Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Latest Quest III

What a difference a ridge of high pressure makes. Play got underway on time at Roland Garros. And with that a semblance of normality cradled the tournament.

But while day three was disrupted by torrential downpours, day four was hampered by wind. That doesn’t stop matches but it wrests the protagonists from their smooth grooves. But at least they were playing. The organisers are probably just praying.

They need some sustained good weather to shift the backlog of matches so everybody has a fair chance of ultimate glory. After all we’d hate to see Rafael Nadal playing his quarter and semi-final on the same day. But the Spaniard is just such a beast on this surface, he’d probably win anyway.

But we should take nothing for granted. Last year the event came down to who would Justine Henin carve up in the final – she was that dominant. And in the men’s we wondered if Roger Federer would surpass Nadal. With Novak Djokovic having risen to the top table and proving more than able to cut Rafa and Roger up rough, there’s an air of uncertainty in the men’s.

With Henin retired it’s wide open among the women.

In an effort to quell his curiosity, one journalist asked the Russian fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova a question about who she – without naming names - realistically thought had a chance of getting their hands on the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. The girl from St Petersburg said five of the top 10 and a few dark horses outside. Most of us would have left it there. But no, there was a further incursion.

“Top five of the top 10?” She looked at him and smiled.

“You say you don’t want names and then you ask top five of the top ten?” She laughed it off.

But it would be mouthwatering to have a crystal ball. If I knew the results I could go round in a smug haze pontificating with the sagest of them. But we’re not here for certainty.We’re here for the thrills.

To see rising young bucks, jangled with adrenalin, besting their betters, that’s what it’s about. For the children here on the first Wednesday, making inordinate amounts of noise is what it’s about. I’m told it’s a tradition.

Far from being a crusty old goat, I think there are certain strands of tradition that should be eradicated with maximum prejudice. But at least the children are in the stands. Centre court is often barely full while the people with tickets are elsewhere enjoying corporate hospitality.

For a would-be punter to be told there are no tickets for sale and then watch the TV to see a half empty stadium, makes no sense. But it’s happening more and more. A tradition should be introduced in which spectators who aren’t in their seat for at least three quarters of a match (calls of nature and basic subsistence are of course permitted) should be ceremoniously ejected by the Court Police.

True, there are overtones of Orwellian menace. But at least it would stop the notion that some spectators are more equal than others.