Saturday 28 May 2011

Roland Garros, 3rd round - Del Potro vs. Djokovic, 1:1

By now, fans have quite a few reasons to be disappointed with the 2011 edition of the French Open. First, we had the "transcriptgate" (reccommended reading!), which deprived us of the possibility to actually read for ourselves what the players were saying after their matches, and forced us to get all the news from the official media representatives on site. Never mind that they put things out of context, and only deliver "relevant quotes" of the players that they're interested in. By now, it's possible to find the transcripts online, even if not on the official Roland Garros site, which still says:
The written transcripts from the press conferences will not appear on this page this year. The transcripts are for the use of journalists but you can still watch our video coverage of the press conferences. For the hearing-impaired or those who do not have sound on their computer, quotes appear in the articles written by our journalists and in written interviews. Thank you for your understanding.
 But if that wasn't enough, today we encountered an even larger mishap, quite possibly. The order of play for today on Philipp Chatrier included two women's matches, followed by two men's matches. The last of which was the highly anticipated third round match between Juan Martin Del Potro and Novak Djokovic. In a tournament that can't hold matches as soon as the darkness falls over, due to lack of lights infrastracture, it's easy to get to the end of the day with play still not completed. And so, as Jo Wilfried Tsonga was unable to finish his match against Stanislas Wawrinka in three sets, it became clear the Del Potro and Djokovic would have to wait some more before going on court.

Was it so hard to predict that if all matches go the distance (as indeed they did), the last match won't be played? Of course not. But in the words of Neil Harman:
When are we going to allow tennis people to make decisions, rather than TV execs who don't care a **** for tennis making all the calls?
And so, the most promising match of this week was moved in the last moment from Philipp Chatrier to Suzanne Lenglen, a somewhat smaller court, with separate tickets. Which also meant that the ticket holders who planned to watch this match, found out that they can't get on the court where it was held. Now, this decision at least makes some sense, since the general rule is that the last match on any court may be moved. But this is exactly why it was a mistake to put it as the last match, instead of the third. The Frenchman for whom it was done ended up losing a five-setter anyway, and the crowd just got upset, booing outside the stadium, which mainly interrupted the players themselves.

I won't say too much about the match, since it's not over yet, and it's hard to say what will happen. Both players won a set with a 6-3 score and a single break of serve. We got everything we bargained for - brilliant backhands from Djokovic, fantastic forehands from Del Potro, and terrific tennis to leave us speechless, or slightly hysteric, depending on your liking of both players. The two players showed great sportsmanship, and both obliged to sign some autographs in the end of the second set, which closed out the day.

Tomorrow we'll have the second part of that match, still strangely scheduled as the third match on Suzanne Lenglen. I'm hoping that the players will come in a better mood, and well rested - they're going to need all their physical and mental strengths in order to win this. The match is wide open at this point, and the lucky winner will get to play another Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, who will be well rested for Sunday's fourth round.

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