Paris Masters at Bercy
The other day was All Saints day, a nice day off for everyone here in France. In what's become a yearly tradition, we were at Bercy to watch the Paris masters tennis tournament. Cheaper and more accessible than the Open at Roland Garros, we first started going just to see the final, but then realised that if we went during the week, not only were the tickets cheaper, but we'd get to see a lot more players and matches.
Wednesday became over 12 hours of watching tennis, which was pretty gruelling! Especially since the Bercy Omnisports serves only coca-cola and M&Ms, which means you have to maintain a steady sugar high to last the distance.
This year was different to previous years though. The first big change was that there's now video judges - each player had 2 'challenges' per set, and could call on the video umpire if they didn't like a line call. We'd then see a computer graphic of the ball bouncing leaving a spot where it bounced (why am I explaining this, I'm sure everyone's seen it) - sometimes they had to zoom right in to see the smallest fraction of an overlap to call the ball in. It made a big difference - on the first match a player challenged a call on a match point, and it went his way - he then went on to win the set, probably changing the outcome of the match entirely.
Anyway, it went on and on, and every game seemed to go to the final set. It became clear that the final game with UK's big hope Andy Murray wasn't going to be played in time. We figured that it would have to be moved to one of the little courts, but no-one could tell us anything. In a typically french fashion, nobody knew what was going on and there was no organisation at all. We eventually found that he was warming up on one of the little courts, and would be playing there at 10pm.
We waited outside with everyone else who had found out where he was playing, including Jeremy Bates! The officials didn't have a clue who he was, and so he wasn't allowed in either.
We had never watched a game on Court 1 before, and had only sat amongst the thousands of people on Center court. The difference was a complete shock - it was nothing more than a little hall - tipped off by an english couple we had met, we raced to the end of the court and sat right at the front, staring down the center line. We were also next to Brad Gilbert, Murray's coach, and were effectively the players family (except we weren't of course).
We then realised that there was no net, and just a wooden barrier between us and the 200kph serves that hurtled towards us.
Somehow the ball still managed to slam into the barrier rather than us, and it was an amazing experience. For the first time we could see what it was really like from the players perspective, as well as hear their muttering as they lost or won shots.
Finally it was all over near midnight - exhausting but well worth it. We're back on Saturday...