Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Day at the Courts

Paris had been ripe with tennis fever for days. The French Open was underway and everyone was abuzz with talk about the winners, losers and unexpected stars of the famous red-clay tournament. As luck would have it, I got invited to attend the men's final between the #1 and #2 ranked Federer and Nadal. Waking up this morning - the day of the big game - I was as excited as a kid on Christmas. Ready to don my best outfit (the one I wear when I need to pretend I'm a chic Parisian, not a comfort-loving Midwesterner) and take in a bit of sport, I hoped that tennis' top stars would give the crowd a good show.

Now, there are a couple of things that you need to know about the French Open. For starters, the French don't call it the French Open, they call it Roland Garros, which is the name of the tennis complex that the hosts the event. This seems confusing to me since there are presumably other tennis events that take place at Roland Garros. Are they called Roland Garros too? But I guess we call it Wimbledon because it's played at Wimbledon (as do the French) so maybe they're are on to something here. In addition to the name, you also need to know that the court looks so much smaller in real life than it does on TV. I know, everyone says that when they finally see a famous person, place or thing with their own eyes, but it's true. It looks impressive on TV; in person it's just a little tennis court.

But the most important thing to know that the crowd was behind Federer the entire time. Random cries of "Roger, you can do it!" and "Don't forget you're ranked #1!" could be heard throughout the match. Sure, there were Nadal supporters as well (mostly flag-waving Spaniards), but every time Nadal made a good play everyone would simply clap in that polite tennis-clapping kind of way. When Federer did something good the stands erupted into shouts and whoops. Unfortunately, we were not to be treated to a knock-down, drag-out racket battle that day. Nadal took the match in three quick sets, and as the last volley was played you could feel the tension in the stadium, as if everyone was hoping that some miracle would occur and Federer would beat all the odds to come from behind and at least make a show of it. But alas, he did not. As he gave his post-match speech he said he hoped to be back next year. The crowd went wild. Looking forward to it, Roger.

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