Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Monfils' bionic knees

Two lines I say a lot: "Boy, I'd love to burn that...." and "hey, you know, the world is a patchwork quilt, it takes all types, we all have our own opinions...." Recently having been called "less charitable to the benighted" in my staunch beliefs by a lovely new friend, I'd like to share with you a moment spent at Flat Branch where I didn't press my opinion on an unsuspecting other.

My tennis viewing schedule is relegated by the open hours of Flat Branch (11 am-1am, most days) and the random posting of illegal downloads of live matches by members of a thriving online tennis-loving community. So I take the tennis I can get, often watching players I'm not really interested in, or players whom I like playing mediocre tennis. I tend to miss all of the wonderful 3 am matches at Wimbledon, matches which I used to watch at a bar in New Orleans surrounded by Hungarians or Englishmen wanting to watch Manchester-Chelsea matches instead. If I owned a television, I'd only want it hooked up between the French Open and the US Open. I really don't care to watch anything else but tennis.

And so, in this predicament, I often find myself at Flat Branch next to a. folks who would rather the Cardinals game on the chosen television, or b. other tennis fans. On Sunday, I was sitting next to another quasi-tennis fan. Nadal and Soderling were on the little muted screen and Nadal didn't look so good; the girl next to me was rooting for Soderling. At some point in the match, she explained to her date that she was rooting for Soderling because he was an American. My ears perked up and I muttered to her that actually, he was from Sweden. "Oh, then I like Nadal," she replied. We all have our reasons for supporting our sports players, whether we like the silks of the jerseys in horse racing or Dennis Rodman's charismatic behaviour on the court. So, the world is a patchwork quilt and it takes all types. One of my own family members has a Sarah Palin calendar, but I don't rib him about it.

After Nadal lost that day, NBC broadcast the Roddick-Monsfils match. Those of you who know me know that I positively loathe Andy Roddick. I think he's a transparent player, a typical American tennis player, and he doesn't understand the concept of finesse in tennis. Oh, I know, I've heard that he's a humanitarian, that he supports women's rights in other countries; he probably even donates $25 a year to The Nature Conservancy and recycles his Zima bottles. I can sum up in 6 words why I hate Roddick. I wasn't even ranting about Roddick when the girl next to me said "I like Roddick." I could have very easily launched into a measured explanation of 1,000 different reasons why he is not a great tennis player, even though his game is improving (still ignores the net. Totally scared of it.) and he does manage to return the ball sometimes warranting a "good job!" I didn't say a word to the girl next to me (are you proud, Alyssa?), who offered "I like him because he's an American." Like clockwork, I answered, "yeah, that's mostly why I hate him. American men's tennis is all about power. They don't really understand the point of the game." I was ready to launch my diatribe against American men's tennis, when she countered with, "I like the Williams' sisters, too." I like Venus, I really do, but I don't like her because she's an American. I disengaged from the conversation and kept my vocal support for Roddick's opponent focused on the screen above. So, that's cool, I liked the White Sox because I liked Carlton Fisk and the early 1990's lineup which included Frank Thomas. She likes American men's tennis. I had nothing to say to her.

Rewind to last year's French Open when one of Columbia's finest tennis players and coaches sat next to me at Flat Branch enjoying grilled salmon and steamed vegetables, the same guy who coined my favorite phrase about Columbia "it's [Mexican food, seafood, independent bookstore, Farmer's Market, sushi] great for a town of this size." Before he went home to watch tennis on his big screen television where he can see the one bead of sweat that emanates from Federer's brow on a bad day, he said, "check out Monsfils. Watch Monsfils." I've tried, I really have, and it's taken four grand slams before the viewing schedule at the watering hole, my work schedule, and the deft footwork of France's Miles Davis look-alike coalesced to a moment where I could, finally, check out Monsfils.

He's great. He slides all over the gorgeous clay courts, running all over the place to hit each shot. A good match for Roddick; when Monsfils tipped a ball over the net, essentially asking for a fencing match, Roddick didn't know what to do. Ah, great joy to see Roddick smeared across the court, his one dimensional game stopped in its tracks. So, today, having spent 18 hours at work yesterday, I took the morning and early afternoon off for a little warm time at Flat Branch to watch tennis. Serena moved through her 11 am match, though not fast enough for Kuznetsova, whose ankle must be killing her right now after that awful fall in the second set, rising up covered in red clay. (Kuznetsova continued playing and won the match.) I still can't imagine what Serena's skeletal system looks like; it must be made of steel or something to be strong enough to carry around that kind of weight.

By the time I ordered my second mediocre pinot noir, it was time for Monsfils-Federer. Monsfils probably wasn't accustomed to playing someone of Federer's caliber. He held his own by sliding all over the court, stretching his legs cross court to hit a drop shot. A very capable player, and a good match for Federer. Maybe he's been practicing more on grass lately...which is no excuse for Sharapova's performance yesterday (her blog, linked to the right and titled "Maria's Doodles", explains that she's recovered from her shoulder injury, but I don't think she actually played any tennis during her recovery? I should start calling my work projects "doodles."). I second the tennis coach's directive regarding tennis viewing: "check out Monsfils." At 22, Monsfils is proving to be a dynamic, deft, and interesting player. Good tennis all around. Beats sitting at my desk.

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