Off The Net: Wawrinka backhand will solve secrets of universe

Ben Davies 9/06/2015
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Wawrinka and Nadal seem a world apart after French Open.

It what was a spectacular French Open more chock-full of storylines and far-fetched incident than a soap opera box-set, many of which Off The Net has plucked out for analysis below. Above all, the overriding memory was ‘Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!’ — a noise delivered time and time again by the still-trembling strings of Stan Wawrinka’s racket. The new French Open champion’s groundstrokes are even more powerful than you could possibly imagine…
– Djokovic nearing French Open failure alongside other greats
– VIDEO: Wawrinka admits his tennis has ‘reached a new level’ 
– GALLERY: Kings and queens of Roland Garros 

Wawrinka Can Unlock Secrets Of the Universe

For many years now scientists have been firing protons around the Large Hadron Collider at the speed of light in a desperate bid to replicate the conditions at the birth of the universe. So far the world’s best boffins have fallen just too short, failing to achieve the ferocious mind-bending speed the experiment ultimately requires. What is the equation symbol for Stan Wawrinka? Surely all that is required is to swap protons for tennis balls and an electro-magnetic field for a tennis racket, and simply ask Stan to pulverise a few backhands down the pipes. 

Within a week, Stan could feasibly both win the French open and singlebackhandedly unravel humanity’s eternal mystery of ‘Why are we here?’ — he can ‘do the double’. Calendar slams are a great achievement to push for, but unlocking the secrets of the universe has it merits too — certainly there has to be a hatful of ranking points up for grabs for that achievement. Whatever the results, we would put big money on the small-scale big bang almost exactly mirroring the explosive colours and chaotic patterns of Wawrinka’s now iconic shorts. 

The Bodyguard Sequel That Never Was

Whilst ‘Stan The Man’ looked like he got changed in the trunk of his car each morning, Roger Federer looked absolutely sensational yet again in the all-important fashion stakes. By opting for neo-pink shorts, purple shirt and black bandana the former number one looked like he was off to an unsanctioned Berlin warehouse rave. It’s good to see the consummate professional let his hair down.

Was that really someone trying to get a selfie with Federer at the end of his second round match, or simply an eager partygoer dishing out glowsticks to Roger? Whatever the case, it’s fair to say the security on Philippe Chartier wasn’t up to scratch. As the Swiss superstar rightly raged, being a courtside security guard is ‘not just standing there on the courts looking nice in a tie and suit.’ 

Like Federer’s increasingly misfiring forehands, the Open’s security reflexes aren’t what they use to be.  Roland Garros reacted by doubling security from that game onwards, but surely it wasn’t numbers that Federer needed, it was an experienced and safe pair of hands — what Federer needed was Kevin Costner.

There’s no doubt in our minds that if the world’s most famous bodyguard had been on the court that day, he would have blindly thrown himself in front of Roger to selflessly absorb the selfie flash. Imagine that heroic moment in slow-mo, with ‘I Will Always Love You’ crescendoing underneath, and you have yourself one of the most memorable moments of the tournament. Sadly, it wasn’t to be…

The Capital Of Clay Romance 

But fear not, romance could be found elsewhere. In Off The Net’s preview of the French Open we highlighted the fractured relationship between Rafa Nadal and Clay — after a decade of unswerving loyalty, their relationship is now well and truly on the rocks. The marriage counselling sessions will be especially awkward this week after the sedimentary powder will have to explain to the Spaniard it’s brief fling at this year’s tournament with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Frenchman was wined and dined for over a week — spoilt with favourable net cords, lavished with affectionate home crowd applause and at one point allowed to lie spread-eagled over the surface underneath his scrawled message ‘Roland Je t’aime’. Get a court guys! Saucy stuff for sure, but sad to see Rafa passed off for a younger hunkier model. 

Rafa Still Undefeated On The Moon

Life didn’t get much easier for Nadal — the next day he got pummelled by Novak Djokovic at ‘El Claysico’. He had to console himself with only a 93% win percentage at the French Open. To have only been defeated twice at the tournament is an astonishing record. Indeed, more people have walked on the moon’s surface than have beaten Nadal at Roland Garros. If you extend that stat a little further there is an even more remarkable statistic afoot — to date, Rafa Nadal has never lost a game on the moon. With the Earth’s satellite orb offering a powdery surface akin to clay and a weak gravitational field that promotes a high bounce, we guess we shouldn’t be surprised. One small step for man, one giant topspin second serve for Nadal-kind.

Tradition Still Wrestling Technology

Roland Garos continue to be the dad who refuses to part with his Nokia 3210 despite the offer of a free iPhone 6 upgrade. They remain the only slam that refuses to use video replay technology. Even the pigeons are dead set against technological innovation — in a Richard Gasquet match a Parisian pigeon dive-bombed into the overhead camera. To be fair, these kamikaze pigeon’s have an axe to grind.

