BBC BLOGS - Jonathan Overend
« Previous | Main | Next »

French Open scheduling needs addressing

Post categories:

Jonathan Overend | 10:10 UK time, Monday, 31 May 2010

The reaction of the normally mild-mannered Alex Corretja said everything.

Andy Murray's coaching staff are usually stoically poker-faced, so much so one can't help wondering if it's in the contract, but when Murray hit two huge forehands onto either side of the baseline to win a point early in the third set against Tomas Berdych, the Spaniard almost needed restraining.

He roared, lifted himself from his seat and opened his arms as if to say "that's the way to do it." As a former French Open finalist, he should know.

Earlier a good amount of head-shaking/scratching/holding appeared to have Corretja in a state of fractured anxiety. His man was being eaten for petit-dejeuner by an inspired opponent and there was nothing he could do.

Berdych hit the ball so cleanly one imagined a new supersize sweet-spot on his racket of choice. He thoroughly deserved the win.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

But Murray was lacklustre, with an increasing tone of stroppiness, and appeared generous in the extreme with his line and length.

Too much appeared up the middle into the hitting zone. Berdych stepped in, gave the ball a clobber, hard and flat, and that was invariably point over.

Murray argued that because Berdych got more first serves in, he often got the first hit in. That he most certainly did. He also said that the heavy conditions, not helped by the ball getting soaked in the wet covers at the back of the court, made it difficult to generate pace.

But the most interesting assessment was that of the winner.

"He didn't give me too much pressure in the rallies," said Berdych.

"I was always comfortable and had plenty of pace to do everything I wanted and that's why I won in straight sets.

"Maybe that's his style, sometimes to make the opponent go to sleep, but it didn't work today".

Again Murray was involved in late-night tennis, with darkness falling and spectators wrapped up in anything they could find. The scheduling at this tournament does need addressing.

Over the past few days organisers have been left red faced, and not just from the bitterly cold wind which has streaked across Paris.

Saturday was a grey day with constant drizzle and tumbling temperatures. But despite play being uninterrupted from 11 in the morning , the match of the day - between Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova - hit the court at 7.38pm in poor light with the stadium half empty.

Two sets were played in the light rain before the match was suspended at one set all with Sharapova having fought magnificently back into the match. The President's Box contained six people at this point.

It was the third night in a row with an incomplete match on Centre Court.

One leading coach described the scheduling as "average to deplorable" and called for more matches to be positioned on other courts.

"You have to assume all the matches go the distance," says the coach, knowing if that had been the case on Saturday, Henin and Sharapova wouldn't have even begun.

We've effectively had evening sessions without a roof or floodlights. And when you add a supervisor making decisions on the hoof, without the aid of any electronic light meter, it turns the tournament into a bit of a laughing stock.

All this could be avoided by having three matches per day on the show courts and utilising Court 1 and 7 a little more.

Tennis has enough issues without sidelining its star attractions.


  • Comment number 1.

    I was on Suzanne Lenglen yesterday and surely the scheduling and conditions didn't help, the stadium was pretty damp and empty, and light was fading towards the end. "Come on Andy, this is like summer in Scotland!" was the wisecrack from an Aussie in the dwindling crowd.

    Didn't seem like Grand Slam conditions. But it is the same for both players.

    Was just behind the umpire after the break and could here all the backchat with Murray. He screamed "this courts not fit to play on" at one point, before the umpire (Cedric apparently) tried to explain it wasn't his decision to restart the match, it was the officials inside.

    Berdych kept quiet, head down, concentrated, I think he knew he Murray wasn't up for it.

  • Comment number 2.

    Agree with the sentiment from Caludrup, while the conditions and scheduling were poor, it was the same for both players and was not a factor in Murray losing. His petulant reaction to it may not of helped but that was probably just his frustration at his play boiling over.

    While Berdych played well and is indeed a good player, he's not a world beater and I still strongly doubt that Murray can end Britain's long wait for a male grand slam winner on the red dust of Roland Garros. Whether he can do it on other courts remains to be seen but at the French he just doesn't have what it takes.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was concerned at Andy Murray's body language on court throughout the tournament, not just against Berdych. It was like he didn't really care any more. I hope he gets the hunger back before Wimbledon!

  • Comment number 4.

    bye bye, anyone but Murray.

  • Comment number 5.

    Are all the tickets sold for these matches? There seems to be an awful lot of empty seats at most matches, even when the biggest names are playing. Has the credit crunch finally bitten?

  • Comment number 6.

    Murray's strategy seemed to be let's hope he starts missing. and that type of strategy from the world no.4 is really poor and in the last 4 majors he's been found out by hard hitting opponents.
    he was lucky to survive a first round defeat just by virtue of Gasquet's fitness issues. unless he changes his approach and start going for his shots he will start dropping as all the other players have found him out.

  • Comment number 7.


    I too was at the match yesterday and like you, wasn't one of the masses who scarpered off when the rain came.

    I couldn't believe that the match carried on as late as it did. I figured once the second set was completed that might be it, or maybe 3/4 games in the second set. I thought the few people left did as best as they could to generate an atmosphere but it can't have been great for the players to carry on with barely anyone watching.

