David - New York, NY | Read David's first essay
Too wired to sleep. I can still hear the fans roaring in Chatrier stadium, still smell the orange trees on the insanely overcrowded grounds, still see Lleyton Hewitt screaming "C'mon!" as he takes on the pinball machine in the players' lounge. Or it could be that my French isn't as hot as I thought--and that espresso I ordered at the commissary was, in fact, not a decaf.
It ain't all singing and dancing when you're an American in Paris. Six U.S women and men are in action today against French opponents, and morning showers, overcast skies and cool temps have turned yesterday's (relatively) fast, baked-dry clay courts into mud pits. To top it off, it's Kids Day. Oblivious to the weather, giddy Gallic teens wearing French-flag capes and curly blue-white-and-red wigs bounce around the Place des Mousquetaires chanting "Allez, allez, allez, allez!"
In the upper rows of the circular Bullpen stadium (aka Court 1), I meet a group of raucous Net Heads--those rabid U.S. fans who show up wherever in the world Americans are playing, sporting goofy net hats and waving patriotic pom-poms. I sit next to the Rocklands, a sunburned family from Minneapolis. "You gotta let it all hang out!" says Bill Rockland of being an American abroad. A tennis-nut Saturn dealer, Bill is determined to take his family to every Grand Slam tournament once. "That's called the Rockland Slam," he says, grinning ear-to-ear.
The weather here is as unpredictable as a Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show. The sun is now shining in a blue sky, birds are atwitter, and the celeb-spotting is fine: I spy Richard Williams (wheeling and dealing on his cell outside Court Suzanne Lenglen); Maria Sharapova (practicing on a mobbed outside court--and not grunting); Martina Navratilova (coaxing her toy dog down the shop-lined "Allee Centrale"); and legendary commentator Bud Collins (studying a bronze statue of Rene Lacoste). Bud's pants are covered in berets and baguettes. "Custom-made," he says.
At last, I meet...The One. A jaded Swiss colleague gives me his invite to a promotional event Federer is doing for the Swiss coffeemaker company Jura. It's in the "Le Village" enclave, where VIPs mingle on flower-lined boardwalks and sip champagne at open-air hospitality suites. There he is, the quintessential at-ease jetsetter surrounded by beautiful people (Joakim Noah is here, but where's Tiger?). "Tell me something you've never told a journalist," I ask. He smiles at Mirka, then says, "We're having a baby--the cow my hometown of Basel gave me after I won Wimbledon is pregnant." Scoooop!
The sun is going down, and the famous Roland Garros shadows have crept nearly all the way across the burnt-red clay of Chatrier. A spent, dust-covered Andy Roddick is going down, too. The chair umpire announces, "Jeux, set, match, Mathieu." The whole stadium sings, "Allez, allez, allez, allez!" I know what I'll be hearing when I attempt to get to sleep tonight.