Up until two years ago the actual results of French Open matches could only be communicated to off-site journalists via messenger pigeon. Quaint enough, but pretty inconvenient for deadlines. Indeed, it was only last week that Sport360 were delivered ‘Breaking news’ that Gustavo Kuerten had won the 1997 French Open courtesy of a straight sets victory over 16th seed Sergi Bruguera.  A great win for the unfancied Brazilian no doubt, but undeniably tricky for a journalist to make the news fresh for readers two decades on.

Dubai Can Solve Roof Rankle

Above all, the annual absence of a roof at Roland Garros has become almost insufferable — a flurry of rain delays meant that several big matches were cut short in their prime. Sadly, planning restrictions around the Roland Garros grounds make constructing an sheltered court a near impossibility. Harnessing the enormous air expulsion from the famously booh-heavy Roland Garros crowds to blow away gloomy weather fronts is clearly no longer a viable option.

Thankfully, we have a ready-made suggestion — the French Open’s bespoke roof-covered court should of course be built in Dubai. The city has a somewhat more liberal approach to town planning, is home to a rapidly increasing number of tennis fans and Polish architect Krzysztof Kotala only last month submitted some rather interesting indoor court designs to Dubai investors. Anyone for an underwater court where the roof is an aquarium home to sharks? Yes please. 

It’s a big statement we know — but this could be the most-crazy thing Dubai will ever build. If commissioned, it will be the ultimate example of flipping the bird to engineering physics. Beyond a giant squid tumbling through a crack in the ceiling during a tightly-poised Nadal-Federer tie-breaker, it’s hard to see how this can possibly go wrong.

Commuting the players from Paris to Dubai efficiently remains the only issue in our plan, but if we rifle through Kotala’s work folder for long enough we will almost certainly find blueprints for a water slide that travels from the top of the Eiffel tower, through the Eart’s crust and into the Dubai’s aquatic tennis Atlantis. Problem solved — roll on 2016!

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Djokovic nearing French Open failure alongside Sampras, Edberg and Becker

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Djokovic is desperate for French glory.

They came, they saw but never conquered and now Novak Djokovic is staring into the same Paris abyss that swallowed up the Grand Slam ambitions of Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker.

– French Open: Stan Warinka yet to claim ‘Big Four’ status
– French Open round-up: Highs and lows from Roland Garros
– #360debate: Is Serena the greatest women’s player ever?

The world No1 lost his third final in four years at Roland Garros on Sunday when his hopes of becoming just the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam were swept away by Stan Wawrinka’s tide of killer one-handed backhands.

Djokovic will be back in 2016, when he will be 29, for another attempt, his 12th in total, but statistics and history threaten to conspire against him.

Sampras won 14 majors – seven Wimbledons, five titles in New York and two in Australia. But 13 times the great American tried to win the French Open and 13 times he failed. His best was a semi-final in 1996 and his last appearance at the age of 30 was in 2002 when he lost first round to patched-up Italian journeyman Andrea Gaudenzi, who was ranked 69.

“I don’t want to say it’s a jinx,” said Sampras at the time.

Edberg won twice each in Australia, Wimbledon and at the US Open, but his best Paris performance was runner-up to a teenage Michael Chang in 1989, with his classical serve-and-volley game horribly unsuited to the slow clay.

“At the time I thought I played a great tournament and I thought I would get another chance to win it, but I never really got another chance after that,” the Swede told CNN.

Like Sampras, Edberg played 13 times at Roland Garros, the last time as a 30-year-old in 1996.

Becker, who was close at hand on Sunday as Djokovic’s coach, tried nine times to win the French Open and add the title to his three Wimbledons, two Australian and one US Open. But he had to settle for three semi-final spots in 1987, 1989 and 1991, playing the tournament for the last time as a 27-year-old.

John McEnroe also flopped in Paris, the four-time US Open and three-time Wimbledon winner having to console himself with a runners-up spot against Ivan Lendl in 1984.

Even the traditionally fickle Paris crowd expressed their sympathy with Djokovic’s plight, according him a lengthy standing ovation. But there is another statistic that could concern the Serb, who now has eight wins from his 16 Grand Slam finals.

Roger Federer can boast 17 Slam titles in 24 finals and Nadal 14 trophies and six losses.

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Stan Wawrinka admits his tennis has 'reached a new level'

niall 8/06/2015
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A day after winning the French Open, Stan Wawrinka posed on Monday with the 'Coupe des Mousquetaires' by the Eiffel Tower and reflected on his victory.


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