The French Open

Today starts the opening of the The French Open, the third and last, with Wimbledon being cancelled, major of the year.  Here are some facts and opinions about this event.

How To Watch?

According to Elite Tennis Professional Alan Anastos,

“Hi George. I’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries about how to watch Roland Garros on TV and the schedule. Like a lot of things, it’s different this year when it comes to this. Tennis Channel will broadcast the early rounds action. NBC will broadcast the semis and final. NBC will also have coverage the opening day, Sunday, from 12:00-3:00pm. 

“For those who don’t subscribe to Tennis Channel, there’s a way to watch the early rounds by streaming NBC SPORTS via Apple TV, ROKU, etc. Your blog followers may find this info useful.”

Who Will Watch?

The attendance rules at sporting events this crazy year has been all over the place … from some to none.  The tournament officials were planning on allowing “thousands” of fans to watch each day; but with an up-tick in Covid cases in France, they are now limiting attendance to 1,000 per day.

For me, some fans making noise is better than the Sounds of Silence from an empty stadium.

Who Will Win?

On the men’s side, the “smart money” is on the recently DQ’d Mr. Djokovic … but my heart is on Rafa to regain his form and his crown.  If I had $100 to wager, I would put: $50 on Djokovic, $30 on Nadal and $20 on the field.

On the women’s side, it is a real crap shoot. MY PREDICTION: the winner’s last name will end in an A or an O!

What Ball Will They Use?

Alan Anastos also sent a link showing that the French Open this year will end its eight-year alliance with Babalot and switch to a brand new Wilson ball. 

According to the news release, “Wilson tennis balls are in use at the US Open since 1978. For this year’s French Open, Wilson has come up with a high-performance ball. It is designed especially for clay court use, which means they should be more durable than usual.

“Tennis balls on clay court matches usually see a lot of wear and tear – quicker than other surfaces. This is because of the extra force that needs to be applied by the players behind their shots, owing to the slowness of the surface.”

“The new Wilson tennis balls have been designed to endure longer rallies. Along with that, they are expected to pick up less dirt and moisture as the rally progresses, which will help in maintaining consistency. The Wilson tennis balls also comprise of natural rubber that further aids consistency.”

So, what do YOU think about the attendance, the probable winners, and the new balls?

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13 thoughts on “The French Open

  1. George,
    My complaint about the French Open for the last ten or so years is that it is very difficult, in fact, almost impossible, to follow the ball on the telecast (at least on our television). Never had a problem with Wimbledon or the US Open. I gave up watching the French. My hope is that this year will be different.

    Sheldon, good to hear from you… and i have the same problem. I think it is threefold: the ball picks up the red clay and is tough to see; the lighting often involves bright sun on one side and shadows on the other; and the European camera angles are usually higher up in the stands than the American and that provides for a poorer viewing angle. Yes? thanks, george

  2. Ball-boyed for many years at the Savannah Challenger. Couldn’t tell you what brand of ball was used. Vaguely remember being surprised at how fluffed up some of the balls had gotten on one occasion.

    Could it be that I’ve been buying the wrong kinds of balls for clay court play all these years? From the above, would think that “extra duty” would be the right choice for clay, rather than the “regular duty” that we always sought out. The only difference I could ever tell was that the paint seemed to stay a bit brighter on the extra duty ones. Also can’t tell when a ball has gotten “bad” or too old. Unless it makes a *really* icky sound when struck or all the writing is gone, one’s about as good as another to me. Good taste and memory are not my strong suits.

    Kevin, i think the Extra Duty have a heavier nap for playing on the hard courts. And just how long do you play with the same tennis balls?!?! george

  3. I’m still opposed to having fans, but why can’t they pipe in applause and crowd noise like basketball, hockey and baseball are doing. I’d enjoy hearing the crowd roar after a 25 shot rally that ends with a blistering forehand down the line!
    On the men’s side, I’m rooting for anyone NOT named Djokovic and thinking the women’s winner will end in a “p” (Halep) but who knows!!

    Steve, for me, the fake noise is not the same thing. Halep is playing well right now; so we shall see. thanks, george

  4. Have no idea how old some of the balls are in my baskets that I use with my ball machine. I *have* recently thrown out all the ones that still had the logo on them from the club in Savannah that we left a couple of years ago. 🙂 Seems to me that there’s far more variation, though, in the quality and accuracy of my shots than there is between how a new and an old tennis ball perform. I *can* tell the difference with those “green dot” balls. The dern things won’t *spin*!

    KB, at least you are practicing! george

  5. I bought a case of the Wilson Roland Garros balls online at the beginning of the summer. I have been using them for non tournament friendly matches at my tennis club, which is a red clay club outside of Philadelphia. I previously used up several cases of the Babalot Roland Garros balls at the same club in years back.

    I have not used the Wilson Roland Garros balls on a Har Tru surface yet this season. However, in years back, I used to play the Babalot Roland Garros balls regularly on Har Tru as well as red clay and they always played about the same on both surfaces.

    I do find the Wilson balls a tiny bit heavier than the Babalots were, but not so much so as to be a distraction. Whether they are made by Wilson OR Babalot, I rather like the “Roland Garros” balls for clay – as opposed to regular Wilsons, Babalots, Penn, Dunlop, etc. The balls seem to wear better and feel a little “meatier” and less flimsy than normal regular duty (i.e., clay court) balls feel when hitting with them. In short, they feel like they are better designed for a soft court surface.

    The bottom line is I recommend these balls.

