Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Halloween in Paris
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Halloween in Paris 11/01/2007 - 2:10 PM

FabriceToday we have an on-site report from the Paris Masters by Troy Venechanos, who served as an intern at TENNIS Magazine this summer and who is now on a whirlwind indoor-tennis tour of Europe.

Hi Steve,

Halloween in Europe is not a big deal. While it's still catching on and growing in popularity, if you showed a Frenchman a jack-o-lantern he would just scratch his head and mutter something about useless hollowed-out gourds. Of course, this didn't stop Novak Djokovic from celebrating All Hallow's Eve. The Serb brought a costume to the Paris Masters. In fact, he brought two. His first was a Batman mask he wore while walking onto Center Court, much to the delight of the crowd. The second was a slightly more convincing costume - 'a winning tennis player.' He took off his Batman mask shortly after his entrance and his 'winning player' get-up went right with it.

His match with Fabrice Santoro was a struggle from the start. After a few holds from both players, Santoro soon reached 5-3. By the this point, the crowd lost it. A point could not be played without at least an overture of "FABRI!"'s and a crescendo of "ALLEZZZ!"'s. The 34-year-old, pastel-clad French veteran is a rock star on his home turf. The deafening Francophone crowd may have also blinded Djokovic. Santoro would win not only the first set but the first four games of the second. Djokovic was completely stripped of his costume, and his blatant inability to get to seemingly routine shots was obvious to everyone. You know you're done when the kids start lining up for autographs at 4-0 (even though you're the third seed).

After the match Djokovic admitted he was not anywhere near his best. "Unfortunately I couldn't give 100 percent, not even 30 percent of my abilities," he said.

He attributed his lackluster play to the surgery on his wisdom teeth that he underwent after the Madrid Masters two weeks ago. He said, "I'm not trying to find any excuses, but we have to consider that I had the surgery after Madrid of my wisdom. I put away both of them, so I'm still on these medications."

Against Djokovic, Santoro surprised even himself. "I had doubts until the end. I was not sure. He's Top 3. I was expecting a reaction," he said. But that reaction never came and Djokovic will go into to Shanghai with little momentum .

One would assume he would focus on being match tough for the year-end championship. But gaining back the weight he lost after surgery was at the top of his priority list. "I'm going to try to recover first and have a lot of food because I lost weight even though I don't know what I have to lose, but I lost again. I have to get a couple of kilos more and try to work on my fitness slowly but a bit harder," he expalined. Santoro has more to worry about than just gaining weight.

It was obvious the crowd would pull for the evergreen Frenchman against Djokovic, but I was curious to see who they pulled for in the Gasquet - Tsonga match. My experience attending the Lyon event last week taught me that while Gasquet is the country's top prospect, he's far from the most popular or endearing figure. I believe the exact wording a French tournament volunteer used was 'not very nice at all.' I also learned in Lyon, where Tsonga was semifinalist, that the French love Tsonga's attitude.

This made me expect a pro-Jo Wilifred crowd, or at least at mixed one. But apparently 'being very nice' is not a priority for Parisians. They went absolutely crazy for Gasquet. There was a reprise of "allez!"'s, but the crowd also gasped at every backhand and marveled at every volley the French number one produced. Of course Tsonga wasn't rooted against, but there was no denying who was the favorite son, and who would get second dibs on the Halloween candy.

As of now (before the Blake/Mahut match) there are three Frenchmen left in the draw. But judging by Gasquet's post-match comments, they aren't quite musketeers. In a somewhat cynical evaluation of his compatriot's victory, Gasquet said: "I don't think Djokovic was at his best today. Well, Fabrice is Fabrice. He's a great player. He's going to win many more matches, but it was not the Djokovic we saw at the US Open."

If Halloween is a day of the surreal, of suspended reality, then maybe Europe did celebrate Halloween today. For the first time in years we had the world's top three at this tournament. And we saw a man dressed as an easter egg take down Batman.



Posted by breakankles 11/01/2007 at 02:18 PM


Posted by patrick 11/01/2007 at 02:22 PM

Being at the Masters event, who has impressed you the most this week so far before today's play?
As of now, only Gasquet is the only Frenchmen left standing and got to play a "red-hot" Murray tomorrow.

Posted by MZK 11/01/2007 at 02:45 PM

The Parisian crowd has been as raucously partisan as they are at Roland Garros. During today's match against Blake, the umpire had to plead for calm after virtually every point Gasquet won. Unlike at RG, however, the support seemed to buoy the Frenchman rather than cause him to crumble, and his form was (apart from a lapse of concentration towards the middle of the second set) very impressive. Blake fought well also, and all told it was a high-quality affair, with both players tallying up more winners than UEs.

Gasquet had only played Blake and Murray once before, defeating both en route to last year's Toronto final - I wonder if that pattern will hold again. Or will Murray beat two home favourites in a row?

Posted by Aabye 11/01/2007 at 03:03 PM

Well, if he truly was helped by the support that is a good sign for Reeshard. Wasn't he the one who was almost fearful of playing in front of his home crowd because of all the pressure they put on him to play well? He might be in a worse boat then even Mopey.

