FRENCH OPEN BUZZ: The Middle Ground ‘Tween Sorcery and Drudgery

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Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

THE VAST MIDDLE GROUND BETWEEN SORCERY AND DRUDGERY: ESPN’s Bonnie Ford wrote, “If red-dirt magic were transferable, [coach] Andre Agassi’s task would be easy: he’d scuff some into Novak Djokovic’s socks and tell him he is invincible. Instead, the work ahead of them lies in the vast middle ground between sorcery and drudgery.”

A DOOZY, BY KUZY ON TWOS-Y: As Svetlana “Kuzy” Kuznetsova streaked to victory on the French Open’s second show court, Mary Carillo commented, “It’s a doozy, by Kuzy on twos-y.”

ANDY MURRAY – THE FOREMOST MALE FEMINIST IN SPORTS? After numerous players gave somewhat positive, yet guarded answers to the repeated question of whether they would support renaming the Australian Open’s Margaret Court Arena due to Court’s frequent and, some would say strident, opposition to same-sex marriage, Andy Murray was rather direct. He countered Court, saying, “I don’t see why anyone has a problem with two people who love each other getting married. You know, if it’s two men, two women, that’s great. I don’t see why it should matter. It’s not anyone else’s business. Everyone should have the same rights.”

Of course, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that Murray spoke out. He may well be the foremost male feminist in all of sports. For starters, he’s the son of Judy Murray, who is Europe’s spunky answer to Billie Jean King.

He’s not afraid to raise his voice. At the last minute, he called for Scottish independence from England before the election. He watches women’s tennis and sings Serena’s praises. He’s pleased when his play is compared to the creative, rather poetic Agnieszka Radwanska. He spoke out emphatically when sexist remarks were made at Indian Wells in 2016, and he was reportedly upset by a groping incident (see below) that occurred here Monday. And yes, we almost forgot, he’s the only elite player to hire a woman, Amelie Mauresmo, as his coach. Plus, BTW, he was knighted by a woman – Queen Elizabeth.

COURT CONTROVERSY: Confederate statues are being taken down in New Orleans due to the message they send. Still, it’s not that often that a stadium is renamed. But the controversy over Margaret Court’s comments that she wouldn’t be flying Quantas Airlines due to their support of same-sex marriage is gaining heat. A born-again Christian minister in Perth, Court doubled down on her frequent claims that the Bible prohibits gay marriage and it should be banned. And she claimed she was mistreated in an Australian interview.

All the while, sportsmen, sportswomen, politicians and regular citizens are upset.

Players like Martina Navratilova and Sam Stosur are calling for the arena to be renamed. Others say Court shouldn’t be silenced. Petitions are being circulated – a firestorm is building. Many in Paris said gays should not be prevented from marrying. Our prediction: this controversy won’t go away soon – and next year’s Aussie Open could be intriguing.

EUROSPORT REPORTER GROPED: After losing in the first round of the men’s singles, Maxime Hamou seized Eurosport broadcaster Maly Thomas by the shoulder and drew her in. He then held her tight and within about 45 seconds essentially groped her, kissed her six times, put an arm lock around her neck, clung to her and touched her. The abuse wasn’t pretty. Thomas finally wriggled loose. Later she said if she hadn’t been on TV she would have slugged the 21-year-old Parisian, who is ranked No. 287. The incident brought to mind the 2003 moment when a drunk Joe Namath said on a football broadcast that he wanted to kiss sideline reporter Suzy Kolber.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS: The late Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was known as Pineapple Top. Coincidently, the top of the Wimbledon trophy is a pineapple – the international symbol of hospitality.

ALEXANDER THE NOT-THAT-GREAT-YET – A ROMAN HERO CRASHES IN PARIS: Sorry, Dominic Thiem and Nick Krygios, Alexander Zverev was this week’s hottest young thing. There wasn’t a cooler pick to dethrone Rafa at the French Open than the 20-year-old German. Tall (6′ 6″) and powerful, with laser stokes and a good commitment to the game, he’s the youngest guy in the top 10.

Fourteen months ago, after Zverev nearly upset Rafa Nadal at Indian Wells, the Spaniard said he was a future No. 1. In the last big warm-up tournament before Paris, Zverev beat Novak Djokovic to claim the Italian Open.

Here, his opening round foe was no pushover. Fourteen-year veteran Fernando Verdasco is a wily competitor, ranked No. 35. In any draw he’s a dangerous “floater.” But the Spaniard is also the kind of player any truly elite player has to handle. Unfortunately, today Zverev kind of stunk up the grandest clay court “gym” in the world.

Sascha stood back (almost reaching Belgium), was defensive and mentally seemed adrift. In his two-day first round match he only won one set, while he broke two rackets and seemed to throw in the towel. His backhand is his strength. Today it was his weakness. But time is on his side – in the long run, time should be his calling card. He may well become No. 1 and win many a Slam.

Today the kid’s youth got to him. As he all but imploded on Court Centrale he appeared to be just the 20-year-old he is. Afterwards he talked like a 20-year-old too, saying, “I played absolute s–t, that made the difference. It’s quite simple.”

Zverev insisted that his coming off a big win in Rome didn’t make a difference – there was no letdown. Still, he admitted that playing his first match on big Chatrier Court could have been a factor.

Anyway, he was upbeat about still being No. 4 in the race to the ATP’s year-end playoff in London. And despite a wretched two days at the gym, the tall, lean German with the Russian name and a certain Huck Finn look is still No. 1 when it comes to prospects for future ATP greatness.

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