B**itch and Sing Dept: At The French Open

A flood of TV coverage, but is it really great tennis?

We’re turning the corner on Saturday at the French Open, and all the ducks are being lined up in readiness for the Round of 16 on Monday. The networks are working overtime to bring this massive event to us, and today NBC got into the mix. Snoresville. I think I know the reason why tennis may be faltering in America.

Here’s how it works. NBC got what they probably thought were the two marquee matches of the day, Sharapova and Nadal. But they were playing nobodies, so the matches got extremely boring very quickly. Assume you are a would-be fan looking at the game afresh. You’ve heard tons about both these players but after a few games you’ve seen all there is to see about Sharapova. She is not the most attractive woman by any means in this field, you discover, her ankles are a bit thick, her body seems unformed still, she’s still getting pimples like a schoolgirl. And those shrieks. Oi! Enough already. Besides, she is just blitzing her opponent. Somebody from somewhere.

It was so bad even NBC couldn’t stand the torture: they picked the match up at the start of the second after Sharapova blitzed the poor girl 6-1 in the first. And this Nadal guy. He’s pretty big on the vocals too, and that hand to the backside is a regular enough shot, just like the guy’s forehand. A little bit goes a long way, our new fan may be thinking. We may have the personalities, but where in blazes is the tennis?

Personality only takes you so far. You need the beef. That’s the missing part. And that is why I kept turning away from NBC and going back to my earlier taping from The Television Chanel (TTC) portion of the morning schedule. TTC was showing a few interesting matches. With REAL tennis going on. But of course the personalities are unknown.

Would anyone bet that NBC might cut away from this chronic boredom to the lesser names who are playing REAL tennis? Not a chance in hell. And that’s a shame because their picture comes out best on my TV but I still don’t care about watching it. What was unfortunate in the top of the hour changeover from TTC to NBC was that we were left near the end of a fabulous-looking match, Djokovic and Patience.

They had just concluded the fourth set tiebreaker, and now we were headed into the fifth. Would NBC like to finish it for us? Ha, what land are you from, pray tell? Djoko got lost in the sauce somewhere. Surely TTC might show us the conclusion later in the day but you never know. Tennis should involve personalities but it still has to show some good tennis. The early rounds seldom produce both at the same time. We need the semis or the final for that. How do we communicate this effectively to the networks involved? If anyone has ideas, please step up to the plate(!)

We don’t know the outcome of Djokovic and Patience, but we do know that Amelie Mauresmo bit the dust again before the home crowd. Lucie Safarova brought her big game today and Mauresmo faltered again in the nerve department, after getting up 3-0 in both sets. 6-3, 7-6(3) was the final score.

We’ve been singing Lucie’s praises since her breakthrough in Paris at the Gaz Open. She went on to dust Mauresmo at the Australian Open so I picked her to get by Mauresmo again. Lucie has a great game, in some ways it’s like watching Tomas Berdych play but without the angst and indecision-making that he goes through.

The two are dating and they bear an uncanny resemblance in their style of play. Lucie hit long, smooth, deep shots that move fast through the court pinning Amelie well behind the baseline. She served big today and made lots and lots of trips into the net. She plays with no fear and plenty of aggression. We could have hoped some of this would rub off on Mauresmo, this is exactly the style she needed to play. But her serving let her down in the third set, her forehand went astray and the nerves pretty much took over.

“I have been struggling for weeks now,” said Mauresmo. “And coming here I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t really have a goal in mind – I was taking it match by match. It showed today that when you’re not prepared the way you should be, it makes it very difficult.”

The crowd seemed nearly prepared for the loss this time, they must be resigned. Amelie may be living in Switzerland now (like a number of the French players actually) but she clearly still feels the heat in her native land.

The other night I speculated on the draw and noticed how a storybook tale could be shaping up for Roger Federer: what if he goes out and dusts off Filippo (“The Laundry”) Volandri in the quarters, then Canas in the semifinals, and Nadal in the final? It’s possible, and after Volandri beat up Ljubicic in five sets, Volandri could meet up with Federer.

If ever a man had a clear shot at becoming the Luke Skywalker in this moment, it’s the Number One player. It would be great for tennis and it would be great for Roger. He should have to wade through the deadliest pack of guys out there, the ones who have caused him angst before. Are you salivating at the prospect, Roger? Does it keep you up nights? After all, if he is going to win the French for the first time, he should really really win it in style and crush all his enemies.

See Also:
Lucie Leaps in: The Gaz Open