TOMMY HAAS NAMED TO HEAD BNP PARIBAS OPEN: Tommy Haas has a beautiful backhand, is comfortable with a lot of beautiful people and now has a beautiful job. The German-American, who has long lived in LA, was named as Tournament Director of the BNP Paribas Open. Haas is friends with former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. More importantly, he is a friend of tournament owner Larry Ellison.
Haas is still an active player, so he could conceivably give himself a wild card to the tournament he directs. Haas, who has long been associated with the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, rose to No. 2 in the world. But his career was plagued by devastating injuries and his parents were almost killed in a road accident. Still, he never looked back.
Haas is part of a long tradition of former players becoming tournament directors. Indian Wells was previously headed by former players Charlie Pasarell and Ray Moore, who resigned in March. Other former players who head tourneys include Ion Tiriac, Richard Krajicek and Mardy Fish. Moore, who stepped down as tournament director amidst controversy, is still working as the head of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the host site of the BNP Paribas Open. In Paris, Novak Djokovic said Haas’ hiring is “kind of expected…to happen…It’s a perfect solution…considering the great relationship Tommy has with Larry Ellison. Tommy has been around so many years…Taking responsibility of few different roles is going to affect him. I’m sure he is eager.”
The Bryan brothers pointed out that Haas had often gone to Ellison’s desert estate, and then they thought about their ATP colleague being at the helm and quipped, “That’s a lot of work.” And yes, at the French Open, there were far too many jokes about how Tommy would certainly be gifted at delivering one key element every tournament director must provide – “Haas-piltality.”
TRULY A DUTCH TREAT: It’s the land that gave us Van Gogh. But of late, when it comes to winning big tennis titles, it’s been a no-go. Yes, Richard Krajicek won Wimbledon 20 years ago and Esther Vergeer is by far the best wheelchair player in history. Still, can we note that while Belgium boasted Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters and, thanks to David Goffin, reached the Davis Cup final, tennis in the low country land of Holland has, as Donald Trump might say, been “low energy.”
Paul Haarhuis, the long-ago doubles specialist, somehow was emblematic of the struggles of Dutch tennis. He was the infamous, perfect foil for Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open. His failure to put away any of four overheads during one crunch-time point is a much replayed part of tennis lore.
As for WTA tennis, great Dutch results have been dammed up for decades. At this year’s French Open, Kiki Bertens was the first Dutch woman to reach a Slam semi since “Big Bad Betty” (as Bud Collins called her)Stove made it to the 1977 US Open.
Of course, the Dutch excel at many sports, like speed skating and soccer (although this year they didn’t make the “Euros.”) They are a big people who like short names. Six-foot Kiki Bertens fits the bill. On a streak of 12 straight singles wins, the No. 58 player in the world has, of late, been a Dutch treat. But today she fell to Serena and was soon off to her splendid homeland that produces lovely windmills and pretty tulips – just not that many tennis champions.
YOU KNOW YOU ARE AT THE FRENCH OPEN WHEN YOU…Enjoy mimes, acrobats and contortionists, munch on a yummy waffle, devour a Haagen-Dazs ice cream cone, navigate jammed walkways, shake your head about late-arriving crowds, see plenty of folks in red berets, and never realize lunches could stretch so long.
WHAT DO BIG BANDS ENSEMBLES, EPISCOPAL CHURCH SERVICES AND STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESSES HAVE IN COMMON WITH ANDY MURRAY’S FRIENDS BOX? They all feature folks who stand up, then sit down, then stand back up again in ritualistic patterns.
LOTS OF SIZZLE, NOT MUCH STEAK: Wow, thought tennis fans, there will be two men’s and two women’s semis Friday. How yummy. But the matches only had modest drama and in the end the cream rose to the top. Against Holland’s Kiki Bertens, world No. 1 Serena Williams again got off to a sluggish, almost indifferent start, fell behind in the first set and had to save a set point. But few others know how to so adeptly raise their game and get in gear. Serena saved the set point, dealt with a possible and somewhat mysterious abductor injury and proceeded to upgrade her game. She began to hit out and serve well to score an important, but not pretty 7-6, 6-4 win.
