Friday May 29th, 2009

While marveling that Dinara Safin has dropped four games in three matches....

Can we all agree that the french (intentional lack of capitalization) fans at Roland Garros are amongst the most ignorant and boorish fans in all the world? These are fans who boo people for requesting that the chair umpire come check the lines (heaven forbid, check the lines on clay). Their treatment of players like Sharapova (last year), the Williams sisters (every year) is just appalling. Players have to continually adjust their playing styles in order not to excite the ever ready boos and jeers of the fans in Lenglen or Chatrier. I think we would agree that the French Open would be much more pleasant to watch if we could fill the stands with fans from, let's say, North Carolina? -- George Ellis, Cincinnati

• Yeah, those decorous fans from North Carolina. That's exactly what we need.

Honestly, I can't work up much outrage here. To generalize, the French fans are too quick to boo and whistle. (I like it when they boo players requesting the chair to check a mark; then, even when the player is right and the ball was called incorrectly, they continue booing.) Still, it strikes me as harmless. They're not rioting. They're not throwing stale baguettes at the athletes. They're not doing the wave, which ceased to be voguish in 1987. Oh wait, scratch that last one. But they just want to be part of the show.

My beef (or beouf?) has to do with the spotty attendance. The French Federation reports that ticket sales are brisk. (And revenues are sufficient to build a roof over the stadium.) Yet when the cameras pan the crowds, there are oceans of empty seats. We're talking a few hundred fans in the stadium, even when big-name players are on the court. Rush Limbaugh would draw a bigger crowd at Vassar. Not sure what's going on here, but it looks terrible on television.

Just to try to get a laugh, my nickname submittals (a few of them may be a bit arcane):

ATP

Gael "Storm" Monfils Jo-Wilfried "Singa the" Tsonga "Can You Hear the Drums?" Fernando Gonzales Jurgen "Lotion" Melzer Julien "United Colors of" Benneteau Nicolas Devilder "Is in DeDetails"

WTA

Maria "Swords into Plow" Sharapova Alisa "Feet of" Kleybanova Iveta "United Colors of" Benesova Daniela "Gotta" Hantuchova Anna-Lena Groenfeld "Of Dreams" Alla "Girls Like to Dance But Only Some of the Boys Do" Kudryavtseva -- Michael Chacon, Santa Fe, N.M.

• When you're e-mail address is "@us.army.mil" you get special dispensation.

Dude, you are killing me! Andre Agassi is not "'arguably' the best returner ever", he is "'inarguably' the best returner ever." I mean, one could argue with you as to whether Agassi is the best returner ever but would you take that argument seriously? -- Darise, Amherst, Mass.

• Dude, you're killing me. I would think a few fans of Jimmy Connors or Rafael Nadal would argue your inarguable claim.

This Serena thing has gone waaaay to far. She is not No. 1 because she is not No. 1. She is No. 2. If she becomes No. 1, then she will be No. 1. Consentez-vous? -- David, Coral Spring, Fla.

• My head hurts from all that math logic. And you're asking me a question in French.

First Novak Djokovic with his bright blue shoes. Now Rafael Nadal with his pink shirt. Are these guys color blind, or what? I watch tennis for the tennis, but I'm finding myself distracted by all these bright colors. It used to be the women's outfits we talked about. My, how things have changed! -- Kris, Norwalk, Conn.

• It gives us something to discuss during these early rounds. I have no problem with it whatsoever.

Please count me in as a new fan of Jelena Jankovic's post-match interviews. She's a very entertaining and engaging person. -- Luke, New York City

• Consider yourself counted. I liked this back and forth:

Q: United States and Serbia are obviously two very different countries, but say if Obama came to a tennis tournament, people would freak out and so forth. What was it like having the President of Serbia here yesterday and what kind of guy is he? Good guy? Not so good? What's the deal?

Jankovic: What kind of question is that?

It was really a pleasure to have the president come out yesterday and we had lunch, and we had a meeting with all the Serbian players. For us it's really an honor to have him come here and support us. ... We are a small country. Before we were not good in tennis. We did not have a tradition in tennis, but now we became really a force in tennis, and we are all very proud of that, and we are very young, as well. So we have many years to play, and hopefully we will make even bigger success in the future.

Q: Do you think he follows tennis?

Jankovic: He does follow tennis.

Q: Did he give you any tips or...

Jankovic: He gave us some tips yesterday. I actually didn't know that. Did you know if you eat fruit after the meal you get fat?

Q: No.

Jankovic: (Laughter.) Really. But not in the morning. If you eat it late in the afternoon or in the evening, it turns into fat. That's sugar. This is something I heard for the first time.

Q: But anything about the game itself? Anything about the game of tennis itself, aside from conditioning?

Jankovic: No, no. He's not a tennis -- how do you say?

Q: Aficionado?

Jankovic: Yeah, he's not a tennis expert. He's the president. He has his job.

You'll have to forgive your readers' incredulity when it comes to predicting Serena's chances at the slam. Think about it: in what other professional sport is there a competitor who cannot be counted out of a major championship, preparations and match record notwithstanding? Indeed, has there ever been a player on the ATP Tour who, in your words, defies "the usual metrics?" I think I just gave you the subject of your next book. -- Henry Su, Mountain View, Calif.

• Thanks. I picked Serena as much to make a point as anything else. With the possible exception of her sister, no player makes a greater mockery of conventional tennis wisdom. All the usual factors -- momentum, track record on the surface, recent results, ranking points at stake -- lose their relevance. How many times have we seen Serena lose dismally in a tune-up and then arrive at the major an unrecognizably different player? The critics are within their rights to assert that real champions don't oscillate so wildly. Still, I'd rather a player lose in Istanbul or Charleston and play her best at the majors than vice versa.

Tennis Channel is streaming live and on demand French Open matches. Why in the world did you not tell me? I've missed four days of tennis viewing at work. -- David, Coral Spring, Fla.

• Sorry. I usually try to do my part to stifle workplace productivity.

• New York readers welcome.

Aravene Rezai beats Michelle Larcher de Brito and then furnished a great line that could double as a song lyric. "My English is bad, but I feel so good."

Tennis Channel Martina Navratilova Signature series debuts on Tennis Channel on June 8 at 7:30 p.m. -- the day after the French Open (lots more airings later in the month).

• Our moles tell us that tennis fans will be interested in the upcoming issue of FHM Magazine.

Jongseong Park, of Paris: "At the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul where I worked as an interpreter the past two years, I doubled as a transcriber of the interviews I interpreted for. When transcribing, one generally omits non-verbal fillers like 'um,' but includes words like 'you know' unless they become too repetitive. Minor grammatical corrections are made, such as filling in some missing articles ['I played a good match" instead of 'I played good match'], but word choices are left intact ['I did too many mistakes.'] The key is to minimize the ungrammatical elements so that what the player meant can be accurately conveyed. With minor exceptions, this does come down to recording all the words that were uttered, including Rafa's rhetorical 'nos'. These are for raw transcriptions, though, and journalists who incorporate quotations into their articles are generally expected to clean them up further. That goes for most instances of journalism, not just tennis. So preserving Rafa's 'nos' in finished articles as opposed to raw transcripts certainly can be interpreted as a conscious decision to convey the grammatical idiosyncrasies of a non-Anglo player, no?

• Can we discuss the fact that Nadal qualified for the year-end championships after ONE Slam?!?

This week's Long Lost Siblings:

Ernests Gulbis and Bones' actor John Francis Daley

To order a copy of Jon Wertheim's' new book, Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, click here.

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