Spared from the worst of the weather, it has been a busy first week at Roland Garros. In the stands, between two exhibition matches from Rafael Nadal, we have sung “cocrico”, discovered a new Belgian talent, and seen Mikhail Youzhny act strangely. That, however, we’ve seen before.
Come-back of the weekApparently, Paul-Henri Mathieu has been missing tennis. After a 15-month absence from competitive play, the Strasbourg native has been one of the stand-out performers of the first week. Working to create the most fairytale story possible, “Paulo” has been putting in long hours sliding around on the Parisian clay. Three matches, fifteen sets and an exceptional duel with John Isner have been enough to see him win back the hearts of the French public, despite kicking around in the lower reaches of the ATP rankings. However, he has got to stop hitting himself so hard on the chest. It’s an injury waiting to happen.
The week in numbers13 - The number of Frenchmen in making it to the second round. Never since 1971 has there been so many. A chance for the more recreational tennis fans to acquaint themselves with the temperamental Benoît Paire, and for the romantics to bid “adieu” to Arnaud Clément, who has slid around the Auteuil clay for the last time. 17 - The number of games conceded so far by Rafael Nadal after three rounds of action… At the peak of his powers, the Majorcan has swept aside Bolelli (6-2 / 6-2 / 6-1), Istomin (6-2 / 6-2 / 6-0), and then Schwank (6-1 / 6-3 / 6-4). It would seem that champions don’t waste time in the early rounds.
Olympics: The big winners are…Yet another setback for French women’s tennis. After her defeat in the third round to Sloane Stephens of the USA, the stunning Mathilde Johansson – the last Frenchwoman capable of qualifying for the London Games – has seen her Olympic dreams vanish. Marion Bartoli, the only Frenchwoman high enough in the world rankings to be eligible to participate is not being considered for selection due to an ongoing dispute with the FFT. In the men’s draw it is much simpler - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils (health permitting) will go to London, and not just to stand idly by.
Image of the weekIt’s just the way Mikhail Youzhny is - unpredictable, and with a touch of the weird about him, but always pleasant to the fans. Although understandably disappointed with his performance against the intractable David Ferrer, the Russian nonetheless took the time to etch out “Sorry” in the Roland clay with his racket. Apologies which did little to lessen the beating he took off the Spaniard, going down in straight sets, 6-0 / 6-2 / 6-2, but which are still better than taking a racket to his head.
The most unlikely of matchesAt 26 and 21 years-old respectively, Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov, who met in the second round, are far from being the most senior players on tour. Yet, following a long exchange at the end of the second set, both of them suddenly appeared very old. Following on-court vomiting brought on by lactic acid reflux from the Frenchman, the Russian responded in kind, suffering from a serious attack of cramps. These must undoubtedly be two of the best-conditioned players on tour…
The most beautiful moment of the weekDavid against Goliath. His Belgian passport says that David Goffin is 21 years old. Although to look at his face, we’d say this “lucky loser” from the qualifying rounds isn’t a day over 16. The revelation of the tournament, Arnaud Clément’s conquerors story could come straight from the annals of Jim’ll Fix It. As a teenager growing up he freely admits his bedroom wall was covered with posters of Roger Federer, so the Goffin house must have shook to its foundations when he found himself up against the Swiss great. Beaten in four sets, our David had the chance to chat for a few long minutes with his idol, and Roger got the chance to relive his first meeting with Sampras, also in the last 16 of a Grand Slam, albeit as the idol, rather than the idolizer.
In all the excitement, the players are getting hungryWhat links Kavcic, Krajinovic, Mannarino, Souza, Phau, Haas, King and the serene Stéphanie Foretz-Gacon? It is both simple and humiliating. They have all been “bagelled” (losing a set 6-0). First prize, though, goes to the venerable Tommy Haas, who went back for seconds against Richard Gasquet (6-7 / 6-3 / 6-0 / 6-0).
Tweet of the WeekLike many other players, Janko Tipsarevic profits from his stop at Roland Garros to take in the splendor of Paris…
A car going like 60kmh almost hit a skater right in front of me…Now I’m really awake…By Swann Borsellino.