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?
“Modern art”. Apparently.
(Just kidding, the permanent collection was actually wonderful.)
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.
Down Under Day 6: Oh you tease.
Q. You spoke on court after the match about the fact that your father worked here for a few months, and there was a chance for a while that the family could have emigrated to Australia. Could you elaborate on that?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t remember quite ‑‑ I was maybe 12, 14 years old. I remember actually my parents having a debate, are we moving away from Switzerland to come live over here.
At the end, they just said, Look, we have all our friends over here. And even though it’s lucrative and nice to go to Australia, they love the country, they also asked us kids. And we were like, whatever the parents decide. What are we gonna decide here?
So at the end they decided to stay in Switzerland. So, yeah, it was interesting time, you know, but it was quickly decided on. I think we even went ‑‑ I mean, went on vacation here maybe before I joined the National Tennis Center at 14.
We went on a big vacation here through Melbourne and Brisbane and Cairns and everything to maybe get a better idea of the country. Beautiful vacation, but at the end we decided to stay in Switzerland.
Q. What was your father doing out here? And secondly, Australia Day is coming up, and traditionally any new citizens who want to change nationalities choose that day to do it. You’ve still got time.
ROGER FEDERER: I would probably move first to South Africa than Australia, because I have that passport, too. No, my father was working in the paper industry. I don’t know how you call it in English. Ask him yourself. He’s in the corridor sometimes.
Hello Roger?! You big tease. WE’RE SO READY TO ADOPT YOU: you’re easygoing enough for this country. You play cricket. You’ve hired numerous Australians – EASING THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN THIS COUNTRY. Rod Laver loves you. The crowd loves you. I celebrate your puny left arm every Friday. You’d be the next Pat Rafter, but clothed.
COME TO MAMA!
Umm … back to the tennis. After a day of upsets and close shaves, Day 6 of the Australian Open turned out to be an underwhelming affair.
Roger Federer progressed safely past Montanes. After a sharp first set, Federer shanked a few backhands in the second and third sets and elicited a few miffed roars.
But he stayed solid on serve throughout, facing no breakpoints and only one deuce. Did what he had to do, and we’re safely through to the next round.
Oh, and Monkey made his 2010 debut today. Hi Monkey! Long time no see.
Roger’s history with his fourth round opponent plays like a broken record. Lleyton Hewitt may not be the player he once was, but he’s still one of the safest bets you can make for fourth round. He’s through after Marcos Baghdatis pulled out of their encounter, down 6-0 4-2 with a shoulder injury.
I’ll spare you the picture of Lleyton, how about Bec instead?
Looking back on the last few years, it seems that all my memories of Baghdatis involve him collapsing onto a court in pain, or getting some part of him rubbed during a medical time-out.
You can either blame the Tennis Gods for that, or you can blame Baghdatis’ level of fitness for allowing someone so young to spend so much of his career injured. And that part, he can control.
His shoulders certainly looked alright when he visited Brighton Beach today.
Dude, that’s not how you play cricket.
Let Roger show you.
See Roger? You’re definitely an Aussie inside.
In other matches of the day, Verdasco had an easy day at the office as Fed’s sometime hitting partner Stefan Koubek retired with an illness after losing the first set 6-1. Djoker needed no retirement to bonecrush a third round opponent ranked more than 100 places below him, defeating Istomin 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Talk about cupcakes, Nole faces Kubot in the fourth round.
You’ll excuse my peevishness at these presscon questions.
Q. Has the locker room respect for Davydenko grown over the past couple months?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: In my own opinion, I don’t look at him in a different way. I always had the respect for him because I always was aware of his quality as a player. He’s an incredible fighter.
As I said, he was one of the players that was kind of underestimated in the last five years. He’s already five years in a row in the top 10, top 5 in the world were you got to give him credit for that. Basically 80, 90% of tournaments he’s reaching quarters. That proves his quality.
Lately he just stepped it up. I think he feels it as well. He feels that he can beat anyone now.
Q. Are you still one of the least‑known players? Do you get bothered for your autograph? You said no one in London did at all. Are you becoming a little bit more…
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: If I go outside now here, it’s be difficult to do in autograph. But in the street in the city, yes it’s easy. Nobody recognize me and it’s good feeling really. Really good feeling.
Q. You live your life.
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: Yes. I like what ‑‑ how I enjoy my life, yes, like this.
Q. If you make the final, would you like to play on Margaret Court Arena? You’ve spent a lot of time out there. Are you disappointed that you haven’t played on center court yet?
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: No, no. Why? It’s always I know I starting here at Australia at Show Court 2, Margaret, then maybe Vodafone, like before was, yeah.
I don’t know. Rod Laver, it’s from quarterfinal always I starting to play. That’s was I think it’s good. I know I’m not like No. 1, No. 2 like always will need to play on center court.
But, if I know if I reach quarterfinal and I play center, it’s also good feeling, you know, like coming here, 2010, I play if center court Australian Open.
Lemme get this clear: For years, all the players and true tennis enthusiasts have known Kolya to be one of the most dangerous players to have never won a slam. Tennis media has been the one under-appreciating him all this time. And now they’re trying to spin a story of the charismatic Russian, overlooked by superficial fans and flashy fellow players, when they’re the ones doing the overlooking?
