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Home   News   Tebbutt: No more nooks & crannies

Tebbutt: No more nooks & crannies

Jun 12, 2018
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

These people strolling at Roland Garros last week with Court Philippe Chatrier in the background are walking past a west side of the stadium that will not exist in 2019.

Parts of it will be knocked down in the process of building a retractable roof over Chatrier that will be ready for Roland Garros 2020.

Already this year quaint Court No. 2 (east side above) had been demolished as part of expansion and building the roof. Court No. 2 was the last vestige at any of the Grand Slams of a small arena that had endured for more than 50 years.

There were many charming aspects of Court No. 2 including its asymmetry – one sheltered side had an overhead walkway and seats located under the stands of adjacent Court No. 3, and the other (west) side was wide open and had courtside seats (lower left here) for player guests and media.

The famous Court No. 1 ‘bullring’ stadium doesn’t really qualify for tennis antiquity because it has only been around since 1980, but it will be knocked down by the start of next year’s event, making room for welcome new green-space on the already over-crowded Roland Garros grounds.

With all the renovations there’s now no actual structure left at Roland Garros that dates from beyond the last four decades. And as far as the US and Australian Opens, they moved to their present locations from Forest Hills and Kooyong in 1978 and 1988 respectively, so they’re both at relatively modern sites. But even with that, the US Open lost its cozy if clumsy old Grandstand Stadium for good last year.

Wimbledon, the original tennis tournament dating back to 1877, would seem to be the best candidate to still have relics from old times – ‘nooks and crannies’ quirky kinds of ad hoc structures and passages. But it demolished Court No. 1 (on right above attached to Centre Court) and opened a new Court No. 1 stadium separate and remote from Centre Court in 1997.

And while traditional Courts No. 2, 3, 6 and 7 remained with their intimate and folksy stands into the 21st century, all four were lost to the wrecking ball when the new Court No. 3 stadium replaced them in 2011.

Although hallowed Centre Court remains essentially unaltered inside – except for stand rooming disappearing in 1990 and a retractable roof being added in 2009 – there’s really only one original outer wall remaining. That would be the front one in the picture above. All three other sides have been reconstructed during various additions and renovations over the past 40 years.

Dating back almost 100 years to Wimbledon’s move from Worple Road to Church Road in 1922, the front facade of the Centre Court building is all that’s left. So, at any of the four Grand Slam events, it’s really all that remains from the ancient times of tournament tennis.

Winsome Winners

Photo credit: Peter Figura

The 2018 French Open will not go down as the most action-packed or drama-filled event in the tournament’s history. But the winners, Simona Halep and Rafael Nadal, are certainly among its most beloved champions.

Rarely is a negative word heard about either and both are polite and generous to a fault with almost everyone.

Following her round-of-16 victory over Elise Mertens last week at Roland Garros, Halep was asked about the pressure of expectation she felt at Roland Garros from her Romanian compatriots. “Well, I don’t feel the pressure from my country,” she answered. “I feel that they really want it, but I take it positive. I feel their support. I’m thinking about winning a Grand Slam, but I don’t know if it’s gonna happen this year or in this life.”

She made that last remark with a smile on her face. It wasn’t clear at the time whether she would be able to overcome the disappointment of losing last year’s Roland Garros final, or the Australian Open championship match in January, but she eventually did with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sloane Stephens in the final. Happily for her, winning a Grand Slam did happen “in this life.”

It was a strange match with Stephens. The American was ahead 8-3 in games up to 2-0 in the second set and then Halep was 11-2 until 5-0 in the final set.

Photo credit: Peter Figura

There has quite simply never been a phenomenon in tennis like Nadal on clay. Again this year he displayed his other-worldly superiority with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Dominic Thiem in the men’s final.

Later when asked about his 17 Grand Slam titles still putting him three behind Roger Federer’s record 20, Nadal replied, “I never have been crazy about all this kind of stuff. No, you can’t be frustrated always if somebody have more money than you, if somebody have a bigger house than you, if somebody have more Grand Slams than you. You can’t live with that feeling – no? You have to do your way. And then you have to be happy with the things that are happening to you – no? Because if you are looking next to you, you can be frustrated thinking that people have more things than you in general terms. I am not this kind of person. I’m happy that other people have things, and I am very satisfied, and I feel very lucky with all the things that happened it me. Of course I would love to have 20 like Roger in the future or even more but, being honest, is something that is not in my mind. What is in my mind now is I won a very important title for me. I add one more Grand Slam – 17 is an amazing number. I feel very lucky about all of the things that have happened to me.”

Halep and Nadal are two fine individuals and champions who certainly seem to be comfortable with their situations in tennis and in life.

Canadians at Roland Garros

There were only three Canadians in main-draw singles at the 2018 French Open – Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil and Peter Polansky.

Pospisil and Polansky, a lucky loser, went out in the first round and Shapovalov was beaten in the second.

A quick comment about Shapovalov and his good friend and fellow teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime. Some may have been disappointed in their results – Shapovalov, 19, losing 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-4 to 22-year-old Maximilian Marterer of Germany in the second round and Auger-Aliassime, 17, being beaten 6-3, 6-3 by 21-year-old Jaume Munar of Spain in the first round of qualifying.

No. 1: Marterer is a fine clay-court player and showed that in a decent showing against Nadal – losing 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(4) in the fourth round.

No. 2: Munar is also a very good clay-court player – good enough to qualify and beat fellow-Spaniard David Ferrer 3-6, 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 7-5 in the first round of the main draw.

So…sometimes the opponent deserves credit for performing well even if the guys most Canadians were cheering for may not have had their best days.

Gabriela Dabrowski had a strong tournament in doubles – losing in the second round of the women’s event with partner Xu Yifan of China to Eri Hozumi and Markoto Ninomiya of Japan who went on to reach the final – and making it to the championship match of the mixed doubles.

Top-seeded with Croatian partner Mate Pavic, Dabrowski was two points from winning at 8-8 in the match tiebreak of the final but fell just short in a 6-1, 6-7(5), [10-8] loss to Latisha Chan of Chinese Taipei and Ivan Dodig of Croatia.

The loss stung but at least the No. 12-ranked Dabrowski now gets the opportunity, next week at the WTA Premier event in Birmingham, to play alongside Chan. Two weeks ago the No. 1 player in the WTA doubles rankings, Chan is now No. 3.

Finally, 15-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez had a terrific first Grand Slam junior girls singles event – reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

She won four matches, including defeating the No. 3 seed, without dropping a set before losing 6-4, 6-3 to the eventual winner, 14-year-old American prodigy Cori Gauff.

A single-minded competitor and excellent mover on the court, Fernandez should benefit from this first experience against her peers in a Grand Slam setting.

Paris Post Cards

(1) The French are known for their fashion sense. In this case it’s two elegant dresses in a MOMONI boutique on the left bank in Paris. Not only do the French know dresses, they also known how to dress a window as is visible in hundreds of shops all over the city.

(2) Historically this blogger’s favourite cookie in Paris has been a sablée aux amandes – basically a shortbread cookie with almonds. But this one, from a patisserie in rue de Grennelle in Paris 7ème, was over the top. As if a regular sablée aux amandes isn’t enough, this one came with dark chocolate wrapped around its edges – absolute decadence!