Things We Learned on Day One of the 2014 French Open

Throughout the French Open, we’re going to be inviting different people from the tennis community to add to our “Things We Learned” series. Today we’re happy to have Andrew Eccles join us.


1. The decision to put Rafael Nadal on Court Suzanne Lenglen for his opening match tomorrow rather than Court Philippe Chatrier is perplexing. The defending champion of a Grand Slam should always play their opener on the biggest show court, especially when the defending champion has won the tournament eight times, and is ranked No. 1 in the world. I don’t get it. Apparently I wasn’t alone.

2. Could the Fed twins be any cuter? I don’t think so.

3. Maria Kirilenko has struggled in her comeback, winning only one of her first four matches back. She lost badly to Johanna Larsson today, 6-1, 6-2. Clearly there’s still a lot of rust from her extended injury layoff, or there’s still an injury lingering.


1. It’s Slam time, so it’s time to talk about best-of-five versus best-of-three, I enjoyed this piece by Stuart Miller arguing that the best-of-five matches didn’t add as much drama as people think.

So tennis would lose if the fourth and fifth sets were eliminated in the first week of Grand Slam events. But Billie Jean King, who has continually innovated with the format in her World Team Tennis league, said more would be gained. Grand Slam matches should be reduced in length throughout the tournament, she said, largely for the health of the players.

‘It seems smarter to me to have all tournaments using the same format — and not to extend the time on the court four times a year,’ she said. ‘The bottom line is the way we do it now is shaving time off a guy’s career. That’s not good for him, for the fans or the growth of our sport.’

For the record, today featured three five-set matches. Radek Stepanek and Mikhail Youzny both came back from two sets down to take out Facundo Arguello and Pablo Carreno Busta respectively, while Jarkko Nieminen lost two of the first three sets before beating Michal Przysiezny. In all three cases, the more accomplished players prevailed despite their lethargic starts.

2. Sam Querrey, keeping the perspective:

Querrey and John Isner both won in straight sets today, which might be the weirdest thing to happen in 2014 so far.

3. Francesca Schiavone lost meekly in straight sets to Ajla Tomljanovic on a non-televised court, which just makes me miss 2010. I just want to see Franny be happy.

4. I agree with Amy above that it was a disrespectful move to put Rafa on Lenglen tomorrow–the No. 1 player and defending champion should open on the main court, end of story. After that I’m fine with things being moved around to allow guys like Wawrinka a chance on the big court.

However, I can’t help but wonder if the impending weather of doom and Nadal’s comments about the bad surface on Chatrier affected this decision at all.

Overall, I’m pretty excited about the OOP tomorrow. I think there will be some closer matches than there were today. I’m especially excited for Stosur/Puig, Cornet/Barty, Stephens/Peng, PHM/Thiem, McHale/Vesnina and Townsend/King. I’m sure those won’t all be televised, but let’s just pretend for a few hours that they will be.

5. I wrote about the fact that Federer is being overlooked this year, and maybe he shouldn’t be because things are actually lining up pretty nicely for him.

I also laughed a lot at this:

‘I don’t like it when they come too close,’ Federer said Sunday about the cameras at tennis tournaments. ‘Not necessarily the Spidercam, but the cameraman himself, when I feel like he’s just filming my nose or something.’
Another issue is when the cameras get close as Federer is changing shirts during a match.

‘It’s not like because I like to do that, but it’s because I have to,’ Federer said. ‘And then it’s like that focus, I feel like it’s a bit odd, you know, ‘Who is that guy controlling the camera?’ I don’t know. Is he a weirdo or not? I don’t know. That’s probably why.’

6. It didn’t happen today, but I loved this Christopher Clarey piece on Magnus Norman. Pretty excited to see what Stan can do in Paris this year.

7. Matt Zemek is doing fabulous work over at the new “Attacking the Net” blog at Bloguin. Definitely worth checking regularly if you’re not already. He’s doing a great job attacking (GET IT?) the ridiculous TV coverage of tennis here in the States with his list of embarrassing broadcast decisions.

8. Didn’t Venus Williams look great today? Venus Williams looked so great today, you guys. Her tennis. Her outfit. Her Venusness. Everything. #pleaselookthisgoodatWimbledon #hashtagsinposts

9. I like the flower kits. ALL OF THEM. Even Aga’s and Berdych’s. There, I said it. I feel so much better now. (Don’t leave me.)


1. Turns out, you can lose in R1 and leave a legend.

French wildcard Amandine Hesse made a big impression out on Court 1 against the Grand Slam TITAN that is Yvonne Meusburger…The world No. 219 is certainly an entertaining player, with a flashy but unpredictable game that saw her save several match points before an errant forehand beyond the baseline saw her go down 3-6 6-3 6-4.

It wasn’t so much her loss, nor Meusburger’s win, that was the story though, but rather the adoration of the Court 1 crowd and way Hesse handled defeat.

After the handshake Meusburger quietly took her seat whilst Hesse, the LOSING PLAYER, walked out onto court to take the applause and then ran over to her team for hugs and handshakes. It was like she had WON Roland Garros.

