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Dale - Lake Worth, FL  | Read Dale's first essay

To say that my first day at Roland Garros was out of the ordinary would be the biggest understatement since my father's recent contention of "that Federer guy is pretty good." For one thing, I was surprised to discover that fans here routinely walk around naked.
That isn't true, of course (I'm just trying to find out if my wife is keeping her promise to read these blogs). But I do have some honest observations:

  • I love the early days of a tennis tournament, before the main draw gets underway. Qualifying-match players are fighting their hearts out, seeds are practicing, various technicians are wandering about doing whatever it is they do, and concession stand people have time to talk amongst themselves, likely working on their justifications for charging the equivalent of eight bucks for an ice cream bar.
  • That this is historic Roland Garros makes it all the more special. The weather is cool, the clay so red it's orange, and the background chatter largely incomprehensible. So far today, I've heard approximately 12 million languages spoken. It's always amazing to hear people communicating in different tongues, particularly for someone who rarely makes himself understood in one.
  • The big names were out in full force. On the practice courts, I saw Serena blasting forehands so hard I was glad I'm not a practice ball. I watched Hewitt track down shots I couldn't have touched were I playing with a slide trombone, after which he screamed "C'mon!" (OK, that's not all that newsworthy; I had just never considered that he practices that yelp of his).

Outside Chartrier, I said hi to John McEnroe. He kept walking, but did mumble "How ya doin'?" as he breezed past. I now consider us friends.

I had a longer conversation with another announcer. I had just finished washing my hands in the W.C. ("the can", for you American readers) and was looking for a paper towel when in walked a familiar face. I didn't place it until I noticed it was attached (via a hot pink polo shirt) to citrus colored pants that were louder than a Monica Seles grunt and had what looked to be fist-sized prints of Shamu all over them.

"How ya doin'?" I asked (that McEnroe is a quick influence).

"Fine," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Bud Collins. It's very nice to meet you."

I still hadn't located the towels, but I didn't want to leave him hanging, so I placed my wet hand into his dry one and muttered, "Nice meeting you too. that, uh, you know-your book."

He thanked me without even a hint that he might be at all bothered by a soggy-handed idiot babbling incoherently about his bestseller.

Perhaps the meeting could have been a touch more dignified, but I'll take it. Just like the players, technicians, and concessions people, I'm still getting prepared for the big event.

And besides, out of the ordinary has been pretty good so far.