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Alix Ramsay Checks In From Paris • Tennis 10sBalls Shares Another Gem From Roland Garros

Simona Halep of Romania plays Amanda Anisimova of the USA during their women’s quarter final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 06 June 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT



Paris is a strange place. It is the city of vanishing vegetables, of the world’s most incontinent wildlife (the domesticated beasts are not much better) and of the world’s only 15-day grand slam tournament that still may not finish on time.


Now, about those vegetables. On the walk into work, there are farmers’ markets in every square. There are huge barrows piled high with beautifully ripe aubergine, tomatoes, courgette, artichoke, greens, beans, cauliflowers of every variety, radishes, cucumbers – every veg your heart could desire.


And then you go into the restaurants and your steak comes with frites. Your fish comes with one boiled potato. “Où sont les legumes?” you ask, a little crestfallen. “Nous avons des haricots verts,” the waiter says, grumpily. Haricots verts (that’s green beans to you and me) are in season and the only veg available to the tourist in town is haricots-bleedin’-verts. And even then only after a fight.


Presumably it is the pigeons that are eating all the decent veg because the Parisian pigeon is not the scrawny, feral pigeon of every other capital city. These things are the size of small dogs. And they clearly eat well and heartily because the highways and byways of Paris are knee-deep in pigeon poo. They are the most incontinent birds on the planet. This is truly a strange city.


Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Alexander Zverev of Germany during their men?s quarter final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 06 June 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALATJust to add another little quirk into the French Open mix, this year we have four women’s semi-finalists who have never reached a major final before and for the first time in seven years, we have Federer, Djokovic and Nadal all in the last four. The last time that happened was at Roland Garros in 2012.


But back to the finish time for this interminably long event. The rain on Wednesday knocked the schedule into a cocked hat. The organisers had 15 days to play with, we all knew the rain was coming in the second week (by the way, Friday is predicted to be awfully damp, too) and yet Djokovic and Thiem will have to play three, best-of-five set matches in four days to finish on time while Barty and Anisimova will have to play three days running to finish on deadline.


In order to give both finalists the same amount of time to recover, the women’s semi-finals have been relegated to the lesser show courts: Anisimova and Barty will kick off at 11am, local time, on Court Suzanne Lenglen and Konta and Vondrousova will get to work at the same time on Court Simone-Mathieu. The blokes will take centre stage on Court Philippe Chatrier and play back to back with a 12.50pm start.


There will be those who will huff and puff about the women having to play second fiddle to the men but they are fighting the wrong fight. After all, those who bought their tickets for Friday did so in the expectation that they would watching the men’s semi-finals. Having shelled out their €100 per match, they would be getting excited at the prospect of Federer against Nadal starting the day’s play. If, instead, they got Konta-Vondrousova, they might be less impressed (no disrespect intended to the Misses Konta or Vondrousova). Had they wished to see the women, they would have bought tickets for Thursday at €80 a pop.


No, the fight that needs revving up is the unfair – and in this case, impractical – way that the slams, Wimbledon apart, split the quarter-finals over two days which gives one half of the draw an extra day to recover before the semis. Federer and Nadal have now had two days off while Djokovic and Thiem spent Wednesday wasting energy in the locker room hoping the rain would stop and then were hard at work on Thursday booking their place in the next round.


Combine that with the French Open’s annoying habit of splitting the first round over three days and the scheduling is a mess. No matter that they have an extra day to play with, the French are in danger of overrunning if the rain sets in on Friday – and that really takes some doing.


Ashleigh Barty of Australia plays Madison Keys of the USA during their women?s quarter final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 06 June 2019. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERGStill, Ash Barty and Amanda Anisimova were happy, no matter what. They both dominated their quarter-finals, Barty driving Madison Keys to distraction 6-3, 7-5 in 69 minutes and Anisimova dismantling Simona Halep, the defending champion 6-2, 6-4 in 68 minutes.


Of the four semi-finalists, Jo Konta is the most experienced – this is her third grand slam semi-final – but other than that, there is not a gnat’s nadger between any of them. They are all playing the tennis of their lives, none of them were expected to get this far and none of them have anything to lose. Barty appears to be the thinker of the four, Vondrousova is the unpredictable talent, Anisimova is the backhand to be feared and Konta is… well, Konta is rock solid, error-free and relaxed. Pick the bones out of that.


Fortunately, better minds than ours have sized up the situation and come up with the potential finalists. And if this great mind is wrong, don’t blame us. Send your complaints to Eurosport where Chris Evert is working as a commentator.


“We’ve always said women’s tennis is unpredictable, since Serena hasn’t been dominating the last two or three years,” Evert said after Barty and Anisimova had both won. “Amanda played unbelievable today. I was stunned by Jo Konta. I was stunned again today by Amanda.


“Ash Barty has got more variety than any of the players. She can disrupt the rhythm. She will need that against Anisimova because she will hit you off the court. She showed power and composure and touch today.


“Jo’s had two days since her remarkable win over Sloane. Can she keep that momentum up? That is the question. I think she can, I think she will have hunger and inspiration, but she cannot get down on herself if she doesn’t play up to that level.”


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