Jeff - Overland Park, KS | Read Jeff's First Entry
The alarm goes off with a blare, but today doesn't faze me as it normally would. I'm not cursing back, not today. After all, I'm soon to start an "assignment" so magnifique it ranks up there with being a sunscreen applier for Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.
I departed early this morning for my Mecca - Roland Garros - on the second-ever opening day Sunday of Grand Slam play, so it's all good. The Tennis Channel has been kind enough to let me be your eyes and ears at the French Open for the next 10 days. Crazy, huh?
I'm stupidly giddy on the ride over to Roland Garros. As I make my way to the entrance, the butterflies are in full effect, so much so they actually flew me over here. MY words will be sent across the globe. But what better place to break the nervousness than in Paris...at the French Open?
I hear a faint sound in the distance...balls being topspinned to death. I'm almost inside. This is it.
I finger my credential walking through the gates, and feel disbelief take hold as I'm waived through like French royalty because of the TTC bling around my neck. Looking down at the lanyard bearing my name, I'm still waiting for the real alarm to go off, or someone to pinch me. I see Chatrier and Lenglen stadiums up ahead, over the legion of fans rushing inside. French crepes in hand, the sun's kicking, and I can only form one semi-coherent thought: "This is the French frickin' Open!"
Job one is to get some clay on my hands, and get this 10-day dream sequence kick-started right. As I make my way to the nearest court accessible, I reach down to rub the gritty surface. It's a cornball move, but I don't care. When in Rome, do as Romans do. When at the French Open, do as tourists do. An usher gives me a glare. I wonder why, then realize he's likely seen this scene before.
I step around to view the on-court action, and see the silhouette of Dominik Hrbaty, the first of many I'll soon have memorized. I'd have rather it'd been someone like Rafael Nadal. But, for now, the innocuous "Dominator" will do, especially since he's not wearing that pink "airholes" shirt he faux pas'd on a couple years back. I notice the crowd is vocal for a backcourt first-rounder, but see the scoreboard and snap to why: A Frenchy's involved, Florent Serra.
Too excited to stay still, I decide to take a lap, and it turns into an all-day, bedazzled haze of memories, the first of so many to come: 1) Roland Garros' grounds are smaller than I pictured; 2) Maria Sharapova isn't, she's a skyscraper; 3) My rudimentary French gleaned from years of not paying attention in class is going to be a severe handicap, like Elena Dementieva's second serve.
That's ok. I've got nine more days to practice. Luckily, I'm not writing en Francais!