Monday, May 30, 2016

RG.9- Rain, Graveyards and Lenglen

The worker ants of the Weather Department of Tennis Gods International Corp. had their way with action in Paris on Monday. There was none.

But, have no fear of change, this space's traipsing through time (and, literally, graveyards on this Memorial Day in the U.S.) continues unabated. So there's that.

...instead of watching tennis or, rather more likely, mostly listening to tennis on Radio Roland Garros in between watching whatever seemed necessary on Tennis Channel or NBC, I spent most of the morning tiptoeing through graveyards. It may sound a bit macabre, but I've always found such a thing oddly intriguing.

Maybe it's a storytelling "thing" (which would explain why my favorite task in my college journalism class was writing intricate obituaries), as one can't help but mentally fill in the blanks when looking at those birth and death dates, especially those that coincidence with the many wars around the world through the generations, as well as the names that used to be so common but now are immediately dated as soon as they are read or spoken. There aren't many people named "Uriah" out there in 2016, after all. In any event, each slab -- from the nice but weathered, to the expensive, artful and professionally carved, to even the occasional stone pushing between 150-200 years old that was very obviously hand-made -- has its own story buried beneath it. Quite literally.

On this trip I found a Maconaughey (but not THAT McConaughey, of course)..

As well as another headstone bearing the name of Anna (but not that of The Citizen, naturally)...

Some skittish bovine onlookers...

And a fascinating contraption equipped with sixteen mechanized bells (yeah, umm, I have no earthly idea what that's all about...):

But my favorite sight was a statue commemorating a World War I doughboy that overlooked the landscape...

He died in France.

Which I thought was sort of prophetic.

...LIKE FROM DAY 9: Justine! La Petit Taureau!

Every day is a good day for some LPT on Backspin, but her official DAY is June 1st.

...LIKE FROM DAY 9: All hands shirts on deck!

...SOME-THINGS-DON'T-NEED-TO-BE-EXPLAINED FROM DAY 9: That'd make it all "think-y" and take the fun out of it. The moose out front shoulda told ya.

...LIKE FROM DAY 9: But, for him, the phrase "back in 5 minutes" is TOTALLY different.

Same intelligence level.

A photo posted by Maria Sharapova (@mariasharapova) on

...BECAUSE THINGS MUST BE UPDATED ON DAY 9: Serena Williams' Roland Garros 3rd Round Doubles Victim Update...

...ANYONE ELSE NERVOUS? ON DAY 9: Anna Karolina Schmiedlova is the #1 seed in this week's WTA 125 Series event in Bol. Gulp.

...LIKE FROM DAY 9: Saying the right things...

Hopefully good things follow, too.

...DISLIKE FROM DAY 9: Well, for something that is supposedly expressing gratitude for support, that sure sounds ominous...

Such a "poor loser vibe." It's almost sad. Everyone else has moved on.

...NEWS ON DAY 9: Danielle Collins (Virginia) wins her second NCAA women's singles title, defeating North Carolina's Hayley Carter. She's the seventh two-time champ in NCAA D-1 history. The most recent was Nicole Gibbs in 2012-13.

Florida's Brooke Austin/Kourtney Keegan defeated California's Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr for the doubles title,

...LIKE FROM DAY 9: Doing a full Lenglen on the grass...

...and, finally, another Lenglen moment.

Any individual that becomes world famous, or even iconic, as was the case with Suzanne Lenglen, is then subject to the representation -- in print, comment or art -- of their physical image or personality. Some speak and act with knowledge, while others do so with varying degrees of information, intelligence and/or sensitivity. That's certainly the case today, when every opinion of anyone about anyone -- no matter how toxic -- can stand on its own on the vast stage that the internet can provide.

[clockwise from top left: Caricature Zone art; Illustration by Helen Wills (from "Excerpts from Tennis" (1928); Drawing (1921); cover of "Gaze's Handbook to Lawn Tennis" (1922); art from 1925; Maurice Picaud caricature; sketch; sports card; cigarette card]

In her day, Lenglen was no different. Coverage of her tennis grace and skill, on and off-court flamboyance and penchant for drama and emotional upheaval (from a French tennis player... so figure) was widespread, with talk of her fashion, looks and competitive disposition all fair game. Only a select few likely knew "the real Suzanne," but everyone surely had an opinion, or was able to boil down her "essence" in a single artistic image. Naturally, she was often physically compared to young American Helen Wills, the player who was expected to be and would eventually become the heir to Lenglen's tennis throne. Wills was often complimented for her good looks, while Lenglen was the subject of compliments that were often presented as being given in spite of a similar physical beauty of her own.

