Great Sporting Moments: Roland Garros, Paris, 21:04hrs 29 May 2012

30 May

If I could only attend one Grand Slam tournament again it would be the French Open at Roland Garros. Forget soggy strawberries and cream (Wimbledon), players’ shoes melting into the court surface (Melbourne), or needing to register with Homeland Security (Flushing Meadow). Roland Garros in May has the unbeatable advantage of taking place in Paris where queues to enter are calmed by a classical four piece string quartet, multilingual ushers wear glamorous designer uniforms and the coffee is George Clooney’s favourite.

We bought 75 euro day tickets for the third day’s qualifing matches on the main court, Phillipe Chatrier, online just the night before. We had great seats in the Rene Lacoste stand for all four singles matches from 11am, as well as access to the surrounding courts. It was sheer luck of course but we scored two of the biggest names in the tournament, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams and expected to see them continue their march towards the next round. Not so.

Our warm up match was Francesca Schiavone’s defeat of Kimiko Date-Krumm 6:3 6:1 followed by French favourite Richard Gasquet who outplayed Estonian Jurgen Zopp 6:3 6:4 7:6. Gasquet is a relaxed, elegant and intelligent player. He’s slight of stature, especially compared with his hulking oponent whose serve was his strongest feature.

Then it was the match I was most excited to see, defending French Open champion and world men’s number two player Rafael Nadal playing Italian Simone Bolelli. Rafa walked on court dressed in black looking deeply tanned and relaxed. It was only when he’d stripped down to white shorts and a red shirt and ran on court with his trademark zigzag move that I got a shiver down my spine. Rafa was in the room! All the tics and rituals were on display, as well the man’s overwhelming muscularity. He is a shark, all devastating speed and power.

Sadly he wasn’t tested by Bolelli who had only one chance to pull back in the second set before Rafa put him out of his misery with a final score of 6:2 6:2 6:1.

And so to the final match of the day between Serena Williams and 111th ranked French woman Virginie Razzano. The visual and personality contrast between the two couldn’t have been greater. Serena’s legs are like ebony tree trunks and her shoulders are massive compared with Virginie who is built like a long distance runner. When Serena walked between points she almost lumbered while Virginie burnt herself out running to cover shots to the point where her left leg started cramping in the third set. Serena’s speed in her serve (200kph) and zinging baseline shots are her forte but she was clearly well off form.

But it was the difference in temperament that was the most telling in the three hour match. Serena behaved like a five-year old whenever she made an unforced error (and there were lots of those) waving her arms and racket around and crying in frustration whilst Virginie took her hindrance penality for making a noise gracefully even if the crowd didn’t. We booed and banged our chairs – unfair!

The crowd thinned considerably when Serena bagged the first set and looked like she was on track to win the second set however Virginie and the mainly partisan crowd remaining had other ideas. We made wave after Mexican wave and the cheers for Virginie came louder and stronger as she fought back and took the long tie break. From then on through what seemed like 50 match points in the final 25 minute game we willed Virginie to win until Serena finally hit the ball out. At 21:04 Paris time last night the Phillipe Chatrier score board read 4:6 7:6 (7/5) 6:3!

Virginie didn’t mention the loss of her husband to cancer last year in her on court interview, she simply thanked the crowd for supporting her and spoke of coming to the match with a feeling of ‘no limits’ which enabled her to play through painful cramps. Serena on the other hand seems hampered by her past and her emotional immaturity. Last night it cost her the game.

Photo Notes: I discovered my iphone has a zoom! Look for the Spanish woman in the red hat. No it’s not Rafa’s mother, just someone who thought she was going to a bull fight rather than the tennis. Schiavone is in the white top and Gasquet is wearing a pale blue shirt. The chap with Stuart is our good friend John who has kindly allowed us to share his holiday apartment in Paris this week.

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2 Responses to “Great Sporting Moments: Roland Garros, Paris, 21:04hrs 29 May 2012”

  1. Sally May 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Great commentary Sharon, thank you! I’m very jealous. I’d love to go to Wimbledon one year , alas financed prevent me. Enjoy x

  2. Michelle Noble May 31, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    What a great tournament! We saw some of the Williams’ match on primetime French TV – the French were ecstatic that Virginie got through. Fab shots especially the close up of THE hat – sorry for the guy behind though! Enjoy this unseasonably hot weather in France. M&B

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