Report from Abroad: All of the lights.
There comes a moment in every girl’s life when a teeny little voice in her head says: “hey Doots, go to friggin Paris this weekend.”
It was this little voice I followed last Thursday, as I headed to the City of Lights where Bercy – the last Masters tournament of the year – just “happened” to be playing. Oh what a coincidence … right?
As a tournament, Bercy has always been considered the least of the Masters. Being the second last ATP tournament of the year, it is the one most plagued by pull outs, retirements and walkovers, populated by a partisan and often hostile crowd, and not to mention being played in quite possibly the most hideous stadium I have ever seen.
The POBP complex was built to resemble mossy molehill with grass growing out of its sides. Grass that could not be sat on, walked on or played on and thus serves no apparent purpose other than to scream “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME!” and perpetuate Paris’s unfortunate relationship with modern architecture.
Oh man, it all went downhill fast after the Eiffel Tower …
But architecture was not what I came to Paris to see, and luckily for me, the inside of the Bercy stadium had the energy and buzz of a heavyweight boxing contest: the dimmed lights, the club-like intro to every match, the excitable crowd and MC … everything about it was perfectly primed for hardcore tennistical showdown. After months of travelling, the atmosphere had me salivating for some live tennis action – namely Federer v Gasquet.
Despite booking tickets separately, Picket Fence readers Whynotme, jfK and myself managed to beat the slim odds and be allocated seats randomly next to each other. Didn’t take long for us to whip out the Roger merchandise …
Even though he was playing a Frenchman, a sizeable contingent in the crowd stood vocally behind Roger. This was somewhat an anomaly for this part of the world – the Parisian crowd has always had notorious reputation for partisanship. Normally I would disapprove of their eagerness to boo players at every opportunity, but as a spectator in and amongst them, it was fabulous.
Every emotion you felt from the stands was shared and heightened by those around you. Matches became far more interactive than they normally are. And despite my uneasiness about some of their behaviours, I’ll say this in defence of the Bercy crowd: they either treat a player like a slug or like their prodigal son, and they are just as likely to boo someone until his neck sinks back into his torso as they are to weep tears of joy at his triumphs like a horde of proud mamas.
Woger clearly fell within the “prodigal son” and “non-slug” categories as far as the French crowd was concerned. It was evident to all his opponents that Federer more or less enjoyed a “home crowd advantage” whenever he played in Paris, even against the Frenchies.
While at the tournament, I saw 3 of McFed’s matches – against Gasquet, Monaco and Berdych, and in all three, he was simply divine.
You forget about it during the year, but every indoor season, I am reminded of the reason why some of my favourite Federer wins have come at the year-end tournaments: there is something about Federer on an indoor hard court that is simultaneously devastating and stunning. It’s almost as if he does away from much of the subtleties in his game during the indoor season, and just decides to whip out a hammer and start bludgeoning his opponents off the court with scorching aggression. Never has violence been so entertaining.
Compared to the relative ease with which Federer wrapped up his first Bercy title, the other quarterfinals and semifinal I saw were more representative of the overarching themes of the indoor season – physical struggle. They were more about stamina, service games, tiebreaks, about keeping your head above water and your body injury free:
Berdych and Murray was a marathon of see-saw momentum, long rallies, never-ending games and a crowd cheering, groaning, throwing their arms about at every point being won or lost.
Tsonga v Isner was about French nationalism on full display – flags flying, feet stomping, chants echoing through the stadium, 10,000 people inhaling in unison – before erupting with revolutionary fervour when Tsonga danced around the court in victory … I arrived everyday nervous and pumped, and left each night with my ears ringing with the sounds of live sport.
Mahuteau. JUST BECAUSE.
To top off my days of perfection spent at the tennis, there is something about being in a foreign country that makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do, or more precisely – make requests you wouldn’t normally make …
Get your barfbags ready aaaaaand cue music.
In case you were wondering, I was
totally shitting myself … MULTIPLE TIMES cool about it, told him I was from Australia and wished I didn’t have toilet bowl hair wished him luck, then considered fainting into his open arms moved back to admire from afar.
Ahem. So yeah. One piece of advice – don’t look like such a complete retard if you ever meet someone you have a mild crush on.
Roger was so sweet with all his fans.
I never made it to the Bercy final. It seemed like a shame to come to Paris without seeing the city away from the grassy slopes of POPB, so on the advice of Paris local Whynotme, I headed out on finals Sunday for some
serial ice-cream eating culture at the Centre Pompidou, which instantly overtook the Bercy Stadium’s status as the Greatest Showoff of a Monstrosity in Paris. Oh Pareee, why?
Me: I LOVE *slurp* ICE CREAM! *slurp* IT’S MY FAVOURITE *slurp* THING IN THE WORLD. *slurp slurp slurp burp*
Whynotme: … Really?
Me: *slurp* OF COURSE!
Whynotme: You like ice cream more than you like Roger?
Me: …. okaynoidont.
This was before I had FLOWER SHAPED ICE CREAM though. Maybe I like FLOWER SHAPED ICE CREAM a little bit more than I like Roger. Just a little.
After a long day of grappling with “modern art” and ice cream, I finally got the call I was waiting for from Whynotme, who watched the final live.
“Wogie won!!” she screamed over the phone.
“UARRGGGHHHOMIGOSH! HE WON?!” I shrieked back in English, causing nearby French pedestrians to glare at me like I just farted into their sofa.
We met up later for food, celebration and an evening stroll along the Seine. Everything was so endlessly charming and quaint.
Perhaps it was because of Roger’s win, perhaps it was simply that Paris is so glitteringly handsome at night, but at that moment, I felt so completely sated with happiness.
P.S. Many thanks to all those I met up with in Paris for making my trip so perfect! You know who you are.