Wednesday, May 31, 2006

French Open Observations I: National scissor kicks?

For those of us in the western hemisphere, the French Open--oops, I mean Roland Garros, I'm such a silly American!--is really the first Grand Slam of the year. It is next to impossible to follow the Australian given ESPN's insistence on covering it live which means very late nights for me and I am just not as young as I used to be. I can't pull all-nighters for tennis anymore.
Of course I am not quite an early bird either which is what one has to be if you want to see all 10 hours of daily coverage of RG. In my part of the country coverage starts at 4am. The only reasons I am up at 4am is either to go to the bathroom because I drank a whole Nalgene right before bed or to fight off the bats that keep finding their way into my house. But I digress before I even begin...
So it's only day 4 (there was a Sunday start for the first time ever in Grand Slam history which irritated some people) but some interesting things have happened and of course there are many possibilities for future interesting things.
As I write Venus Williams has just pulled out the first set in a tiebreaker after being down 2 breaks against Finn Emma Laine (whose first athletic desire was to be a hockey goalie--you go girl!). Williams is Mary Jo Fernandez's darkhorse pick and of course "America's best hope" which I have heard about 2 dozen times already in a mere 4 days.
This leads me to an observation I made this morning while watching the matches as I ellipticalled (new word). [Because while I don't organize my sleep schedule around tennis, I do organize my gym visits to coincide with the key matches.] New this year on the scoreboard graphic shown in the top lef corner of the screeen is the player's nationality. I have commented on the odd relationship with national origin that tennis has in the past (I am too lazy to find the link right now). And I guess I still find it curious that in an event that has nothing inherently to do with nationality, that this aspect of a player's identity is being broadcast pretty overtly. I don't find it particularly problematic--at least I haven't find a problem with it--yet. I just think it's curious. And of course nationality does matter to the crowd. Mauresmo being French of course helps her (well in the past it has hindered her as she buckled under pressure--it's ok Amelie--I still love you!). And certain nationalities seem to be more accepted by the French crowd, but in the grand (slam) scheme of things it seems to matter little except to provide material upon which commentators make odd remarks.
Case in point: Mary Carillo, who I usually enjoy, made several comments today during Mauresmo's win over--oh crap, one of those Russians--oh yeah Vera Dushevina*, about sometimes her being a little too French for Mary because she adds certain flair-like elements to her game at times like scissor kicks on her backhands.
I think it's hot. Mary thinks it's somehow innately French. Of course I didn't see Gasquet doing any scissor kicks of drop volleys off of lobs in his stunning loss to David Nalbandian (who is seeded 3--where did that come from? talk about under the radar).
Venus is up a break in the second for all of you clinging voraciously to "America's best hope."
Next time: the interesting things you find out just by reading the women's doubles draw.

*OK I couldn't just let this one go. Carillo was pondering why Dushevina changed the spelling of her name. Last year she went by Douchevina and so Carillo is calling this her "stage name." Seriously, Mary--you don't know why she might have changed the spelling of her name?! Hopefully one of her producers pointed it out to her during the break.


Diane said...

I must not have made myself clear (not unusual); I wasn't irritated by the early start, just taken by surprise, I guess. I'm not even irritated by the commentators yet, but that will come, I'm sure.

I know what Mary C. is talking about: Whereas, in previous slams, Mauresmo hasn't had enough adrenalin, she appears to have almost too much in this one. The scissors-kick backhand and the crab-walk drop shot are a load of fun to watch, but she is getting a little too show-offy for her own good.

So Ken, am I the only one who thinks Gonzales may upset Nadal?

ken said...

I didn't think you were irritated, Diane; I was talking about Sharapova's whining about the French Federation exploiting her.
I too get a little worried when Mauresmo is trying tricky shots--but I don't think it has anything to do with her being French.
Indeed--I think you may be the only person who thinks Gonzales can upset Nadal. (I actually haven't thought about the men's draw too much. The men at the French just aren't that interesting to me--especially in the early rounds. Maybe something exciting will happen though to make me change my mind.)

Diane said...

Well, Gonzales seems to be in a bit of trouble right now, so I may have to toss that theory out soon. I just find his clay play very impressive and think he might be in a "nothing to lose" state of mind.

Ah, yes...Sharapova, who lives to be exploited, and then complains about it.

When Mary C. talks about the Mauresmo stuff being "French," she means "French flair"--she even says that sometimes. Artistic. That something special. Ooh la la. That sort of thing.