Sunday, September 29, 2013

Longines Finale and Grand Slam Completion

It was the final day of the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament and I was ready to see the championship match. I was also more than ready to complete my own personal Grand Slam.

Even though the American Adam Neff had lost in the first round, he was excited to be able to watch the match with Longines Rising Tennis Star Ryan Harrison. He also felt better knowing that the player he lost to, Rudolf Molleker of Germany was the winner of the tournament.

In addition to Harrison, tennis stars Sabine Lisciki (who would reach the finals of Wimbledon a few weeks later), Arnaud Clement and Fabrizio Santoro gave out prizes and did exhibitions before we left for Roland Garros.

I have covered the US Open nearly every year in the past three decades. I have been to Wimbledon and I’ve been to the Australian Open, but I’d never been to the French Open. Roland Garros, the fourth major, had eluded me – until this day. I was finally getting to complete my Grand Slam, at least as an attendee.

Before the matches, we had lunch in the Longines Pavilion. It was even better than expected, with a salad of various artichokes to start. It was served with a light and fruity 2012 Chateau La Tour a L’Eveque Blanc de Blanc.

I couldn’t wait to get out to the courts so I left the group right after dessert was served. It was quite crowded, with narrow walkways that seemed to go off in all directions. 

I tried to make my way to see a match between four players I know well (Mike & Bob Bryan vs. Eric Butorac & Jack Sock), but couldn’t get near the packed court.

Instead I went over to the press room to say hello to some friends and ironically ran into Bob, Mike and Eric, who were just getting off the court (the Bryans won and would go on to win the tournament).

I watched the Rafael Nadal vs. Fabio Fognini match. It was a good one, but I was much more interested in exploring the grounds of Roland Garros.

I tried to get in to watch the match of Jamie Hampton, a player I’ve known since she was a child who is having a lot of success on the tour, but the line was too long and I reminded myself that I had a ticket, not a press badge, at this event. The same was true for the John Isner vs. Tommy Haas match, which went on to a tiebreaker in the fifth set before Haas prevailed.

I walked around for a while before settling in the circle, where a crowd of spectators was watching matches on the big screen, next to the Longines official watch and the plaques of past winners. I found pretty much the same scene at the other stadiums.

We took the bus back to the InterContinental Paris Le Grand in the evening to get ready for our dinner cruise on the Bateaux Mouche. I sat with the Longines PR reps and had a wonderful time (I’m sure the endless bottles of chablis helped).

Despite the fact that it was my fourth trip on Bateaux Mouche, I felt like a first time sightseer. My camera was snapping every angle of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and every other site we saw along the Seine River.

The group was going out after the boat ride, but I knew I had an early flight back to the U.S. so I went back to the room for my final night’s sleep in Paris – at least for now.

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