Diary of an American in Paris: Day 1

Written By: achangeofends - May• 30•10

Hi all,

It’s Sunday morning and I’m currently sitting in a taxi on my way into Paris. People who know me well would tell you that I tend to plan things out. That’s not true for this trip. Last week, I booked a flight to Paris returning to London 5 days later. Until yesterday, I had no hotel reservations or plans. All I knew was that as a dedicated tennis fan, I could not ignore the fact that I was a mere one hour flight from a Grand Slam tournament. This is my last week in Europe, and I planned to take advantage of the travel freedom. Right now, my plan is to get a ticket. I’ve booked two nights in a Paris hotel and hopefully that’s enough time to find a way into the tournament. Otherwise, I may just have to add another night before heading down to Marseille on Wednesday. For now, I plan on going over to Roland Garros late this afternoon to see if I can purchase a used ticket. I’ll keep you posted!

It’s about 9:30pm and I’m sitting in the hotel restaurant because everything else is closed on Sundays. I checked a few minutes ago, and things aren’t looking good for Andy Murray. He’s losing, in straight sets, to Tomas Berdych. I should mention that my determination paid off and I made it to the Open today. As people leave throughout the day, the tournament collects the used tickets and at 5pm, they resell them to the people in the queue. I have to remark on this system, because it is a work of genius. The tournament actually gets to sell the same ticket twice, once for who knows what (prices vary) and a second time for €30-€40. Not only do they get the extra revenue, but they also avoid the embarrassment of having empty seats on televised matches. Spectators won’t even complain about paying for someone’s leftovers because they are so excited to get a seat at the last minute.

Anyway, I arrived at Roland Garros around 4pm and asked one of the tournament staff whether tickets were still available for this evening. Actually, I asked him if he spoke English in my terrible French and rejoiced when he answered in the affirmative. He then explained the queuing system. You choose a court: Philippe Chatrier, Suzanne Lenglen, or the annexes. After choosing a court, you receive a ticket to stand in the queue for that court. He suggested I choose the annexes as the queue would be the shortest. After realizing that the queue for Chatrier was quite long, and I would certainly miss Federer’s match, I decided to queue for Suzanne Lenglen in hopes of seeing Andy Murray, who had the last match on that court. I spent a little over an hour in the queue, chatting with some fellow tennis aficionados from South Dakota, before getting my ticket.

First things first, I chose to visit the boutique. If this was going to be my only visit to the French Open, I wanted to make sure I got a chance to do some shopping. After spending far too much money, I went off in search of the stadium. The staff were very friendly and led me to my seat. I was surprised by how good my seat was. I was in the fourth row just above the box seats, close to the corner. Considering the situation, I was quite pleased. I sat down at the beginning of the third set in the Soderling/Cilic match, which made me even happier because it seemed I would get to see two matches as the Murray/Berdych match was to follow this one.

It’s always interesting to see the players in person. You can tell so much more about their personalities and demeanor in person than you can on television. Soderling always seemed a bit quite and reserved when I’ve watched his matches, but today he was very imposing. He was actually very animated and it was so clear that he goes all out for every single point, like each one is its own tiny victory, each one followed by a little fist pump. As I think we all remember from last year, this is a guy who has proved himself on clay and his career has really taken off in the last twelve months and seems to be rising all the time. I’d love to see him go deep into the second week and pull off an upset like last year, but I think he’s run into a bit of a road block, and my a bit of roadblock, I mean a mountain: Roger Federer. We’re in for a repeat of last year’s final, and while Robin may have thought no one could beat him ten times in row, he was wrong. There head-to-head now stands at 12-0 in Roger’s favor. I think Soderling’s going to need a bit of a miracle to pull this one off, particularly since Roger’s looking pretty good; however, I won’t count him out yet. He did knock out Nadal last year, and I don’t think even the most seasoned tennis writers could have predicted that.

Marin Cilic is a giant. This might not actually be true when compared to the other freakishly tall tennis players, but for the rest of us his six feet six inches is quite impressive. I would term this guy a gentle giant. He may dominate in size, but if you read his body language, I doubt this guy could hurt a fly. He seems almost timid. For such a talented player (he’s currently ranked #12), I’m concerned that Cilic may not have the drive it takes to win a major tournament. He didn’t seem particularly bothered by his loss and looked apathetic next to Soderling during the match, regardless of whether his was playing well or poorly. Maybe a big win will give Cilic the confidence he needs to fight his way back into the top 10. He’s certainly got the time. He’s only 21 years old.

Next up was Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych. Murray is what I like to call perpetually surly. I’ve rarely seen the guy crack a smile, but have gotten used to his constant frowny face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fran. I even belong to his fan page on facebook, but would it kill him to look a little happier? He was the runner-up at the Australian this year; things are going pretty well. Plus, he’s 23, not 80. He needs to take himself a little less seriously, himself, not his game. I’ve gotten a bit off topic. Let’s just say that Murray did not look happy with some of his mistakes tonight. However, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was wearing an ankle brace, maybe the frown was really Andy wincing in pain.

I don’t have much to say about Tomas Berdych. He’s got a good game and has made a lot of headway this year, but he’s a bit unnoticeable. I think the tennis world had high hopes for Berdych after his run in Miami, but he’s still got a long way to go before becoming a household name. He’s lucky, unlike Soderling, and has a very winnable quarterfinal against Mikhail Youzhny. Maybe we’ll be seeing a Federer/Berdych semi-final next week.

I left towards the end of the second set after the skies opened an it started to pour. Now I know that tomorrow I should bring an umbrella, or at least wear something with a hood. I elected not to wait in the rain as it was already getting late and I was not sure they would bother resuming the match. When I returned to my hotel, I check Eurosport, and the match had indeed resumed, but it was very clear most spectators had the same idea. The stadium was nearly empty. Hopefully we’ll have better weather tomorrow. I plan to get there very early to queue for Chatrier. Wish me luck.

Anyway, I better get to bed. I’ll be sure to update everyone again tomorrow.

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