Let Us Now Praise the Giant Who Frolics with Pixies

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60637945A CRIME AGAINST MEMORY AND H

ERITAGE, AESTHETICS AND BEAUTY: The powerful tentacles of commercialism have a hefty grip on our game, but to move the French Open would be a crime against memory and heritage, aesthetics and beauty. Regarding the possibility that Roland Garros might move, Roger Federer, almost plaintively, asked: “What about the soul of Roland Garros? This is what we might miss after. So let’s think twice before we act.”

NIFTY SUGGESTION: If the French Open is moved to the burbs, it’s said that they should take the fabled Bull Ring court with them.

SEXIEST WEATHER FORECAST: Chris Bowers shared the following French weather report: “Bright skies will cohabitate with clouds without consequence at Roland Garros.”

TRENDING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: In what might be the analysis of the year, Rafael Nadal reflected on the evolution of the once problematic Robin Soderling, saying, “He improve his level of kind of person, no? I think he improve his personality the last year…I think he say more times hello to the rest of the — yeah, I am speaking serious. I am speaking in the positive way, not in a negative way.”

AN IMPOSSIBLE COMPARISON: When asked to compare his play this year with his game last year, Nadal said it “is impossible to compare, last year. I was in the swimming pool in Mallorca.”

GENDER BENDERS: After her loss in the semis to Sam Stosur, Jelena Jankovic said, “To be honest, she has almost…the game of a man.” (Jankovic clarified that she meant it as a genuine compliment)…With all due apologies to Sam Querrey and Sammy Giamalva, the most famous Sam in tennis is now Ms. Stosur…Chris Bowers asked the obvious: “Is no man’s land an appropriate term to use in women’s tennis?”

GRAY PANTHERS: Clearly, we’re in an era where savvy vets, not gifted youngsters (with the exception of Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open) reign. The catch phrase on the WTA Tour: 27 is the new 16.

JUST WONDERING: Does Nadal explode into his shots with a singular physicality or what?…Are the Venus and Serena Williams more intimidating as a doubles team than they are as singles players?…How many games, if any, would the Williams sisters get in a match against the Bryan Bros.?…For years, John McEnroe lobbied to become our Davis Cup captain. But his stormy reign was brief and problematic. For years, McEnroe lobbied for an academy in New York. Now that he has one, will it produce?…Does Stosur look like a ripped Olympian about to swim the 200-meter butterfly?…If they decided to team up, would Pete Sampras and McEnroe win the Wimbledon doubles?…Is Victoria Azarenka in danger of becoming the new Nicole Vaidisova?

HEADLINES

PARFUM DE REVANCHE (the smell of revenge), which was on the Roland Garros program the day Soderling beat Federer (who had beaten him in the ’09 final)

A SOAP OPERA IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE

NOTHING IN TENNIS IS ‘GINEPRI-DETERMINED’

GRAND SAM AND THE GREATEST DOUBLE TAKE IN TENNIS HISTORY

THE HOKEY HEADLINE WE DIDN’T HAVE THE GUTS TO PUBLISH: NO BOLOGNA, IT’S SCHIAVONE

HAPPY CAMPERS: RG Champions Nadal and Francesca Schiavone...Kimiko Date Krumm, 39, who beat ’09 finalist and former No. 1 Dinara SafinaKim Clijsters, whose U.S. Open triumph seems all the more special now that her longtime rival, Justine Henin, is having problems collecting titles…Pete Sampras, who with Federer’s fall from No. 1, is still clinging (by just one week) to his record of 286 weeks at No. 1…Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova (the best player no one’s ever heard of), who quietly reached the RG quarters…Supposed journeyman Jurgen Melzer the shock RG semifinalist…Robby Ginepri, the last American man in the draw…The retired Mary Pierce, who seems elated with her secluded tranquility with the birds and beaches on the island of Mauritius.

NOT-SO-HAPPY CAMPERS: Legions of tennis fans who fear the wretched longshot possibility that the French Open might leave its storied Roland Garros site…The Bryan Bros., who fell early…Homesick Sam Querrey, Federer, Novak Djokovic (who dropped a miserable five-setter to Melzer in the quarters), pretty Ana Ivanovic, whose not-so-pretty slump continues.

