Friday, June 12, 2009

Men Hitting Balls

I had a very special birthday present this year.
Kirk put our names in the lottery for French Open tickets months and months ago and wouldn't you know we got tickets for Court One on my birthday! I love tennis. I would especially love to be a better tennis player, but for now I enjoy it as a spectator. I would say my favorite tennis players are Lindsay Davenport and Andre Agassi - even though I do think Roger Federer is amazing (it's just that his clothes bother me). There is something so classic about the way a tennis match is never over til it's all over. It is a very hopeful sport.

We packed our car for a day trip to and from Paris (3 hours each way), crossing our fingers and toes for good weather despite threatening skies and ominous forecasts. We were able to park on a nearby street (for free!) as Roland Garros is literally next to a big park. Unfortunately the second we cleared security and were in the gates the heavens opened up and the rains came. We huddled under an overhang with Connor in her stroller and our umbrella overhead and we looked at each other wondering what we were in for after embarking on a long driving commitment. Surely we HAD TO see some tennis. We didn't care who or even how much, just someone hitting a ball on clay would do. It was my birthday, puh-lease Mother Nature smile down on us for even just a little while!We waded through the rains and the crowds to Court Three where the best present of all was waiting for us. Troy, Heather and Jennifer - all dear friends and neighbors - were there and we arranged to meet up. It almost brought tears to my eyes to see part of our neighborhood gang. I hadn't realized how much I missed sweet Southern (ENGLISH) accents and Oakhurst hugs until I saw them. It was like a piece of home had come to greet us. They looked great, even in the rain. I on the other hand had mascara running down my face, sloshy socks and a hungry toddler clamouring for attention. But such is life.

And wouldn't you know after we caught up with our wonderful friends the weather started to turn. And the crowd started chanting in French....presumably they were urging them to start play. The officials began to squeegie the court tarps. Yippeee! We squish squashed our way over to Court One where Del Porto and Liodra where resuming play. Our seats were near the top and since I knew there was no hope for us to keep Connor still with those two tiny bleacher spots, we nestled in at the top of a staircase and there was just enough space for us to keep her in her stroller with a perfect view of the court. Of course she was without shoes!
I didn't realize what a perfect game tennis is for toddlers. In fact I had been quite apprehensive about Connor's ability to focus and stay quiet during the game. But she fell hard for the game. She would call out "Men Hitting Balls" in glee or "Boys Running" for the ball boys. She loved the ball boys - we are in trouble! And the icing on the cake was that after every point the crowd claps. Clapping is big in the 2-year-old world!All the nearby spectators would smile lovingly at Connor and chuckle at her take on the game. When the crowds would gasp or "awwww!" during the rallies, Connor would happily join right in and mimic. Pretty amazing she was cooperating given how wet we were from the earlier downpour. The below shot cracks me up. It is like a "Where's Waldo?" picture - can you find us?The Eiffel Tower was so close. I had no idea Roland Garros was near downtown Paris. The complex seemed so much smaller than my impressions of it from TV.
We really wanted to get Connor one of those enormous tennis balls that the players sign. We thought it would be fun reward for the day and would help us perpetuate the fun of the "men hitting balls." But guess how much one of those suckers costs? 38 euros! That is right, close to $50. Um, no thank you. I had to do a double take after finding that out at anyone who had one in hand to wonder why they would spend $50 on something so fleeting.

After a couple of hours the rains rolled back in. We would have loved to have stayed all day and into the night for the later matches, but we have to respect toddler limits especially when we are in crowds.

I loved their theme line (on facade above), "so French, so Roland Garros." Very fitting.

My birthday hat had to be left behind with the weather and all the stuff we were already lugging. Guess it will just have to wait for another main sporting/hatting event to make its debut. We had a great time and my birthday was a Parisian success.

Click here for more photos of the French Open (full album)

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