French Open 2006: first round

Diego Hartfield was playing his first regular ATP tennis match at age twenty-five. Unfortunately his opponent was Roger Federer and the tournament was the French Open. You could tell that Hartfield wasn’t used to the big stage, he wore dark underwear under his white shorts. Otherwise he acquitted himself well. After losing the first set by a respectable 5-7 score, he had Federer down 15-30 at 5-5 in the second set. Federer came to the net and Hartfield had a great opportunity to pass him down the line and get a break point but he put the ball into the net. Since Hartfield is already twenty-five he’s not likely to set the tour on fire but it could happen and, if it does, he’ll learn that good players don’t miss opportunities like that. Federer won the match 7-5, 7-6(2), 6-2.

Two American men survive. Blake beat Srichaphan and will meet Almagro next. Kevin Kim won his first round match. What is the farthest he’s even gone at any slam? Oh never mind. He meets Nadal in the next round.

ATP fantasy tennis players must be breathing easy. No big player has gone down yet. A lot of people have picked Stepanek and Gaudio but we won’t know until the next round if Baghdatis can take out Stepanek – I doubt it, he’s still awkward on clay – or Ferrero can take out Gaudio.

Smallfry, a member of our subleague (, has nominated Santoro for the Frozen Chicken award. It goes to the player “whose game is hard to dismantle and refuses to be put away.” Maybe Acasuso needs a pair of poultry shears, he finally managed to subdue Santoro, 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 1-6, 11-9. I have a feeling there might be more nominations as the Open moves on. Feel free to make your own nomination.

Mauresmo looks spunky. Megan Shaughnessy had just broken her to get back to 4-4 in the second set after Mauresmo had won the first set. Mauresmo broke back immediately and even did a jump scissors kick complete with fist pump to celebrate an overhead winner. She then served out the set for a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Big sigh of relief for the French contingent.

It’s interesting to see how players insulate themselves on the tour. Players tend to shut out the fans and play only to their retinue. Mauresmo directed her celebratory dance towards her coach, Loïc Courteau. Sharapova is one of the worst. When she start to mishit balls, she slumps and looks at her father in the stands. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the Sharapova living room watching, silently, while the two of them play out an elaborate father/daughter family ritual replete with cheering, complaining, whining and, sometimes, resolution.

I would really prefer to be included but I do understand. Read the first post of Rafael Nadal’s French Open blog. If you’re rich and famous it means dining with kings and jetting to Barcelona for the evening. I know life is tough when the hardest decision you have to make is whether to walk your sister or your mother down the red carpet of a huge media event, the celebrity sports world is a very insular, make believe affair, but Nadal also has to deal with fans turning up at his house. On Center Court, Chris Meyers’ interview show on The Tennis Channel, Nadal said that fans come to his house looking for him. On one occasion, his uncle/coach Toni, who lives in the same building, simply went upstairs and brought Nadal down so the fans could have a photo taken with Nadal. That’s perfectly fine until a crazy person turns up. But [blockquote]what happens when an idiot with a gun or a knife wants to make a name for himself?

I once lived next door to a house that Mick Jagger owned in Manhattan. He could not walk the twenty feet from his car to his front door unless a security guard was glued to his side. That is scary.

Players insulate themselves for emotional reasons too. Once a player has a meltdown or misbehaves in a tournament, footage of that behavior will become a permanent part of that player’s broadcast profile. As Hingis warmed up for her match today with Lisa Raymond, there it was again, footage of Hingis’ complete meltdown against Steffi Graf in the 1999 French Open final. She was so distraught at having failed to win after serving for the match that she left the court and her mother had to drag her back for the awards ceremony. As soon as Henin-Hardenne appeared for her first round match, footage of her Aussie Open breakdown accompanied her.

Nadal is very open and friendly in his blog. He describes his day to day life with details that most players don’t share. I hope he keeps his openness and friendly attitude throughout his career. I’d hate to see him change. But I would understand.

By the way, if you think Sharapova is the only one who ever sold sex for the WTA, check out this image of Mary Pierce stretched across a bench wearing a gown that barely holds her in place. She’s wearing stiletto heels and exposing plenty of thigh. Even with the clay court and the net in the background, this would be too racy for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. S.I. models are totally unthreatening. In this pose, Mary looks like she’s posing for a dominatrix magazine. Yes, ma’am, whatever you say. Here’s a pose that might have been in the swimsuit issue. Sultry. But unthreatening.