It is that time of year again when the second major tennis tournament is being played at Roland Garros just outside Paris, France.
I write about this tournament today as I know we have many avid tennis players here in Lake Chapala, Mexico. There are many excellent facilities here for old and young to enjoy this wonderful game.
This is a very pivotal tournament for Rafael Nadal as he is back having won the Masters in Madrid earlier this month beating Roger Federer (who he had not faced for a year) in the finals and returning him to #2 status ahead of Novak Djokovic.
Rafa has won the French Open 4 times in the past but was out with a bad knee last year giving Roger Federer the opening he needed to finally win the one Grand Slam that had previously eluded him.
They talk about the greatest rivalry of all time being Nadal and Federer. I know I am dating myself when I talk about previous rivalries that I have watched over the years. Connors and McEnroe, Sampras and Agassi are two that remain fondly in my memory.
Rafa had achieved the #1 status in 2008 winning Wimbleton, beating Roger Federer, the gold medal at the Olympics beating countryman, David Ferrer, among his many other wins that year.
Since then he has been plagued with tendonitis in both knees and the separation of his parents both events being devastating to him.
Nadal was once considered a “dirt baller” (clay court expert) when he first came on the tennis scene but has since proved to be an all court player winning every major with the exception of the US Open held just outside New York.
We have the usual suspects at this tournament including the top ten players. If Roger Federer does not make it to the semi finals his status of #1 will be in jeopardy.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are very good friends, despite the media rivalry, as they both take their ambassadorship of the game of tennis very seriously. Roger is perhaps the greatest tennis player of all time but Rafa also will be written in the history books as he now holds the title of most Masters Tennis events won. (18)
They are both wonderful to watch. They both make the game of tennis look so easy which it a true sign of greatness as it is far from easy. They are both terrific with the fans and the media and are both gentlemen and excellent sportsmen.
John McEnroe, another favorite of mine, was far from a gentlemen and his temper was legendary. This did not, for me, detract from the enjoyment of watching him play with vigor and enthusiasm. To this day he still is the announcer for the 4 major tennis tournaments and his commentary is professional and highly amusing.
I liked Sampras over Agassi but I do appreciate everything that Andre Agassi has done for the game of tennis and for providing young people the opportunity to learn the sport.
Andre was once married to Brooke Shields but is now happily married to another tennis great, Steffi Graf, and they have two children. Andre was also quite colorful in his early days on the tour but has matured into a much revered legend.
The serve and volley days which catapulted the likes of Sampras and Rafter to the top are, for the most part, over and now it is strength and power of the ground strokes which will win you matches. The drop shot is still in play but very seldom used although, to my mind, it is still a very excellent shot and much less exhausting on the body.
I have watched Nadal since he first burst on the scene at 17 with all the enthusiasm of youth and have enjoyed watching him become a star.
We all have our favorites but I would be very happy to see Rafa take the French Open title for a fifth time.