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Ferro and Tig make it feel like Roland Garros again in rousing match
In their third-round encounter, the Romanian fought the French, and the Frenchwoman won.
Published Oct 03, 2020
A tennis photographer once told me that it’s hard to get good shots of players when they’re facing a French opponent at Roland Garros. Not wanting to do anything to tick off the famously partisan, and famously noisy Parisian crowd, they try to kept their emotions and reactions in check. If you’ve ever been inside Court Phillippe-Chatrier for a good old-fashion boo-storm there, you know this is a wise policy to maintain.
Patricia Maria Tig, however, subscribed to a different philosophy during her 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-0 loss to Fiona Ferro in Chatrier on Saturday. Over the course of the first set, the Romanian punctuated many of her winning points with a loud shriek, and a louder “Come on!”
Granted, Ferro is a triple citizen of Belgium (where she was born), Italy (where her father is from), and France (where she has lived most of her life). But she trains with French coaches at France’s national academy, and the fans at Roland Garros were behind her all the way. And while there were only a few hundred of those fans in Chatrier today, the old adage still applied: Mess with the French at your own risk. As Tig’s outbursts grew louder, so did the boos from the fans in response. Finally, Tig turned toward one of them and screamed back.
“This is awesome,” Tennis Channel commentator Jan-Michael Gambill said. “Tig taking on the French crowd. That is a BOLD move.”
Finally, after a week in Paris, it felt like the French Open again.
Ferro-Tig was a match that deserved a strong reaction—but a positive one. It was about as low-profile as a contest in Chatrier can be. Neither woman is ranked in the Top 40—Ferro started the week at No. 49, and Tig at No. 59. More notably, neither woman appeared to have a clothing sponsorship. Ferro was in dark shorts and a dark T-shirt, while Tig was in a sweater and black leggings. With few fans and no logos in sight, this was pro tennis stripped back to the basics.
Yet for two long, arduous, hard-fought, see-saw sets, Ferro-Tig gave us perhaps the best tennis we’d seen all tournament. By “best,” I don’t mean flawless. Ferro was minus-12 in her winner-error count (37 to 49), while Tig was minus-21 (26 to 47). Combined, they committed more double faults (5) than they hit aces (4). They broke each other 10 times. Ferro often went for too much on her forehand, while Tig put routine slices into the bottom of the net. And in the third set, the Romanian ran out of gas.
But Ferro and Tig, each of whom has won a clay-court title in recent weeks, staged a fascinating contest, one that pitted the Frenchwoman’s athletic swagger against the Romanian’s tricky variety. Ferro ripped her inside-out forehand and drove her two-handed backhand; Tig countered with slice forehands, moonballs, angled drop shots, and unpredictable injections of pace. Despite their best efforts, neither could build a lead for long. Games lasted 10 or even 15 minutes, and the first set took an hour and 25. Tig served for it and was broken, while Ferro had multiple set points in the tiebreaker, before closing it out 9-7. Just when it seemed as if Tig might give in, she defied the crowd again and won the second set.
But Ferro had more in the tank for the third set. The 23-year-old, who has been working with veteran French coach Emmanuel Planque since last December, spent the lockdown playing on clay at her family’s home court, and did some training with Simona Halep in the Dubai heat. It all paid off today.
Tig walked off quickly, and later said she regretted engaging the crowd.
“You know, it's very difficult to play against a player who is from the country where the tournament is held,” she said. “I wish, if I could, I would change my whole attitude about what I was doing on the court. That's why I wish I can have another chance to play on bigger stages of the world and hopefully I can, you know, do better regarding my attitude and also regarding my game.”
Tig is 26, a relatively advanced tennis age, but there’s no reason to think she can’t put herself on these stages in the future. She left the tour a few years ago due to to chronic injuries, and had a daughter, Sofia, during her time away. On a tour where talented moms suddenly abound, the Romanian is another one to watch.
For her part, Ferro has now reached the round of 16 at a major for the first time, where she’ll play Sofia Kenin in a battle of 5’7 dynamos. The American has more experience, is more consistent, and, as she showed with a barrage of drop shots in her victory today, she has more ways to win points. But Ferro will have the best shot on the court, her forehand. And she’ll have the crowd. When they face off on Monday, Kenin might want to take a lesson from Tig and keep her shrieks to herself.