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Bercy Diary: In the Room 11/10/2010 - 11:22 AM

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by Gauloises, Contributing Writer

I picked up my press pass on Sunday but I have yet to spend time in the pressroom, mainly because I’m thoroughly intimidated by that windowless, airless pre-fab bunker, which has its own entrance and is connected with the rest of the venue only by a single door that leads to the segregated press seats in the arena. The message is clear; journalists aren't there to enjoy themselves, or to particpate like fans. They're expected to observe, sit and write.

I, however, am not acting as a journalist as much as impersonating one, and I definitely am here to enjoy myself. But when I hear that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will be giving pre-start press conferences, I can’t resist. So, after taking in a couple of matches I touch up my makeup, screw my courage to the sticking-place, and forge tentatively into unknown territory.

It’s the first time I’ve seen the press room full. Television screens on the walls show the matches in progress; journalists are crammed eight to a table that, were it a business meeting, might seat five. I know people, but not well. I don’t have a desk, so I head to the far end where the British journalists are gathered and grab a vacant seat. Soon a group of reporters files back in from the interview room where they've just finished with David Nalbandian. The journalists tease each other about the questions they asked and the answers they received. Everybody knows everybody else; politically incorrect banter is exchanged across the table, and rude emails from agents and coaches are read aloud to rumbles of laughter.

Without warning, the PA announcer bilingually announces that Roger Federer is on his way to the presser. Everyone bolts, scrambling for notebooks and pens, and hurries up the long hallway, Rushing to catch up, I see Federer slipping through a special door that leads him directly onto the dias.

Up there, he’s all monograms and Rolex, and he sits hunched forward, the brim of his cap pulled down low over his brow. His arms rest on the table, folded. His posture seems awkward, which surprises me; I’d expected him to be more at ease. On the other hand, he’s perched on a raised platform in an airless box of a room, head-on with fifty strangers weilding pens. Each time he shifts position, shutters and motor drives whirr and snap to a crescendo. I don’t imagine one can ever be at ease with this ordeal, no matter how often he's endured it.

It’s clear that Federer is pretty good at this—like most things—as soon as the questioning begins. He listens politely and responds directly, maintaining eye contact. He adds modest gestures. His replies are full, occasionally funny, and sometimes surprising—I’m startled by the ease with which he admits that in the past, the race to the year-end championships has cost him sleepless nights.

I notice that he uses ‘we’ and ‘us’ in reference to the players, and sense how ready he is to speak for them: We only have one indoor Masters. I think it’s time we shifted back a bit. We’re working together on this issue. It just becomes so hard for the players. Players like to play. Maybe the white glare off those fifty blank notebooks tempts him to efface himself, to seek camoflauge as "just one of the boys." But it could also be that Federer simply enjoys the locker-room camaraderie, that he genuinely sees himself as part of something bigger that himself.

I wish I shared that feeling. At the end of the English portion of the presser, the British journalists rise to leave but the hissing disapproval of the French photographers and cameramen, whose view is momentarily blocked, keeps me glued to my seat just long enough so that I feel I missed my opportunity to slip out unnoticed. So I sit through the French questions and answers, trying to look bilingual.

106418985 By the time I make my escape, I have only a few minutes to type out some thoughts before the PA summons us again, this time for Novak Djokovic. I’m behind again, coming in just as Djokovic has taken a seat and started to banter—in French, no less—with the reporters in the front row. Djokovic's hair is still wet from a shower. He leans back in his chair, allows his limbs to loll, and awaits formal questions. When they come, he leans forward to the microphone with a confiding smile and talks seriously and fluently, creating an impression of great thoughtfulness. He’s sharp, too; when a French journalist asks a question about Davis Cup, Djokovic turns it into a joke that has the whole room disarmed and laughing with him before the question is even fully finished.

From his almost flawless English grammar to the way he works to comprehend a mangled question about Rafa delivered in a strong accent, I feel like he’s making an effort for us, that he’s made himself open to the room and he's willing to talk. I feel bad for him that the room is only half as full as it was for Federer. I want to ask him a question he can get his teeth into, but I don’t, because the journalists are handed a microphone to voice their questions and I don’t know how the microphone works. There might be a button you need to press, and I’m scared to embarrass myself. I don’t understand; I’m here as a journalist, the supposed scourge of the top players, and yet I’m the one who’s scared while he looks relaxed enough to be in his slippers at home.

