Bewildered tennis newbie: I’ve just realised I really like professional tennis. What should I do now?
Tennis Establishment: Become a tennis fan.
Watch some tennis pros play tennis live. They hit the ball really fast you know.
Goodness. How do I see that?
All you need to do is book time off work then pay for tournament tickets, flights and a hotel. You’ll have a great time.
Err… that sounds expensive. The internet says this week’s pro tournaments are in Hamburg, Atlanta and Baku. I live in London. Are there any other options?
Well, you could consume pro tennis through global mass media.
Which are best?
Look online at some photographs and video clips of good tennis players.
That sounds a more ‘cost effective’ idea. So who is the best tennis player ever?
Oh bumzers, don’t EVER ask that on the internet. It’s a better idea to dip yourself in honey and play volleyball with bees’ nests than ask that question on the internet.
Well, who’s the most successful player ever then?
Since the game turned professional in 1969 the person who has won more singles Grand Slam titles than anyone else is Steffi Graf.
She sounds good. I’m going to googleimage her.
That’s the idea.
Err… right… why does she look like Rasputin‘s daughter?
That’s before she became great. Try another one.
Is that the same person?
Yes, that’s Steffi after she won all her titles.
This is quite confusing. I need a cup of tea and a lie down, then I’ll see how much a flight to Hamburg is.
I can recommend a good brand of tea if you’d like.
Why does Boris Becker spout a highly-entertaining load of old nonsense 99% of the time during television commentary and then suddenly crystalise Roger Federer’s present career dilemma with such clarity you almost think he has some spooky mind-reading access into Roger’s brain?
Anyway. Roger’s on his way home. Rafa and Maria are on their way to the gongs. Let’s see.
Well done Na.
Well done Rafa.
Na gets: adulation from 1.3 billion chinamen and women.
Lesson for Li Na: try not to win six French Opens.
The real story of the French is not Rafael Nadal equalling Borg’s record, or the fact Asia has its first singles Slam champion in the history of tennis (insert ‘wow-isn’t-tennis-truly-global-these-days’ yada-blahda-etceterada spiel), no, the real story is this year the French Tennis Federation changed the make and type of balls used in play, and in doing so changed the complexion of the tournament.
The balls used are made by Babolat and are harder and lighter than the ball used for the past six years. As a result the rallies played out very close to hard court rallies – the majority of the pros said so in their early interviews.
Rafa, however, being a major sponsoree of Babolat, couldn’t open his mouth on the issue. Roger Federer, being less effective on clay than any surface, couldn’t believe his luck.
What bugs iliketolob is that the fans are given no transparency on the issue. It’s like invisibly changing the rules of the game.
Remember the dreary men’s Wimbledon finals of the 90s – Sampras and Goran comparing aces for two and a half hours – and then suddenly three years later everyone was having 40 stroke rallies and Lleyton Hewitt won the whole bloomin’ thing. That was all due to ball pressure change (the AELTC denied it but they were telling naughty fibs). But it was much better for the fans. This time, it’s much for the worse.
We already have two slams on hard courts. We don’t need three hard court slams out of four with the addition of a pseudo-hard court slam. How did Babolat get the contract? Who else was in the running? What traits of these balls made the FFT choose them? Did money exchange hands? Did the FFT know what effect the balls would have on game? Do they care about the fact all the pros were talking of nothing else at the start of the tourney?
We would like to know the answers. Let’s face it – we probably never will. Maybe we should send Lynn Barber round.
Two weeks. A lot of red dust. Two big tin pots up for grabs.
Not in brief:
Those tin pots are the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen (women’s singles) and the Coupe des Mousquetaires (men’s singles). Let’s have a look at the letters trophy engraver Pascal de la Depardieu could soon be etching next to the numerals ‘2011’.
‘Kim Clijsters’ Kim is great at using odd techniques as A Springboard To Grand Slam Victory. She will be hoping that her latest one – twisting her ankle on the dancefloor – will be as effective as childbirth and motherhood as pre-tournament preparation. Kim is a lovely girl and deserves a win. She might do it. Engraving trickiness rating: quite tricky.
