Some pointed comments concerning Gringo failure at the FO


From Bud Clollins and Greg Garber of ESPN's coverage:

It was the first time in the Open Era, which began in 1968, that an American man failed to reach the third round of the French Open.

"Obviously, that sucks," Roddick said. "It's not a secret. It's something we've got to work on. There's no doubt there are issues with clay. Our issues have issues that have issues right now."

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the No. 1-ranked woman in the world and the defending French Open champion, also was a victim of Roland Garros, which preys on the weak and infirm. She too lost to an anonymous player, Italy's Tathiana Garbin, 7-5, 6-4. Clay was the field-leveling factor.

From an American perspective, the French Open is the most obscure of the four Grand Slams. It is the only one played on clay, which in many tennis-educated minds, makes it the most difficult to play.

"All the Grand Slams are very tough mentally," said Carlos Moya, the 1998 champion here, "but this one I would say is the toughest one."

Clay reveals a player's flaws like no other surface. On grass and a hard surface, a big serve and powerful ground strokes can camouflage a weak net game. Volleying, in today's game, is a lost art. But on clay, where the ball bounces higher and prolongs points, sometimes to an excruciating degree, speed doesn't kill quite so easily. Thus, artistry -- clay-court players are brilliant masters of timing, spin and acute angles -- can carry the day. The ability to construct points, much less of a consideration on faster courts, is vital.

Roddick would rifle a huge forehand that would splash into the soft red stuff and Mutis would run it down and send back a looping, maddening forehand, something like the steady drip-drip-drip of the Chinese water torture. At 21, patience is not one of Roddick's virtues and his sense of urgency to finish off points was spurred by the stomach virus that has sapped his strength.

At a critical moment in the third set, Roddick crushed a serve, high and hard, and Mutis dived backward and caught a piece of it with a backhand swipe. The ball, to Roddick's amazement, blooped down the line and fell just inside the line for a winner. Later, Mutis won a pivotal point with a drop shot that was so exquisite it might have evaporated.

Midway through the match, Roddick started coming to net more often. In the decisive point of the fifth set's first game, he was in position to make a winning volley, but he stroked it too eagerly and it sailed long. Roddick was broken and Mutis was off on a five-game streak.

Roddick is now 3-4 at the French Open. His record in the other three is 34-9.

Does Roddick, asked revered journalist Bud Collins, have "clay-phobia" like so many other Americans? Does he look forward to improving his clay game?

"I have no choice but to look forward to improving," Roddick said, laughing. "This hasn't been our place for a few years now."

On the other hand, Garbin, who has been playing tennis for 23 of her 26 years, said this was her finest day on the court.

After she defeated Henin-Hardenne, Garbin understandably had difficulty collecting the thoughts caroming through her brain.

Justine Henin-Hardenne just didn't have the energy or match toughness she needed.

"You know what?" she said. "I don't remember the last point. I'm so confused. I still cannot believe the way I played."

Neither, of course, could Henin-Hardenne.

She had won three of the past four Grand Slam titles, but something called cytomegalovirus, a glandular condition, took her out of competition for more than a month. Her first-round match was a struggle against Sandrine Testud, but Henin-Hardenne had expressed optimism that she would play her way into shape.

Well, the terre battue of Roland Garros, the blood-red beaten earth, wouldn't allow it. And so, Henin-Hardenne is out after only the second round; since the event was first contested in 1925, only one other defending champion -- Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, in 1990 -- has exited so early.

"I was really nervous, I wasn't moving well, I was late all the time," Henin-Hardenne said. "I couldn't play my game. So it is a little bit frustrating. But it's a choice that I made"

Andre Agassi and Martina Navratilova share the same burden. Agassi's lack of preparation -- he played a single clay match in Austria before coming to Paris -- led to a first-round departure at the hands of an unknown French qualifier. Navratilova lost badly to an Argentine woman 28 years her junior. On the slick grass at Wimbledon, the result might have been different.

Endurance is another attribute demanded on clay. Longer points mean longer matches, and no Slam requires as much court time as the French. The day after he completed a 6-hour, 33-minute match with Arnaud Clement, Fabrice Santoro was obliged to return to the court for the third straight day, against Irakli Labadze. Santoro, whose 15 French Open appearances were second only to Agassi's 16, looked his age, which is 31. His five-set victory was a tribute to intestinal fortitude; his two matches have consumed 9 hours and 55 minutes. But when it was over, you could see the vast fatigue in his wide brown eyes.

Henin-Hardenne's face, too, was tinged with pain.

"I wasn't the player I have been for 12 months now," she observed. "I have no regrets that I came back here because, you know, I had to come back."

"I was feeling good, but on the court it's for sure different."


Bud Collins writes for The Boston Globe and Greg Garber is a senior writer for


Hall of Fame
Jim Courier who(m?) I admire for his work ethic, mental strength and 'juggernaut' style grew up on hard courts but won TWO French Open titles and lost a third to Bruguera.


Hall of Fame
But notice Jim didn't do much after that. He was the first one, other than perhaps Lendl, to really focus on fitness, and that, plus his forehand, and the ability to stay out there on court for hours, started today's current trend of fit players with powerful forehands.

Once the guys who grew up on the stuff, and who had a bit more overall talent, started following in his mold, he couldn't compete.

I love Jim, and admire how much he did with his determination, fitness and forehand. But those things are just about minimum requirements on today's Tour. He set the bar, and others guys raised it.
AAAA said:
Jim Courier who(m?) .
and don't forget the American who broke the 34yr?(since Tony Trabert) dry spell for Americans, Michael Chang. Who had some pretty good results their over his career. He was a hard court bred player and clay wasn't natural for him but I think he above all Americans had the patience and sheer determination required for the slow clay....


Hall of Fame
Datacipher, I'm not be funny. Should I write 'who I' or 'whom I'?

Chang also reached another FO final against Muster.
AAAA said:
Datacipher, I'm not be funny. Should I write 'who I' or 'whom I'?

Chang also reached another FO final against Muster.
Yes he did in 95 I believe. Beat Bruguera the defending champ in semis.

AAAA, I wasn't saying anything about the who/whom thing. I know you weren't being funny.

Hmm.... now that I think about it....I'm not sure! ha ha

...I THINK whom would be correct....but I'm no grammar pro ;-) Sorry....
Oh and if it makes any of you guys feel better, the vast majority of english speakers would not be certain which one it is .

In fact, in real life speaking, almost nobody uses "whom" at all...