It’s not until I notice the almost convulsive way that Djokovic swallows about every thirty seconds that it dawns on me: He’s nervous, too. I might not be the only one in this room who's afraid of a public misstep. If I fumble, no-one except me will remember; if he says the wrong thing, he’ll never be allowed to forget. I’m filled with admiration for his ability to be charming under such pressure, to act like he’s on our side, rather than an adversary. His performance is so graceful it’s almost moving.

I still don’t hold up my hand for the microphone, though. Djokovic done this far more often than I have.


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Posted by @work 11/10/2010 at 03:50 PM

AM,
Yes. I love it when AO comes around cause I can watch from home even if it means waking up at very odd hours. Pretty much everywhere else work interferes with it.

Robin with a BP

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 03:50 PM

NP I think lefty Arthurs serve was very underestimated?

Also read Goran who is playing the Champions Tour here which starts today in Sydney was saying he is serving faster now than when he was playing on the tour?

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 03:52 PM

Just another thought from me on the court speed of this court

Inst it a synthetic surface as well?

Sod has the trainer out on court

Saying he is stuffy in the nose area? doctor came on court too

Sod also said he feels tightness in his chest and not breathing well.

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 03:54 PM

did le sod break? am, can you confirm? 5-4 le sod to serve for 1st set?

Posted by @work 11/10/2010 at 03:54 PM

Temes,
I think you'd be good, actually! :)

Well I'm a big Rafa fan who is also a Soderling fan so yes, I think he has a nice side even if he sometimes enjoys playing the 'bad cop' part -so to speak ;-)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 03:54 PM

work I cant wait for the tennis Down Under I get to watch tennis in the day light LOL!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 03:55 PM

SF Soderling took the 1st set 6-4 and indeed he took that b/point

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 03:55 PM

Actually, AM, I'm pretty sure Pancho served a higher % than Pete on average. Pancho didn't seek to end the point outright on every 1st serve, unlike most big serves of today. The mentality was different. And servers back then weren't even allowed to jump (which is not to say that jumping or even knee-bending is necessary to put heat on one's serve, but that's another topic).

Posted by CL 11/10/2010 at 03:55 PM

Gauloise wrote in the Cheerfully Brutal thread that the main court in Bercy was Fridgedaire-ville. Today I think I actually saw a few folks fanning themselves...someone must have found the 'not so cold' switch on the heat exchangers...

Posted by temes 11/10/2010 at 03:57 PM

sf yes he seems a very straightforward kind of guy which is nice.

Posted by CL 11/10/2010 at 03:57 PM

ooh..Wayne Arthurs...hadn't thought of him in an age. And yes, great serve..but truly not much...anything?...beyond that.

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 03:57 PM

thanks aussiemarg. now i hear he is having breathing problems, too? something with the courts? let's do it in two mon-frere (sp? french). please.

Posted by @work 11/10/2010 at 03:58 PM

AM,
Lucky you!
The day I can enjoy tennis during the day I will be either retired or unemployed.

I have been wondering who I want to win the WTF since I really don't think it's going to be Rafi. I really, really would like Robin to win it.

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 04:01 PM

@work, may your words come true! le sod for wtf! ;-)

temes, you s/b'ing too?

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:02 PM

SF Commies were saying that the weather in Paris not that great and lucky this tournament is indoors.I think the doctor gave him some tablets to take.Though he seems to be doing ok to me and has just broken Simon in the 2nd set

Posted by temes 11/10/2010 at 04:02 PM

sf, I'm watching a stream of the match.

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:03 PM

big serves = big servers

AM, I doubt any one of Arthurs' contemporaries underestimated his serve. Agassi once went so far as to rate it above Pete's, and Courier has also showered similar superlatives.

But I've looked at the #s from at least 200 of his matches, and the fact is that he often had difficulty serving over 50%. Of the 200 matches there were only about a dozen where he did crack the 60% mark. That's not a terribly impressive #.

