Its tennis season. Things go kind of crazy. Earlier this month somebody spent 19 days (and $1.63 m) to prepare a court which was half grass-half clay. And then matched Federer and Nadal in an exhibition game on it. Nadal won.
Now though, for the real thing. Yesterday, through a bit of rain we started off the French Open. Not strawberries and cream but what Rohit Brijnath deliciously described (even as far back as 2002) as a five-course meal. With the background of the Hamburg appetizer, it can only get better.
This year to most of the world, it doesn’t seem to matter that Juan Carlos Ferrero (who won here in 2003) and Guillermo Cañas (who has beaten Federer twice in March), are in Roger Federer’s draw. Nor do they care that Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Novak Djokovic are potential obstacles in Rafa’s way.
Basically, what everyone’s looking for is the Big Game. The assumptions are clear. Roger Federer is seeded 1. Rafael Nadal is seeded 2. On June 10, these seeds will sprout on clay.
Not much to choose once it gets down to that though. You and I could argue for the next two weeks. The clay’s harder in Paris than in Hamburg. But Federer’s overcome the ghost. Sure, but this will be 5 sets. Yes but he won 6-0 in the 3rd so we don’t know.
Till that day comes, if it comes, we’ll never know.
And they’re both nice guys too.
Get this: You can send an autograph request to Roger Federer’s parents’ house-their address is on his website-and within a month you’ll get a photo hand-signed by Roger. “Well, if I were a child,” he says, “I wouldn’t want to wait two years for a picture of my hero, would you?”
And his large contingent. Who said “Sorry.” Seriously. After the Miami final, thats what Federer’s publicity agent, scheduler, motivator, girlfriend Mirka said to the losing finalist Ivan Ljubicic as she hugged him.
Thats the kind of nice guy team you want to win.
If it all works out, like most tennis lovers hope it does – then across the net will be Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer’s nemesis. Last week, Roger broke his 81 match winning streak on clay. And Rafa wants this title. He must hate the sight of Federer, right?
In the locker room after Federer beat him in Hamburg, Nadal asked Federer for his sweat-soaked shirt, a nod to the soccer custom of exchanging shirts with your opponent after the game. Then he asked Federer to autograph it.
“I thought it was a nice gesture,” Federer said. “We know each other well.”
But you can bet that both would want that title just as bad.
On Friday, Federer was asked what he would like more – a Fifth Wimbledon or a First French ? “Thats tough,’ he laughed, ‘ but if you ask my heart, probably Wimbledon”. Yeah right. Or maybe it is. It would help him catch up with the gentleman in the centre of that picture.
Rafael Nadal, if he wins his third straight French Open will also be the first man since Bjorn Borg to win three consecutive titles at Rolland Garros.
Two great champions trying to emulate a third.
There is a small difference though. The difference is this – Bjorn Borg won three straight Wimbledon AND three straight French the same years….