Monday, May 28, 2012

On Clay

If Gilles Simon was pitted against Djokovic today, I would have been cheering for Gilles Simon. If Gilles Simon was playing against DelPotro, I would have been cheering for Gilles Simon. I like Gilles Simon, but when he's playing against Ryan Harrison, that fondness goes by the wayside.
You see, Ryan Harrison and I shared a tennis club in Louisiana. We both trained on clay courts, and his first coach was my hitting partner--Ryan comes from a long line of tennis players in his family. I didn't know about Ryan Harrison until my 20th high school reunion when my hitting partner waltzed up to me to ask if I was still playing. (I think it was the first thing he said to me, "you still on the courts?") "Well, the week I moved to the town I live in, they destroyed the clay courts to make way for another set of soccer fields," (because 5,000 soccer fields aren't enough for a town of this size.). My hitting partner is the town's big tennis coach now, and I reminded him that one day in 1985 (last day of school, May 31, 3pm) I beat him in a match: 6-1, 6-2, 6-0. He contends that he let me win. We kept hitting until supper time. Whatever, I still have the Wilson 7 ball from that match because my hitting partner is a great damned tennis player and I wanted to remember that at least once in my youth I beat a great tennis player besides my kid sister. My kid sister and I played everyday every year for years. It's nice to live with your hitting partner.
I learned to play tennis on clay, so my affinity for the French Open runs deep. Clay court tennis is much different from the janky hard court and super fast grass court matches; clay court requires finesse, lots of time at the net, a slower ball bounce and more deliberation. My cross court backhand sluice was a killer move when I played, and my serve was never that great, frankly, being slight in frame and lacking upper body strength. But I could move, run, leap and slide cross court on clay. Frankly, I suck on hard court so I don't play on it.
Alas, I don't have a hitting partner anymore, and I don't live in a town with clay courts. But I have a French Open bracket. I don't have a television or internet cable, so tennis tournament viewing is restricted to local watering hole hours. One place in the neighborhood carries the Tennis Channel (and a decent enough menu/wine list), so we go there, we camp out there, we talk to the staff about tennis. Most of the wait staff there in the past few months have taken to playing tennis almost daily (likely because it's on their television where they work).
My French Open brackets aren't totally shot after today, but a few of my picks went down in the first round. Here's a link to my Women's Bracket where I'm not too far off, updated somewhat regularly by the Tennis Channel: Women's bracket I advise against looking at the comments on the brackets page; I scrolled through a few last night and found lots of really vulgar and rude language. Not sporting for such a fine sport like tennis. Anyway, I'll be watching clay for the next two weeks, scheduling my fieldtime around matches and so forth. For the sake of my hitting partner, James, I'm sorry Ryan Harrison didn't win today, but there's always Wimbledon.

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