Sean - New York, NY | Read Sean's First Entry
It must be Love
It's Paris, it's springtime, and a young man's thoughts turn to Love. Pardonez-moi, I mean Amour. Even if I wasn't here at Roland Garros, the atmosphere of this city, in full bloom with flowers and the florid cheeks of lovers young and old, it does something to you. It's more than the budding fertility all around me. It's a billowing sense of renewal and bare-breasted Gallic glory that seems to be encoded into the DNA of Paris. A cocoon of measured utopia wherein you can believe all will be right because it should be right, if only we could while away an afternoon at the cafe, bantering of higher meanings and grand philosophies over a bottle wine whose grapes were nursed in that famous provence of Burgundy. Yes, Paris in the spring is about granting oneself the leisure to intoxicate the senses and fall in love with this city and its languorous charms.
With that self-granted freedom, I strolled the grounds on this opening day ready to let the sights, sounds, smells, and les accoutrements du tennis have their way with me. Early in the day, I was struck by the determined ease of the pace of the spectators. Unlike my native Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows, the grounds here, while not lacking buzz (see the 5 set contretemps between James Blake and Paul-Henri Mathieu on Court Suzanne Lenglen), have a well-defined sense that the moment is second to the day. A more cynical observer might call it ennui, but I think it owes more to this being a European, and yes, French tournament. Like the cadre of talented shotmakers that compose the French tennis identity on tour, the fans seem to have a longer-term view of the action. One can miss a shot here, a shot there, but there will always be more to see, more to experience. Just as the artful, but slightly errant drop shot won't determine the set, fans seem content in the belief that rushing from one court to the next is a needless waste of worry. Better to settle in and enjoy the whole contest, lest you forsake the sliding topspin lob that will assuredly appear any moment. Locate a proper seat, relax, and let the match's complete oeuvre wash over you.
Later this evening, as daylight raced to the west, I found myself surprisingly unrepentant for missing Nadal's opening match and Kim Clijster's final(?) appearance here while immersed in another 5 set exhibition of tennis magnifique courtesy of Richard Gasquet. I basked in the bonhomie of the patrons who had been beside me all five sets. Standing outside Roland Garros, discussing what we had not seen, my new ami, Jean-Paul, summed it up best:
"What 'ave I missed? I 'ave seen art today. I 'ave made un ami nouveau. Now, I will go 'ome to my wife and children. Je ne suis un bon vivant, mais je vis bien."
Oui, Jean-Paul. Les mots justes.