From Rod Laver‘s book The education of a tennis player:

It didn’t seem to matter whether I knew much of the Centre Court or not when I played Premjit Lall in the second round. We were out on Court 4, which was right across from Centre Court. No grandstand. Spectators stood in the aisles between the courts. The stuffed aisles alongside Court 4 looked like a run on a shaky bank. People were jammed against the fence six or seven deep, and the ones in the last row, pinned against the fences of adjoining courts had no chance of seeing anything. But they could hear the umpire calling the score. Once in a while they could see a racket above the mob if Prem or I went up for an overhead smash.

Laver’s getting beat by an Indian

was the word that ran round the grounds.

Well, there I was, with my racket feeling like an old frying pan in my hand. Premjit Lall and I go back a long way together. He is a nice-looking, tall fellow, soft-spoken, a university man from Calcutta where he sometimes works as a cement salesman.

I had never lost to him, but he was clearly outplaying me as he won the first two sets. Prem was the kind of player who always made a good showing but hardly ever could sustain good play long enough to swing a really big win or take a tournament. I kept waiting for somthing to go wrong with his game, and when it didn’t, I began to worry.

Prem didn’t seem to be feeling any pressure though. We went to 2-2 in the third. He held for 3-2 and I won my serve for 3-3. It was right here that I restated a very important truth about tennis to myself: You can only lose a tennis match. That’s all.
That’s the worst that can happen to you out there, and it’s happened to everybody… Tilden, Budge, Laver, everybody. They ate as well the next day; the sun came up; they laughed again. It’s good to remind yourself of this every once in awhile. I don’t think anybody who played a game ever wanted to win more than I do, but losing isn’t the end of the world. They don’t hang you by you thumbs from the backstop or revoke your passport. They don’t even deny you your daily grog.

If I was going to lose to Premjit Lall, I was going to go out with eveything blazing. Up to that moment, I had been gripped by a certain fear of losing, but after I’d gotten myself straight on that, the fear disappeared. I began hitting the ball better and stayed close to Prem in that game, 30-30. I felt I’d get him there for the break, but he hit a good forehand down the line that sent me into the corner on the enclosure and I had to lob. I’d been lobbing short all through the match, and I didn’t alter my pattern here. He had an easyball at the net, but the cement settled in his elbow. He knocked the ball past me and beyond the baseline. I had the ad, then the game with a good backhand, and I never stopped. That service break began a run of 15 games, as I won 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-0 6-0.

Since I was hitting again, and not pressing, I think I would have got him anyway. But one shot can change it all. Had he made good on that smash and held his serve, I’d still have been in a shaky position serving at 3-4 and two sets down.

Roland Garros visitor’s guide:

How to buy Roland Garros tickets
Roland Garros 2013 FAQ
Get behind the scenes at Roland Garros – part 1
Get behind the scenes at Roland Garros – part 2
Take a seat: court Suzanne Lenglen
Take a seat: court Philippe Chatrier
Today at Roland Garros: Court Philippe Chatrier
Longines Smash Corner
Roland Garros store
Beach tennis and mini tennis at Roland Garros

Fashion and gear:

Rafael Nadal Nike outfit preview
Rafael Nadal Nike outfit
Nadal Nike Air Max Courtballistec 4.3
Roger Federer Nike outfit preview
Roger Federer Nike outfit
Federer Nike Zoom Vapor 9 Tour
Maria Sharapova Nike outfit
Serena Williams Nike outfit
Victoria Azarenka Nike outfit
Li Na Nike outfit
Juan Martin Del Potro Nike outfit
Caroline Wozniacki adidas dress
Andrea Petkovic adidas outfit
Ana Ivanovic adidas outfit
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga adidas outfit
Novak Djokovic Uniqlo outfit
Venus Williams dress by EleVen
Maria Sharapova footwear collection

A trip down memory lane:

1956: First time at Roland Garros for Rod Laver
1969: Rod Laver defeats Ken Rosewall
1982: At the request of Monsieur Wilander
1982: first Grand Slam for Mats Wilander
1984 French Open: Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe
1985 French Open: Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova
1990 French Open: Opposites attract, Gomez defeats Agassi
1991 French Open final: Jim Courier defeats Andre Agassi
Steffi Graf – Martina Hingis Roland Garros 1999
1999 French Open: Agassi-Graf, two days, one destiny
2005: Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta
2008: Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer
A look back at Roland Garros 2011

Recap and analysis:

Heading to Roland Garros
Day 1 recap part 1: Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams and Roger Federer
Day 1 recap part 2: Laura Robson, Ernests Gulbis, Tommy Haas…
Pics of Serena Williams first round match
Pics of Roger Federer first round match
Pics of Ana Ivanovic first round match
Day 2 recap: Mikhail Youzhny, John Isner, Svetlana Kuznetsova…
Tommy Robredo practice session

Polls:

Roland Garros 2013 men's winner?

  • Rafael Nadal (49%, 91 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (26%, 48 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (17%, 31 Votes)
  • Juan Martin Del Potro (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Other (2%, 3 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 185

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Roland Garros 2013 women's winner?

  • Serena Williams (41%, 66 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (35%, 56 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (9%, 15 Votes)
  • Other (4%, 7 Votes)
  • Li Na (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Sam Stosur (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Agniezska Radwanska (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Which French player has the best chance to win RG 2013?