I'm sure Goran is serving faster now than he was in his last years, but before '99? Doubt it. I'll need visual evidence before I turn off my BS detector.

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 04:04 PM

thanks am, and wow, le sod breaks to start the 2nd set. happiness, but i gotta go now, wl poke back in later. work calls.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:04 PM

work lol!

Maybe I need to get back into the work force again myself.I took a break when Joy got ill.I could not do both.Though I must say having a break from work I have been able to do things I havent had a chance to do

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:05 PM

sf, are you the erstwhile sod's friend?

Posted by Andrew 11/10/2010 at 04:06 PM

First serve % has a correlation with serve points won, but for obvious reasons it isn't 1. What counts, of course, is what you do with your first or second serve, and what the returner can do to it when he gets it.

Federer consistently serves at about a 61% to 64% range in GS tournaments (I have statistics going back to 2006 or so). He himself will tell you that how you serve on the big points is more important than any numerical stat. Andy Roddick is about 5-6% higher than Federer, and also very rarely DFs (which is why the 4 DFs in Basel were so unusual).

I always feel that the Goodall, Adler and Koenig commentary team overfocus on first serve %. Are you winning free points with either serve? Are you on the front foot and dictating play, or are you fending off a deep well placed return? Just pointing to a number and checking to see whether it's 60 or higher doesn't add much insight.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:06 PM

NP You know Goran always stretched the truth? lol!

Interviewer asked him would he throw his racquet in this up coming tournament

He said I dont throw racquets and then paused and said

If they want me to throw racquet I will? lol!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:08 PM

Andrew Well said.I agree with your thoughts regarding are you winning free points on your serve etc.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:10 PM

Simon is just self destructing here in the 2nd set

Guy Forgot looking on

He has to choose between Richard and Simon for the 2nd singles player in the DC final.

Simon not looking good at all in the 2nd set

Posted by temes 11/10/2010 at 04:10 PM

*falls asleep*

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:10 PM

Soderling 3-0 2nd set and is serving

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 04:12 PM

np!

my gawd! remember you gave me that acronym (sf) after tiring writing "sod'sfriend"?

anyway, how are you, good friend?

see the lakers looking like gold again, eh? about that blake dude?

and le sod with 2 breaks? JOY!

Posted by FoT 11/10/2010 at 04:12 PM

Jackson - sure we can put Nadal in the mix (languages). In fact, we can pretty much put all the tennis players (with the exception of the Americans), in the mix. It seems like it's only the American players that can't really speak another language! lol!

Great win for Roger today. He played well within himself and I really enjoyed watching him today.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:12 PM

SF Sod playing much better after the dr and trainer came on court.

Crap Sod down 30-40

I will zip my mouth

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:14 PM

Good 1st serve by the Sod and he brings it back to deuce

ad to Sod now

Good 1st serving again and he holds

Soderling 4-0 2nd set and Simon to serve

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:15 PM

SF Hi is that you I got you mixed up with another Sod fan

Hmmm Kobe is a idoit for not having surgery on his finger in the off season

Phil Jackson is still a Moron until we win the championship again.

Posted by CL 11/10/2010 at 04:16 PM

Andrew - you giveth...Fed's usual first serve % at least in GS...and you taketh away. Not all of us who keep a wary eye on Fed's first serve % deserve to be thrown into the Goodall/Koenig/Adler 'Bring out you Dead' cart.

***sniff***

For someone who doesn't suffer bullies, Robin is doing a fair amount of bullying Gilles around.

Posted by Legoboy 11/10/2010 at 04:16 PM

You're doing AWESOME!

With a monkierlike Gauloises, I'm surprised you don't speak French! I just assumed...call me an 'ass' if you like! ;)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:16 PM

Sod has 2 b/point again

Simon has just gone AWOL

Posted by Colette 11/10/2010 at 04:17 PM

Simon says, "Don't do this" and Guy hopes to Forget!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:18 PM

Simon just d/faults?

Soderling 5-0 and will serve for the match

Posted by wilson75 11/10/2010 at 04:19 PM

Andrew: You are completely right.

