So another Grand Slam is upon us and I for one am super excited, I won't be checking the TV guide in the next two weeks because I know what I'll be watching, highlights as well as live action.
I won't be at Roland Garros this year, due to the unusual situation we find ourselves in, but I would have been and I hope to be next year and beyond. First round tickets are the easiest to obtain and I love the action in the first three days as much as that in the second week.
Everyone's asking who will win, and how far will the world's best players go. A popular talking point for this particular year is Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic being in the same half of the draw. It all starts on Sunday and as the legends and former champions take to the big stages; the monumental Courts Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen; fans with tickets will be over the moon at their chance to see their idols and be part of an event watched by so many globally.
However, many fans will only have a ground pass in their pockets, and therefore won't be part of the big action; the matches that everyone's talking about; the encounters on the main TV channels; whilst the outside courts are confined to the red button. Of course those unlucky fans can crowd round one of the many big screens in Roland Garros and watch Nadal or Serena and be a part of a TV atmosphere. A popular option among ground pass holders at Wimbledon with their enormous screen with sound.
Yet many fans will proceed to the outside courts. They'll miss what's going on on the big stages in favour of watching matches that are barely mentioned in the mainstream media. What is the attraction of this option? Are they gracefully settling for a consellation prize because they weren't quick enough or rich enough to get a show court ticket? Possibly, but for me; not at all.
Firstly, in the early stages of a slam, many want to follow their compatriots, and unless you're French it's likely that your nations players will be scheduled somewhere out there in the grounds. Others say that the first round matches involving the giants are too one sided, I guess that's true sometimes.
If I was out there in Paris now, if only, and I had a ground pass, I would happily forfeit watching a big screen, seeing Muguruza battle Kostyuk or see what surprises Sandgren has for Djokovic in his arsenal, surrounded by excited fans. Instead I would venture out to the far corners of the clay capital. Checking the schedule, trying to navigate my way round the grounds and thinking who would be popular that I would have to get to a court before the previous match concludes and wait in a queue.
It's likely that somewhere out there you would catch Sousa v Fritz, the Portuguese player has had a long and consistent career and his game is perfectly suited to the red dirt. I would also look out for the battle of two oldies Kohlschreiber v Verdasco, both still going after so many years. The Brazilian TV broadcaster there would likely steal a feed to the Monteiro v Raonic encounter, millions in the Federative Republic will be watching that and it would be awesome to be a part of it. As a personal choice, Munar and Thompson are two great players, never good enough to beat the best, but always entertaining.
It's unlikely there'll be sufficient room in the show court schedule for the incredible Venus Williams as she takes on the Russian Alexandrova in possibly her final appearance. Kerber's a two time grand slam champion but seeded 26th she would likely be out there too hoping to knock down Kalinina of The Ukraine. Suarez Navarro v Stephens would definitely be on my list to try and catch, if I got to their court before the rush. I would also go for Tauson v Gorgodze, I feel the Dane has been creeping up the rankings during the pandemic, a dark horse for sure.
So whilst the media coverage is dominated by what's going on with the top ten players in the big arenas, remember there is so much going on outside, hidden away. History is being written all over the grounds, shocks and surprises as big as what can happen in the limelight. If there was a surprise visitor to the semi finals, how awesome would it be to say that you watched their first round match on Court 14?
However, as far as Roland Garros 2021 goes, I will be making use of the red button on my remote control.