For the first week of Roland Garros I'll be exchanging emails with TENNIS Magazine senior editor Jon Levey, who's in Paris to cover the tournament.
I hope your trip has become a little smoother over the last 24 hours. Every time I go to Paris, I spend a day embarrassing myself in various ways, in front of metro token-booth workers, breakfast-room attendants, Roland Garros ushers (love those snappy red outfits, though), good-looking girls, fellow America tourists, Hillary Swank, you name it. I just accept that I’m going to be walking in through out doors, literally and figuratively, for about a day before I get the hang of things.
You ask whether I like the Sunday start. I doubt I would if I were there and working, or if I were a fan who paid for one of the first three days and didn’t get to see as much as I once did—though the fact that the French doesn’t have night sessions allows you to see more players. From home, I have to say it made for some relaxing viewing on Sunday night. I was up at a beach in Rhode Island, and the TV was hooked up with a DVR. Which meant I could fast-forward through all of the extraneous ESPN jawing about Justine, etc. I got through five hours of coverage in less than three, and didn’t miss much of the entertaining Djokovic-Gremelmayr encounter. Lefties: They giveth, with their craftiness, and they taketh away, with their inability to be satisfied with the conventional play. Gremel is a shotmaker, that’s for sure.
As far as the coverage, I don’t think a tournament has ever been covered so thoroughly, at least in the States, as this French Open. The Tennis Channel kicks off in the morning with seven hours, and what they lack in production polish—last night John McEnroe was trotted out to ramble and stammer about himself for 15 minutes (actually, some of what he said about his 1984 loss to Lendl was interesting)—the network makes up for in quantity. We’re in the locker room, we’re on every side court, we’re next to Nadal while he’s practicing with Hewitt. Of course, with the rain there hasn’t been much to cover. Wayne Odesnik, who beat Cañas on an outer court yesterday, is currently enjoying his 15 minutes on the Tennis Channel. I like his game; the guy can rip a forehand, and he leaves it all out there emotionally. As for ESPN, it’s been smoother, but on Sunday they decided to show us, at the top of the telecast, who had won the matches that would make up the lion’s share of their broadcast. And four commentators—Carillo, Enberg, Fernandez, and Shriver—for Serena’s first-rounder was a tad much. Still, it's hard to complain when you compare it to the old days when it was only on NBC for a few hours each week.
So what have I seen? You’re right about Djokovic overswinging. Cahill was good on him on Sunday, saying that he let the ball get too far away from him on his forehand, but that he was smart and stopped trying to blast Gremel off the court when he saw that wasn’t going to work.
Blake: Maybe you agree with me that he’s more entertaining on clay? He still hits huge, but he's forced to use some variety, and can show off his awesome movement more.
Jankovic: I noticed she was hitting more offensively in her first round. I wonder if she wants this one a little more than usual—her desire is still suspect in my mind.
Vaidisova: You have to hope it’s a phase; she’s got too much power not to at least contend for big events.
What is up with Baghdatis? Did you see any of his loss to Bolelli?
Murray: I asked the same question in Monte Carlo: Is he that good after all? Maybe, like Vaidisova, we’ll look back at this as his rebellious phase. As for his constant drop shot use, I’ve come to think that that's his putaway shot when he works the other guy out of position—he lacks the big forehand to end points. Basically, he needs to ban the dropper and find ways to finish those same points at the net, which he’s capable of doing.
I just got through watching Justin Gimelstob interview Odesnik again, so I think I’m tapped out from here. Tell Tebbutt to put on some shoes the next time he goes on TV. He should save the sneaker and blue-blazer look for the press room, and don the yellow glasses for the television hordes. It could be the latest fashion trend out of Paris.