Preparing for a grand slam semi-final is a nerve-wracking affair, whether you have been there several times before (Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur) or whether it is your first (Sara Errani). The moments before they step onto court are the moments when they need to compose themselves before the butterflies really take over. In recent years, television has managed to negotiate a little pre-match interview with each player, where absolutely nothing of note is said by anyone because they are too focused on the match to come up with anything interesting (absolutely not their fault).
So the last thing they want to see, when about to go out onto court is probably a former champion, an icon of the sport, especially of the French Open, standing with a microphone. Justine Henin, the four-time champion at Roland Garros, was there to do the role on Thursday and Errani, in particular, looked a little spooked. It’s hard to see television giving up access to the top players, no matter how much of a waste of time it is, but they could ease the pressure a little by at least making the interviewer someone less famous.
The French Open turned pink on Thursday in honour of ladies’ day in Paris and unlike the Madrid Masters, which tried blue clay and subsequently got slaughtered by Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it was greeted in far more pleasant terms.
Only Court No 1 – the Bullring – at Roland Garros made the transformation and it certainly looked impressive. None of the main events were played on it but Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert were there to officially unveil it and then Navratilova joined Jana Novotna to take on France’s Nathalie Tauziat and Sandrine Testud in one of the Legends Matches. The crowd certainly seemed to enjoy it and Navratilova, famous for her concentration and focus, later said the fact that it was pink never really entered her mind. Once a world-beater, always a world-beater.