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Michael Emmett: “Once Again the French Screw it Up!”

The French Open organizing committee should be ashamed of itself. Year-after-year they do a horrible job in so many areas that they do a massive disservice to the world of tennis. No Hawkeye, no lights, no roof, quarterfinals being played simultaneously and no common sense. They are so archaic in so many ways they deserve to lose their standing as a Grand Slam event. And this is no exaggeration – they are really that bad. The worst of the four grand slams keeps going downhill plummeting faster than an avalanche.

Written by: Michael Emmett

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***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs.  He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet.  Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada.  Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s.  Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***

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The French Open organizing committee should be ashamed of itself. Year-after-year they do a horrible job in so many areas that they do a massive disservice to the world of tennis. No Hawkeye, no lights, no roof, quarterfinals being played simultaneously and no common sense. They are so archaic in so many ways they deserve to lose their standing as a Grand Slam event. And this is no exaggeration – they are really that bad. The worst of the four grand slams keeps going downhill plummeting faster than an avalanche.

My biggest complaint this year is the draw and the scheduling – both were perplexing to say the least.

Due to Rafael Nadal’s extended layoff at the end of 2012 his world ranking has dropped to #4, however, as we all know, the French could have ignored the world rankings and seeded him #1. This would have solved most of the issues. The folks at Wimbledon have been known to use their noggins when it comes to monumental decisions like this one. And for the most part – they get it right.

Rafa is nearly unbeatable in Paris and is looking to become the first man in history to win eight titles at the same grand slam. With the committee deciding to stay in line with the current world rankings (Nadal is #4) – Nadal was seeded #3 because Andy Murray pulled out due to injury.

Nadal has been dominant on the dirt in the last few weeks and was looking every bit the same guy who has won seven previous French titles – losing just once, in his entire career, in 2009, to Robin Soderling. The committee had all the proof necessary to make the gutsy call and seed the Spaniard #1. By not doing so they opened themselves up to potential disaster – having the coin flip go the wrong way – which it did – and the unthinkable happens – Nadal and Djokovic end up on the same side of the draw. Not good for them, not good for tennis, not good for anybody except the lucky guy who emerges in to the final from the bottom half of the draw.

Nadal vs. Djokovic – on red clay in Paris is the top matchup in any draw by a country mile. This match has to be the FINAL and played on Sunday morning when the majority of the world can watch it. 1pm in Paris or 7am in Toronto is incredibly inconvenient on a Friday. Are these people in Paris, who claim to be rationale and logical… idiots? These decisions are just wrong.

Nadal vs. Djokovic cannot be a semifinal match! Not when they are clearly the best two in the world – especially on the dirt – by a wide margin.

If Nadal is seeded #1 – due to his unbelievable record on the red clay, and Djokovic is #2 (he is ranked #1 in the world and is likely to stay there for some time) we have these guys on opposite sides of the draw. And everybody (99 percent of the people who care) is happy.

Putting Nadal and Djokovic on the top and bottom of the draw is something that absolutely NEEDED to happen and didn’t. Shame on the individual who didn’t make this come about! They played an epic 5-set match on a Friday that only a portion of the world saw. Many pundits are describing it as one of the best clay court matches ever played. 7am on the East coast of North America is a horrible time for such an instant classic. And maybe even worse they gave preferential treatment to their own guy (Jo Tsonga) who got the 6pm start time in Paris (Noon in Toronto) when he should have been first out of the gate. Are you kidding me – Tsonga vs. Ferrer gets the marquee slot ahead of Nadal vs. Djokovic – I know Tsonga is a national hero but this is utterly ridiculous.

How is it possible that the two greatest players in the last five years are scheduled to play in the semifinals in the second grand slam of the year? The reason is simple – the suits didn’t have the courage, backbone or guts to seed Rafael Nadal #1. If Nadal was seeded #1 – as he should have been due to his stellar 58-1 lifetime record at Roland Garros – he would have been on the opposite side of the draw to Novak Djokovic.

Draws are often an overlooked part of the equation. But in a lot of cases, they are critical in determining the eventual champion. And unfortunately, we were all burned by a decision that will likely haunt the organizing committee for many years to come. One can only ask – when perhaps the greatest clay court player of all-time, who is as healthy as ever, playing the best tennis of his life, with a 99 percent winning percentage at Roland Garros – how was he seeded #3.

A mind-boggling decision that can never be explained to my satisfaction – hopefully this kind of ineptitude will never happen again.

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