    PS. I have always been a Wilson player generally. For years, I have played various different Wilson frames, starting with my Jack Kramer back when I was a kid, and that is what I am still playing. And on hard courts, I have always preferred the Wilson US Open balls to all others. However, on grass, there is nothing like Slazenger tennis balls.

    Marty, funny, Wilson is my LEAST favorite ball to play with. I find the regular Wilson are too lively. If the clay balls are not, good. thanks, george

  6. This will be a totally different French Open this year
    It’s late September / early October
    Fall has arrived and the days are shorter which means matches will be postponed until the next day much earlier than ever and with colder temps the balls are a lot heavier ( whatever brand you use )
    since last week the weather in Western Europe has changed and playing a tournament last week I noticed the difference from playing during the summer

    Willy, did i hear that they now have lights and can play later? thanks, george

  7. The article about the balls which George references also says this about the Wilson balls…The Wilson tennis balls are expected to be lighter, further aiding the players.

    Interestingly, I read an article yesterday in which Rafa commented about these Wilson balls which he has been practicing with. His take on them is that they’re heavier and slower than the Babolat balls used in the past. This, along with the conditions – cool temps and damp courts – he maintains makes this challenging for him to play his style of game.

    I thought about that and I interpret his comment this way – Rafa (forehand) hits the ball from the baseline considerably higher over the net than most players and, of course, he imparts considerably more topspin than most players. This would be more difficult to do with a heavier, slower ball.

    Alan, one would think the slower balls would help a player like him. thanks, george

  8. George, I just heard Jim Courier say on Tennis Channel that most of the players at this year’s French Open prefer last year’s Babalot balls over this year’s Wilsons. Given the cold and humid weather at this year’s tournament (so far, at least), apparently this year’s balls are harder to hit and just not as lively as the prior Babalot balls were. So, what the heck do I know anyway?

    Anyway, I can say that the Wilson Roland Garros balls are significantly less lively than the Wilson US Open balls are. So hopefully that responds to your comment.

    Marty, that’s why they have horse racing. thanks, george

  9. On hard courts, I use Penn extra-duty balls. The thick felt doesn’t wear away as quickly, which adds to their durability. In contrast, playing on clay courts, I’ve always preferred regular-duty balls. They seem to have a tighter weave and less fluff, therefore they don’t pickup as much of the clay material. Otherwise, they would become heavier during a match. I’ve also used regular-duty balls indoors to help reduce the amount of court fuzz. It’s amazing how much ball fuzz accumulates. Not only around the court surface, but on your shoes! I hope the Wilson balls used at Roland Garros perform well on the bounce, are consistent, and hold up well during weather variations. Should be an interesting tournament. Go Rafa! Go Simona!

    Glenn, I like Penn balls too. Thanks. George

  10. Like Glenn, above, I like Penn “Regular Duty Felt”tennis balls, the ones w/red lettering, on clay…and that was the standard clay court ball for most clay court tournaments during my 25 years in Atlanta.
    As for RG on tv, I’m watching right NOW (Thiem vs Cilic) and I can follow the ball ok….Allez, allez!

    Scoot, you can see because you have good eyes and/or a good TV! thanks, george

  11. George, it’s surprising how many club players don’t understand the basic difference between ‘Extra Duty” hard court balls and “Regular Duty” soft court balls (and buy whatever Walmart happens to have in stock). Of course, Extra Duty balls have a heavier felt cover that helps them hold up under the wear and tear of hard courts, but makes them a little slower. Naturally, using a slower Heavy Duty ball on clay makes for a slower game (which can be a plus or minus depending on our playing style).

    Far fewer players understand tennis ball geopolitics and their global supply chains. Wilson was bought out last year by Chinese interests. Penn is American owned but manufactures its balls in China, which makes them subject to a tariff of 15%. Wilson makes its balls in Thailand, ironically exempting them from the tariff and giving them a big competitive advantage. See attached WSJ article by the CEO of the Head Penn Sports Group. He recognizes the desirability of re-shoring manufacturing to the U.S., but points out that will take up to five years. Meanwhile, they face declining margins and market share from their competitive disadvantage–making it harder to raise capital for a new plant and equipment. So Americans may want to think twice about buying Wilson balls.

    Jerry, interesting info! Thanks. George

  12. George, this may be your best subject ever as it could very well save lives. In 2004 in Wilmington hitting singles with Swanny I came off the court a little tired. After returning home (Columbus Oh) Judy scheduled a stress test. I went from the tread mill to the cath lab. An hour later I had a stent in my LAD 95 percent blocked. I have been seeing a cardiologist regularly ever since. Life is Good!

    Phil, thanks and STAY well. george

  13. In regards to Wilson tennis balls, remember the “Rally” ball that was introduced back in the mid 1980s? Wilson believed with a larger ball, players would be able to keep it in play longer(hence the name). Due to its larger surface area, there would be increased wind resistance, thus slowing it down. The result is to let players hit the ball harder and higher, and still keep it I play. Well, as you know it was not sanctioned because the larger ball was too big, hard and heavy. Also, it was virtually impossible to keep a significantly larger ball spinning enough to actually control the ball with spin. In my opinion, the absence of spin greatly reduces the enjoyment of playing tennis. I suppose Wilson wanted to give recreational payers somewhat of an advantage as did the introduction of large headed racquets, thus helping make less talented players more talented, by prolonging stroking exchanges on court.

    Glenn, i do not remember ever trying to play with a Rally ball; but thanks. george

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