Who’ll Stop the Rain?

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Bill Simons and Vinay Venkatesh

Paris

WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN? For some reason, here in soggy Paris, the lyrics of a long-ago Creedence Clearwater Revival song come to mind. Their rock anthem offered these words. 

“Long as I remember

The rain’s been comin’ down

Clouds of mystery pourin’

Confusion on the ground

Good men through the ages

Tryin’ to find the sun

And I wonder, still I wonder –

Who’ll stop the rain?”

WHAT EVERY CLIMATE SCIENTIST KNOWS? So what’s up with all the incessant rain in Paris? No doubt about it, it’s climate change, says all the environmental scientists in the press room. They could be right.

THE SOUNDS OF A CITY: One of the delights of Roland Garros are all its sounds. For many, only the Italian language is more enchanting than the French. At the tournament it’s easy to delight in all the sing-song conversational fragments one hears. Then there are all the on-court chants – and the full-throated announcements, with their dramatic crescendos. But now, pickleball courts have been installed right outside the stadium and we hear the sport’s clacky “Thwack! Thwack!” sounds that are hardly lyrical. BTW: At the US Open, the sounds of garbage removal can be thunderous. At Roland Garros, the maintenance vehicles have lovely little bells. In New York, police and other sirens are invasive blasts. In Paris they’re musical.

GRIEKSPOOR GOES UP THE CREEK: Of late, Dutch tennis could proudly boast having the player with the most difficult name in the game to pronounce – Botic Van De Zandschulp. But that was about their only distinction. Yes, the other day Dutch hopes briefly soared when Jesper De Jong took a set off Carlos Alcaraz before he faltered.

And savvy observers figured when No. 26 Tallon Griekspoor prevailed in the opening set against Alexander Zverev, he too would fade away. Yes, he’d prevailed in one lengthy rally after another against the German. But Sascha is No. 4. He’d just won the Italian Open and, in the marquee match of the tournament, had easily sent the King of Clay packing. Now many considered him the tournament favorite. And, as if on cue, Sascha charged ahead and took the next two sets. Certainly, like Alcaraz did against De Yong, the prohibitive favorite would prevail.

But Griekspoor played adept serve-and-volley points, saved ten straight breakpoints, roared back and broke twice to go up 4-1 in the fifth set.

However, noted the Tennis Channel, “There’s always a complication en route to the finish line.”

Sure, the crowd was chanting his name, but the Dutchman’s confidence vanished – the dike had broken. Zverev upped his aggression, improved his return of serve, took command and grabbed all the momentum. Dare we say, the Tallon seemed up the Griekspoor. He did force a tiebreak, but Zverev, who has reached three straight Roland Garros semifinals, surged in the deciding tie-break to squeeze by his valiant foe 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3). 

JUST WONDERING: If Rafa hadn’t faced No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the first round, would he still be playing?

ANDREY RUBLEV – ‘THE PROBLEM IS THE HEAD:’ Andrey Rublev is a vastly appealing player. His forehand is amazing. He’s emotional – you know what he’s feeling. He’s known to stand in the rain and sign autographs for an hour. Off court, he has a lovely smile. But on court, he’s not so jolly. Yesterday, as he went down to No. 35 Matteo Arnaldi from Italy, his inner McEnroe emerged. Agitated and out of control, he smashed his racket time and again and threw it to the ground. It was amazing he didn’t hurt his knee.

Andrey later said, “I was completely disappointed with myself – the way I behaved, the way I performed. I don’t remember behaving worse on a Slam ever. Out of nowhere, I collapsed with myself, I got emotional…I lost it completely completely and basically almost tanked the second set… The problem is the head, that today basically I kill myself, and that’s it.”

ONS’S INTUITION: Ons Jabeur is known now as “The Minister of Happiness.” But as a kid she was called Roger Federer – because of the magic in her hands. Before she went out to beat Sachia Vickery in the first round here, she said, “I’m trying to let myself play freely and play with more creativity and intuition, because I know that’s where I play the best.”

STEFANOS TAPS INTO HIS INNER SOCRATES: A while ago, tennis’ young prince of philosophy, Stefanos Tsitsipas, wrote a letter to the sport of tennis, saying, “You taught me to live life as it goes, to never doubt, and to just keep on living regardless of the outcome.” When asked what was behind all that, the Greek said, “It’s the game I chose, and it does have an expire date. So far, it’s the biggest pleasure in my life, because I get to interact with it pretty much every single week. I have a very close bond with tennis because it’s the thing that occupies most of my life. I get the feeling that, without tennis, my life would have been so much different in regards to challenging myself, seeking goals. Through tennis I’m able to set goals for my personal life. Like, I want to have a certain picture of my life, and tennis helps me fill out those dreams and fulfill my deepest desires as a human being.”

CANADA POWER: While Leylah Fernandez fell to Ons Jabeur, Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who’s coming back from a long break, is through to the third round. Canadians also flexed their muscles while battling their southern neighbors. Denis Shapovalov beat Frances Tiafoe in the second round, and today Felix Auger-Aliassime easily dismissed Ben Shelton.

THE ASHE–NOAH CONNECTION: Long ago in the Cameroons, while Arthur Ashe was on a US State Department goodwill tour, he discovered the 11-year-old Yannick Noah hitting with a homemade racket. Ashe told French tennis authorities they should take the kid under their wing, and the rest is history. Ashe and Noah became doubles partners and dear friends. Both proved to be Grand Slam winners who went on to coach their Davis Cup teams. 

Decades ago, the US Open began its popular Arthur Ashe Day. Now, on the Saturday before the French Open, there’s a Yannick Noah Day. BTW, Noah may be one of the most successful national coaches in history. He led France to the Fed Cup title in 1997 and headed their Davis Cup team, which won three times. He’s now leading their paralympic team. On top of all this, Yannick has been named to replace Bjorn Borg as the Team Europe captain of the Laver Cup, starting in San Francisco in 2025.

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