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Sports

5 things we learned on Day 5 of Roland Garros - love, marriage and magic are in the air

media Gael Monfils won his second round match and hailed the Roland Garros crowds for the energy they give him. RFI/Pierre-René Worms

Martina Navratilova is on fire over Court etiquette while Gael Monfils just can't get enough of the Paris love and John Isner revels in tall stories on day five of Roland Garros 2017.

 

1 It's kicking off.

The Grand Slam bandwagon may have rolled into Paris for the French Open. But the Australian Open – the first major of the season – is grabbing the attention. It’s all because of the lobby of players urging for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed because Margaret Court has been airing her views. Court, who is 74, said recently that she would try to restrict her use of the Australian national airliner Qantas in protest over comments made by the chairman supporting same sex marriage. She’s also recently told a Christian radio station that tennis is full of lesbians. Martina Navratilova, who is gay, said: "We should not be celebrating this kind of behaviour." The 60-year-old added in an open letter: "It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights.” Court, who won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, and Navratilova have some history on and off the court. In 1990, Court said Navratilova was a poor role model for young tennis players because of her homosexuality. Navratilova has denounced Court's actions and said sporting venues are named after athletes for who they are as human beings and not just for what this person did on the field. Whether the court is renamed, we’ll have to wait and see. But in the meantime Navratilova knows that she owned Court. The pair met four times between 1975 and the end of Court’s tennis career in 1977. Martina was victorious in three of the four matches. Who will win this one?
 

2. We are warriors

Juan Martin Del Potro transformed himself from competitor to comforter at the end of his second round match against Nicolas Almagro. The latter was distraught and in tears after having to retire from the match with a knee injury. Del Potro, who has suffered his fair share of setbacks on that front, sat down next to Almagro and put his hand on his back as the Spaniard sobbed. It was a rare tender moment in the grit and gristle of the alpha male cauldron. “I did that because I felt for him,” said Del Potro. “I never do anything for show. I just do what my heart feels, you know.” The pair have known each other for more than a decade having played on the junior circuit. Next up for Del Potro is a showdown with uberhoncho Andy Murray. The two had epic encounters last year. Murray beat him to win gold at the Olympics in Rio and Del Potro won their singles match in the semi-final of the 2016 Davis Cup.

3. A kind of magic

That's the title of a song by Queen. But under the circumstances with Ms Court, we should move swiftly onwards. Gael Monfils, like the Queen lead singer Freddy Mercury, is the showman incarnate. He does entertainment like no other. And the Frenchman admitted on day five after his second round victory over Thiago Monteiro that being in Paris pumps up his energies. “Well, it does stimulate me,” he said after the 6-1 6-4 6-1 success on centre court. “Having my relatives, having my friends watching me is wonderful. And then Paris is just very special. Whether it's right here at Roland Garros or in Bercy, the public is always very supportive. They give you
these great vibes that I need as a player.” Monfils, 30, is seeded 15th this year and with the elimination of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round is the highest ranked Frenchman remaining. Monfils’ best run at Roland Garros came nine years ago when he reached the semi-final. There was a surge to the last eight in 2009 and three years ago. But for someone who has the game to beat all of the so-called big guns, his is a poor return at the Grand Slams and especially at this Grand Slam where the French haven’t had one of their own men win the title since 1983. “I can't really have a long-term vision at this point,” Monfils added. “But I know that if something magic happens, can happen, it's probably here.” Next up for Monfils? The Frenchman Richard Gasquet. That's tough luck.

4. Doubles is the way

Nick Kyrgios lost his second round singles match against the unseeded South African Kevin Anderson. Kyrgios, the broody bad boy of the circuit, smashed his racquet on his way out of the tournament. Ho hum. He says it’s a habit. And we wonder if we will see more smashed frames. Kyrgios is into the second round of the men’s doubles and will play on day six with his partner Jordan Thompson against the unseeded German pair Jan-Lennard Struff and Mischa Zverev. Kyrgios and Thompson staged something of a shock on day four when they saw off the second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. “If I didn't have doubles, I would be pretty negative for the next week or so,” said Kyrgios. "But I'm not playing for myself. I'm playing for Thomo as well. And he's the type of guy that will try his best for every single match. So I know that I'm going to have to just put my singles out of the way and get back out there and compete.” Bless.

5. Time for priority boarding

John Isner was in good spirits after his second round victory over Paolo Lorenzi. The 21st seed wrapped it up 6-3 7-6 7-6 in two hours and 10 minutes. And the 32-year-old was happy to shoot the breeze about his next opponent Karen Khachanov (big man, big hitter), same sex marriage (OK, but not my cup of tea), “traditional” marriage (day's coming), French food (excellent but small portions), Paris (magical) and ageing (play unitl I drop). Oh, and flying. At 6ft 10ins tall, Isner is normally one for travelling in business or first class when it comes to international flights. “Domestically I'll fly coach sometimes,” he confessed. “I fly American Airlines a lot and if I don't get the upgrade, I'll sit in coach. If I get the exit row, that's fine.” But then there’s the actual theatre of getting into the plane. “When you first board, everyone is fine and then I've got to duck under the door of the plane. So I sort of stick out like a sore thumb. A lot of times the flight attendants will have pity on me. If I don't have a good seat, they'll bump someone out of theirs. A lot of times if I'm not in the exit row and there's some 5ft 1 person with their feet dangling, not even touching the ground sitting there in the exit row, the flight attendant will move that person for me. Because it seems like the humane thing to do.” That's the long and the short of it, then.

 

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