    Murray himself was terrible yesterday. He desperately needed to win a long rally with a passing shot but he was waiting for Berdych to miss, which someone with solid groundstrokes isn't going to.

    All in all very dissapointing.

  • Comment number 8.

    A champ wins regardless of the rain or the win. All Andy was great at was complaining like an old lady and letting his negative body gesture do the talking. That is all the Czech needed to win this match.

    Murray is running out of excuses and still ZERO GS to show. the same when he is playing hc. A pity with so much talent wasted.

  • Comment number 9.

    OOPS make that the wind instead of win :)

  • Comment number 10.

    No doubt Berdych played well and deserved the win. But the conditions were deplorable and happened to be about the opposite to the sort of conditions that Andy plays his best tennis in. And let's not forget you need a bit of luck to do really well in a slam. Of all the top seeds Andy had the worst luck: a really difficult draw from the start, terrible scheduling compounded by the rain which meant he had only one day when he didn't have to play. And he was just as 'injured' as Gasquet in Round 1, with his knee problems, so he did very well to win then. Andy did well to reach round 4, and played some brilliant stuff in earlier rounds, showing he is getting back to form for the grass season. Last night just wasn't his night.

  • Comment number 11.

    Murray cannot complain about scheduling. Without some fortunate scheduling in the first round he wouldn't have made the second.

  • Comment number 12.

    When did 'slam' become 'grand slam'? I thought a grand slam was winning all four slams in a season?

    @4 - I totally agree!

  • Comment number 13.

    I think Mats Wilader summed the Murray match quite well, he simply does not have the power to compete with the top players, depends on trying to wear the opponent down with hopefully superior fitness, mistakes & & will to win. Unfortunately at the top level this is simply not enough to win Grand Slams. Andy appears to have a team of helpers & friends, without the requisite high level coaching skill levels, which he might not take any notice anyway. I believe he thinks he has got everything to win a GS, fitness & skill & doesn't have to develop, very big mistake Andy. He has two big weaknesses, service (low % first serves in & weak second)& not powerful enough forehand. Unless he sorts these out, which he doesn't appear to want to do, it is unlikely he will win a GS, what a great shame, because he is so close & has great talent & we don't have anyone else within a mile of his talent, which is a big indictment of the LTA.

  • Comment number 14.

    @12, That's a calender slam. A grand slam is winning any major.

  • Comment number 15.

    Re empty seats - Parisians are displaying excellent strategic thinking in not turning up to watch the French Open.

    You see, if the matches are watched by full houses, the organizers can say, "Oh, we must move this tournament, Roland Garros simply can't handle the numbers!"

    Indeed, the French public have done very well in responding to this, by not providing said numbers.

  • Comment number 16.

    Good to see that not all British traditions have died. In this case, that's the one where British athletes (ask Henman, Radcliffe, any Winter Olympian not from Bath, etc) who don't perform up to expectations are vilified by the press, public, and comedians.

    I do hope Andy doesn't read the newspapers and forums. He got frustrated in the match, true. What do you want him to be, some iceman robot? His comments after the match were measured and classy, the sign of a man who knows his faults and weaknesses.

    What are you going to criticize him for next - not being born in Spain?

  • Comment number 17.

    @16 I don't think anyone wants him to be a robot, no, but an iceman, yes. Holding your nerve is of great help in tennis and if Murray could keep his temper in check then he'd be a much better player for it.

    Murray has faced Federer in two grand slam finals and lost both in straight sets. Compare his body language when losing in those finals to that of Juan Martín del Potro in the 2009 US Open final, when he was down a set and a break. Murray in those situations slumps his shoulders, he shouts and his whole body language becomes negative. Del Potro kept calm and was able to get himself back in the match. By the end it was actually Federer who was losing his temper, even swearing at the umpire, and he went on to lose.

    Assuming that there is no dark secret prevading the world on international tennis, Del Potro isn't a robot. He also doesn't fall under the bracket that people use when they compare Fed to Murray of being an all time great. If he can do it, then Murray can. It's just not going to be easy.

  • Comment number 18.

    Murray's a bum. At least Djokovic gives 100% even when he's ill. Many posters on this board have criticised Nole for quitting in the past, but Murray is the real quitter.

  • Comment number 19.

    That is a load of rubbish! I like Djokovic as a player, but when the going gets tough, he quite often pulls out of a match. Murray is not a quitter, but he certainly has played better.

    As for the slams. He's still only 23 and has a long way to go in his career.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think to be fair to the organisers, the weather has been unusually inclement this year and Wimbledonesque! As for Murray, I think to be honest he's been found out! Far too defensive. Only Nadal has any realistic chance of playing defensively and winning on clay! Players like Soderling and Berdych have realised their only chance of beating Nadal/Fed on clay is to be aggressive and take lots of chances. If you tip tap from the baseline, you're not going to win at Roland Garros and probably not the other slams either.

    I suspect Murray is a busted flush! Hope I'm wrong.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.