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Nadal on Suzanne Lenglen Court - shock or...not?
Gasp. Hold the front page. That sort of thing. Why, I hear you cry? Because – and I can hardly get the words out – Rafael Nadal has been scheduled to open the defence of his title on Suzanne Lenglen Court. Shock. Outrage. Blah.
Or... not. Because actually, when it comes to the matter of which court will host which player – even if that player is the world No.1 and the winner of an unprecedented eight titles here – Roland Garros has no particular traditions or etiquette. It is not to be confused with, say, Wimbledon, where the defending champion is always accorded the honour of playing first on the Centre Court on the opening day of the tournament. But Roland Garros? No. So without such traditions, there can be no snub, and hence no shock. Meh.
“It’s pretty weird,” commented the No.10 seed John Isner, when asked for his view on the alleged controversy. “How many times does he have to win the tournament to play on Chatrier?”
But why should ticket holders on Suzanne Lenglen be refused the chance to see the best players? And playing there can hardly constitute an insult. It is a wonderful court, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014, with capacity for more than 10,000 spectators. Moreover, it isn’t even unprecedented for a champion to open a title defence there – Albert Costa did just that in 2003. In fact, back in 1960 Nicola Pietrangeli not only got his defence under way out on Court No.6but went on to retain the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Nadal himself is unlikely to be too perturbed. For one thing, he has played on Lenglen 11 times before without regarding it as an insufferable affront. For another, he emerged from those 11 matches for the total loss of one set. So it is not as if his game instantly crumbles if he attempts to play anywhere but Chatrier.
Besides, let’s apply a little reason. This first round face-off between Nadal and Robby Ginepri is unlikely to be the match of the year, given that the American is ranked No.279. He is bidding to become the lowest-ranked player to best the world No.1 at a Grand Slam since records began in 1985. The nearest comparison is Andrei Olhovskiy’s defeat of Jim Courier at Wimbledon in 1992, when Olhovskiy was ranked No.193. On paper it is the most unbalanced meeting of the opening round, with some expecting it to last no more than 80 minutes.
In any case, should the eight-time champion somehow scrape past the 279th-ranked player, no one can be in any doubt that his next match, and the vast majority of his matches thereafter, will be scheduled for Chatrier. So let’s put away those hastily-created protest banners, people, and save the outrage for something worth getting worked up about.