Reem's Diary: What makes Roland Garros crowd tick?

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Contrary: Roland Garros crowd.

The Roland Garros crowd are known for various things. They know a lot about tennis, they are stylish, they take lunch time very seriously and most of all, they are what I like to call ‘professional booers’.

– #RG15: Djokovic routs Nadal to reach French Open semi-finals
– #RG15: Murray beats Ferrer to set up Djokovic semi-final clash
– #RG15: Williams to face Bacsinszky in French Open last four

The French are as tough on their own as they are on anybody else and if there’s something they’re not happy about they air their grievances out loud.

During the past three years I’ve attended the French Open, here are a few things that I have seen attract a classic French crowd boo:

If you’re playing a local

Andy Murray walked on court to boos in his fourth round. It’s not because the crowd don’t like him, but because he was playing Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. So the spectators made sure they let Murray know what he’s up against.

If you break a racquet or argue with the umpire

It sounds ironic that the crowd would be unhappy about someone complaining, but that’s how it goes here. If a player loses his/her temper, breaks a racquet or discusses a call with the umpire, that player should be ready to get booed.

If it rains

We haven’t had much rain here this year but the past couple of years have been quite wet in Paris. While no one knows who exactly is the subject of the booing in this case, I’ve definitely seen the crowd boo, on more than one occasion, when it started raining. Although I don’t blame them because the venue here is the worst when it comes to finding a dry spot to hide in wet conditions.

If the announcer reveals an unfavourable schedule

At the end of each day, the stadium announcer recites the following day’s order of play on the various courts. Last year, I witnessed the crowd boo the announcer on Chatrier because apparently the player they liked was scheduled on Lenglen, not the main stadium.

If you’re sick and skip the on-court interview

Maria Sharapova struggled with a wretched cold throughout the first week in Paris and for her first couple of matches, she barely had a voice to do the on-court interview.

That prompted a series of boos from the crowd, although in their defence, they only did it after her first match, not the second.

So what are the things the crowd here like to applaud?

The most I’ve seen them animated is when someone catches a wild ball at the first try. That seems to impress them more than anything else. That and a Gael Monfils comeback of course.

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INTERVIEW: Carla Suarez Navarro carving her own niche in tennis

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Unique: Suarez Navarro.

Trying to live up to the likes of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez can break many a player’s spirits but Carla Suarez Navarro has been admirably striving to achieve that for the past few years.

– #RG15: Djokovic routs Nadal to reach French Open semi-finals
– #RG15: Murray beats Ferrer to set up Djokovic semi-final clash
– #RG15: Williams to face Bacsinszky in French Open last four

Sanchez Vicario and Martinez are the only two Spanish women to win grand slams and they were the only two from their country to feature in the world’s top 10 until Suarez Navarro matched that feat after reaching the Miami Masters final in April.

At just 162cm, Suarez Navarro hit a career-high No 8 in the world, fighting against players who tower over her. The only woman with a one-handed backhand in the top 30, the Canary Islands-native is enjoying some of the best results of her career having reached the finals at the WTA Premier event in Rome and Premier 5 tournament in Miami this season.

Short, quick, crafty and resilient, Suarez Navarro is a unique figure in today’s women’s game and she’s developed quite the reputation of someone you don’t want to get into a third set against. Why? The Spaniard has played a WTA-leading 21 three-set matches this year and has lost just four of them.

With most players a good 10-20cm taller, Suarez Navarro knew she needed to find a way to compete against the big girls with their huge serves and monster strokes.

“I knew that I was going to be the short one on tour from a long time ago because when I was young at all the tournaments I was the short one every time,” Suarez Navarro told Sport360 on the sidelines of the French Open, where she lost to Flavia Pennetta in the third round.

“But you can have other things in your game, you can be fast, you can see better where they put the ball. I know I don’t have winners as easily as they have but maybe I’m faster than the taller girls.

“My game is about being solid, about putting one more ball in the court every time, to run, to fight…”

This season alone, Suarez Navarro has beaten nine top-10 players. She’s developing mental strength that is the envy of many of her peers. It’s no wonder she admires Michael Jordan and likes the similarities in mental fortitude that basketball players share with members of her sport. She believes that to be the best you must compete against the best, and this season, she’s been doing a lot of that.

“I’ve been working hard every day. It’s not magic. It’s just work and practice hard and in competition at the important moments, being solid, being focused and I think it’s really important if you are playing a lot of times with top players, you have a good level, you have more important moments… and I think these are the things that made my season good so far,” she explains.

Sanchez Vicario has known Suarez Navarro since she was 12 years old and she has seen first-hand the evolution of her game.

“After us, she’s the third Spanish woman to be in the top-10 and I think it’s amazing,” said the three-time French Open champion.

“After me and Conchita stopped playing there was a lot of pressure seeing there weren’t any female players in Spain coming up. But now we have Carla. Definitely they’re comparing what she’s doing to us but I think that’s a big mistake. That puts pressure on her and I think we need to – rather than put pressure, we need to help her.”

A four-time grand slam quarter-finalist, Suarez Navarro feels she might be ready to go for moe at the majors.

“I know it’s really difficult but maybe yes (I’m ready to win a major) because I had good results in Miami and in Rome, these are tournaments where all the top players were there. But every tournament is different but I think I’m ready to make good results. I don’t know if I can win a grand slam because these are big words but making a good result, yes,” she concedes.