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:19 PM

AM, Goran was supposed to undergo surgery shortly after '01 Wimby, and he simply decided to go full out without giving a crap about what might happen to his shoulder. Even so it was clear that Goran had lost significant heat on his serve. What kept him until the final point was that nasty lefty slice (his serve was essentially an upgraded, more powerful version of Mac's, scary as that might sound), and probably the most unreadable service motion of the Open era with the only exceptions of Tanner and Curren.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:19 PM

Well to my eye Richard deserves to be the no 2 singles player

Ok he didnt play that bad in his game against Roger.He just ran into a red Hot Roger.

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 04:20 PM

lol, am.

it's me sod'sfriend alright!

kobe wl be fine. and barring any major injury, our team should be able to 3-peat. !

Posted by CL 11/10/2010 at 04:20 PM

FoT - so true and so sad about most American players lack of language skills. I know a lot of people around here don't like Jim Courier and find him and 'empty vessel'somehow, and a pretentious one at that, as least TRIED to learn a foreign language. And the Williams sisters...especially Venus also at least had the courtesy to try. Venus, more than try I think.

Oh dear une bagel for Gilles.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:21 PM

Sodlering d Simon 64,60

Well done Robin you werent playing your best in the 1st though did well in the 2nd set

Simon No Comment

Posted by Master Ace 11/10/2010 at 04:21 PM

Bercy Order of Play for Thursday:

4:30 AM - Roddick vs Gulbis followed by Monfils vs Verdasco then to Llodra vs Djokovic ending with Wawrinka vs Soderling
7:30 AM - Melzer vs Ferrer followed by Berdych vs Davydenko
1:30 PM - Federer vs Stepanek
2:30 PM - Murray vs Cilic

Posted by @work 11/10/2010 at 04:22 PM

sf,
I want Robin to win something important.
So he's not forever stuck as the 'bridesmaid' :)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:22 PM

NP I agree with your thoughts with Gorans serve was just unreadable at times

Just ask poor Pat Rafter

Sniffs.

Posted by CL 11/10/2010 at 04:22 PM

That's a mighty impressive winners to UFEs stat for Robin. Seems like he likes this court.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:23 PM

SF We Gonna See No?

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:25 PM

Meant to say only possible exceptions. Actually, maybe Curren towers above 'em all, 'cause he's among the very, very few who did hit his serve on the rise. (It's a common misconception that Tanner hit it on the rise. Vic Braden has done a video analysis of Tanner's serve and it showed that his contact point was just when the ball was about to descend.)

sf, I figured. Been good, and yes, very pleased with the Kobies and that Blake newb. You?

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/10/2010 at 04:25 PM

The mighty Swede destroyed him, great match by Robin, look out to the rest of the field. No one can stop Robin when he plays like this. Kom igen, Robin, Sweden's no l, World's no 5!

Posted by CL 11/10/2010 at 04:25 PM

Because I missed its original airing, I am watching a bit of the Fed/Roddick match from Basel. jumping back and forth between live and 'historical' tennis. Fed' first serve % in the 1 set? 68%

Pffft!!!!!

Posted by @work 11/10/2010 at 04:25 PM

Another great line-up for tomorrow and I will be again stuck at work, no fair! *pouts*

Roddick v Gulbis could be interesting if Ernest manages to keep his headcase self in check :)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:26 PM

CL I think its because this court is "synthetic"

I prefer natural courts myself

Posted by @work 11/10/2010 at 04:27 PM

Oh Samantha!
I wish you would stop jinxing Robin. Nothing worse than overconfidence :)

Anyway time to leave the salt mine.

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:27 PM

AM, Pat also choked against Pete in the '00 final.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:28 PM

I was impressed with Gulbis in his first match and he stayed focused

Though we shall see with him.He can go walk a bout Hmmm.

Posted by CL 11/10/2010 at 04:28 PM

@work - bombs bursting in air, that one. When Wild Thang's serve is truly on, it is one of the more impressive ones on tour today. It's just rarely consistently on. I say Andy in 3...though WT is due for win, so who knows.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:29 PM

NP I thought I was getting on with you just fine

Until you mentioned that game

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:29 PM

"kobe wl be fine. and barring any major injury, our team should be able to 3-peat. !"

Hear, hear!

