You didn't have to be a tennis guru to know that when the French Open bracket was released and the two top players were meeting in the semi-finals, that the final could go one of two ways. Either there would be a miraculous upset of a top favorite, or an easy victory. Today turned out to be the latter. Rafa Nadal easily won the tournament, making history, breaking records and showing his continued dominance on the French clay.
Actually, the final score doesn't really do his oppenent David Ferrer justice. He put in a good fight, and in many games made inroads against Rafa. But in the end, he couldn't gain traction and lost in three straight sets.
The most excitement of the match actually came from off the court. We witnessed a series of protests that caused quite some attention. A dozen seats down from us in our row some folks stood up and started chanting and got removed from the stadium, in the distance we could see some folks unravel a banner and wave lit flares over another court, and finally an individual managed to light a flare and jump onto the court before he was taken down by security. It was all a site to see, but didn't significantly impact the game.
Having watched a heck of a lot of tennis over the last 10 days, I have to say that while I'm impressed at the players, I'm also quite impressed by the ball kids and line judges. These people are effectively invisible and yet manage to perform with nearly the precision of a machine.
Consider this: there are only six balls in play at any time during a match. This means that regardless of where a ball ends up on the court, it needs to be seamlessly delivered back to the player with no apparent delay. The ball kids appear to have strict protocols that they follow to make sure they stay out of the way, yet effectively chase down balls.
While line judges don't have to run around, they do need to be extremely alert and quick reacting when a ball travels near their boundary. They have to make calls quickly and with absolute confidence.
Like I said, they work together to form a machine. There was a thank you made to the ball kids and judges at the very end of the medal ceremony. If it were up to me, I'd create a new tradition where they get thanks at the end of every match.
The French Open is now behind us. I count myself very fortunate for having been to so many of its games. I also count myself very fortunate that I'm not going to another tennis match for quite some time. At least I hope not.