Things We Learned on Day Seven of the French Open


1. In case we were wondering whether John Isner would continue his streak of losing in five sets at slams, the answer was yes. Today marked the fifth slam where Isner lost in five sets out of the last five he’s played (he missed the 2013 Australian Open, so it dates back to the 2012 Australian Open). In fact, seven of Isner’s last nine losses at slams have been five-setters. Ouch.

2. Our friend Brodie had this fun stat:

Pretty nice to see the old guys doing so well. Turning 30 no longer means irrelevance in men’s tennis, and that’s a great thing to see.

3. I love the Isner-Mahut bromance. It’s really cool that two guys who seemingly have little in common managed to form a friendship based on one historic, crazy match.

4. I’m so sick of smartphones on court that I’m now in favor of banning them and making it an automatic default if a player pulls one out. Just stop.

5. I’m not sure what possessed NBC to cut away from the fifth set of Haas vs. Isner to show the beginning of Djokovic vs. Dimitrov, but it was absurd. I missed Isner going up a break and 4-1, and then Haas breaking back to get back on serve. I just wonder why and how these decisions are made. Who exactly would think that was a good idea?

Juan José:

1. Benoit Paire is extremely raw. The ultra-talented Frenchman showed flashes of tantalizing brilliance today against Kei Nishikori … for two sets. His composure after losing the third (Ben had been down 3-5, broke Kei’s serve to get to 4-5, but played an extremely silly game to hand over the set) was simply pathetic. Even though Nishikori had shown plenty of evidence that suggested he would have trouble closing him out, Paire seemed to check out of the match once he went down a break in that final stanza (and that happened pretty early, too).

I’ve written about how highly I think of Paire’s talents, and I’m far from being the only one under his spell:

However, I think Paire’s destiny is much closer to being a slightly more accomplished Julien Benneteau than a perennial contender. The reason I say this is not because of talent or shot selection: I question Ben’s ability to compete at a high level consistently. This has more to do with effort and focus than Xs and Os or forehands and backhands. If you can’t compete at a high level (and Ben didn’t for an entire set of Grand Slam tennis), you simply can’t expect to rise higher than the top 15. No matter what your talents are.

2. Kei Nishikori is almost ready to barge into the top 10. Japan’s No. 1 played like a veteran today, trying to weather the storm of chaos that Ben Paire presented. Still, Nishikori wasn’t flawless, and showed a few instances where his composure and concentration opened the door for Paire to mount a comeback. Fresh in my mind is the 5-3 game in the third set. Nishikori produced a very sloppy service game, just when he should have made his experience count. And while Kei did break back immediately afterwards to take the set he had attempted to serve for, much of the damage was self-inflicted by Paire.

Still, it should be noted that Nishikori did serve out the match in a more assertive way when the opportunity presented itself later. It’ll be interesting to see how Nishikori handles the Rafael Nadal challenge in the next round. He’ll be able to swing freely, since it’d be difficult to find anyone who expects him to get much of anything out of that match other than experience.

3. Fabio Fognini and Ben Paire might be the same person. Or at the very least, the same tennis player. Endless talent … and endless chaos and insanity.

4. Francesca Schiavone is looking very, very good. She absolutely dismantled Marion Bartoli today. What was it that Rudy Tomjanovic said about never underestimating the heart of a champion? I can’t wait to see Azarenka battle it out against the 2010 Roland Garros winner. Anything can happen.

5. NBC is the worst. As we all know, but still. Today I wanted to do a LiveAnalysis post for the Jerzy Janowicz-Stan Wawrinka match. The Tennis Channel streams were up, and I had no issues for most of the first set. But just as Stan was attempting to serve out that opening stanza, NBC began their calamitous takeover of the French Open coverage. As soon as NBC’s coverage window started, Tennis Channel’s web streams disappeared. The message was clear: you either watch what NBC was showing, or you don’t watch anything at all.

