitter is the devil.
Tennis players are incredibly open after a match, at least more so than their contemporaries in the ‘other’ sports. Canned cliches from professional athletes are where articles go to die. “At this level, it can come down to just a few points here or there. My biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set; didn’t quite get that. When Novak had his chance in the third, he got his.” Well said, Andy. Read the rest of this entry »
British Eurosport – that’s a Television channel apparently – is where good announcing goes to die. During Monday’s singles match between Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Canada’s Milos Raonic, Virginia Wade battled incompetence while Ross Hutchins struggled to justify his place on the weakest three-person commentary panel ever assembled. However, it was the third man in the booth who attracted the collective rage of Canadians rising early out of bed to watch their countryman perform. It was through the network that the motherland took one last shot at trolling their son, employing Greg Rusedski on their tennis panel as Raonic attempted to achieve the unfathomable.
My anger, while extremely petty, is not directed at them, however. I thought Monday morning would be the start of something huge. The columnists of our esteemed national newspapers would swoop in for a 500-word piece on the monumental feat in Melbourne. How would Rosie Dimanno manage to write a terrible lead while also getting the story terribly wrong? The headline would include a play on ‘while you were sleeping.’ Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
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