Sport / Columnists

Tamlyn Patterson
3 minute read
9 Jun 2017
1:42 pm

When the cat is away, rest will frolic and play

Tamlyn Patterson

Well, well, well. It seems like the famous red clay at Roland Garros is where the meows have turned into roars among the world’s leading female tennis players.

Tamlyn Patterson

With Serena Williams away on maternity leave, some predicted a rather wide open affair with no clear-cut favourites. This may well be the case, but the catfights on and off the court have caught quite a few by surprise.

Tears and tantrums will always be a smash hit. Just think back to the 1999 final between Steffi Graf, and the petulant little brat Martina Hingis also known as the “Swiss Miss”. Fast forward 18 years, add a partisan French crowd to the mix and you’re set for loads of drama. Forget the strawberries and cream, bring on the popcorn.

A year ago Garbine Muguruza was everyone’s darling. She had it all going for her, the underdog status, a radiant smile and the game to match her charm. With Serena gunning for her 22nd Grand Slam, all hopes were pinned on the Spaniard to somehow stop Williams. And she did just that winning her first major title 6-4, 7-5.

Life suddenly changed for the then 22-year-old who shot up to No 2 in the world rankings and was heralded as a leader of the new generation. So heading into the French Open as defending champion this year was always going to be tough. But nothing could’ve prepared her for Sunday’s showdown on court Suzanne Lenglen.

Facing French darling Kristina Mladenovic for a spot in the quarterfinals, Muguruza seemed out of sorts, losing the first set 6-1. She fought back to win the second 6-3, but fell away in the third as the Frenchwoman galvanised the crowd shouting “forza” before points had even concluded, forza meaning “come on” in Italian. Walking off the court following the controversial loss, Muguruza wagged her finger at the crowd. Speaking at her post-match conference, Garbine clearly hadn’t gained her composure.

But through all the tears, she managed to get her point across: “I just think that they were a little bit, sometimes should be a little bit more respectful.” Somehow, this isn’t going to happen. The French fans are notorious for their behaviour and are just “really stupid”. Rafael Nadal’s uncle Tony reckons there is only one thing worse than a French crowd – a Parisian crowd.

The stupid comment was made way back in 2009 when his nephew was sent packing against Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the fourth round, and with that, his hopes of a fifth consecutive French Open title.

The shock defeat also ended his undefeated run at Roland Garros. Strangely enough, most of the support was for the Swede, something beyond the king of clay’s comprehension. Back in 1999, Hingis, 18 at the time, also couldn’t believe why the world was suddenly against her. I mean she only crossed the net to go and circle the line where she thought her ball had at least touched.

A huge no-no in the world of tennis, but such was her arrogance standing opposite one of the greats of the game. There have been quite a few other run-ins including the much-anticipated kiss between France’s Nicole Garcia and Alize Cornet who locked horns over a Fed Cup tie earlier this year.

Seems like all the kittens have found a perfect scratching post.