Oh just pass me a bucket.
Jo-Wills had a tougher time in his match, overcoming a slightly injured but spirited Tommy Haas. In probably the highest quality match of the day, the two went toe-to-toe for the majority of the first two sets. Haas lost his head a little in the third set, conceding it with a breadstick, but went up 5-3 in the fourth.
Just when Tommy was looking to level at 2 sets apiece, Jo-Wills mentally checked back into the set and simply overpowered and outgunned the German.
After the match, Jo took his time to show Jim Courrier how to properly do the happy-jump.
Gotta say, I like Jim, but he’s gotta stop cracking all these “dad jokes”. They bring back memories of personal trauma.
While it’s all about the two Belgians on the women’s side of the draw, it’s easy to forget that for the first time in tennis history, two Chinese women, Li Na and Zheng Jie, have made it through to the fourth round of a slam.
Just goes to show how much I know about the Chinese players – both Li Na and Zheng Jie are married to their coaches. How when why?
Q. Are you talking with Zheng during this (slam) process?
NA LI: Yeah, we are talking a lot. We can go like eat together and shopping together. We are not against, so we are friends. (Laughter.)
Q. Both you and Jie Zheng are married and have a coaching husband. So this relationship works pretty well for a woman’s tennis player?
NA LI: I think they have different player. I don’t know how is another player. For me, if my husband come with me, if I have something, I can just talk to him next second. We can communication fast. I think for me it was the best way. I don’t know how is another player. Everyone is different. Yeah.
Li Li Na Na is closing in on her goal of making the Top 10 in 2010 after defeating Daniela Hantuchova in 3 sets in one of the more competitive matches of the day.
The two were evenly matched in both their shot-making abilities and brainfarts, but Li was by far the more athletic one of the two.
Watching Dani’s beautiful ball-striking today, I couldn’t help but wonder what would her career have been like if she came with just 20% more mobility. How can someone so slender and light move with such heavy feet?
In other matches, Serena and Venus continued their march towards a semi show-down as they both overpowered their opponents to reach the fourth round. Very impressed with Venus’ elevated form so far this tournament, not so impressed with the banana peel dress.
Venus has to watch out next round, as she faces a red hot Francesca Schiavone, after Franny pretzeled Aga 62 62 to equal her best ever performance at the Australia Open. Vika, Carol and Zvoom Zvoom Zvonareva also made it solidly through to the next round, all in straight sets.
See what I mean about an underwhelming day of tennis?
Thief! Who stole Roger Federer’s forehand? It was YOU Juan Monaco. Oh yeth … feel the death glares of my Federeralist jury. We hereby find you guilty as charged, now give it back to Roger!
Seriously though, I tuned in during the third set of Murray v Monaco, and floved every minute of Juan’s fearless play. But a short note on Andy Murray – I’m eating my slice of humble pie this week after backing him to win Rome in tennis tipping. Now we just need Novak Djokovic to fall before the finals for all my freaktastic predictions to go awry. In my defence, the style of play Andy brought to the second set against Rafa in Monte Carlo showed me at least that he could potentially do well on this surface – playing aggressively, attacking more and cracking the ball the way he does on a hard court. Living up to this potential, however, is another matter. The mind is a tricky thing, and the Andy Murray of yesterday slightly resembled the moody prepubescent teenage boy he used to be prior to last year.
Other thoughts for the day
Ernests Gulbis is starting to disappoint me. A string of first round exists of late has made him rather forgettable. But thumbs up for making it past Almagro before losing to Reeshie in 3.
Richard Gasquet has won 2 matches in a row, on the same day no less. I believe it’s best that I continue ignoring him.
Also ‘ignoring’ Roger Federer who scored a victory over Dr Ivo sans tiebreaks. As boring as you like.
The big news on the WTA side of things is that Victoria Azarenka went out to Gisela Dulko. But actually there’s not much to it – Vika was just coming back from an injury, and Dulko on clay is no pushover, quite the opposite in fact – as a member of Team Dootsie’s dark horses for the WTA clay season.
In other news: Alize Cornet, has lost back to back matches against Daniela Hantuchova on clay. Meanwhile Lisicki continues to her funky ways, infecting the tennis world with her happy fist pumps and a 64 63 win over Patty Schnyder.
JJ destroyed Dominika Cibulkova 61 61, how much of it was because JJ played good tennis and how much was because Dominika’s on a slippery slope down is debatable. Nevertheless, I take this as a good sign that she’s on the up again. After her disastrous winter/Australian hard court season, I was tempted to drop JJ from my Clay Season All Stars, but she’s tentatively raising her form again, and I wish her the best of luck in defending her Rome title for the zillionth time next week. So long as she gets her movement back before Roland Garros, I like her chances of winning her first slam.
What’s going on with Anna Chakvetadze? Like Cornet, she suffered back-to-back pwnage by her Fed Cup conquerer – Flavia Pennetta. Back in the day, I used to be quite fond of Anna, before she turned into an insecure, emotional powderpuff on me.
Your thoughts …