Like a proper champ, she even stayed to sign autographs long after Meusburger’s departure. I like it, and I hereby propose a new protocol of applause and autographs being entirely based on popularity, rather than actual results.

Sorry, Rodionova.

2. Yeah, Serena still hates playing against her friends.

As Lindsay has already pointed out, Venus really brought it with both her game and her dress today. I’m also totally on board with the floral theme that has swept its way through the field.

Serena is not wearing florals, Serena is wearing what those in the fashion business call a torn-skirt-thing. It kind of looks like she ought to be playing a tambourine whilst a hunchback and a few gargoyles dance around her. I love it, it’s very Paris. BUT, that’s not the thing that we learned today.

What we learned today is that two things still render Serena pretty vulnerable:

A) The first few rounds of any slam.
B) Any kind of friendly relationship with her opponent.

Now, I say ‘vulnerable’…what I actually mean is that her decisive 6-2 6-1 win over good friend mini- Olivia Wilde (Alize Lim) wasn’t as dominant as it could have been. There were sloppy shots, missed opportunities, a number of awkward footwork displays. It was all a bit disjointed. Add to that the wails and the “calm down” hand gesture we’ve all come to know and you can see that Serena was definitely a little out of sorts.

Even in victory, her response was a sad shake of the head. The anti-Hesse, if you will.

If Maria Sharapova wants any chance of winning this title, she better start a charm offensive ASAP.

3. Marion Bartoli is still the best.

Marion has been doing some commentary for ITV4 in the UK alongside Fabrice Santoro. Aside from the fan-boy joy I get from hearing she apparently moves around in the commentary box as much as she used to at the back of the court between points, there was also this lovely exchange:

Santoro: “It’s been a long time since there was a French Grand Slam Champion”
Marion, firmly: “In the men’s!”

You tell him, Marion.

4. John Inverdale is still the WORST.

The British tv presenter is back, on ITV4, now alongside the very Wimbledon Champion he insulted last year, and he’s up to his old tricks. Here’s a selection of quotes outlining the dangers of hiring people to present tennis programmes who know nothing about tennis, and don’t bother to do their homework:

“Kvitova – she’s very much in form at the moment.” – Um, no John, she’s not. There are holes in backboards scattered across Europe.

“Novak Djokovic will begin his defence of the title tomorrow.” – Yeah, Novak has never won the French Open, John. We’re all kind of talking about that. It’s sort of the major story of this whole damn event this year.

“Venus Williams has never made it further than the quarter final here.” – She was a finalist. She’s freaking Venus Williams. She’s made it further than the quarters.

“TENNIS PLAYERS ARE HORRIBLE CHEATERS!” – Okay, that wasn’t his exact quote, but there was an extremely long rant about Serena’s grunting, Rafa’s habits, Novak’s ball bouncing.

Basically, tennis, you may be tired of Inverdale’s antics, but remember: he’s sick and tired of yours too.

5. Europe has cheese-tennis contests. Possibly.

I can’t confirm this, as I am a new resident of Switzerland and understand about 0.2% of the French language, but what I gathered from French Eurosport is that you can win tickets to the final by going on their facebook page and entering PHOTOS OF CHEESE PLAYING TENNIS.

I love cheese. I love tennis.


(There is a good chance the man holding the cheese-playing-tennis-board wasn’t saying that at all, and I have simply created the greatest contest ever through terrible mistranslation. We can but dream.)

4 Responses

  1. Mark
    Mark May 25, 2014 at 8:51 pm |

    Hesse hit *50* winners, including 13 aces. On clay.

    And she’s shorter than me, another pocket rocket, a la Cibulkova/Rezai/Giorgi.

  2. Moo Tennis
    Moo Tennis May 26, 2014 at 4:15 am |

    Great to see Bartoli doing the coverage for ITV in the UK. She’s very talkative, even during points, but she’s fun to listen too. I’m hoping she will be part of the BBC coverage for Wimbledon.

    Inverdale continues to GRATE on me. I was shouting at the TV on several occasions and we’ve only had one day. Another Inverdale-ism… Apparently Kerber is an outsider for the title. He also kept getting scores wrong during the day. He really doesn’t have a clue.

  3. Patrick of La Verne
    Patrick of La Verne May 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm |

    Regarding Mr Zemek’s article about the amateurish way tennis broadcasts are treated:

    One could go on for days on this topic. Why, when there are a dozen courts in play at Roland Garros, do ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel have to show the same match (a Djokovic runaway) when Tennis Channel came on the air today?

    Why do the NBC listings for its coverage on Sunday and Monday advertise their broadcasts as Live, when, on the west coast at least, they are nothing of the sort?

    Why, with all of the many matches being played, does Tennis Channel’s re-play broadcast of the day’s play, only show the exact same match footage that they’ve already shown, instead of some of the matches we didn’t have a chance to see earlier?


  4. RZ
    RZ May 26, 2014 at 7:26 pm |

    Andrew, thanks for including info on the European commentary. Loved reading about it.

Comments are closed.