  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (66%, 56 Votes)
  • Richard Gasquet (21%, 18 Votes)
  • Benoit Paire (6%, 5 Votes)
  • Other (5%, 4 Votes)
  • Gilles Simon (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Paul Henri Mathieu (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Jérémy Chardy (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Julien Benneteau (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Michael Llodra (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 85

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From Rod Laver‘s book The education of a tennis player:

“No matter how many times I played the French Open, it was still startling to come into Stade Roland Garros. You walked down through a tunnel. It was so dark that you were practically feeling your way, and then suddenly you were in the arena with 12000 people surrounding you, responding excitedly to your appearance. Maybe it’s like being the girl who pops out of a cake at a stag party.

From the minute we began, I couldn’t miss. Usually I was the one on the string as Kenny played me like a yo-yo. Not this time. I had perfect control, and everything I hit was going so deep that Kenny didn’t have much chanceto do anything but chase and scramble. I could get to the net all the time, and i was moving quickly either way to cut off his passing shots. I don’t know of any match I ever enjoyed more because I just kept getting better, and the points rolled in.

I never took Rosewall for granted. He never got his due. I thought about it before the match. He’d won this title in 1953, at the time I was deciding tennis would be my career. I was fifteen. Fifteen years later, he won it again. In 1971, he won the Australian title that he first won eighteen years earlier. In 1974, at the age of 39, he reached the final of both Wimbledon and the US Open, losing both to Jimmy Connors. He even won a pro title at age 43 in 1977. There are no comparable feats in tennis history.
I wondered if, having won the French for the first time in 1962, I’d even be playing it in 1977. How many times would Kenny have won it if he hadn’t turned pro, or if open tennis had come sooner?

Kenny and I have brought the very best out of each other, but the day of the 1969 French Open final was not one for sentimentality. 12000 people wanted to see us do it again. After leading 3-1 in the first, I fell behind 3-4 as he won three games in a brisk streak. I held for 4-4 and broke him to take the first consequential step;

The first set was mine at 6-4 and my confidence was soaring. If I couldn’t keep my shots near his baseline, I was in trouble with Kenny because he took anything short with his backhand, ramed it into a corner while he dashed to the net. He may not have been a heavy hitter, but when he got position at the net his volleys were crisp and well angled.

But my groundstrokes were working so well and landing so deeply that he was having trouble getting to the position he liked. He couldn’t swoop in on the short balls simply because I wasn’t offering him that many. I kept him pinned behind the baseline and you can’t hit an approach from back there. Sometimes he tried, but he had too far to go to reach the net, and I was passing him.

My volleys were charmed, and I spent most of the points finishing off points with them. My deep groundstrokes kept me at the net, and Kenny away.
Straight sets in a French final? I couldn’t quite believe it when I completed the 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory. Monetarily it meant $7000.

From Rod Laver’s book The education of a tennis player

Three of the Grand Slam tournaments are held in English-speaking countries, and an Australian gets along all right. The fourth is on alien ground – Parisian clay. The first time I saw Paris, in 1956, I had a few phrases ready in my atrocious French, so that I could eat and get to my hotel room. Bob Mark, who was my doubles partner, and I got taken for a few elaborate rides by the cab drivers, and we had trouble with the money, our pockets stuffed with francs that didn’t mean much. This was when the exchange rate was 350 to the dollar. The French seem less sympathetic to foreigners than other people, and the masterpieces of French cooking don’t do much for me, since I’m a typical Aussie, a steak-and-eggs man. You don’t need Maxim’s to fix that for you.

So Paris, as such, isn’t one of my favorite places, but I look forward to it because the French Championships is the tournament I enjoy the most from the standpoint of emotional involvement. I love to watch matches in Paris, grim struggles on that slow clay, beauties for the spectators.

When an Australian is playing, the rest of the Aussies show up for moral support because you know, if the opponent is European, and especially if he’s French, the gallery will be very anti-Australian.
That’s Europe. The crowds make more noise, they take it to heart, they cheer and boo. My introduction to Roland Garros, the tennis complex in the Bois de Boulogne, was a shaky experience in 1956. Bob Mark and I were playing a Davis Cup style junior match against a French team of Christian Viron and Mustapha Belkodja.
In the doubles, the crowd went all out for their countrymen, hissing us and even throwing some stones. They weren’t angry at us, but they didn’t leave any doubt about their sentiments. They really psyched us out, but you get used to that in Paris and Rome and Barcelona and Mexico City where the national pride seems to ride with every shot. When you realize this, the French tournament becomes great fun.

Enjoy this 4-part Rolex documentary retracing Wimbledon’s history from Suzanne Lenglen to Rod Laver to Roger Federer. A must-see for every tennis fan.

Part 1 (1877-1939): the foundations of Wimbledon

Suzanne Lenglen, designer Ted Tinling, Gussie Moran, Bill Tilden, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, René Lacoste, Don Budge, Helen Wills, Fred Perry

Part 2 (1945-1977): a brand new era

Virginia Wade, Jack Kramer, Maureen Connolly, Althea Gibson, Ann Jones, Louise Brough, Harry Hopman, Ken McGregor, Rod Laver, Frank Sedgman, Cliff Drysdale, WCT, Handsome Eight, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King

Part 3 (1978-1999): the Golden Era

Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Martina Navatilova, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi

Part 4 (2000-2011): Sampras, Federer, Venus and Serena

Pete Sampras, Pat Rafter, Roger Federer, Goran Ivanisevic, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, John Isner, Nicolas Mahut