A sampling, in words and pictures, from the past, as well as today...

(1)- from "The Goddess and the American Girl" (1988, by Larry Englemann)
(2)- from Sports Illustrated (Oct.16, 1991 - "Tennis Everyone?")
(3)- from The Rotarian: "Meet Suzanne!" (Oct. 1926, by John R. Tunis)

" Coverage of Lenglen was more flamboyant. La Grande Suzanne was a national treasure in France, where her name was invoked with the same fervor as Joan of Arc's. But she was no porcelain-cheeked beauty. "Her face was homely in repose," the Paris Herald's Al Laney wrote in a later book, "with a long crooked nose, irregular teeth, sallow complexion, and eyes that were so neutral that their color could hardly be determined. It was a face on which hardly anything was right. And yet, in a drawing room this homely girl could dominate everything..." Lenglen wore ermine and partied on champagne, she traveled by chauffeured limo and private rail car, and she knew everyone who ever wrote a memoir about the Lost Generation. She was also a bit of a mess, a baseline Zelda Fitzgerald who succumbed routinely to fits of depression and hysteria. " (2)

" Suzanne Lenglen stood about five and a half feet tall. She was a muscular, large-boned girl with gray eyes, raven hair, and a sharp, birdlike profile. She had an unusually long nose and large irregular teeth that protruded unhandsomely from her mouth even when she smiled. Paul Gallico recalled that she had "a hatchet face and a hook nose"; while Hazel Wightman, a lifelong friend of Suzanne, described her by simply saying, "She was homely--you can't imagine a homelier face." Bill Tilden summed up her appearance by observing, "Heaven knows no one would call her beautiful." Yet despite her physiognomy, she had a rather attractive and healthy demeanor in the early 1920s. Because she eschewed the traditional long-sleeved blouse and wide-brimmed hat of the other players, her face and arms were deeply tanned. But the pressure of practice and play gradually eroded her physical health as well as her emotional stability. By the mid-1920s, when she stood at the pinnacle of her career, she looked thirty years older than her actual age. There were deep dark circles under her eyes and her skin was wrinkled and creased. The constant exposure to the sun caused her complexion to deteriorate rapidly. She found it necessary to wear ever heavier layers of powder and makeup... And yet nearly everyone who watched her perform pirouettes on the tennis court remarked that her lack of physical beauty was largely overcome by her grace and poise and movement. " (1)

[ A Leap for Life (1920) ]

" “Wills dominated women’s tennis as few athletes in any sport have done; winning every singles match she entered from 1926 to 1933. Like Lenglen, she was introduced to tennis by her father and played a man’s game.” But there the similarities end. Whereas Lenglen was homely and prone to nervous fits, Wills was a great American beauty and heartthrob, a California girl whose health and good looks defined the American “New Woman.” " (1)

[Comics featuring Lenglen: (1) American Cartoon following 1921 U.S. defeat: "The tamer is subdued by Mallory lioness"; (2) following her defeat of Helen Wills in "The Match of the Century" in 1926 - A man says, "Teach me, Suzanne, the secret of subduing stubborn Wills"]

" News of the match (vs. Helen Wills) swamped the front pages. SUZANNE WEEPS, WIN'S AND FAINTS, screamed the London Daily Herald. "One of the most grotesque and thrilling and momentous games on record." crowed (James) Thurber. The London Morning Past likened Lenglen's play to "the rhythmic silence of Bernhardt or an arabesque of Karsavina" and suggested that each of her conquests should be celebrated in verse "like the victorious swordplay of Cyrano de Bergerac." "(2)

[clockwise from top left: Chinese ink caricature (1924); "Tennis with Mademoiselle Suzanne Lenglen" (Rene Vincent); Ivory Coast stamp; sports card; Netherlands stamps; Art Deco exhibition in Paris (2014); Suzanne-Lenglen Court bas relief; Suzanne-Lenglen Court bas relief (side view); cover of "Suzanne Lenglen: Tennis Idol of the Twenties" book (1988)]

" Suzanne on the losing side is news. Distinctly so. Let her be beaten once and the story of it will flash to the uttermost parts of the globe. But Suzanne winning? Oh, that is something else again!

