Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Feet of clay

Why can’t an American win in Paris?
Americans don’t play the same tennis that the French do. In the States, kids train on fast, concrete courts, and it’s wham, bam, up yours, ma’am. The recent crop proves this, with Andy Roddick, the Williamses, Lindsay Davenport, and James Blake taking that flight for untold years to Paris, only to come home empty-handed. This year is no exception. All the men, including Roddick and Blake, who completed a match on Tuesday went down in flames, making Mardy Fish's decision to kick a field goal that waylaid his trip to Paris the best move on clay made by an American.
Coincidence? Neither Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors, nor John McEnroe, all American tennis legends, ever won the French Open. The Americans have patented a kick-ass brand of tennis that is definitely effective, but it’s not exactly the approach of the Europeans.
Growing up, Europeans play on red clay. It mutes the speed of a ball, and limits the effect of a power game. The clay makes tennis more like a chess match, a game of strategy. At the French Open, rallies can go on for 20 strokes, and the spoils do not go to the strong. They go to those who use their brain, those who can move their opponents around like rooks, and strike when they have the chance.
Not that the Americans are stupid. It's just that like all American kids, the only clay they know is Play-Doh. Who the hell plays tennis on Play-Doh?

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