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:31 PM

AM, you started it, not me. :)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:35 PM

NP Of course I did

Being a Woman I just cant help myself.

Posted by Master Ace 11/10/2010 at 04:35 PM

NP,
Did you read where the Jazz scored 14 pts in 28 seconds to force OT as Millsap scored a career high 46. Wade scored 39 which includes all the points in OT but James and Bosh disappeared down the stretch. Also, see the Lake Show has a big 0 in the L column so far but they travel to Denver tomorrow and will be on TNT after the Celtics and Heat.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:36 PM

Hmm I am still not pleased with Saint Kobe ok

Phil Jackson is still a Moron too.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:40 PM

Look I "Will Never Ever" get over Pats loss at Wimby

Ditto to Borg at the USO

Though my boy has kind of made me like the USO now in ways

I will still shop at Barneys.

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:48 PM

"What counts, of course, is what you do with your first or second serve, and what the returner can do to it when he gets it."

Now this is true, and since Fed and Rod were the protagonists in this little discussion du jour, look no further than their '09 Wimby final for a perfect example. The impressionable kids were understandably wowed by Fed's 50 aces, but they failed to grasp the following:

1) A-Rod is most likely the worst returner of the top 10 (then and now). No wonder Fed got more aces than Rod.

2) More tellingly, guess who had the higher # of unreturned serves? Yup, that would be A-Rod, and this despite Fed's obvious advantage in the RoS dept.

I've said this before, but to wit, in this match Rod refrained from firing 140-mph bombs that would've neutralized by Fed as they have been time and again. Instead he varied his serve wisely, going more for placement and exploiting Fed's relatively weak BH return especially on the ad court.

Tennis may be a two way-street game, but on serves you wanna make it as one-way as possible. That's the whole point of the serve.

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 04:52 PM

AM, just so you know I don't hand out credit cards out of sympathy.

MA, yeah, just read about it this morn. Looks like it's Wade and not LeBron carrying the Heat. Is this supposed to be surprising?

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 04:54 PM

NP Frugal is your middle name

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/10/2010 at 04:59 PM

Just surfing the tennis website, not sure if this is true, but the ESPN board had a story from the Mirror that Becker said that the reason Murray hasn't won a slam is because he is too close to his mummy and he had the same girlfriend for three year. Hey, I love gossip and I'm not sure if it's true but didn't Becker get some girl pregnant in a restaurant closet or bathroom? Not sure he should be giving advice on relationships.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeeee!/We gonna see, no?) 11/10/2010 at 05:00 PM

