Wimbledon Twists, Wild Rackets and Houdini Escapes – The French Open Buzz

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Bill Simons

Paris

A CALL FOR SELF CELEBRATION: One Radio Roland Garros fan noted, “That was some retirement ceremony for Tsonga. I’d like a celebration like that for myself each week just for doing the laundry on Friday.”

HOUDINI IS ALIVE AND WELL AT ROLAND GARROS: Three of the top six men’s seeds – Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Carlos Alcaraz – have survived major scares and come from behind to win in five sets. Both Zverev and Alcaraz saved match points. The narrative is very different on the women’s side, as 7 of the top 12 seeds have lost. The pattern mirrors many a past major.

HERE WE GO AGAIN: The recent unfortunate tradition of players flinging their rackets continued today. En route to her victory, Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu bounced her racket on the clay and it careened into the stands near a Romanian boy. It didn’t hit him, but he burst into tears. Later Irina apologized and posed for pictures with the boy. Unlike Novak, who felled a lineswoman, the Romanian wasn’t defaulted. Other players recently involved in racket and ball-bashing incidents include Nick Kyrgios, Jenson Brooksby and Jordan Thompson.

THE WIMBLEDON CONTROVERSY ROARS ON: Rarely has an issue provoked more opinions than tennis’ relationship to the Ukraine war, Wimbledon’s ban and the ATP and WTA stripping points from Wimbledon. 

Some say that Russia’s invasion and Putin’s regime, abusing his electoral foes, poisoning dissidents, suppressing an independent press and invading Chechnya and Crimea, are the worst war crimes in the west since Hitler. Something has to be done. The world must stand up. 

Others say forget it. Sports is sacrosanct and has nothing to do with politics. Tennis players are just sports figures and shouldn’t be intertwined in politics. Sports bring people together. 

Here’s a selection of varying views of the whole matter:  

“It’s all a bit of a mess.” – Broadcaster Marcus Butland on the Wimbledon controversy

“This is very strange.” Russian Daniil Medvedev on the fact that he will almost certainly become No. 1 after Wimbledon

“I think the ATP has gotten itself in a bit of a hole.” – Writer Simon Cambers

“It’s a lose-lose situation.” – Novak Djokovic on the relationship between the ATP and Wimbledon

“I don’t agree with either…If you have a pro competition, then everybody should be competing…I also don’t agree with the ATP to take out all the points. The most guys it’s affecting are the guys in the top rankings. Obviously Novak, me, Hubi, Berrettini…We’re going to drop a lot…They could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent [of the rankings].” – Denis Shapovalov

“We’re rallying against Wimbledon. I think it’s a pity, because…players do not understand this decision. Ninety-nine percent of players want to have points and play the tournament as before. I want to know if  the ATP wants to defend players or Russia…The question is: why didn’t they talk with players upstream?…Nobody told us about this…I’m sorry for Russia and Russians, but they are the ones causing all the trouble, and all the ATP players are actually paying the price. Medvedev will be No. 1. This is absurd. We should actually take a position for all the players in the world, and it’s the opposite that is being done…We are all penalized by this.” – Benoit Paire

“The decision that was taken was the correct one. There are a lot of things that happened behind the scenes that the press are not aware of, and there has been a lot of mishandling of how everything was handled.” – Sloane Stephens

QUOTEBOOK:

“He drove me crazy.” – Stefanos Tsitsipas after winning his 4:06 marathon match against Czech qualifier Zdenek Kolar, despite being down 6-2 in their fourth set tiebreak 

“It’s pure adrenaline to step on the court when you have 15,000 people shouting out their support.” – Jo Willie Tsonga

“It’s busy for the first two or three days, until all the British players have lost.” – Chris Bowers on the British media (Actually, now, in the fifth day of the French Open, only Cam Norrie remains in singles.)

“Snitches get stitches, so no.” – WTA Player Council-member Sloane Stephens on why she didn’t reveal the inner-sanctum discussions of the WTA relating to Wimbledon

AMERICA WATCH: In dominating fashion, the Pride of Piedmont, Mackie McDonald (UCLA), moved into the third round with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 upset over No. 22 Nikoloz Basilashvili. He’ll meet No. 7 Andrey Rublev next. Stevie Johnson (USC) lost to Frenchman Gilles Simon in straight sets. Shelby Rogers upended fellow American No. 9 Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-3. Up a set and serving at 5-2, 40-15, No. 11 Jessica Pegula faltered against Anhelina Kalinina, only to pull out a 6-4 win in the third. Former semifinalist Madison Keys beat No. 16 Elena Rybakina, the only woman with more aces than Keys this season. Alison Riske, Katie Volynets and Madison Brengle all lost to players seeded within the top 16. Riske fell to unstoppable No. 1 Iga Swiatek, winning just two games.

BE LIKE DRAYMOND: We know that Coco Gauff is very athletic. Her father was a college basketball star at Georgia State, and Coco loves the Miami Heat. So we asked her about basketball. She replied: “I actually did do basketball…That was my dad’s dream, not mine. Tennis was my dream…The year I made the final of US Open juniors I was still playing basketball and track…It was just so interesting playing a team sport, and I think that it taught me the importance of not being too harsh on yourself…I was a defensive player – I was a Draymond Green. No offense to him [laughing]…He probably plays like my dad did a little bit…I like his mentality and his fire.”  

QUESTION OF THE DAY: After her second-round loss, Emma Raducanu was asked: “Could you just tell us what it feels like to be learning on the job every day on such a big stage? Is it a bit like learning how to swim straight into the deep end, without any water wings on?” 

FAMILY HERITAGE: Three generations of Guy Forget’s family have won the tournament in Toulouse, France. Stefanos Tsitsipas has twice won Monte Carlo and his mother Julia Apostoli won the junior championships there. Alison Riske and her father-in-law Anand Amritraj both won the Surbiton grass court tournament.

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