Monday, May 24, 2010

Roland Garros Day 2: No Unexplained Polar Bears

Curtain Call

Player: Michael Yani
Nation: USA
Age: 29
Current Ranking: 151
Tour Page
Today's Result: loss to Lukas Lacko (Slovakia) in five sets

The Singapore-born veteran Yani qualified for his first French Open and celebrated by playing a 71-game match against Lacko, the longest match in games since tiebreaks were introduced for the first four sets. The match started yesterday and finished today.

Lost Detox

I have seen quite a variety of reactions to last night's Lost finale but if you are like My Wife, I imagine you are feeling somewhat betrayed by how matters have been left. And so, devotees, as you begin to adjust to the cold, aching void, I offer you Roland Garros to ease your pain. First, a few ways in which I hope tennis will be more satisfying for you:

- It is unlikely that a polar bear will attempt to charge Rafael Nadal during a match, though I am completely confident he'd be able to handle the situation with a cool comparable to Sawyer's. If it did happen, a bestselling expose on the polar bear and its troubled youth would hit bookstores in short order and we'd soon know more than we ever wanted. The bear would be the must have for the exhibition circuit in the off-season.

- There will be resolution. Champions will be crowned, protectors of the island indeed. Plus, they're certain to be in better shape than Hurley. I will grant, however, that they are unlikely to quote Star Wars movies in their acceptance speeches.

- John McEnroe probably won't turn to Ted Robinson in the broadcast booth on the last day and ask, "What are you doing here?" Furthermore, Ted is unlikely to reply, "No John, what are YOU doing here?" On second thought, that could get interesting. I will admit that sitting through tennis commentary can feel a bit like purgatory.

- The plot is MUCH easier to follow. You win, you lose, no time travel.

There are areas where tennis can match Lost's strengths as well:

- Interaction. My Wife, a devoted fan of the show, yells with exasperation at the screen during Lost in a manner befitting a sports nut. I half expected a few McEnroesque "you cannot be serious" volleys from her last night.

- Beautiful people. Yes, you're losing Sawyer, Sayid and Jin. But I'm sure Rafael Nadal, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, the Spanish lefties, can help cushion the blow. As for the women, I've never thought the women of Lost were really all that exciting, certainly not compared to the women on Mad Men, Human Target or Leverage. I think tennis wins on this front. There are the obvious supermodel types: Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams. There are newcomers, too. Did anyone catch a glimpse of Egyptian-born Canadian Heidi El Tabakh yesterday? She got tuned in her first round match but she is, nonetheless, stunningly beautiful. I am generally turned off by the meat market publicity approach for women's tennis, but wow!

- International cast. Nine different countries are represented in the men's top 10, seven for the women. Four different continents are represented between those 20 players alone. And, unlike with Naveen Andrews, the accents are genuine.

- Plenty of morally ambiguous characters. Villain one day, hero the next: that's tennis in a nutshell. Take your pick: Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, the list goes on. Very few manage to stay in the good guy camp forever. Even Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters get wisps of bad press from time to time.

- Mr. Eko. Eko Tunde was far and away my favorite character on Lost and the day he was killed by the smoke monster was the day my interest in the show began to fade. A reformed African drug lord trying to pass himself off as a priest. Not really a priest but a genuinely good man. Plus, the whole thing about his dead brother in the plane. That storyline had promise and, like so many in the Lost saga, it was gone in a flash. Tennis has plenty of Mr. Ekos, players who show great promise only to fade as reality sets in. For me, it was Paradorn Srichaphan, a flashy, yet humble shot-maker from Thailand who rocketed to the top 10 only to gradually fade away. At least with tennis, it was easy to stick with the larger story.

I'll let someone else tackle 24...

My Weekends Only Slam

In response to a comment at Tennis Forums, DVRing sports is rarely a satisfying experience for me when I know I can instantly get a result online. I'm not disciplined enough for a spoiler-filled world. Besides, for me the fun of the early rounds is surfing the Mix Channel and that can't be replicated later.

The Internet, as you suggest, is wonderfully accomodating. The Grand Slam Websites are top-notch. My experience with online streaming during last year's US Open men's final was less than satisfying but the live scoreboard usually holds me until I can watch live.

All Part of My Fantasy

I've crashed out of the suicide pools, both the men's and women's draws, in a single day. I knew Stephanie Dubois (Canada) was a risky pick but Feliciano Lopez (27th, Spain)? That was a surprise. There's clearly an art to this game and I haven't quite sorted it out yet - not that I'm going to stop trying!

Editorial Note

I changed yesterday's Curtain Call to Somdev Devvarman of India. I mean no disrespect to Ms. Zhang. It's just that I forgot all about the guys for a day and Devvarman's five-set effort should not go unnoticed. I realize no one's going to lose any sleep over it but me but I must, in good conscience, live and blog by my own rules.


  1. Been meaning to mention that I have been impressed with your new... savvy-ness...on the blog....embedded links and all. Very nice!

  2. General disappointment, I see. Yes, i will indeed have to talk a little more about Lost...

    1. Not so disappointing for me at that point - expectations were already. My wife, on the other hand, was furious.