Friday, 19 December 2008

Why I've fallen out of love with the French Open (Pt 1)...

Ever had that feeling that the magic has gone from a relationship?

It doesn't happen all at once of course. Your affection instead trickles away bit by bit, usually unbeknownst to you, until one day you hit upon the realisation that the connection is no longer what it once was - where there was warmth, you can now only find indifference; where there was fire and passion, there is now only a dreary type of stoicism.

I don't remember exactly when I stopped caring about Roland Garros. It just sort of happened in a way that I still don't profess to understand. Well maybe I do, just a little. I don't mean of course, that I stopped following it or caring about the results. Rather leading up to it in recent years, I just wouldn't find myself with the same degree of anticipation that I hold for the other Slams.

This was rather worrying as I'd always attached a very particular significance to the two non hard court Slams - a chance for a very different sort of tennis or players with very particular talents to strut their stuff...

And though that's exactly what's happened with the advent of the Nadal era of clay, I began quite soon to be aware of an anomaly at Paris, a kind of minute imperfection within the grand tapestry of the venue and the tennis that's expected of it. I wasn't sure what it was at first, but it got me thinking; and though there was no Eureka! moment, I was pretty soon aware of a cold and rather harsh fact: I couldn't think of a single defining match there in the last 4 years!

I should point out that I'm excluding from this most of the Federer-Nadal match-ups (including this year's three set rout of Federer which was defining only for the type of reasons Federer would sooner forget), which do at least exhibit the type of quality you (quite reasonably) associate with the semi/final stages of a Slam - though even here I would argue that we've seen them put on a better show elsewhere (and not always at a Slam).

But aside from these encounters, nothing really stood out or garnered my interest the way Safin-Federer Aus'05, Agassi-Federer US'05 or even Gasquet-Roddick Wimbledon'07 did - there seemed to be very little for Tennis Heads to really scream about in the coming years: just a slew of pretty good matches that wouldn't pass the test of time (or even a couple of years).

I've got a few reasons why I think this has come about...

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