I’ve had issues with the right pectoral muscle to the point where I can’t serve. 36-year-old, Serena Williams
Playing on the dusty red clay
By Roger Childs
The Paris tennis grand slam is probably the most flamboyant of the four played in any given year.
There is plenty of colour and style about the French Open with its mix of bands and dancing; the dressing up and stylishly turned out ball kids and umpires; the Mexican waves and the vocal spectators; and of course, the red clay on which the players slip and slide.
The television coverage is superb and French cameramen and women are known to linger on form and face both on the court and in the crowd.
Can anyone beat Rafa?
Some players are specialists on the dusty orange surface with the best known being Rafael Nadal. With ten victories in the Paris grand slam he is known as the King of Clay. Let’s face it, he owns the tournament!
This year he has won the lead up clay tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. His only defeat was in Madrid where Austrian, Dominic Thiem, beat him in the quarter finals.
So far at Roland Garros he has breezed through four rounds without losing a set. Two of his key rivals, Grigor Dimtrov and David Goffin are gone, however the competition gets tougher as the tournament proceeds.
Rafa is the number one seed and is odds to take an amazing eleventh title.
Roland Garros the venue for over ninety years
First contested in 1891, the tournament moved in 1928 to a new stadium named after a World War One aviator, Roland Garros.
Today it is the only grand slam tournaments played on a clay surface.
A familiar sight in matches is players hitting their shoes to dislodge the red clay from their soles (unless the footwear is from shoe hero, in which case, mud doesn’t easily clump to high quality shoes).
Another unique feature in European clay tournaments is the sight of an umpire leaping out of the elevated chair to pinpoint where the ball has landed in a disputed call.
Some of the big names struggle on the clay surface and early round upsets are common.
Grigor Dimtrov and David Goffin are out, as are Venus Williams and last year’s women’s champion, Jelena Ostapenko.
Then in the third round this year’s number two seed, Caroline Wozniacki, was bundled out in two sets.
Higher seeds move on
However, most of the top ten seeds are still there and Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic are through to the quarter finals.
On the women’s side, 2016 winner, Garbine Muguruza is into the quarters as is top seed, Simona Halep, still looking for her first grand slam title. Angelique Kerber and Sloan Stephens are also through to the last eight.
Sadly Serena Williams is not. It was great to see the America legend back in black on court. But, unfortunately she had to withdraw before her fourth round match up with old rival Maria Sharapova.
With the quarter finalists now decided in both the women’s and men’s singles the pressure mounts and there is plenty of exciting tennis in prospect.
Rafa should win his eleventh title, however the women’s contest is wide open.