Things We Learned on Day Two 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 Jeff Sackmann join us.


1. This is unfortunate:

2. Carl Bialik of FiveThirtyEight took a look at a new way to measure court speed:

Now, the ITF is trying to find an easier way to ensure courts are fair. On a recent Thursday at a London tennis court, Jamie Capel-Davies, manager of ITF’s science and technical department, was testing a new device that the federation has helped develop. It’s known as SPRite, and this test was of model number 007.

The device doesn’t take a vodka martini. Instead, a ball cannon powered by a bicycle pump propels a ball off the court and through the testing chamber. Seconds later, a display shows the court-speed measurement. The measurement device and ball cannon each weigh about 14 pounds and together cost $12,000, compared to the 110-pound, $45,000 behemoth that sets the standard now. The new devices can be carried by hand, and their dimensions fall within most airlines’ carry-on baggage limits. The motivation for the test, Capel-Davies said, was “democratizing court-pace rating.”

3. The theories about why Rafa was scheduled on Suzanne Lenglen instead of Philippe Chatrier keep coming:

4. After all the Kei Nishikori hype that’s gone around, the ninth-seeded Nishikori lost in straight sets in the first round to Martin Klizan. Knowing that Nishikori was battling yet another injury, it’s not the most surprising result, but it highlights the fact that with Nishikori, every good week is followed by another injury and a few bad losses or retirements. After watching how well he played in Madrid, it’s painful to imagine how different things could be for Nishikori if he weren’t so injury-prone.


1. It’s just so frustrating that in order to get the all-court coverage that we used to get online at the Tennis Channel for the French Open, we now have to pay an extra $60 in order to get anything other than what TC is showing on television. I already pay extra each month for tennis coverage, and I recently invested in a new laptop primarily for tennis streaming. I, like many others I’m sure, just don’t have that much extra money laying around for two weeks worth of entertainment.

It’s annoying to pay as much money as I do for cable and internet and sports packages just so I will have access at majors like this, only to be told I have to pay another $60.

I’m just too exhausted by this all to really rant about it. It just all needs to be better.

2. Julien Benneteau got crushed by Facundo Bagnis in the first two sets, then climbed back to easily take the next two sets, and then blew a match point and lost 16-18 in the fifth set. I mean, really. Oh, AND he called for the trainer for a thigh massage when he was up 10-9 in the fifth set and Bagnis, a 24-year-old Argentine playing in his first GS main-draw match, was about to serve to stay in it.

It was all very French and very, very annoying.

It was a great moment for Bagnis, though, who cried into his shirt and stayed on the court for what seemed like hours talking on the phone with friends and family back home. (I presume.)

Some other fun notes about this match from Twitter:

3. Novak Djokovic had a straight-forward-or-easier win in the first round. He even had a chance to have a fun and charming exchange with a ball boy during a rain delay!

How could you not love that?

Oh. Okay. Moving on.

4. WTA players can’t be friends? Don’t tell Serena and Caro. Apparently Serena was going to be a bridesmaid in Caro’s wedding. Rumor has it she was planning the bachelorette party too, which is just incredible.

5. This is literally by far the best thing I have ever seen. All of the superlatives, they should be here.

6. Taylor Townsend came back from 1-5 down against Vania King in her first main-draw Grand Slam match and ended up winning in straights. She looked adorable too. I didn’t watch, but I hope to get a chance to see her next match.

7. Well, this makes me sad. “Playstation” Nikolay Davydenko lost to Robin Haase today, and confessed afterwards that it might have been his last tennis match. You should read the whole piece because it is just so honest and SO KOLYA and makes me miss him so much already. Two of the stand-out quotes:

‘What I need to do is see if I will continue this year after Paris or not. For sure I will not play Wimbledon, I’m skipping the grass completely. I’m in the Wimbledon main draw, normally I should go there but I will pull out of Wimbledon for sure. I have no interest playing there.’


‘I told myself before I will never go back to the start again. I will not play Challengers and I will not play ATP quallies. If I would like to continue this year I can for sure get wild cards.

‘If I will decide ‘yes maybe I need to continue this year’ but then I need to practice and really I don’t want to practice.

8. Matt Zemek analyzes Wawrinka’s loss.


1. 2011 Wimbledon champions Jurgen and Iveta Melzer are playing mixed doubles for the first time since 2012. They’ve got a tough challenge ahead of them in top seeds Abigail Spears and Jurgen’s occasional partner Alexander Peya.

2. The USTA’s reciprocal wild card for the Roland Garros men’s draw was even more pointless than usual this year. With Robby Ginepri’s straight-set loss today, American men WCs have won only one match since Wayne Odesnik reached the third round in 2008. Ginepri, who has a 12-34 career record on clay despite reached #15 in the world, “earned” his spot in the draw by winning a Challenger that was partially played on indoor hard courts.

3. When Michael Llodra takes the court against Fernando Verdasco, it will be his 15th straight appearance in the Roland Garros singles draw. Of those men competing this year, only Roger Federer has played in more–or more consecutive–singles draws.

4. James Ward won a set before ultimately losing to Tommy Robredo. History has been made.

5. Plenty of players got lucky with their first-round draws. Feliciano Lopez got lucky with his second-round draw. Donald Young and Dudi Sela, the two players who battled for the chance to face him in the round of 64, are equally hopeless on clay.

Coming into play today, Young was 3-13 in tour-level clay matches, and all three wins came in Houston. Sela–who scrupulously avoids the dirt–is just as bad, with a career mark of 6-25, including a 1-10 string dating back to last April. Young won in four sets, earning the chance to lose to Feliciano in a few days.

3 Responses

  1. Matt Vidakovic
    Matt Vidakovic May 27, 2014 at 4:17 am |

    So sad about Davydenko – I find his honesty refreshing, also because it lacks the sensationalist, contrarian edge of a Gulbis or Janovitz, for example.

    Djokovic staging the…wha…why…did he stage the rain too? Some people can never be pleased.

    Nishikori and Wawrinka losing early rounds – all we need now is for Raonic and Dimitrov to drop out early and we’ve got a full fledged return to the status quo.

  2. Matt Vidakovic
    Matt Vidakovic May 27, 2014 at 8:05 am |

    …..aaaaand Dimitrov is out 😛

  3. Steve
    Steve May 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm |

    Re: Djokovic

    Can’t believe how quickly people jumped on Djokovic for doing something spontaneous as being staged. Here’s the thing about acting naturally – it’s different from being natural. Djokovic gets crap from his detractors because he can’t act, but that’s the beauty of Djokovic, he shows you everything. He’s not good at hiding it, even when he wants kudos from a crowd his body language lets it be known. He likes to be liked and he doesn’t try to hide it. To me he’s one of the more genuine players out there.

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