Your Call (Post-RG/Queen's, Day 1)

Monday, June 09, 2008 /by

Rafborg

By Rosangel Valenti, TW Contributing Editor

Good morning. With the year's second Grand Slam over, we return to your regularly scheduled Your Call posts for discussing the day's tennis. You can also go off-topic here. Ed McGrogan will be along later with his usual Monday Net Post.

With the grasscourt season already having started, I will be attending the Artois Championships at Queens's Club this week for TW (action kicks off at 12.30 p.m. locally, or 7.30 a.m. EST), so will report on the previous day's action in these posts as the week goes on. As always, I will have my camera at the ready.

I got back home from Paris late last night, via the Eurostar. If previous years are any indicator, the reigning Roland Garros champion will make his way to Queen's using the same method, later today, and hit the practice courts on the new surface. The trip from Paris to London (I get out at the intermediate stop outside London, which cuts my journey time slightly) takes something over two hours, and is usually a pleasant, restful ride - without the Channel Tunnel, I don't know that I'd have had the endurance to visit Roland Garros for six days. Unlike planes, I've never known the trains to be late (though I have been known to miss one or two). And I love being able to step on a train a few miles from my front door, to find myself in the heart of Paris at journey's end. Had Marat chosen to be in Paris on Saturday for Dinara's big day, it would have been the least stressful option.

After the men's final was over, sooner than expected, there were more than three hours remaining until the last train was due to depart. I called MarieJ, who had been watching on TV, and we arranged to meet for what will probably be the last time until the Spain-USA Davis Cup tie in Madrid this coming September. She drove over to Roland Garros to pick me up. In the twenty minutes or so while I was was anticipating her arrival, I took a final walk around. During those few minutes, I saw a smiling Guillerrmo Vilas, and an ecstatically beaming Manolo Santana, coming out from the private area under the Philippe Chatrier Court, and immediately being waylaid to pose with fans for pictures. Both were good-natured enough to do so repeatedly. A few minutes afterwards, Bjorn Borg walked right past me. There was a huge crowd waiting for others to emerge, but I didn't have time to wait.

MarieJ took us to the Trocadero, from which there are terrific views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. It's the same spot where the Roland Garros champions pose for their post-victory pictures with their trophies. By that stage in the day, it was gloriously sunny, and we could see for miles. We found a pavement-side cafe nearby, and sat and talked about the match over celebratory icecreams.

Obviously, we had both been hoping for a Nadal victory. There's no need to rehearse the match here - most people saw it. All I will say is that I'm still stunned by what happened. I met Pete before the match, and he told me the same thing that he'd said in TW: that there could be a blowout. Regardless, I remained nervous up until the first break of serve in the third set, even though I could vividly imagine the frazzling that was likely to be going on in TW among the Roger believers, and (to my great surprise) had also seen some of the Federer supporters leaving the stadium towards the end of the second set. Still, I don't think I have ever seen Rafa play better than he has done in the semifinal and final this week, and I count myself very fortunate to have been there in person.

It was also one of the occasions on which I have most admired Roger Federer simply as his human self - my lens got me close enough to the action that I could see the players' facial expressions. These were tough moments in his tennis life. He took it well, without a single false note (after reviewing my pictures, I'm pretty sure he got a bigger hug from Bjorn Borg that the winner did, but maybe he needed it more at that moment - in any event, there's no doubt of the respect that exists between all three Champions). During his on-court speech, he was gracious towards his opponent, and he took plenty of time to acknowledge his supporters in the stadium (cowbells rang up until the final moments) before leaving. Certainly, if the size of the cheer that greeted him when he entered the court before the final had had any bearing on the outcome, he would have been the people's Champion yesterday. There were plenty of Spanish fans too (I was right next to a group carrying a huge Spanish flag), but outnumbered.

After the final, when I was packing up my camera gear, someone asked me to take his picture using his camera, with the stadium as backdrop. As he addressed me in English, I asked how he'd known I would speak the language. He hadn't - but he'd thought it more likely that I would understand English than Spanish. He told me that he'd flown 12 hours from his home in Argentina, simply to see this match. He was happy with the result, but would have liked more games. As I watched the stadium emptying of people, after the final, I couldn't help but wonder why one of the doubles finals hadn't been scheduled to follow the singles. Even my positive mood might have been lifted by some less-deadly tennis just then - a slightly conflicted reaction I simply didn't expect, but it's because I was thinking of fellow tennis fans here in TW. And of Rome 2006.

On to the grasscourt season.

As always, enjoy today's tennis.

{Note: more photos coming soon - of the Roland Garros final and, I hope, from Queen's later today].

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