Friday May 28th, 2010

A quick baguette for Friday. We'll be back Sunday with Midterm Grades...

Are the French Open crowds normally so small? It just looks like the stands are empty, even matches with French players. --Jessica Luther, via Twitter

• Right. You'd be right to wonder how the French Open can think about relocating to a bigger facility when so many prime seats on the big courts go unoccupied? The reality: It's a cramped venue. But you'd never know it watching on TV. No one sees the masses standing seven-deep on Court 8. They see vast pastures of unoccupied seats behind the baseline -- the ticketholders arriving unfashionably late or in the hospitality tents eating brie -- and rightfully wonder, "How relevant can this event be when so few are watching in person?"

Regarding Nadal's English and Mike from Boston's complaints: Nadal's forte is, as you so correctly noted, tennis. He is not a public speaker ... in English, Spanish, or Mallorcan, his native language. I am an ESL instructor. Teaching and learning other languages as an adult -- especially a slightly busy one -- is not a cakewalk. Nadal's English has improved a great deal, and I find the occasional wobbles charming. I only regret that you did not ask Mike from Boston how many languages other than English he speaks, and if he does, what the entertainment value is of him giving a presser in any one of them other than English. My personal bet is that he speaks only English, and perhaps not "perfectly." By the way, I believe that Nadal has also learned French along the way. So that's four languages in which he can "meet the press." That impresses me. Anyone else? --Thea Broma, Arlington, Texas

• I'm really surprised by how much passion this topic has aroused. I read this review and thought it add to the discussion.

Keith of Seattle retells an old joke: "What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? An American." But not everyone agrees. Tony of Brooklyn: "Wow, you are so off the mark in regard to Nadal's poor command of the English language. He's a top player in a global sport where everyone speaks English. He's not on Mallorca anymore. He's a citizen of the world, and spends most of his time traveling in places where Spanish is not spoken but English is. By not learning English he comes across as a big hulking stupid jock."

Final word -- in English -- goes to Sarmad from Fremont, Calif.: "Just regarding Mike from Boston's concern about Rafa's English. I noticed that he hadn't improved too much in his RG interview myself, but as far as I'm concerned I'd rather see him duking it out with Federer in many more finals than worrying about his English."

Sam Querrey's French Open effort was disappointing, but I was more bothered by his decision to pull out of doubles. Wouldn't a true professional -- who wasn't injured -- keep his commitment to his doubles partner and stay in the event rather than going home and sulking? --Chris, Austin, Texas

• You're a young up-and-coming top 20 player who's had some success on clay. You lose your first match at Roland Garros -- to no one's clay court specialist -- and then complain that you tanked and just wanted to get off the court? THAT is disappointing. As for doubles, keep in mind that Querrey a) is no specialist and was likely just entered for some extra scratch and b) is partners with a friend, so is likely comfortable with drawing. True, the professional move would have been to stick around (see: Federer in Rome). But overall, I think it is much less concerning than Querrey's crack-up in singles.

Why doesn't the tennis federation go back to plain white shirts (with a collar) and plain white shorts for both the men and women. If they don't like it, send them home. I am sick of all the "skin" being shown. I want to watch the tennis, not their T&A. --William Hamilton, Florida

• Plain white? Why, if Maria Sharapova's dress flew up, it might create the illusion of exposing her real skin!

Do you agree that Marcelo Rios was the greatest waste of talent ever? If so, does Gasquet get honorable mention? I do not count Nastase because I think that he thrice won the year end Masters. Where do Gulbis, Coria and Monfils come in to this equation? --Russell Greenidge, Key West, Fla.

• No question Rios should have won a major or two. But let's be honest: He did get to No. 1! I think too often we talk about wasted talent and look at the top. Safin. Berdych. Kournikova. Even Serena. The real waste of talent is the guy who had the requisite skills and never made it on tour.

Seriously Jon, what happened to the seed reports? It's just not a Slam without them. Hope they make a comeback for Wimbledon! --Anonymous

• Between my vacation and the Sunday start, the timing didn't work. We'll do it before Wimbledon.

• There seems to be some confusion but let's be clear: NBC will air the Roland Garros finals live.

• New York readers. Here's an upcoming tennis benefit.

• The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies has reached an agreement with the Southern California Tennis Association to become the title sponsor of the historic ATP World Tour 250 and Olympus U.S. Open Series men's professional tennis tournament held each summer at UCLA. The event will now be called the Farmers Classic. The 84th edition will be held July 26-August 1 on UCLA's campus in Westwood.

Maggie Maggio of Brooklyn, N.Y.: "I have to think that all of these people complaining about Nadal and Gasquet/Murray on Lenglen have never been to a major tournament. As a lifelong New Yorker and attender of eight-plus U.S. Open sessions each year, I fondly remember the days when Roger and Rafa played on Louis Armstrong and even seeing Murray on the Grandstand in '08 and '07. In Ashe, and I'm going to guess (even though I've haven't been...yet) the other majors' main stadiums, the players are tiny specks from the seats us average people can afford. Yes, I was lucky enough to be there in 2007 when the Nadal/Ferrer match went late into the night and I made it courtside and I waited the rain out for 14-plus hours last year to be courtside for Serena/Clijsters, but otherwise I would never see any of these players close up. And while I love the matches I get to see on the outer courts, it would still be great to see the top players up close every once in a while."

• Say, what was it like to work with Shakira?

• USC beats Tennessee for second straight NCAA title.

• Nikki points out: "A few weeks ago you listed Belluci and Ancic as long lost siblings, but I think Mark Ballas from Dancing with the Stars is a perfect twin for Belluci."

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