With the French Open just around the corner, Off The Net has set it’s satirical sights on the four major protagonists certain to be scrapping it out for clay-based glory at the upcoming French Open.
ANDY MURRAY: THE JOY OF MARRIAGE
Andy Murray is on a unique winning streak going into the tournament — he hasn’t lost a match since getting married. That apparent coincidence has helped fuel his first clay surface titles in Munich and Madrid and there’s every chance he’ll attempt to further extend the luck of his wedded bliss. We’re looking forward to seeing the Scot walk out to play in his wedding suit, eat big slices of wedding cake in-between changes of ends and tediously recite his reception speech to the Roland Garros crowds after every match.
— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) May 23, 2015
On a less positive note, Murray is struggling with fatigue of late. His early pull out from the Rome Masters was a reminder of the ridiculous ATP schedule that is more intensely back-to-back than a stubborn quarrelling couple. In the opening round game in Madrid, Murray was forced to play a match until 3am in the morning. In our experience, 3am is a time to wake up in your clothes with the Game of Thrones boxset still playing, it is not a time to wake up to play elite tennis against a sprightly German ranked 23 in the world. How long until the ATP introduces a new ‘Winner stays on’ ruling to ensure three tournaments are completed in the space of 24 hours?
Prediction: Andy to come up short in the quarter-finals after being reduced to walking pace courtesy of sleep deprivation and cake-induced indigestion.
RAFA NADAL: SWAYZE EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Nadal is pretty decent at this tournament — snaffling nine titles and losing just one match in 10 years. We can’t remember how he lost that one game, but he has spent so much of his career on clay, he probably took the day off to tap out all the sand that had accumulated in his trainers. For one reason or another, Rafa has become at one with this fine-grained sedimentary rock. The boy can’t get enough of it. We expect he hand crafts some beautiful clay pottery in his spare time too – indeed, we can’t watch the potters wheel scene in the film Ghost without seeing Rafa’s face superimposed on to the body of Patrick Swayze.
Yet Tennis’ most unbreakable bond is seemingly cracking, with Rafa losing five times on his favourite surface already this season. Something has clearly gone wrong here – we are witnessing the most painful public break up since Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt. Like Aniston and Pitt, clay and Nadal had it all – success, prestige, adoring fans and fine tans. Now it could all be lost.
It’s not just heart-breaking, it’s also plain weird to see Rafa look mortal on clay – the only real equivalent to this dramatic fall from indestructability is the plight of the alien spaceship hovering over America in Independence Day — one second it’s impenetrable to missiles, the next it’s taking an explosive pounding from all angles. We’re not saying that Nadal’s loss of form on clay is due to a cyber virus uploaded by Jeff Goldblum, but given the scarcity of explanations, it’s far too early to rule it out.
Prediction: Rafa to lose in the final after clay is caught having an affair with Djokovic. We’re hopeful Rafa and clay can maintain joint custody of the trophies they’ve won together.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: NO NUTELLA FOR NOLE
Novak Djokovic is understandably the favourite to take Rafa’s crown at the French Open. He’s undefeated on clay this year and currently on 22 wins in a row – a streak that has gone on and on like a nudist endurance runner. Roland Garros is the Holy Grail for the Serb, it’s the last one he needs to achieve a career Grand Slam. We recently noticed that we only have three of the four Indiana Jones movies on DVD so we know first-hand the heartache of being one short of the full set. We feel for you Novak.
— Sky Sports Tennis (@SkySportsTennis) May 22, 2015
On the court, the only threat of late has come from a bottle stopper. After comprehensively beating Roger Federer in the Italian Open last week, the World No. 1 accidentally fired a champagne cork at his own face, very narrowly missing his eye and causing him to temporarily see double (or the Bryan Brothers may have just walked past). Traditionally, it’s always a good sign when the main threat to you winning a tournament is a re-constituted piece of tree bark. But was this an accident? If you crunch the numbers – and we have – an average champagne cork flies at 96 km/h at a 10 degree angle and gives your face 0.15 seconds to recoil — that scales up almost perfectly to an average high-bouncing heavy top spin first serve from Rafa Nadal. Odd, but valuable, reflex-training practice by Novak.
If you needed further proof of Novak’s commitment, take a look at this gem of a quote from former training partner, Ernests Gulbis: “At 13 and 14, he was really dedicated…I used to practice and then that’s it. I would go to my room, I eat Nutella. He went to stretch and to go for a run.” Ernests there, giving us the enlightening evidence that practice is more conducive to success in elite level sport than eating chocolate spread in your bedroom.
Prediction: Novak to secure his first French title, despite being hampered by an eye-patch — asking Lewis Hamilton to relentlessly uncork champagne in his presence, F1 podium style, was a training risk too far.
ROGER FEDERER: HOLOGRAPHIC HERO
Despite failing to win a grand slam for almost three years, Roger has still got ‘it’. He still brushes each shot with a graphite paintbrush, lovingly adorning a canvas with audacious flicks, swipes and dabs — when he does that scribbly thing on cameras after a game he’s effectively signing another masterpiece. He is still Tom Cruise in Minority Report — he knows what is going to happen before anyone else and exactly where he needs to be and when.
He can still win a game or two too, he’s won three titles this year — including a victory in the Dubai Tennis Championships over Djokovic, and the two have a tighter head-to-head than a traditional Maori hongi greeting. Whatever happens, Federer will at the very least be continuing his astonishing Grand Slam appearance record — the French Open will be his 62nd consecutive Grand Slam tournament. Whilst Nadal is the French Open, Federer is Tennis – you can have a Grand Slam without umpires, nets, opposition (Swingball will suffice as an alternative sport), but you simply can’t hold a slam without the ever-present Roger.
Earlier this month the International Tennis Hall of Fame museum launched a hologram of Roger Federer, complete with signature razor-sharp shots, as their new attraction As well as ensuring Roger can participate in grand Slams for eternity, the creation sets us up with the biggest talking points on the eve of the tournament — will Roger enter himself or his hologram into the draw? It’s a controversial choice – the game is still recovering from news that the winner of the 2004 edition, Gaston Gaudio, was actually the creation of an overhead projector — but if anyone can charm the crowds, Roger’s digital echo can.
Prediction: Roger (the real one) to fall gracefully short in the semi-finals, but find consolation in teaming up with his hologram alter-ego to triple-bagel the Bryan Brothers in the Doubles Final.