‘Maria Sharapova’ Never has one girl worn so many pretty dresses. Despite Nike’s attempt to buy/own her soul via this process of prettification you basically can’t get round the fact that when it comes to 5-5 in the third her true self – grizzly mentalist Siberian hunteress – always comes out. Maria won in Madrid last week. She doesn’t love clay but the women’s is so wide open this year she could do it. Engraving trickiness rating: good for practising the letter ‘a’.
‘Caroline Wozniaki’ The current world number one. Played some decent tennis in her time but has never won a Slam. Whispers are getting louder that she’s playing loads of extra tournies a year just to bolster her ranking, but isn’t a real Slam contender. Needs a win quick before the Williams stop tweeting from their Miami sofas and return to the tour. Engraving trickiness rating: forename a dream, surname a nightmare.
‘Billie Jean King’ Would be first champion to win from the commentary box. She has the strong arms needed to get the ball to reach the court. Will be wearing a lot of nice trouser suits and sensible shoes (Kim take note). Chances of winning in 2011: better than Dinara Safina
Other women’s names Pascal might want to start thinking about: Zvonareva, Li, Azarenka, Kuznetsova, Petkovic, Kvitova.
‘Novak Djokovic’ The men’s game is mouth-wateringly brilliant at the moment and this is largely down to the Serbian. Constantly winning and constantly being expected to win leads to indescribable pressure, but Nole has withstood this force for six months now. If he were to win the French (and Wimbledon?) he would not only do himself a big service but the game of tennis too. If he can keep his head and tired, tired body together he can continue to break the Law of Nature that everyone loses now and then. Engraving trickiness rating: trickier to do than you might think.
‘Rafael Nadal’ For the first time in seven years Rafa’s chances of winning the crown are not as large as his left bicep. It just goes to show how well Djokovic is playing that Nadal is not the clear favourite. Rafa knows that Djok’s two clay trophies this season will mean next to nothing if Djok doesn’t secure the French too, so he will be fighting to his dying breath to win. Engraving trickiness rating: possible RSI risk over the years.
‘Roger Federer’ Roger has a slim chance to win. Although we think he still has two or three Slams left in him, it doesn’t feel like the 2011 French is one of them. Engraving trickiness rating: not tricky.
Other men’s names Pascal might want to starting thinking about: None.
Today people are asking the key question about Ol Rodge. Does he have hairy toes, or very hairy toes? Only Mirka knows, but she ain’t telling. So far, so pointless. So onto the lesser matter of what Ol Rodge thinks tennis is.
Yesterday Federer lost a very close match in the high-profile Italian Open against world number sixteen Richard Gasquet and lots of people have started the tennis obituaries for Feds. Despite the fact the internet is usually just a big old henhouse with a hell of a lot of clucking and very, very few eggs, the blogosphere may have a point this time. This is the first occasion in nine consecutive matches that he has lost to the nightclubber with the tres douce backhand.
Here is the piece of evidence that is most interesting:
“I should never have lost,” said Federer. “He knows how close he came to losing. I had multiple chances.”
Ol Rodge muttered this in the post match press conference with a slight undertone of menace as if Gasquet will be concerned he came close to losing. No Rodge, Richard will be blithely cock-a-hoop about it. That is the WHOLE POINT of the crazy existential experience we call a tennis match. You can be the loser (behind in the score) for 95% of the duration of the match, you can be VERY CLOSE to being the loser (0-5 0-40 down in the last set/three match points down), but you can still end up being the complete and utter winner. This is why we love tennis, it’s a little bit crazy like that. If you don’t get that, then you don’t get tennis. So the greatest tennis player of all time with 16 tin pots in the downstairs lav doesn’t get tennis?!?
But then you see Feds cry when he wins and cry when he loses and you know there is something pretty bloody special about this guy. He also reacted with Christ-like calmness when a tedious idiot tried to interrupt his triumphant claiming of his Career Slam. Will the real Roger please stand up? Oh what a contradictory yet quite interesting load of old nonsense that gives us bloggers a chance to cluck away. Clucky-clucky, cluck, cluck.
Anyway, suffice to say Rodge will rebound. Though he might not know how close he came to losing his understanding of what tennis is.