Bonjour and welcome to my daily reports from the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.
Firstly I must a big thank you once again to Steven for helping me secure the Press Pass that is going to enable me to bring you news from behind the scenes.
So, it all began at the Mairie de Paris (Town Hall) on Friday evening when top French players Gilles Simon & Richard Gasquet performed the main Singles draw. This was my first taste of “behind the scenes” action and it was rather enjoyable. All the chatter before from the Tournament Director etc was in French so I really have no idea what was said. What I do know is that it is all very straight forward, Novak at the top with Murray at the bottom, Ferrer then Roger were drawn to complete the four quarters. The remaining seeded players then everyone else followed this. All in all it took around 10 minutes to complete. As this year marks the 25th anniversary of BNP Paribas’ sponsorship they baked a cake J A few photos were taken with the players and officials before the champagne was served. Only one glass for me as I had to shoot off to a pre arranged recital at the Bastille Opera. That concluded my trip to the Paris Masters Draw Ceremony.
Day One: Qualifiers
Lots of matches to try and take in today as well as finding my way around, you will be amazed by how many corridors there are at Bercy.
My first port of call was Court 2 to watch the young American, Donald Young. His opponent was due to be Pere Riba but when I arrived the Order of Play had changed to Maxime Teixeira. Don was very laidback when he came on court, late, shuffling his feet with his headphones in his ears. I only watched the first set of this match, as I wanted to watch as much as possible today. I moved to Court 1 and caught part of Stakhovsky v De Schepper. My, Kenny De Schepper is tall, massively tall and I have stood next to Marin Cilic. Stayed for a few games of this match but had to leave to go back to my locker to get my cardigan, it was rather chilly in the arena today. Unlike Court 2, Court 1 has an electronic scoreboard. Before I left I noticed that as in previous years, BNP Paribas will be donating money for every Ace hit during the tournament. If you get to see the scoreboard during the tournament look out for the figure in the bottom right, that is the amount currently raised. Well-done BNP Paribas.
After I was warmed up (and via the press bar for a croissant) I went back to Court 2 for Nieminen v Ebden. To be honest this was not a high quality match, I was expecting a little better from Ebden but he was poor. He got himself a break to lead 5-3 and a chance to serve for the first set but he gave it straight back. Another break from Jarkko and the set was over 7-5.
Lots more court hopping as I caught parts of Roger-Vasselin v Kunitsyn, Clement v Rosol, Kohlschreiber v Ilhan and Paire v Istomin. I most wanted to watch young Benoit Paire having seen him against Ferrer at Wimbledon this year. I really do wish I had one Pound (£) for every drop shot he plays, I would be very rich. Anyway, Benoit played as I expected, erratic! Once again I had to leave early due to a prebooked night of Ballet at the Opera.
Day Two: Qualifiers
Arrived a little late this morning due to being totally tired from last night, sorry! I made my way firstly to the Media Centre and found that Andy Murray would be holding his pre-tournament press conference at 14.45. I made a mental note and headed for Courts.
Once again I started with Young as he played the experienced Finnish player Nieminen. Two things of note happened, when Jarkko gets mad he likes to kick advertising hoardings, so much so that they fall over. He did put it all back together to applause of the crowd so I’ll let him off. The other point is the number of times Young says “Man” during a match. Like Paire, if I had a Pound (£) for every time he says it during the match I would be rich. Young won the match and to his credit he stayed behind and signed a lot of autographs for the kids in the crowd, on both sides of the court. Nice to see that from a player.
My next match was Kohlschreiber v Clement where I stayed until Paire v Giraldo was about to start on Court 2. Once again Paire was making me crazy and thankfully I was saved by Andy Murray’s press conference.
My first ever press conference. I will admit that I was slightly nervous. I wanted to ask a question but I also wanted to take notes on how the professionals do it. Anyway there did not seem to be many people asking so I dived in there and asked the second question. I ask Andy what he thought of his draw. I managed to get the words out without tripping over my tongue and in a voice that made me sound normal!! I got quite a detailed response that I was pleased with. He made the point about Granollers having reached the final in Valencia (and subsequently won), how he has a lot of confidence and is playing very well at present. On Chardy he mentioned that he can be an “erratic player” who is hard to read, who can give you nothing to work with and also that he is a big server. Whilst Andy was answering he was making eye contact with me so that was nice.
Others questions focused on the court, he says they are a lot slower than last year, something he does not mind. Whilst he wants to do well here in Paris his main objective is the World Tour Finals in London. A question was asked about the crowd here in Bercy. They are very vocal and can get on a players back, Andy was asked about this and says he understands that when someone pays good money to watch the players they should expect a performance from both players. If they feel someone is not giving their all they should get on top of the player. He believes this to be a good thing as it is extra pressure to perform, something he likes. The player dispute was mentioned and all he would say it is there is no intention for the players to strike, all they want is the calendar to be looked at and a few weeks saved in the year to give it a length similar to the WTA Tour. He would also like to see the number of mandatory events lowered with maybe a commitment of only two 500’s not the current four.
Once the conference was over it was back to Court 1 where I caught Mahut v Kubot. The first set seemed to pass in a blur but it was good to finally see Nico play a Singles match (I had previously seen him play Doubles at Roland Garros). I spent a fair bit of the match watching his backhand; it really is a shot of beauty, unlike mine, which is still all over the court, out of court or in the net. I checked my phone and saw that Paire had taken his match to a 3rd set so once again I moved to Court 2. As I had missed part of the match I was unsure if anything had happened to Benoit but he looked totally whacked out during the set, leaning over his racquet at the end of points and giving off the impression he was about to collapse. Giraldo played a good match and deserved his win and place in the main draw. Last match of the day was Querrey v Seppi that I must admit I found a tad uninspiring. Not sure if it was because I was hungry but I left after the first set. I was surprised by the final scoreline; I did not see two breadsticks in Seppi so he must of turned up the gears once I left.
So that is it for now. The qualifiers are known and have been placed in the draw. An email has just come through as I type this report to say that Juan Martin Del Potro has withdrawn due to a shoulder problem. Disappointed not to see Delpo again but with the Davis Cup Final only a few weeks away it would be silly of him to risk further injury. A Lucky Loser will be placed in the draw at 10.30 tomorrow.
My photos have been added to my Flickr account. They can be found here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/clare2904/