Tramlines: Au Revoir to Roland Garros?

Eurosport - Mon, 22 Mar 15:43:00 2010

To English speakers, the idea of moving the French Open away from Roland Garros might not seem that big a deal.

TENNIS 2008 French Open Roland Garros ball pelota bola - 0

After all, the US and Australian Opens have changed venues, and even surfaces, several times in their lives. The US Open was even played on clay for a few years in the 1970s, for example.

And while moving the All England Tennis Championships away from Wimbledon would be unthinkable, surely moving the French Open would be no different to taking the British Grand Prix away from Silverstone. That is to say it'd be a bit odd for a while, but no great shakes.

In French, though, it's different: the French Open is always referred to as 'Roland-Garros' just as the All England is referred to as 'Wimbledon'.

And given that the venue itself is called Stade Roland Garros (both tournament and venue taking their names from a French aviation pioneer) the concept of moving it across Paris - or worse, across France - is tantamount to high treason.

In British terms, it would be like suggesting that the guardians of golf at the Royal & Ancient move from St Andrews to Telford; or suggesting to an American that their President should move out of the White House and into a budget-friendly tower block over the river in Maryland.

But despite the warning of tournament director Gilbert Ysern, the chances of Roland Garros moving away from Roland Garros are about as remote as the Seine freezing over during the May tournament.

"We have two options," said Ysern. "One is to make it bigger, the other is to move out.

"It would be heartbreaking to leave Paris but we have to consider it," he added.

It would be heartbreaking, but it won't happen - and he knows it. His words were targeted squarely at those sectors of the local residents and environmental lobbies who have consistently opposed modernising the venue with better infrastructure, retractable roofs and such like.

Pressure groups always punch above their weight at the start of such debates, but as soon as the wider world sits up and takes notice of the proposed sacrilege then the majority view will prevail. Ysern is just making sure that the majority gets off its derriere and starts resisting the move sooner rather than later.

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It was Tommy Haas who started it all.

The big German came within a couple of points of beating Roger Federer at Roland Garros despite being well into the twilight of his career at the age of 30.

Then, earlier this year, Juan Carlos Ferrero celebrated turning 30 by going within a few games of winning three tournaments in as many weeks.

Now, at the positively Jurassic age of 31, Ivan Ljubicic has won his first Masters series tournament.

When Andre Agassi was winning Grand Slams in his 30s he seemed nothing more than a freakish anomaly, but maybe we're entering a new era of tennis that will reward guile and experience over youthful vigour. Take a dose of changing technology, a handful of improved nutrition and training, and a soupcon of belief and who knows where it might end?

Federer's career Grand Slam and 15th Major title last year prompted many commentators to suggest he might retire gracefully despite being a few weeks short of his 28th birthday.

But who knows? Maybe, as with Ljubicic, the best may be yet to come after all - a prospect to warm the heart of anyone... apart from Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, that is.

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RANKINGS

Despite his one-sided quarter-final loss at Indian Wells to Robin Soderling, Britain's Andy Murray climbs back to the world number three spot ahead of Spain's Rafael Nadal.

The two switch places after Nadal fell to Ljubicic in a classic semi-final at the tournament - and as defending champion, Nadal's year-on-year loss of points puts him well back. Both players are well over 1,000 points (or a Mastes series title) behind second-placed Novak Djokovic.

Ljubicic's victory in California was the biggest of his lengthy career and he rises to 13th, his best ranking since 2007.

In the women's game Caroline Wozniacki has jumped up to world number two after making it to the final of the women's event in Indian Wells. Jelena Jankovic's first gets her a mild bump up to eighth after her first victory since August.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Winner: "I like a man with hard hands!!! It means he works hard!! And knows the meaning of a buck. Works hard for it.. Ummm gets me every time!" - Who else but Serena Williams? The girl is fearless, you have to say that for her.

Honourable mention: British number four Melanie South posed a true mindbender for her followers: "What's better - tomato ketchup or brown sauce?"

Wooden spoon: "Been away for a long time. Twitter page was hacked, hope everyone is well" - former world number four Tim Henman sends us to sleep... and leaves us hoping that his Twitter page gets hacked again before too long.

A-BOG v A-BOG: THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE

Britain's Alex Bogdanovic and America's Alex Bogomolov - aka A-Bog (GB) and A-Bog (US) have been locked in the greatest Transatlantic conflict since those pesky yanks tipped a load of perfectly good tea into Boston Harbour.

And who's the winner this week? Why, it's A-Bog (GB)!

After going 4-2 down last week A-Bog pulls one back, surfing the vagaries of the ATP points system to rise six places in the world rankings despite not having lifted a racquet. He is now back in the nosebleed-inducing heights of the world's top 150. That's a win in our books, A-Bog!

Latest score: A-Bog (US) 4-3 A-Bog (GB)

THIS WEEK IN TENNIS

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic all fell to surprising - though throughouly deserved - defeats at Indian Wells, but the world's top four players don't have long to wait to get their seasons back on track.

The Miami Masters follows hot on the heels of the California tournament, with all the game's greats fit and ready to go for what should be an outstanding event. Murray is the defending champion after beating Djokovic in the final last year.

After sitting out Indian Wells over a long-standing feud (sparked by alleged racist abuse from the crowd several years ago), the Williams sisters should have been back in action in Miami - but a knee injury has forced Serena out of the tournament.

That should blow the title wide open, with defending champion Victoria Azarenka and last week's winner Caroline Wozniacki both looking for glory.

Watch WTA Miami LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player

Tramlines / Eurosport

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