This is wonderful writing. Can TW hire you full time?
~~~~~

+1

I've really enjoyed your pieces this week, gauloises. Looking forward to reading more.

Posted by FoT 11/10/2010 at 05:01 PM

Speaking of languages! lol! Look at this interview by Roger:
http://www.fft.fr/bnpparibasmasters/2010/?inc=lecteur.html

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/10/2010 at 05:01 PM

lol good ol Boris! then whats Roger's excuse he had the same girlfriend for 10 years and his close to his mum, too!

re the linguistics, doesnt Rafa have enough trouble speaking spanish, much less english or any other language??

*ducks*

Posted by Jay 11/10/2010 at 05:02 PM

CL: I once posted a question to jon wertheim asking whether or not any American tennis players were fluent in any language other than English. Never got an answer. Its a bit embarassing, considering how small the world has become, that more Americans don't study foreign languages. Its not just our tennis players.

Often, when I travel overseas (particularly in France) I am asked by people who know that I am American, "where did you learn to speak...", as if its understood that foreign languages are not taught in the States.

I believe that the most capable linguists are those who have to be. For instance, if you live in Switzerland, there are three (French, German, Swiss German) prevalent languages, and Italian is also widely spoken b/c there is a large Swiss-Italian population. Many others (like Hingis or Wawrinka) probably speak the language of their parents before immigrating to Switzerland.

In the States, Spanish is spreading through immigration, however, there is great resistance to proclaiming it as the second national language. In the public schools, its usually the "academic" students who study languages much like they would study advanced chemistry or physics. Because we are so far away from countries that speak anything other than Spanish, becoming fluent is not usually a priority over here.

I think that its a shame.

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 05:05 PM

@np, i've been good, just lurking ;) kobies are sweet(er), i think, with the addition of blake, especially - i watched hin in game 1, and i was hooked.

@temes, thanks for the best wishes on le sod. i can't wait for him to win ONE BIG ONE, too!

@samE, yeah, go robin! and i see that he served a bagel, too!

Posted by Sam 11/10/2010 at 05:08 PM

Excellent descriptive insight - thanks!

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 05:09 PM

Tim

LOL!

I think you should run for cover

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 05:11 PM

sblily Agree with your thoughts

Gualoises writing is just supreme.

Posted by Master Ace 11/10/2010 at 05:13 PM

NP,
Look like Wade is carrying the team. Since the first game, James has had 7 assists per game but has not scored over 25 points in that stretch. ESPN had a stat where Wade leads the league in scoring field goals that is shot from 5 feet and under.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/10/2010 at 05:14 PM

I think for most Europeans, English is taught in schools at a very young age, where in the state you may not get a foreign language until high school which makes it more difficult to learn because you're using memorization rather then actually learning how to speak the language. Most European players can speak several language and this has a lot to do with the countries being so close together that you frequently travel there, and you need to be able to communicate with your neighbor. I grew up in Sweden, but often went to the surrounding countries of Denmark, Finland and Norway. Outside of the Finn language, these other are easy to understand.

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 05:18 PM

AM, I'm more frugal than your fellow Aussie Rosewall.

sf, and Barnes. And the crazy Ron can shoot fadeaways now. And Brown can fire it up from downtown! Seriously, the Kobies should be able to 3-peat. The Celts are the only team I fear right now.

And GTG. Later.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 05:21 PM

NP Please leave Kenny out of this ok

Muscles is a folk legend here Down Under and still looks soo fit and plays tennis today at age Hmmmm well he is in his 70's

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 05:22 PM

ma,

miami is wade's team. period. james simply didn't have the cojones (or the necessary support?) to win it in cleveland.

i can't wait for the celtics to crush them in the play-offs! hee-hee

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 05:23 PM

MA, add to that too many TOs (for LeBron, I mean). People can talk all they want, but until LeBron learns how to carry his team he ain't gonna catch Kobe, let alone surpass him.

Really off.

Posted by CWATC 11/10/2010 at 05:23 PM

"I believe that the most capable linguists are those who have to be"

Exactly. Some people learn foreign languages for fun, and all the credit to them, but most learn by neccesity. Since English is currently the international language, people from English-speaking countries are rarely fluent in other languages. It's not just about Americans: is Lleyton Hewitt fluent in a second language? Andy Murray?

I do believe Jim Courier studied French. And don't the Williams sisters know a little French as well?

Posted by NP 11/10/2010 at 05:25 PM

AM, but Mr. Rosewall is rumored to be, shall we say, short-pocketed.

sf, the Kobe-Shaq showdown should be immensely entertaining, for obvious reasons. I'd actually prefer it to Kobe vs. LeBron as of today.

REALLY off.

Posted by Jay 11/10/2010 at 05:26 PM

I actually started studying French at age 8, however, budget cuts usually affect elective subjects like music and foreign languages first--so you may be right about the US, Samantha. Unfortunately, the worst thing about public schooling in the US is probably its inconsistency. If you live in an affluent area, the schools have bigger budgets, can pay teachers better and can offer more elective and advanced courses. If your area is economically challenged...