And yet, you see how all that is a part of her nature; that dramatic stand, that sudden, tense, hushed moment, that possibility of defeat coming to her. You see how she loves it, revels in it, adores it all. It is her, it is Suzanne. But I must stop myself here. That, it is true, is one part of Suzanne. Suzanne upon the court. I am to give you an intimate picture of Suzanne away from the crowds, from the surface part of her life. For I can most truly and earnestly say to you that they little know of Suzanne who only know her as a tennis player. Indeed, it is apart, away from the roar and the applause of the mob that you see the real Suzanne Lenglen. There in the exquisite intimacy of her villa upon the Rue de Russie in Nice, there is the circle of her own friends, with this one who is the world-world famous writer and that one who is equally well known as a musician, there you begin to know and appreciate the girl that Suzanne Lenglen really is. PARA Even as to face. For upon the court, with a colored band swathed across her forehead, she is homely. But put her in a smart Patou dress with a smart Patou hat pulled down over one eye, and I say unto you that she will walk into a salon filled with the best dressed women in all Europe, and in five seconds each one will be looking nervously at herself in the nearest mirror. Suzanne homely? Most assuredly, at times. But see her in her street clothes, catch her off the courts, in the Ambassadeurs at Cannes of an afternoon for dancing, and you will be astonished. You will be amazed, if you have only seen her upon a tennis court. What, that Suzanne Lenglen? H'mm, pretty good looking, isn't she? That is what you will say to yourself. "(3)

NOTE: the previous selection is from a fascinating two-page, "first-hand" account of "the real Suzanne" which appeared in "The Rotarian" magazine in 1926. Many of the things I've read while compiling this Lenglen series were written decades later, but this one is of its day. It can be found here.

[ Likeness of Lenglen in the International Tennis Hall of Fame ]

And, even recently, another version was added to the Lenglen iconography, as Google celebrated her 117th birthday last week with a Google Doodle...

And who knows what will come next? I seriously don't know how a movie version of her life has never been filmed... it might be one of the few tennis movies that would work.

[recent singles winners]
2009 Mallory Cecil, Duke
2010 Chelsey Gullickson, Georgia
2011 Jana Juricova, California
2012 Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
2013 Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
2014 Danielle Collins, Virginia
2015 Jamie Loeb, North Carolina
2016 Danielle Collins, Virginia
[recent doubles winners]
2010 Hilary Barte / Lindsay Burdette (Stanford)
2011 Hilary Barte / Mallory Burdette (Stanford)
2012 Mallory Burdette / Nicole Gibbs (Stanford)
2013 Kaitlyn Christian / Sabrina Santamaria (USC)
2014 Maya Jansen / Erin Routcliffe (Alabama)
2015 Maya Jansen / Erin Routcliffe (Alabama)
2016 Brooke Austin / Kourtney Keegan (Florida)
[overall singles champions by school]
14 - Stanford
4 - Florida
3 - Georgia
2 - California, Duke, Virginia
1 - Baylor, Georgia Tech, Miami, San Diego, UCLA, USC, Wake Forest
[most singles titles]
2 - Sandra Birch, Stanford
2 - Danielle Collins, Virignia
2 - Patty Fendick, Stanford
2 - Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
2 - Laura Granville, Stanford
2 - Amber Liu, Stanford
2 - Lisa Raymond, Florida

Artist: Paul Thurlby (2013)

All for Day 9. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

That backhand smash video is pure Mauresmo. French Flair is a real thing.

Mon May 30, 06:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Bertens and the Williams sisters got a needed day off, let's see how the field responds.

It has been mentioned that this was the first all day washout at the French since May 30 2000. Looking back at 2000, some of the names are the same. One of the few winners that isn't playing is the Women's champion in Pierce. She also won doubles with someone you may have heard of in Hingis. And the girls winners from then made the main draw 16 years later- Razzano for singles, and Martinez(Sanchez)/Garrigues in doubles.

In fact, there are 10 girls singles winners that made the main draw, plus Bencic, with winners going back as far as 1993- Hingis, who also won in 94. On the doubles side, 15 former winners(total) made draws, with 9 in the singles draw. But most, like Babos/Stevens, don't play together. The only ones that still do? The 2013 champions Krejcikova/Siniakova.

Mon May 30, 09:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Rogers and Pironkova will continue their runs at Wimbledon without needing a wild card. Although they probably need to buy Sugarpova as a gift. Without Sharapova and Pennetta, Pironkova(106), Siniakova(107), and Rogers(108) are the last 3 in.

Pironkova has only made 3 QF or better at slams. But her ranking at the time? 33, 82, and this one 102.

Tue May 31, 10:40:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Leif Mortensen said...

Two top seeds are out and that's ok but not the conditions. It's raining when both matches were played and that's not okay. It's not an ITF tournament they should take care of the players instead - both seed were a bit afraid of playing on the wet court and with wet balls - shame on French Open - and get a roof, lights and hawkeye.

Tue May 31, 11:50:00 AM EDT  

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