SARAH PALIN AND DALMATIONS: Who could have possibly predicted that the French Open women’s final would come down to players from Italy and Australia. The two nations have about as much a connection as Sarah Palin and Dalmatians. Yeah, the two nations just signed an accord to build a big telescope together, but that’s about the “scope” of it. They have about as much of a sporting rivalry as San Diego State volleyball and the Boston Celtics. Yet, they are both down to earth and both love sports. An Italian soccer win ignites intoxicated celebrations and Aussies adore all sports, any sport. Plus, both sea-loving lands do ‘laid back’ good: real good and real different. With the Aussies it’s cool: g’day, mate, sorry, mate – a let-it-be mindset. With Italians, it’s laid back, too, but with a mix of passion and operatic excess. Endless animated discussions in a singsong language with wristy staccato gestures. Just the names of the Aussie and Italian finalists spoke volumes: Sam Stosur — a simple, no-frills, three syllable sporty alliteration in contrast to Francesca Schiavone, a lyrical seven-syllable adventure with its own unmistakable musicality.

THE WORLD’S MOST INTERESTING ‘HANGER-OUTERS’: Want a snapshot of the continental scene of the beautiful people in the players restaurant mecca at Roland Garros, where eager wannabes and faux glitterati gather with generations of tennis legends and the truly dazzling? Well, just imagine that macho, cigar-smoking “most interesting man in the world” prototype in the Dos Equis ads, add in lots fine looking ladies in high heels chatting in Spanish, Italian or Russian and multiply by 200.

‘TANK’ YOU FOR YOUR CANDOR, BUT…: The oh-so-likeable Querry, who was burnt out on Europe, dared to confide that he tanked points in his first-round loss to Ginepri.

CHOKE ARTIST: Stefan Koubek was disqualified from an Austrian league match after choking Daniel Koellerer for seven seconds during a changeover. Koubek said Koellerer had insulted him. “I’m man enough not to let myself be insulted, especially not by him,” said Koubek. Incredibly, as they left the court fans booed Koellerer and cheered Koubek.

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: Liezel Huber went ballistic on her former partner Cara Black, telling the Zimbabwean, “You’re not good enough to play with me anymore.”

GO FIGURE: Nadal doesn’t like to talk about his place among the greatest of all time “because then people say I’m fat-headed.”…Bethanie Mattek-Sands has a sock endorsement contract…Elena Dementieva plays 46 straight Slams and then pulls out in the French semis with a muscle tear…Federer said his goal now is “Just having fun”…Pat Cash became a granddad at 44.

WHO CARES?: Before the RG semi between Swede Robin Soderling and the Czech Tomas Berdych, tennis historians recalled that Mats Wilander once interrupted an interview at the Aussie Open with his own question: “If a Czech and a Swedish tennis player jumped off the Empire State Building at the same time, who would land first?” “Who?” asked the puzzled reporter. “Who cares?” responded Mats.

A MICKEY MOUSE QUESTION: A reporter had this dialogue with Federer:

Q: “I was not thinking about asking this question first, but I understood you are in very great shape and that you’re ready to play…But I was wondering whether you’d be ready to play against Mickey Mouse from Disney?”

RF: “Why should I play Mickey Mouse?”

Q: “If Roland Garros is moved to Disneyland, then you have to play against Mickey Mouse.”

TOUGH DAY AT THE OFFICE: After his loss to Soderling in the French quarters, Federer was unable to defend his ’09 title, his wondrous streak of 23 straight Slam semis was shattered, and he lost his No. 1 ranking (which he can’t regain even if he again wins Wimbledon). But there’s always a silver lining. Roger noted, “I still have the quarterfinal record going.”

CURIOUS QUESTION: Andrew Castle asked Federer: “What’s tougher – spending a whole day on your own with your twins or going five sets with Rafa?”

SERENA SLAM?: Date Krumm, who’s been on and off the tour for more than 20 years, said that Steffi Graf was the toughest player she’s faced followed by Henin and Serena.

THE CONFESSIONS OF THE MAN WHO ACCOMPANIED JACQUELINE KENNEDY TO PARIS: Hearing Serena and Venus speaking what their mom calls “bootleg French” brought to mind Jim Courier‘s adept victory speeches in ’90 and ’91 and Jackie Kennedy sweeping Paris off its feet in ’61. Her triumph prompted JFK to begin his farewell speech by conceding, “I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself to this audience. I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.”

SAY IT AIN’T SO: When Serena was asked if she felt she had any responsibility to represent her country in Fed Cup (she hasn’t played since ’07), Serena quipped, “My only responsibility is my two dogs…That’s the only real responsibility I have.”…Murphy Jensen reportedly owes more than $1 million in taxes.

SAY WHAT?: Former Wimbledon junior champ Laura Robson, 16, apologized for saying some of the women on tour are “sluts” who “make a bad name for themselves by going out with different guys.”

NOT WILLING TO SPEND HIS PR CAPITAL: Andy Roddick refused to predict who would win the World Cup match between the U.S. and England because “I’ve got the British crowd on my side right now. I’ve built up a lot of goodwill over the last couple of years that I don’t want to ruin by answering this question.”

