There will be plenty of eyes on Brian Baker when the American steps onto court for his first match here. The runner-up in the juniors at Roland Garros in 2003, Baker was just trying to make the transition to the main tour when he got injured and his run of bad luck since then is nothing short of horrific.
The 27-year-old had seven operations on a variety of injuries between 2005 and 2008 and worked as an assistant pro at a local club for some time before chancing his arm back on tour. Last weekend, he qualified for the main draw in Nice, won his first ATP Tour match and went all the way to the final.
He absolutely deserves his moment in the sun but it’s the kind of run that were he from a different country, say Britain, he would have a pretty good chance of a career on Sky Television. Sky don’t show the French Open – that’s on Eurosport and this year, for the first time, ITV – but their penchant for former players as journalists is matched by other nations in tennis, as well as Britain.
Walk around the grounds at Roland Garros and you’ll see any number of former players holding a microphone or clutching a draw-sheet. The French have Amelie Mauresmo, Cedric Pioline, Tatiana Golovin and Henri Leconte, former winner Anastasia Myskina works with Russian TV when she’s not coaching and the Americans are stacked with former stars, from John McEnroe to Martina Navratilova Kim Courier. Courier and Mauresmo, incidently, are also working for ITV, so there is clearly plenty of work going round.
The French Open plans to build a new main stadium in the next few years as part of an overall upgrade to keep check with the other grand slams and yield a bit more money from the fans by providing a bigger, better venue. Those people who visit Roland Garros every year will probably agree that the grounds, though relatively small, are intimate and with a very special feel, so it’s hoped that when they make the changes, they do not lose the unique feel of the place. This year, there is a big screen over by Court Suzanne Lenglen, which is a good addition, while the fact that some of the staff in one of the concession stands were performing an impromptu rap song on day one was a nice added touch.
If Francois Hollande wants any tips on how to keep France’s finances on track, perhaps he should pay a visit to the press bar at Roland Garros, where Brazilian-style hyper-inflation appears to have set in.
Now before anyone starts thinking we press are a self-indulgent lot, we are, but in this case, I think you’ll agree something has gone badly wrong and we are not even talking about alcohol. A change in caterers has brought about an upgrading of the coffee machines to spanking new Nespresso ones. Now that’s all well and good but the price of a Grand Crème – a caffe latte to the French – has gone up from 2 euros to 4.66 euros. That is an increase of 133 percent, which is absolutely ridiculous. What’s more, the coffees are smaller than last year. Thanks to Andy Murray’s mum, Judy, for pointing it out and it has been the talk of the town since. I sense a revolt.