Rome Day One: Slow Bounces

Maria Sharapova (

Roger Federer announced that he will not compete at Roland Garros this year, while Maria Sharapova prevailed over Christina McHale to advance to the second round of the Italian Open.

ROME – My great friend and illustrious journalist Gianni Clerici once imagined starting his own agency that he ironically nicknamed “Balls on Fire”. It was a very good excuse for Gianni to gossip about the tennis world without sounding too politically correct. This first day of competition at the Italian Open was so uninspiring that I decided to start my own imaginary agency as well in order to keep my readers entertained. If you agree, we will call it “Slow Bounces”.

The big news of the day came from Switzerland at around 8:15 PM (Central European Time) when Roger Federer officially announced that he will not compete at Roland Garros this year. I can’t help mentioning that more than a month ago I predicted that Roger would have never competed at the French Open without playing any warm-up events on clay. It would have been a crazy decision. Roger played five finals at Roland Garros, winning only one of them when Robin Soderling did him the huge favor of defeating Rafa Nadal – the King of Clay – in the fourth round.

After completing the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami, Roger decided to take a long break from the tour and skip all of the European clay court events that lead to Roland Garros. Had he decided to play in Paris, any clay court specialist from the Spanish Armada – for example, someone like Carreno Busta – could have caused him major problems. He also explained that sliding on the red dirt would not be ideal for his body after last year’s knee surgery. His doctors suggested that he would play as little as possible on clay.

This year Roger has a good chance of winning Wimbledon again. Murray, Djokovic and Del Potro are currently struggling with poor form and Nadal is not the same player on grass as he is on clay. Playing at Roland Garros and eventually getting trapped into long five set marathons certainly isn’t the best preparation for Wimbledon. At 35 years of age, Roger has enough experience to know how far he can push his body.

Roger is scheduled to play two warm-up tournaments on grass – Stuttgart and Halle – before going after his eighth Wimbledon title. He will probably take another good month off during the summer and get back into action at Flushing Meadows – another Grand Slam event that enhances his unstoppable appetite for big titles.

Another curious fact of the day concerns Maria Sharapova, who asked me if I was married after I suggested that she should explore Rome with a new boyfriend. She has been single for a couple of years. I confess that I turned every color and remained speechless when she reacted to my suggestion by asking: “Are you married?”

She totally caught me off guard. Maria has always been extremely nice and friendly to me, almost as nice as Jelena Jankovic – one of my favorite female players. Jelena always loves to tell jokes in her sensual and raspy voice, which reminds me of Kim Carnes in her most popular hit “Bette Davis eyes.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I will certainly tell Maria that I would have loved to be her lawyer in January 2016. If her lawyers had been less shameful, her 15 month ban from the game could have probably been avoided.

Maria opened her 2017 campaign in Rome with a straight-set win over Christina McHale. After showing some rust in the first set, she finally played more freely in the second. Her next opponent is Mirjana Lucic-Baroni – a Croatian veteran who actually “is” married to an Italian.

Today I also ran into one of the famous MACs. Not McEnroe, not McMillan nor McNamee… but his old doubles partner Peter McNamara. Do you remember McNamara and McNamee? They won Wimbledon in 1980 over Lutz-Smith and in 1982 over McEnroe-Fleming, when the doubles tournaments were still considered important events. McNamara-McNamee also lost an infamous Davis Cup match to Panatta and Bertolucci of Italy.

Peter was particularly chatty and told me that he is now coaching a Chinese girl, so I asked him why he is not working with a Chinese guy since China has never produced a great male champion and the opportunity could certainly be more profitable. “I don’t think that it would be possible. Chinese guys are hopeless at tennis and they are not interested in putting in the work. In China wealthy men are spoiled, while women always work with crazy determination instead. It’s a cultural problem,” he replied.

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions –

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