Jon Wertheim on Paris as a sports town, thoughts from Day 5 at the French Open and reader questions about the draw selection and more.

By Jon Wertheim
May 28, 2015

PARIS – Seventy-five years after Paris was invaded by the Germans, the city is once again being overtaken. This time, by a more benign power—we’ll call it the Republic of Sports.

Sports were long considered gauche. The old joke was that Parisians didn’t stoop to cheer for athletes; they preferred simply to toast them. Today? They cheer.

This week at the French Open, fans will wreath the entire complex. Just as they do barely a mile from here at Parc des Princes, the soccer stadium for Paris St. German, one of the world’s most highly valued franchises.

France's top four men look to make a run at home at Roland Garros

What changed here? When did sports become so chic? Well, locals point to France’s hosting of the 1998 World Cup as a catalyst. Paris, in particular, fell into the thrall of a global sports event. Then Les Bleus won. It also didn't hurt that France began minting NBA players and stars in other sports.

Technology and media have helped fuel the sports boom. One of the most popular Parisian radio shows is a drive-time sports talk format on the news station, RMC….Even in the most precious alleys of the Left Bank, you’ll see TV tuned to sports….The City of Lights has become the City of Highlights.   

Paris has gotten so sports-crazed that in April the city council officially voted to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Not long ago, this would have been thoroughly unthinkable. Now: it’s thoroughly consistent with the city’s identity.

Paris: It’s like one big rec room. With a few nice museums and churches tacked on for good measure.


A few Q/A

Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Day 5: Serena survives, Wozniacki falls, Kokkinakis wins in five

I see you are back appearing on the Tennis Channel, and so you have had sufficient time and opportunities to enlighten the tennis world of the problems I have brought to your attention. In spite of this, you obviously have neither said nor done anything to aid in effecting change in the way the draws are completed. For the ATP, the errors were present in Madrid, in Rome and are currently present in Paris at the French Open.  Murray (the No. 3 seed) is in the same half of the bracket as Djokovic (the No. 1 seed).  This is unfair for both players. Murray should be in the half of the bracket with Federer (the No. 2 seed), who is the extremely lucky recipient of the result of this egregious error in the draw. This problem needs to be corrected, and I hope it will be before Wimbledon.
—J. Shick

• We've talked about this many times. Tennis differs slightly from the NCAA basketball tournament and conventional seeding whereby No. 1 plays No. 16, No. 2 plays No. 15 and so on. In the NCAA Final Four, No. 1 usually plays No. 4 and No. 2 plays No. 3. Not necessarily so in tennis. In tennis, No. 1 and No. 2 are placed in opposite in halves. So are No. 3 and No. 4. But No. 1 could play No. 3 and No. 2 could play No. 4. The rest of the seeds are sprinkled similarly. The distribution is even. There can be quirks. As the reader notes, Djokovic and Murray (Nos. 1 and 3) are in the top half here. Federer and Berdych (Nos. 2 and 4) are in the bottom.

2015 French Open Daily Data Visualizations

Why? Well this dates back to the World Tennis Challenge when players competed week-in and week-out, the thinking: without this twist on traditional seeding, you would have the same match-ups each week. (Unless until the ranking changed.) The policy has stuck. A few points:

1. I’m not sure how much of a material difference this makes. Sure sometimes the top seed gets a raw deal. But the top players face each other eventually.
2. The players could protest this and get the policy changed, especially if they deemed it an egregious error. They have the power here. Clearly it’s OK with them.
3. There are so many issues that have a more profound impact on tournaments, starting with scheduling. If I’m Djokovic, I care more about the fact that Federer got a Sunday start and I didn’t.

Any chance you can get your fellow scribes to stop describing players as being 'ousted' when they lose? Politicians, dictators and people in power are ousted. Tennis players lose or are beaten.

I like defenestrated. One of you mentioned the hollow expression “stunned.” One pictures a seeded player like Fabio Fognini being tased when they bow out to a lesser light.

Just saw your "Roland Garros 2015" report on TC Tonight. I love it...is it on YouTube anywhere?

Hey thanks. All credit Loy Maxon and his team. I think you can watch it here.

Five thoughts from Day 5

• Not often two former champs meet in the first round. Especially on a lesser court. But Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova kicked off the day on Court 1. And they played perhaps the best match of the tournament so far, with Schiavone finally getting the win, 10-8 in the third.

Full spectrum of ages on display as Stephens, Coric defeat American vets

• Speaking of long matches with lots of subplots…..Thanasi Kokkinakis played heroically on Thursday, beating Bernard Tomic.

• Given the conditions as well as the way she’s playing, Madison Keys—who dominated Belinda Bencic—has a real shot at playing deep here.

• If Rafael Nadal has played a better this year, we haven’t seen it. He simply rolled Nicolas Almagro today, moving to 13–1 for his career against his countryman.

• It must feel awful to win a tough match and then fail to post for the next match due an injury. Yesterday it was Kyle Edmund who pulled out enabling Nick Kyrgios to advance. On Thursday, Ben Becker pulled out before his match against Kei Nishikori.

Shots, Miscellany

• Your Daily Data Viz: How Lucic-Baroni upset No. 3 Halep.

• Changeover reading: here’s a great tennis history piece from Rob Weintraub.

• From the Sports Business Journal and the Montreal Gazette:

Eugenie Bouchard yesterday lost in the first round of the French Open 6-4, 6-4 to Kristina Mladenovic, and as she departs, so too do her sponsors, which were "counting on many hours of TV face time for Bouchard and opportunities to promote Bouchard and their products," according to Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette. In the week leading up to the French Open, Diet Coke Canada "was heavily promoting Bouchard on Twitter and elsewhere." However, shortly after Bouchard’s French Open loss, Coke’s Twitter promotions along with the #GenieForTheWin hashtag "disappeared." 

• The International Tennis Federation announced today that Kateryna Kozlova has been found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (presence of a Prohibited Substance in a Player’s Sample). 

• Savvy reader jokes: "At least Nadal is trying to find a solution to his pace of play issue."

• Our friend Ivan H. with LLS: Carlos Berlocq and Mark Wahlberg (especially in Boogie Nights):


Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)