FROM SLOPE TO HOPE TO NOPE: Olympic skier Bode Miller, a former Maine state tennis champ, entered the U.S. Open sectional qualifying tournament in Hawaii only to promptly lose 6-4, 6-2. “Between sets,” Miller reported, “I was dying. I had nothing left.”

BEST WOMEN’S MATCH THAT HAPPENED: Pick em: Stosur vs. Henin or Stosur vs. Serena or the operatic Schiavone vs. Stosur women’s final.

BEST MATCH THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN: Henin vs. Serena.

BEST MEN’S MATCH: Ivan Ljubicic vs. Mardy Fish, Soderling vs. Federer or Gael Monfils vs. Fabio Fognini.

BEST MEN’S MATCH THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN: Roger vs. Rafa.

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, LOOK LIKE A CANARY: Jankovic said, “I feel almost like a butterfly on the court again.” But in her bright ‘n pretty yellow outfit, she looked more like a canary.

CIVIL WARS SIMMER: The feud between Henin and Clijsters is on the back burner, but Jankovic’s ongoing spat with Ivanovic is doing quite well, and Marion Bartoli snapped that she didn’t “give a damn” how her fellow Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai was doing. Rezai countered, “Marion is a difficult girl. I did nothing… But that’s her education. She attacked me many times in the press…It’s a shame…because I’m a French player, just like her.”

NICKNAMES: “Little Allez” (Henin)…”Apav” (Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova)…”Jizner” (John Isner).

AGENTS OF CHANGE — NOT: According to Radio Roland Garros, “Most of the radical changes in tennis are not from players who become more conservative as they get older.”

CURIOUS DIALOQUE:

Q: What was the lowest you were ever ranked on the computer?

ROBBY GINEPRI: When I first started I didn’t even have a ranking.

Q: There was a rumor that said you’d be pumping gas if you weren’t playing tennis.

RG: Where at? Chevron or Shell?

SPORTING AUSSIE: Stosur’s mentor, Dave Taylor, said of the triumphant Schiavone: “I’ve never seen anyone play with such composure at the net. She fully deserved to win, she’s such a deserving champion. [It’s great] when you can be the coach of the opposition and still be happy for the champion.”

SICK SHOT: Melzer said a drop shot is “like a virus. Once you’re infected, it’s tough to get rid of.”

AND HE DOES PRETTY GOOD IN THE AFTERNOON TOO: When Djokovic said that he wasn’t a morning person, IT asked him who in tennis is a morning person. The Serb said, “Rafa.”

GO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN: Andre Agassi likened a best-of-five-sets match with Nadal on clay to “climbing Mt. Everest with bad weather.”…Despite being treated for cancer, Martina Navratilova played in the senior doubles and is planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

BACK-TO-BACK: Federer is the last player to defend a Grand Slam title (’07 and ’08 U.S. Open)…Soderling has lost in back-to-back RG finals, but also brought down Fed and Nadal in consecutive years.

GUESS WHAT — YOU’RE IN PARIS: You know you’re in France when the tattered billboard in the metro is in part an image of Sarah Jessica Parker promoting the French version of Sex and the City 2, a photo hyping Croatian tourism and an announcement of a Monet exhibition.

WHO’D A THUNK IT?: Henin’s mortgage shot — her minted in heaven backhand —crumbled under pressure and allowed Stosur to prevail in the French quarters. Henin then re-assured one and all, “It will take time. I’m quite aware of it, but I’m not going to give up. That, I can promise.”

INITIAL CRITICISM: Robby Ginepri said he was doing well in Paris because he has the same initials as Roland Garros. (Too bad nobody with the initials RG has ever won the French.)

MILESTONES: Venus and Serena claimed their 12th Slam doubles crown, their self-proclaimed “Williams Slam” of four straight Slam titles. They are No. 1 doubles and No.1 and 2 in singles…U.S. junior Andrea Collarini, who was an Argentine until a few months ago, used his big left-handed forehand to reach the French junior final…Lindsay Davenport will be playing dubs with Liezel Huber in Palo Alto and San Diego…French vet Sebastien Grosjean is retiring…Paul Annacone will be leaving the UK as the LTA’s head coach.

EXO UPDATE: Mac and Borg played a private exo on Court 18 at Wimbledon; Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis are scheduled to play the Wimbledon seniors; Roddick, Isner, Serena and Maria Sharapova are playing in Cowboy Stadium on July 10.