Serena will now seek to defend her title against the No. 4 seed, the now and future star Garbine Muguruza, who dismissed Aussie Sam Stosur. The tall, stylish Spaniard has “future phenom” written all over her. She’s tall and beautiful and she’s gifted with power and surprising finesse. She reached last year’s Wimbledon final, where she fell to Serena. Williams will be trying to gain her fourth French Open crown. She first won in 2002 and has never won back-to-back Roland Garros titles. For the third time she will be seeking to tie Steffi Graf’s mark for most majors in the Open Era.
On the men’s side, for all the tumult, there will be yet another “Big Four” meeting in a Slam final. Andy Murray played devastating ball as he dismissed last year’s champ, Stan Wawrinka.
Today’s best male player, Novak Djokovic, handily beat Austrian Dominic Thiem, 22, who possibly could be a future best player. As Djokovic secured his 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win, Roland Garros Radio said, “It was a bit of a master-apprentice thing out there.” Broadcaster Gigi Salmon added that it was if Novak was telling Thiem, “You are talented, you are good, but I’m still in control. Well done, bye-bye.”
Djokovic is now poised to claim the prime title that’s eluded him – Roland Garros. The win would give him a career Grand Slam, a calendar Grand Slam and his 12th career Slam.
But he will have to get past Murray, who, after struggling hugely in two five-set matches early in the tourney, has been on fire. He now has reached the finals of all of the Slams and is seeking to become the first Brit to win the French Open in 79 years. Djokovic beat Murray in the Australian Open final, but the two split on clay recently when Novak won in Madrid and Andy prevailed in Rome.
NO KIDDING: A Spanish journalist proclaimed to Garbine Muguruza, “One of these days you are going to win a Grand Slam.”
SAY IT ISN’T SO: Throughout the tournament Serena has seemed to be glum and joyless. Career fatigue?
GO FIGURE: To win the French title, Serena will have to score a win for the third day in a row…The highest seed Serena has faced this week was No. 20, the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina…Leander Paes and Martina Hingis won the mixed doubles crown and in just 18 months secured a career Grand Slam in mixed…Leonardo DiCaprio was in the French Open house today.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA PLAYS HER SOCCER CARD: Martina tweeted, “Sepp Blatter And His FIFA Cronies Paid Themselves $80 Million – figures…crooks!!!”
TOUGH LUCK: It’s Guy Forget’s first year as Tournament Director at the French Open, and from the get-go he was flooded with problems. His rugged start brings to mind Steve Simon at the WTA and Dave Haggerty of the ITF who, after they took the helm of their groups, faced mammoth headaches.
WEATHER REPORT: Broadcaster Gigi Salmon said, “It’s been spitting for about two weeks.”
EURO DEAL: It only cost about $23 to get a grounds pass today. The ticket got you onto the Suzanne Lenglen Court, and the zealous crowd there helped Novak Djokovic. Then the French women’s doubles team of Kiki Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia drew raucous support.
GREATEST INTENSITY: How about those high-energy, primarily Serbian Lenglen Stadium fans seeking sweatbands, sweaty shirts, autographs and other memorabilia from Novak Djokovic?
QUOTEBOOK: “This match has been all about Andy Murray putting a sleeper hold on Stan and the crowd.” – Courtney Nguyen on Murray’s superb play in today’s semi
ROLAND GARROS 2016 – A POEM:
With apologies to Verlaine
By Michael Mewshaw
It rains in my heart
As it rains on the court
Covered by a rubber tarp
Slick as the scales of a carp
Bleeding red around the edges.
The wet flags swing loose
Like a corpse in a noose
While forlorn pigeons fly overhead
With all the flickering dread
Of newly dead souls looking
Back in anguish at the living.
Here where it’s been evening all day
And the downpour won’t stop soon
We wonder what we have done
To deserve these hours without play.
A GARBINE MUGURUZA QUOTEBOOK:
• “I have gained a lot of experience very quickly.”
• “I have nothing to lose and will try to win against the best player in the world and control my emotions.”
• “I don’t think I must win.”
• “It’s true Garbine has changed and Garbine has changed quickly and this is good for me.”