Expect the Unexpected at Roland Garros

Ah, spring in Paris and yes that means the French Open is underway at Roland Garros.

The second major of the season may be the toughest of the four majors to win. The clay courts at Roland Garros make it tough for many of the top players, as they are used to the hard courts or grass.

And in the first three days, there have been a few scares out there. Yesterday, Andy Murray – who was also feeling under the weather – dropped the first two sets to Richard Gasquet, only to rebound to make the second round.

Then earlier today, Andy Roddick, who seems primed to finally win another major this season, had to survive a five-setter against Jarkko Nieminen, 6-2  4-6 4-6 7-6  6-3.

“It’s not easy,” Roddick said.  “I mean, definitely, you know, spending three days in bed in Madrid wasn’t the way we wrote it up, you know. That was bad. That was not, you know, the preparation we wanted. We did the best we could. We scrambled last week and got two matches out at an XO. You know, XO is never the same.

“You know, so as far as preparation physically and in practice, it was good. But, you know, like you mentioned, it’s or like I mentioned, it’s not the same.

“It definitely was less than perfect, but I put some time in today.”

The biggest problem is the footing. Players enjoy stopping on a dime, which isn’t there with the clay courts. Instead they slip, putting uneasiness in their games as they slide up and down the baseline.

That’s why the clay court specialists seem to dominate with Rafael Nadal dominating the men’s side up until last year and the woman’s draw seems to be wide open.

Murray has season winning the French will be a physical and mental challenge. It’s a very different type of hit on the ball where they have to put more topspin on the return in order to get the right bounce.

“I think the ceiling is a little bit different on clay for me, but the mindset of going into a day doesn’t change. You go in and you try and battle and do the best you can. You see what happens.”

“I think the option of how you go about it is pretty simple. I’m aware that it’s probably on a worse surface. I’m aware of the challenges that it brings. Doesn’t change going into a day what I want to accomplish.”

Of course, there are weather issues as well. Spring Parisian showers mean muddier courts, slowing down the match to almost a crawl. Roland Garros is planning putting a roof on its new center court, but that’s going to be completed in 2013 or 2014, so that’s something else they needs to be dealt with.

All of this means it will be a very interesting two week. Expect an upset or two along the way, because with the clay courts, you never know what will happen.

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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