WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - June 24, 2021 - 12:00am

Last year I apologized to Alex Eala because for a week I deferred to write about her semifinals berth in the girls doubles at the mud slam. I instead wrote about Rafael Nadal who won unlucky thirteenth clay title in three masterful sets against Novak Djokovic. But this year Novak got even a round earlier, although a set longer, and went on to win the crown. Bitter, but I blame it on the 20-foot all-metal statue of the king of clay erected on Roland Garros. Jinx. Why immortalize a player still chasing immortality? Too early, we still see him play in flesh, though no longer as fresh.

I wrote about Djokovic last week even if our own tennis prodigy won the girls doubles crown, her first at Paris. But I can’t help it, Novak overcame a seemingly insurmountable two sets to nothing deficit against a Greek superstar a dozen years his junior. The dust, or mud, has settled. Djokovic is mentally tougher than Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

If I repeated delay about Alex, Roland Garros got worse. In a good way. Another unexpected woman won the title. For six straight years, six different women held the trophy for the first time but never reprised. Habitual delinquent. This year is odder. It crowned an unseeded doubles specialist in singles. I don’t even remember her name, maybe her game. But I recall it is hard to say and write, although her shots were harder and nerves tougher.      Aside from crowning unlikely queen, the French Open also dethroned the defending champion in earlier round and frustrated two women of color, one rising, the other declining. Coco Gauff bungled five set points in the first and lost her quarterfinals to the eventual champion whose name slips my memory again. Serena Williams, the greatest, or maybe just the strongest woman to play the sport lost to a young player, limiting her options, give up on 24 or keep on losing to players half her age.

But strangely, we may not be as awed at Eala’s inaugural clay doubles crown as we were at Yuka Saso’s maiden silver trophy at the US Open. Must be because she shares it with a Russian partner. We want it solely Filipino even if we welcome foreign invaders elsewhere. Or maybe because it is a junior title. Not to condescend, one day she will transcend. But fans are demanding. So are organizers. French tennis officials fined and threatened to expel Naomi Osaka from the tournament for refusing to talk to media in a mandatory post-match press conference. The Japanese ace felt she was not ready to speak while her mind is not in perfect shape. Love is gone in the love capital of the world.

But Naomi withdrew, preempting what could have been insensitive blow to her vulnerable mental bubble. Others may wonder how on earth would granting interview worsen depression. Do not ask. There are no answers. Just give time, so she gathers her rhythm and rhyme.

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