Posted by Kevin Federline 11/01/2007 at 04:49 PM

Maybe Doji was tired from partying with Martina?

Posted by MZK 11/01/2007 at 05:26 PM

A bad day to be a Swiss fan. Wawrinka, Hingis and now Federer. Oof.

So Nalbandian proves it wasn't a fluke like his countryman Cañas at the beginning of the season. I think this was a more thrilling encounter--they both played well from beginning to end, with Nalbandian maintaining a slight edge and Federer raising his level enough to almost get back in it with some crucial breaks (for once I don't think it was just Nalby simply choking) to add the gnawing suspense. The tiebreaker was a bit anticlimactic like in the Montréal final but in the end three weeks of straight tennis must have been wearing on the No 1.

The question is whether Nalbandian can turn this win into a title yet again. Ferrer has been a bit of a bugbear for him.

Posted by Tommy 11/01/2007 at 05:35 PM

Hey I've just watched Nalbys-Fed and I'm still impressed seeying at the level nalby is playing right now...he has a knowledge of the game supreme, and his intelligence to place shots correctly and change directions is awesome. Not to mention his two-hander..unbelievable!! I've NEVER seen a guy before to have such versatility and power with his backhand..Whats more it even makes me believe nalby feels more comfortable hitting backhands rather than forehands..he must be the only one in the tour in that sense..except for tommy haas or gasquet, maybe..
All now its 8 all in head to head...and there's actually a 12 grand slams gap between them...Oh..that doesnt add up to me..
Go nalby!! Keep it up and crash everyone else to earn your so much deseved respect from the skeptics!!

Posted by Sophia 11/01/2007 at 06:20 PM

There have been some brilliant matches today. I enjoyed every second of Gasquet-Blake. What shot-making! I just wish that Gasquet could play to his potential all of the time, as it is such a sight to behold. I'm fully aware that things are not quite that simple though!

As for Nalbandian-Fedster. Welcome back David! What an incredible performance. Again. It's a real shame that he won't be at Shanghai, but looking forward to watching him continue this vain of form next season. His return just killed Federer today.

Posted by Bahie 11/02/2007 at 04:02 AM

Has yec draw been released?

Posted by jb 11/02/2007 at 07:34 AM

bahie - they don't draw until all the players are chosen....

Posted by Bahie 11/02/2007 at 07:52 AM


Posted by Bahie 11/02/2007 at 07:52 AM


Posted by Bahie 11/02/2007 at 08:09 AM

jb-do you mean they hve to be divided into 2 group for round robin?

Posted by patrick 11/02/2007 at 08:26 AM

The players are divided in to 2 groups for round robin play.

Players have already been announced for next week and they are:
S Williams

Alternate - Bartoli

Note - V Williams qualified for the YEC but withdrew due to her anemic problems.

They will do the group draw today or tomorrow but the first match won't start until Tuesday.

Posted by patrick 11/02/2007 at 09:14 AM

Unfortunately for the WTA, the story will continue to be Hingis instead of the YEC championships.

Posted by Maplesugar 11/02/2007 at 11:03 AM

Ha! Loved the last line....that someone dressed like an Easter egg took out Batman! That's a good one.

Posted by marie 11/02/2007 at 01:48 PM

we can't help but love Fabrice---yes even if he's favorite get up looks like our native food---puto bungbong, i wish i have a picture to illustrate...:)

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/02/2007 at 01:56 PM

***we saw a man dressed as an easter egg take down Batman.***

just brilliant.
thanks Troy.

Posted by Sage Hall 11/03/2007 at 06:01 AM

Yes, Federer is sOOOO used to winning because his opponents in the caliber of Roddick, Blake, Davydenko, Ljubicic, Berdych, Ferrero, etc are so in awe of him and already FOLD UP even before a match begins.

The players who have games to beat Federer -- Safin, Nalbandian, Canas, etc. -- are saddled with one thing or another.

This is the primary reason why Nadal is so much admired around the world -- HE STANDS UP TO FEDERER. HE GIVES A FIGHT.

With Nalbandian awakened, Nadal peaking, and Djokovic maturing, 2008 will be the most difficult year for Federer.


Posted by FoT 11/04/2007 at 03:52 PM

There is a reason Nalbandian didn't make the year-end. Anyone can get 'hot' for 2 months of the year, but the question is - can he keep it up for 2008? Some of his fans thought he would go 'on a roll' after winning the Year-End a couple of years ago against Roger...and look what happened! So before you crown Nalbandian for 2008 - why don't you wait to see which Nalbandian will show up? The one who won these 2 Indoor Master titles? Or the 'just above .500 Nalbandian' who showed up for most of the year? Several players can and have gotten hot during tennis years (Blake, Safin, Ljubicic, Gasquet, even Djokovic)... but it takes a special player to keep that drive and consistency month, after month, after month...year after year... and so far, only Federer has done that throughout the entire tennis calendar during a year.

Nadal has done it on clay, but Roger has done it on every surface January through December. Let's see if Nalbandian can do something in January through September first before we say 'he's in the mix' now.

Posted by diego 11/08/2007 at 12:05 PM

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