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Five things we learned on Day 12 of Roland Garros - we looked back in love with Ana Ivanovic and the future could be a Latvian.
The centre court said au revoir to Ana Ivanovic. Jelena Ostapenko hits early and often and what happens if you put Stan Smith and Gustavo Kuerten in the same room? A really good time.
1. Tennis knows how to say farewell
Bless those Roland Garros organisers. Ana Ivanovic who retired last December got the chance to give a wave to the centre court crowds on day 12 in between the women’s semi-finals. The super smiley Serb came out on to Philippe Chatrier to loud cheers and was presented with a plaque to honour her career which included a Roland Garros title in 2008. Images from that final against Dinara Safina were shown on the big screen and the 29-year-old looked all tearful. “In many ways it seems like another life,” said Ivanovic. “In many ways it seems only like yesterday.” Given the paucity of big names on the circuit, did she call it a day too soon? “I’m happy with where I am at,” she beamed. “You don’t decide to stop overnight. Sure, I miss the competition.” And flashing a smile as devastating as her forehand, she added: “Some of you journalists say I stopped too soon. Some of you say I should have stopped sooner … and I don’t miss the questions like: why did you lose?” Off circuit life should be plain sailing by comparison.
2 They’re so chummy on centre court
The spectators on centre court can be a fearsome collective – just ask Garbine Muguruza who lost in the fourth round to local heroine Kristina Mladenovic. The crowd shouted: “Kiki” for their girl. Muguruza thought it was a bit too partisan. But the centre court was at its gooey best on day 12. After Jelena Ostapenko’s win over Timea Bacsinszky, the on-court interviewer Marion Bartoli told the crowd that it was Ostapenko’s 20th birthday and then led them on a sing song of Happy Birthday. What troopers.
3 She’s succinct on and off the court
As second seed Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep thrashed it out on centre court, Jelena Ostapenko was going through her post match press conference. The 20-year-old Latvian was ebullient, charming and direct. Asked about her potential opponent in the final on day 14 she responded. “Both of them are great players. I am in the final so I’m going to go there and enjoy the match.” That was it. That was the answer. Nothing more. Short and sweet. Like some of her rallies.
4. Big Roger isn’t here but his spirit is
Mr Federer, he of 18 Grand Slam titles, decided he would not attend the 2017 French Open because he wanted to preserve his sleek 36-year-old body for the impending grass court season. The Swiss fancies his chances at Wimbledon. And why shouldn’t he. He’s won seven titles and lost three finals. So he know the ropes in SW19.
He along with compatriot Stan Wawrinka are guides for fellow Swiss Timea Bacsinszky who has struggled with motivation over the years. She took a break from the circuit for a couple of years and now she’s back she has a different view of things. After losing her semi-final, she said: "I'm very disappointed but I think I'm looking at things from a different perspective. I didn't think I would ever make it back. Today's match shows that it is possible to come back. If you're a true professional, if you work hard, if you put all your efforts, all your time in tennis, it pays off and it can happen again." This should come as no surprise really as Rafael Nadal, Sir Roger, Wawrinka, world number one Andy Murray all spout the same line. Bacsinszky added: "So going forward, I think this can help me build more confidence. It's possible to do better. I really take Stan and Roger as my role models. They are just amazing. They are so good at their age. Stan seems to be so much better than two years ago and he's going to win more Grand Slams."
5 Guga, Stan, Guga, Stan
Former Grand Slam champions Stan Smith and Gustavio Kuerten, aged 70 and 40 respectively, were in Paris on day 12 to highlight the work of the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHOF) in Newport, Rhode Island. Smith, yes he was wearing a pair of Stan Smith trainers, is president of the ITHOF and Kuerten is one of the 252 hall of famers. Smith showed the review his ITHOF ring - a big chunky thing - he agreed it looked very masonic and Kuerten will be presented with one such jewel on day 15 ahead of the men's singles final which a frizzy haired surfer dude Kuerten won 20 years ago. Smith spoke about the fine lines between being a champion and a contender and we asked him how he would fare against today's players. "Taking on Rafael Nadal would for me be like going to the dentist and having root canal treatment," he quipped. As for Kuerten? Did he see himself in any of the latter day champions? "I don't see my hair on any of them," he smiled.