To me, it’s simply unacceptable for Roland Garros to allow this to happen on the first Saturday of the tournament. There are so many matches going on! If NBC wants to embargo what happens on Philippe Chatrier, fine. Go ahead and take that stream off the air. But take all of them off? How on earth is that be beneficial for the sport and its fans?

Sadly, NBC was just warming up. They showed us the end of the fourth set between Isner and Haas, when the match point insanity started. Novak Djokovic had already begun his match against Grigor Dimitrov on Chatrier, and NBC was surely rooting for Tommy Haas to finish Isner off so they could switch to Chatrier. However, John came up with the goods (and Tommy Haas kept making life simply by refusing to take away Isner’s wide serve from the Ad court … but that’s a rant for another time), and not only did the tall man from Greensboro survive that game, but he took the fourth set in a tiebreaker.

Now we arrive to the moment Amy points out above. Instead of sticking with this five-setter (on which the network had already invested almost half an hour), they switched to Chatrier to show Djokovic. And here’s my main problem with this decision: the score on Chatrier read 4-1 in favor of Djokovic … with two breaks of serve. Why on earth would NBC switch to a set that was, for all intents and purposes, over, instead of sticking with the fifth set of a match that had already seen a huge number of match points go by? Who knows. NBC stubbornly stuck with Chatrier all the way until Djokovic uneventfully clinched the set without any further breaks of serve: 6-2. By then, we had missed John Isner going up a break on Haas and holding a 4-1 edge in the fifth set of their match.

While the French Open keeps suggesting we should all feel sorry for it for not being able to move on with its expansion due to French bureaucracy, I must remind everyone that it’s the French Open itself which keeps us chained to NBC’s outdated TV coverage model. For once and for all, let’s keep the US major networks out of tennis. It’s a no-win situation for everybody involved. Let’s just accept that we live in a different era and move on.

4 Responses

  1. Ribbons
    Ribbons June 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

    Paire + coach doing signals is bugging me. Bottom line, it’s cheating. Not cool. (I respected Erakovic a tad more before this morning, too.) That said, I can’t help wondering how much difference it actually makes, especially with a player as volatile/flaky as Paire. (It reminds me of when I overheard Hernan Gumy telling Gulbis, “You break a racquet, I break your head” — and then Ernie breaking a racquet anyway.)

    >>I think Paire’s destiny is much closer to being a slightly more accomplished Julien Benneteau

    Ouch! (and nodding my head in agreement) Among other things, he’s said as much in an interview — I didn’t save the link, but the gist was he already knows he isn’t going to become a No. 1. If I were putting money on the 2018 Top 5, I’d be more inclined to bet on the likes of Vesely or Laaksonen or Peliwo.

  2. Dan
    Dan June 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

    Isner just has a thing for dramatic 5 setters. I pity the players. These 5 setters are mostly useless except for entertainment value. But hey i guess not everyone in the tournament is playing for the cup. Maybe just have a good tournament.

    Rafa’s post match presser was interesting. He’s nervous, anxious.His lateral movement is abysmal right now. Poor guy. But oh well, a loss wouldn’t be the worst thing for him now.

    Novak looking like a man on a mission but Grigor hardly made Novak work. Novak had 12 winners and Grigor had 50 errors. Match right there.

    Cant wait to see Fed get some real competition soon.

  3. S
    S June 1, 2013 at 10:39 pm |

    NBC did the same shit during the Olympics last summer. Horrid decision making but hey, they have a monopoly, so suck it up. Grrr.

  4. Bob
    Bob June 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm |

    I am supposed to pay for a larger cable package that includes the Tennis Channel just to watch the Men’s French Open semi-finals? Absolutely lame.

    This whole 3 channel coverage of the French Open is lame and not very clear. And the best match of the French Open is on the low-rated Tennis Channel?

    Why isn’t McEnroe ranting about this on behalf of tennis fans?

    I don’t get it. I give up.

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