SYLVAIN PRUDHOMME

and in belgrade I became a roland-garros viewer

From the moment I sat in the plane to Beograd, tennis was there. There were no screens on board, but the speaker after a while asked us all passengers to clap: the tennis champion Ana Ivanovic was in the plane. I could guess she was coming back from Roland-Garros. It was quite early in the tournament, which obviously meant she had not succeeeded very well this year. But she was Ana Ivanovic, wasn’t she? So we all clapped for her, quite loudly.

Then in the streets of Belgrade i became a Roland-Garros viewer. I had not expected this, i don’t watch that much Roland Garros when i’m in France, i very often don’t watch it at all, and i would have never thought i would spend any of my time in Serbia watching something which was taking place in Paris. But how could i do? There were so many screens in the cafés. So many people watching it. So many serbian players doing well. I understood it was a typical serbian custom, even more serbian maybe than french, and i decided i could myself get addicted to it without any guilt complex.

In a small burek shop, i watched Jelena Jankovic winning the first set 6-0 against Maria Sharapova – the burek were excellent, the guy not too demonstrative about his enthusiasm (he was right: i then learnt Jankovic had finally lost the game), we both felt quite confortable together, even if we could hardly say a word to each other.

Then, much more epic, i watched a large part of the two last sets of Nadal-Djokovic’s semifinal. It was on my way back home after a lunch witk Krokodil’s team; I was feeling good, walking slowly down the Despota Stefana boulevard, and i first stopped in a pub called the Optimist Club. There were many people wathching the game there, Nole was not doing very well and i could see the anxious faces, the fists bamming on the tables. Should i say it? My heart was more on the side of Nadal. The guys in the pub were quite strong, with big muscles, they were not kidding about their Nole : i decided not to show i was supporting the Spanish guy. A few minutes and a good beer later, Djokovic started to come back in the game : their voices became loud, their enthusiasm too huge for me, and i decided to go back to my walk.

Five hundred meters further, there was a tiny café i like very much, always crowded, a bit outdated, with cigarettes filters on the floor and good expressos : i sat again. There fans were much peaceful. I could hear one of them whispering each time Nole kicked the ball: bekem, bekem, bekem… When i left, Nadal had managed to come back to 5-5 in the last set.

I left a few minutes for shopping and when i went out from the market, i saw again the orange earth of Roland Garros on a screen. The faces were quiet, the silence deep. Matchball for Nadal. The point started and Nadal won it. Around the tables there was no noise, no sign of anything important happening anywhere. More an eclipse than a matchpoint. And all was over.