Despite standing out, the attention remains on the big names of the WTA like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

“It’s better that way,” she says laughing. “I don’t care, you have to be focused on your own game. It’s normal that people are going to talk about Maria or Serena because they won grand slams, they were and are world No 1. I’m really good and I understand why they talk about Maria and Serena.”

In Spain, the attention is also limited with the whole nation focused on Rafael Nadal. Suarez Navarro is in awe of her compatriot’s achievements but feels there should be enough love to go around for others as well. She gets why she, and many of her fellow Spaniards, must take a backseat to him.

As much as Nadal is appreciated worldwide, she feels we are yet to comprehend the magnitude of his achievements.

She says: “It’s crazy. I think that maybe we won’t be able to value what Rafa’s achieving now, the possibility of winning a 10th French Open. In the coming years, when the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov and these people come up, we’ll value more what Rafa is doing and has done. It’s crazy if he wins this year. It’s not 10 times in 20 years, it’s 10 times in 11 years or 12 years. Losing one match here. I think it’s one thing we’re never going to see again.”

She weighed in on Nadal’s situation with umpire Carlos Bernardes, whom the Mallorcan had requested the ATP not to have him officiate his matches following a disagreement in the tournament in Rio de Janeiro last February.

Nadal has been criticised for making such a request but Suarez Navarro thinks it’s understandable but that there should be rules to govern such demands.

“I think that it’s a good concept if you don’t really feel good with a person who is with you in the most important moments in your career, in your matches,” she says.

“But I don’t think that Rafa is going to put the cross on Carlos forever. I think that if Nadal sees Carlos out of the court they say ‘hi’ and ‘how are you?’. But he prefers that for some time, a month or something to not be with Carlos on the court.

“I think we can do it because it’s a good thing. Because also they can do it. If a player is always yelling or breaking racquets the umpire has the right to choose to umpire a different player.

“The worst part is if everybody complains. Because for example if I say ‘I don’t want you to interview me’ and (Flavia) Pennetta says ‘I don’t want you…’ maybe you won’t have work anymore. That could cause a problem. If that happens then maybe they should place some rules.”

Not being in the limelight back home is not one of the main things Suarez Navarro struggles with in her profession. Her main problem is the constant travel and being away from family and friends.

“Sometimes you feel alone,” she concedes. “You have your coach or your physio but when you have bad moments sometimes you need your mother, your father, also my brother.

“The good thing of the tour is that you have the rest of the players who are also like you, they’re travelling and they’re also alone so you can talk to them about how you feel but it’s tough because you’re in competition against each other all the time and it’s not easy talking to the other ones.”

She has a close friendship with her doubles partner and fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza. Until the start of this season, they had been lucky to have never faced off in singles but their luck changed and they had to play each other twice in Dubai and Doha.

“It’s not easy. It’s strange because when we play doubles we spend a lot of time together. We talk about everything, about life, about how we feel. I want all the time that she can keep going in tournaments, so when I’m in front of Garbine, when I have to play her, it’s tough. But it’s one of those obstacles you have to overcome,” she says.

Suarez Navarro is among the most likable players on tour and when Andrea Petkovic lost to her in the Miami semi-finals, the German said: “I’m just happy for everything that comes her way, because she has always been humble and a nice girl. She never changed.”

Indeed she is one of the friendliest faces with the media, as she explains: “You guys (journalists) are also travelling a lot, without your family, you also are alone so I think if we make your job easier I think it’s better.

“I know for you it’s also tough and finally we are people, so we should be able to talk to each other.”

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Murray sets up Djokovic clash in French Open

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Andy Murray celebrates his victory over Spain's David Ferrer at Roland Garros.

Andy Murray beat David Ferrer 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, in the French Open quarter-finals on Wednesday to set up a last-four showdown with Novak Djokovic.

Third seed Murray made it 15 consecutive wins on clay this year by beating the number seven seed Ferrer and make it a disappointing day all round for Spain following nine-time champion Rafael Nadal’s defeat to number one seed Djokovic earlier.

– #RG15: Djokovic routs Nadal to reach French Open semi-finals
– #RG15: 
Williams to face Bacsinszky in French Open last four
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Murray becomes the first British player to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros on three separate occasions having previously been knocked out in the last four in 2011 and 2014.

“I was frustrated at the end of the third set because I had match points and it’s very difficult to then play a full set more after that,” said Murray.

On the prospect of facing Djokovic, who he trails by 18-8 in career meetings, next, he added: “It’s going to be an extremely tough match but I hope it’s a good one.

“I’m going to need to play a high quality match to have a chance.”

In a remarkable first set on Court Suzanne Lenglen there were six breaks of serve – three apiece – before Murray eventually won it in a tiebreak.

Murray then took the second 6-2, breaking his opponent twice, and looked set to go on and secure victory with the minimum of fuss.

The Scot was 3-0 up in the third set before he let the 2013 runner-up back into the match.

First Murray failed to convert a match point at 5-4 up on Ferrer’s serve and then he was broken in the next game as the Spaniard forced a fourth set.

However, he could not maintain the fightback and the 28-year-old Murray ran away with the set, taking it 6-1 to seal victory after three hours and 16 minutes on court.

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