Jon Wertheim reports from Day 10 in Paris on French Open scheduling, Novak Djokovic, Sam Stosur, court conditions and more.
PARIS – Best of five from still another rainy day at the French Open.
• Another day, another downpour. We're officially in the rouge zone as far as scheduling, with scads of fourth round matches yet to be played. We’re looking the prospects of playing four rounds in four days. And that presupposes improved weather. Here’s an interview with tournament director Guy Forget about the situation.
• Novak Djokovic took the court around noon and, understandably, looked something other than sharp in the heavy and wet conditions. He lost the first set against Roberto Bautista Agut before the rain came. He returned to win the second set and scored a break in the third. But for all the breaks he got in Week One as he seeks his first title at the French Open—not least the withdrawal of Rafael Nadal—Djokovic now has some real challenges.
• Sam Stosur reached the final in Paris in 2010 and two additional semis in ’09 and ‘12. Her success continues in 2016. In her last tournament with longtime coach David Taylor, she reached the quarters on Tuesday, taking out sixth-seeded Simona Halep, a former finalist. Stosur’s kick-serve/forehand combo usually works best on dry clay, but the waterlogged conditions hardly her impeded her.
• Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 2 seed, was leading Tsvetana Pironkova 6–2, 3–0 when the match was suspended on Sunday night. On Tuesday, it was a totally different match. Frustrated and seeking treatment on her right wrist, Radwanska struggled and lost to a player ranked 100 spots below her. Afterward, she was displeased. “I had hand surgery a few years ago, and for me, playing with those balls in that kind of court is pretty much impossible. So, I mean, I tried. Maybe I played worse, did worse things other days than when we start to play that match, but it definitely, you know, shouldn't be like this.”
• Under the policy here, fans receive a full refund if there is no play; a half refund if there is play between 1-2 hours; and no refund if play exceeds two hours. The time of the Djokovic-Bautista Agut match before time was called? 2:01.
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In addition to reading your columns religiously, I (like many of your fans, I imagine) think of relevant, interesting questions we can ask you in hopes of seeing our name in your Mailbag. Low and behold, I sent you the "Long Lost Siblings" pictures of Liev Schreiber and Radwanska's coach a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I did not provide my name, which prevented you from making my dreams come true and giving me a shout-out in your column. So, I am hoping that if many people ask you the same question this week, that you will publish mine.
Given the weather forecast this week in Paris, would it not have made more sense to use all available courts (and not just Chatrier, Lenglen, and Courts 1 & 2) to get matches played/completed today to get back on schedule? Or, is the lost ticket sales and/or player egos to blame.
—Richard, Jersey City Heights, N.J.
• Yes, let’s give a Google shout out to Richard. And, for the record, here’s Tomasz Wiktorowski.
As for your question, there’s been a lot of second-guessing about the scheduling. It’s always a tough call. If there’s too much caution, fans and players and networks complain. (“You could have played!”) If there’s more risk taken, you take a chance of charges of being too cavalier, favoring expedience over the health and welfare of the players. The tournament organizers need to get the necessary approval and build the roof. But they come in for no criticism for the scheduling.
I just listened to and enjoyed your Beyond the Baseline podcast with Gerry Marzorati. I particularly enjoyed Gerry's anecdote about David Foster Wallace's piece on Federer in the New York Times and DFW's insistence on preserving his punctuation, NYT standards be damned. For some reason it brought to mind another wonderful DFW piece on tennis, Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley, which appears in my copy of his essay collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. If you haven't read it I'm sure you would enjoy it, and sure that many of your mailbag readers would too.
—Roger T. Jones, Waterbury Center, Vt.
• Agree. You’ve given me the soft, floating set-up lob and I’ll take the swing: Note that David Foster Wallace’s collection of tennis readings, String Theory, came out earlier this month.
In your post-match interview with Venus Williams last Thursday (among the freebies I can stream from Tennis Channel without having to pay for cable or a subscription), you asked what, if anything, had changed over the many years that she had played at Roland Garros. Her answer? "Umm...it rains more than when I started?"
That made me think—my first visit to Roland Garros was in 2005, and it was sunny and about 90 degrees. Went back in 2006; rainy and cold. Went again in 2010; rainy and cold. So, might there actually be something to this climate change stuff? Not sure building a roof will solve that, although it does seem that conditions at Wimbledon have generally improved since they installed theirs.
—Helen of Philadelphia
• Armed with more data points, I suspect there is a larger discussion to be had about global warming and climate change. But, yes, that was prescient wasn’t it? After her second-round match, Venus noted the increase in rain. Apres that, the deluge.
Why can't the tournaments or ITF or ATP or WTA stop gambling on tennis? It's because gambling is bigger than tennis.
• Context: This week the TIU, Tennis Integrity Unit, noted that David Marrero was exonerated from a mixed doubles match in Australia that drew suspicion. Tom Perrotta on the call here. This led to a larger discussion about match fixing on Tennis Channel. Jim Courier raised a lot of good points, not least why events need to take the high road and decline sponsorships from gambling houses. I do think this point needs to be expanded upon: tennis does have the standing to ban gambling, to say, “You cannot wager on our competitions.”
Salut encore Jon.
Trying to get a little live play in before work—Djokovic loses first set to Agut, Stosur up a set and a break on Halep—and of course, la pluie. As I was watching her for the first time in ages, a couple questions about Stosur: If she retires tomorrow, does she make the Hall of Fame? Grand Slam winner and finalist and...Not too much else. And, on a more sartorial note...What has she done to her sponsors that they insist on putting her in a paper sack at all the tournaments, 2016 French Open included? She deserves better! Finally, if you see Murray please remind him he's a superstar athlete with a beautiful wife/family, and tons of money. Does anyone else complain about how monotonous and disinterested he always sounds? Just watched a brief presser of his and it's agony!
Au revoir, encore.
• The irony is that, as I write this, Stosur is playing well against Halep, up 4-0. But one-time Slam winner whose career-high ranking is No. 4? That’s tough. I don’t mind her attire. And I don’t mind Murray’s low energy rumble. Better to be authentic than a media-trained Mr. Peppy.
As we admire the Shelby Rogers story, I think it’s useful to keep in mind the slim margins that so often exist between very successful players and those on the fringes. I saw Shelby play in the qualifying round at the U.S. Open last fall—she hit well, moved well, and competed extremely well, and I thought “How is she not in the top 100?” She made the third round and then a few tournaments later retired with an injury and was done for the year. So much for momentum. I can’t guarantee that she’ll sustain her success beyond Paris, but it’s not as if her game has been unworthy of her current heights.
—Noah Baerman, Middletown, Conn.
• Totally. Small margins, indeed. So many players ought to be looking for Rogers for inspiration. Earlier this spring she was losing (early) at Challenger-level events. Now she will be playing in second week at the French Open. Didn't take much.
• Props to Judy Murray for this photo of Fabrice Santoro:
• Congrats to 18-year-old Taylor Fritz who, per his social media, got engaged last night:
• Congrats to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, who returns to Singapore as an Ambassador to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore.