Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Case of the T3S

More from our roving Eurpoean reporter, Troy. Troy is witty as usual in describing the Tier III event he attended in Lyon this week. Along with this post, we'll have pictures and video coming from Troy in the near future both of his experience in Lyon and of next week's Masters event in Paris. Enjoy!

I have never been one to self-diagnose. I can never really pinpoint my symptoms, identify possible causes or gather any possible idea of what malady I could be suffering from. Although since my arrival at the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon, my affliction has become abundantly clear: I am suffering from Tier III Shock.

Also known as Tier I Withdrawal, people diagnosed with T3S may suffer from the following:

Paranoia – The lack of security at what seem like vital check points may have you looking constantly in every direction for streakers and/or German Steffi Graf fanatics.
Confusion – The overwhelming sense of ‘where are the players on all
of the posters?’ may temporarily disorient you. Those suffering from this symptom should relax, take deep breaths, and come to terms with the fact that ‘Yes, you are looking forward to the Falla/Gicquel semi-final and you will enjoy that match thoroughly.’ Repeat this phrase as many times as necessary.
Fatigue – Weak, overused legs and general fatigue is also a warning
sign. This is usually caused by walking in constant circles around the
Center Court complex, looking for secondary show courts that will never be found.
Claustrophobia – The feeling that usually very large spaces are
constantly shrinking around you is an indicator of T3S. You may feel crowded by the fact that the nosebleed seats are only ten rows behind the snub-nosed box seats. If you suffer from these claustrophobic fits, close your eyes and imagine yourself in the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium. Breathe into a paper bag if necessary.
Indigestion – Eating large amounts of decent food may cause an upset stomach. The affordable, sit down meals at certain Tier III’s are disruptive to stomachs that are used to the expensive bottled water and five pretzels of higher budget tournaments.

I have accepted my illness, dealt with my symptoms daily and am taking the necessary steps towards recovery. These symptoms, however exaggerated they may be, speak to the humongous gap between Tiers on tour. However, lower Tier events like Lyon, do have their advantages over their more privileged peer tournaments.

Information and player accessibility is the main edge. While everyone in Basel was marveling over Federer’s new match record, I was able to get an honest view of the players from the spectators and tournament staff. For instance I learned how well Andy Roddick is received by the French audience. Fans I spoke to enjoy his ‘energy’ and ‘charisma.’ Staff I spoke with say Roddick is actually very nice “for an American.”

When asked about the reaction of Tsonga’s upset over Gasquet, a press handler admitted to being relieved. Apparently Gasquet “is not very nice” and Tsonga is “much more agreeable to work with.” No other opinion was very surprising. The general consensus seems to be that Grosjean is always a crowd favorite and that Santoro is always “great to see on court.” The Gicquel’s and Benneteau’s of the draw seem to be just be filler, players meriting an “Allez!” in the absence of one of the (previously mentioned) favorites.

French players may be the stars of the draw, but French gastronomy is not too far out of the spotlight here. Lyon, not Paris, is the epicenter of pure French cuisine. The Tennis Village of the tournament is the embodiment of this fact. Every sponsor has food. This is not an exaggeration and cannot be stressed enough, as I learned on my quick tour of the village.

Every sponsor, be it car manufacturer or insurance company, has either a restaurant or a bar. You cannot fill out a credit card application without leaving with a glass of champagne. You cannot test drive a car without eating at Peugeot’s brasserie. This tour de force of sponsor handouts and gourmet food sets Lyon apart from any other tournament I’ve seen. If the way to the heart is through the stomach, this event has won the hearts of the French tennis community over and then some.

After the food has been digested and the "Allez's!" have all been shouted it’s easy to see the GPTL for what it is: a small, proud tournament that has successfully infused its home players into its draw and home culture into the tournament. It has been a welcome change from the bright lights and big wallets of the recent Top Tier events. Although having a seeded player make it to the quarters should be more of a priority here, the beat goes on in Lyon.

My prognosis is hopeful. I will drink plenty of liquids, take in next week’s Masters Paris and call the doctor if I’m not feeling well in week or two.

-Troy Venechanos

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