Thursday, June 01, 2006

Roland Garros

From 1990 to 1996 for reasons that make no sense, and made no sense at the time, I lived in Paris.

It's remarkable how seldom I miss the city, or give it much thought now. But there's one glorious exception, and that's the French Open tennis tournament, called
Roland Garros.

One of the four grand slam events, it attracts the best players in the world who come to a rather
souless collection of concrete stadiums near the Porte d'Auteuil. Once inside they compete on a strange surface called "clay" which is in fact a complex mixture of house brick crushed to a fine grit, real clay, sand, and a rubber binding agent.

During the wooden racket era, this surface was deadly slow and boring, and turned tennis into stylised form of attritional warfare - 20 and 30 stroke rallys with the aim to play safe and wait for your opponent to make an unforced error.

But in today's power era of carbon fibre and titanium, the surface is much better. It slows the game down enough to produce rallys, yet keeps it fast enough to reward guile and variety.

But best of all is the attitude of the French towards Roland Garros. Sure, it's a national institution but one that belongs predominantly to tennis fans. The entire country doesn't stop to watch the final, or really give the tournament much thought. This means two wonderful things - the place is full of genuine tennis fans, and there is very little queing for tickets, which can be had at a very good price particularly in the first week.

I hate to admit it, but it's better than Wimbledon in all respects except asthetics - the colour of the red clay is vile, and hard on the eyes in bright sunlight...



Blogger David Young said...

Will you say anything in reply to my comments about nuclear energy?

I've never heard of Carol Gould. Should I have?


ps - I can't get rid of the daft questions on my postmaster account unless I upgrade to gold membership (ie pay money)!

3:13 AM  

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