CLAY IMAGES: In sports, two surfaces frame athletes with particular beauty. Without its cluttered signage, the NHL’s white ice is a beautiful canvas for the swirling tableau of bright uniforms and the athletic motion that hockey at its best provides. And the deep rich tones of orange clay inevitably provide for stunning visuals. Anyway, we recall these clay moments: Nadal doing a triumphant spread eagle on his back…Seeing clay queen Henin stumble to the dirt as she was being humbled by Stosur was like Ginger Rogers tripping while dancing…Ginepri fell in a heap on the clay as Djokovic hit a lob winner. Feeling embarrassed, he reeled off three impressive push-ups, but lost his focus and the match was soon out of his grasp… Plus, we adored Schiavone as time and again she kissed the clay.

OF VENUS, SATURN, SPACESHIPS AND OTHER PLANETARY HAPPENINGS

THE RINGS OF SATURN: According to S.L. Price, when Ivan Ljubicic dons a headband, he looks like the rings of Saturn.

A HELICOPTER, A SUBMARINE AND A SPACESHIP: Asked if his wealthy family truly owns a jet, Ernests Gulbis shot back, “Yes, and I have a helicopter, a submarine and a spaceship.”

VENUS AND THE END OF ILLUSION: The French was a fab fashion tournament. Above all, the fashion universe orbited around Venus this year and her both stunning and revealing outfit of subtle black lace and red trim, a kind of Gussy Moran is off to the Moulin Rouge happening. When Venus served, her dress revealed her backside, which prompted one fan to note, “It’s good for my imagination, but it doesn’t require much.” Venus said “the outfit is about illusion…[But] maybe after this tournament, illusion may be retired, because it’s not really the point…I may be wearing all the same boring underclothes as the other people. As great as the design is, I really want the focus to be on the tennis…Obviously, wearing lace will still be an amazing innovation, but I’ll have to find a way to try to make it a little less noteworthy.” BTW: Venus’ mom, Oracene Price, told IT that Venus has something special planned for Wimbledon.

THE WIT AND WISDOM OF FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE:

•Asked what she felt at her ecstatic moment of triumph over Caroline Wozniacki in the quarters Fracesca said, “Heart attack.”

•Before the final Schiavone’s Fed Cup coach Corrado Barazzutti told her “If you want to go down in history, you have to take a risk and try hard, never give up.”

•Schiavane spoke of seeing her friends right after she won. “When I saw them now, I say, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Oh, we took a car. We came 10 hours.’ I said, ‘You’re crazy.’ ‘You didn’t pay us the flight, so we had to take the car.’ Yes, was fantastic.”

•On her inner vision: “I thought that you can arrive here just if you really work hard and if you really have something special inside. Can be passion, can be heart…I always dream, yes. I always believe…This means that everybody have the chance to be who really you want to be, and to do everything in your life…[this is] over the limits…When I call my daddy, he say to me, I remember you that you always dream this one. Every morning that you wake up, you work to do something like this.”

•On the thrill of victory: “To kiss the ground is to thanks this clay, this beautiful tournament and this arena…to give me this opportunity and all the emotion that I am living.”

•On her immediate desire after the final: “I want to go home to mommy and daddy.”

QUOTEBOOK

“He can be a giant killer or go off with the pixies.” — Craig Gabriel on Tomas Berdych

“That was some kind of group psychoanalysis” — Marion Bartoli on one of her emotive press conferences

“In the past, my gasoline has always come from something negative.” — Justine Henin on her new, more positive drive

“Someone up there decided I would be the ambassador of the country.” — Israel’s Shahar Peer

“”I can sweat looking through a window on a hot day.” — Andy (the Prince of Persperation) Roddick

“I tell you why Nadal’s tight. He’s a human.” — Doug Adler

“I have no explanation.” — Soderling on why he went 0-8 on break points against Rafa

“We’ve only won one French Open and we’re trying to give our trophy a brother or sister.” — Serena on her and Venus’ effort to win the doubles crown

“He played perfect tennis and can become No. 1 faster than we expect.” — Bjorn Borg on Soderling

“Forget the fromage.” — Broadcaster Ted Robinson encouraging French fans to come out and watch great tennis rather than lingering about with their unending lunches

“You know how they say: ‘Sport doesn’t build character. It shows it.'” — Ana Ivanovic on fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic, who mocked her trademark fist pump in Madrid

“Sometimes you are numbed by your own excellence. You lose interest.” — Matthew Cronin on a curious dip in Serena’s play

“I want to see if you saw the ball hitting the line. I’m not here for a physics lesson.” —An unhappy Roddick to a chair ump

“It’s like war.” — Nadia Petrova on what it’s like when two Russians play each other

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