Roland Garros 2012 has officially, for me personally, gone down as the most enjoyable tennis tournament I've ever watched. Yesterday cemented it as The Sultan's all time fave, with 3 engrossing matches, 2 of which will go down amongst the best of the year. I don't think any player other than Novak Djokovic would have dug himself out of the hole they were in against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Saving 5 match points spread over a couple of games and coming back from 2 sets to 1 down, he defeated an inspired opponent, who it seemed was getting all the breaks. Yet no matter how often Tsonga painted the lines, got the lucky net-chord or came up with the big ace, Djokovic hung in there stoically and kept alive the dream of holding a Grand Slam of Grand Slams.
He also kept my dream alive too because he is my last hope of winning anything in the outright winner market! I took him in an earlier round when he was in deep trouble (against Seppi), and so got a decent price on him which will net me a healthy green if he does win The French Open. Angelique Kerber's loss to Sara Errani (another of the top quality matches played yesterday) means that my final outsider bet has gone. A shame because I was ready to green-up and cash-out if she reached the semi-final but didn't reckon on yet another inspired performance from the (annoying) little Italian.
The women's tournament has been just as brilliant as the men's, though for different reasons. Of course, the quality of the men's matches has been better but the ladies have produced some matches which, although not always easy on the eye, have been extremely high on drama. With genuine contenders Azarenka, Serena Williams and Li Na all being knocked out in big shocks, Sharapova given a serious run for her money and Wozniacki, Jankovic, Bartoli, Lisicki and Schiavone all dumped out by much lower ranked players, Roland Garros has shown just how much depth there now is in the women's game. As someone who has watched closely for the last 2 years, there is no doubt at all that not only is the depth getting stronger but there are a number of youngsters coming through (such as Barthel, Kerber, Garcia, Halep, Watson, McHale and Sloane Stephens, who had a brilliant tournament) who will go to the very top and in the next few years, hopefully bring back the sort of stars we had in the WTA ten years ago.
But it's the men's game which continues to beguile, as we speak of this 'golden era' of tennis. Federer's fightback from 2 sets down against Juan Martin Del Potro, was yet another classic 5 setter to go along with several over the past week. I do feel privileged to be watching tennis regularly during this period. When I first started trading tennis, I had barely watched a match in its full entirety since I was a kid. I was massively into Wimbledon back then (during the Becker, Sampras, Lendl, Agassi, Chang, Edberg era) but in the UK, it was quite rare to get any tennis coverage other than those 2 weeks. Occasionally, the BBC might pick up The French Open but it certainly wasn't a regular thing. As I got older, I lost my passion for the game and even during Wimbledon, would rarely watch a match.
I was a football trader during that epic Wimbledon final in 2008, between Federer and Nadal. So little was I bothered about that match, that I missed almost the whole of what is still seen today as the greatest match of all time. And what was I doing during that final? Trading some obscure pre-season football friendly! It was only a few messages on the Betfair football forum giving glowing references about the amazing tennis being played, that made me switch it on. That was the last Wimbledon that I have ignored. I've traded every one since and tennis has become an obsession for me. From knowing just a handful of players and pretty much nothing about the WTA and ATP circuits, I now love the sport as much as I love football. In fact, I probably love it even more, seeing as how my team (Nottingham Forest) have been second rate for the last 15 years and the 'beautiful game' has become so dirtied by money, cheating, glory-hunters and ridiculous governing at the top end. But that's for another post! Right now, we should all be basking in the brilliance of the French Open and of tennis as a sport. And if my trading continues to advance the way it has been, switching from the big white ball to the little yellow one could well be one of the best decisions I've ever made.