I've visited Scandinavia, and in addition to Germany and the Netherlands, I've been stunned by how well you all speak English--usually with little or no accent!

Despite how much I've studied French, Spanish and Italian, I've given up on the idea of ever being fluent. But, I can find the train station and order beer and chicken in about six languages!

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 05:28 PM

np,

knock on wood about the 3-peat (i actually added that to my 1st post, but the system chopped it off because i put them in arrow-brackets).

but 3-peat is certainly do-able. like i said last season, this gang of 3 in miami may need a season or two to really gel. if they do, well, they may run a mini-dynasty of their own within the next 5 years (again depending on how kobe's body - and his desire - hold's up after this season).

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 05:30 PM

take care, np, catch u later!

Posted by Bobby C. 11/10/2010 at 05:33 PM

Gauloises, I thoroughly enjoyed both of your pieces, for the tennis and especially for the writing. Good stuff!

Posted by Grant 11/10/2010 at 05:33 PM

"Looks like it's Wade and not LeBron carrying the Heat. Is this supposed to be surprising?"

i'm quite enjoying Lebron's transformation into an enormous point guard

though I do promise that should a Lakers/Heat final take place, I will cheer for the Lakers just out of anti-Bosh sentiment

Posted by Jay 11/10/2010 at 05:34 PM

"Since English is currently the international language, people from English-speaking countries are rarely fluent in other languages."

Great point CWATC. I just hope that in my lifetime, Chinese does not take over as the international language. I'm burnt out on Rosetta Stone!

I do remember Courier addressing Roland Garros in French, after one of his victories. You're right about Venus and Serena too, as far as I know. Its been a long time since Serena gave her victory speech ar RG.

Posted by AB 11/10/2010 at 05:37 PM

Jay: meant to tell you that Swissies have difficulty understanding each others' dialect. The spectrum of Swiss German is very wide. The people from Basel sound very close to Germans so I can understand Roger's Swiss German fairly easily.

My Swiss colleagues told me that they had to translate dialect into High German and my German colleagues told me that the Swiss Germans did not speak German and they despaired of their writing ability.

And there is no written Swiss German so internal written communication looked very kooky with everyone just spelling phonetically according to their dialect. Impossible to understand without trying to read out loud and translate back to German.

Posted by sf 11/10/2010 at 05:45 PM

grant,

we'll welcome you in lakerland any time! we maigh even carse a special seat for you!

i assume you a raptors fan, eh? yeah, i can see where bosh got on your bad side!

Posted by Jay 11/10/2010 at 05:48 PM

Thanks, AB. Its good to know these things. I enjoy trying to test my foreign language comprehension during the international championship ceremonies.

I've never studied German formally, but as a musician, I performed throughout that country. Glad to know that it wasn't just me, having heard High German and Austrian German (my vocal coach told me that somethings are pronounced differently in Vienna than in Berlin), I could not understand Roger on Sunday, until he spoke in English.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 05:49 PM

NP Hmmm funny that comment coming from a Sampras fan

Word around the streets Pete was tight fisted as well

Bye

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/10/2010 at 05:51 PM

It's weird because most Americans can only speak one language, but in my experience some tend to be the least tolerant of people who have accent, and they won't hesitate to correct your English which in many countries it's considered rude to do so. When I first went to school in the states, some of the girls in my school would make fun of my accent, but the guys were pretty nice about it. They also would confuse a Swedish accent with the German one. Go figure! Gauloises, great job on both pieces, I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks. Robin, for YEC!

Posted by CWATC 11/10/2010 at 05:51 PM

That's interesting about swiss-german, AB. I thought that in swiss schools the kids just learn to write in german? But I guess sometimes swiss-germans write to one another in swiss-german as well?

Speaking of players' language skills, I have to say I always thought the story of how Fed learned French was impressive: he apparantly arrived in Lausanne and was put into a french speaking school w/out knowing a word of the language, had to go to class when he couldn't understand what the teacher was saying, yet was able to pick up the language at a decent level in six months or so, while also presumably spending hours every day practicing tennis. Really goes to show the value of "full immersion" when it comes to learning languages.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 05:52 PM

Well may I say coming from France as a 10 year old and also speaking Italian as well

I found the English language hard to comprehend and write as well

My father who speak 4 languages fluently and write as well

Made us speak Engish and not our native tonges at all.

Posted by Game Lover 11/10/2010 at 05:53 PM

I've enjoyed watching Nalby-Murray today...

And from Sampras has started to learn a thing or two about the serve.

You guys been playing lately?

Cheers!

Posted by CWATC 11/10/2010 at 05:59 PM

Your father made you speak english at home as well, AM? Wow.
How long did it take you to start feeling comfortable in english?

Posted by SimonSays 11/10/2010 at 06:01 PM

very nice blog, Paris has given you inspiration

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/10/2010 at 06:02 PM

CWATC never really lol!

My daughter kept her French up well and speaks it fluent and write well too.She is back in Paris now

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