Come on Jimmy, come on!


Jimmy Wang at Roland Garros


Jimmy Wang's wife watching her husband at Roland Garros

by Steve Alomes

I had been on what might have been a busman’s holiday. You can now travel the world by sporting big events, or even as a casual participant player (have golf clubs, will travel).

My journey was a little different. It involved different cities, other activities, a little dutiful art gallery and museum-going (just a little to keep up appearances back home), and some sporting opportunities, taken or just missed.

It became its own thing, a patchwork quilt or moments, a mosaic or pieces, or scenes from a virtual train or plane window, or something like all of the above.

It began in the centre, the geographical centre, of the old empire – the U S of A.

In Denver, in an ideal world, I would have visited the Denver Bulldogs, the top footy team in the USA, winner of three of the last five championships. (Some put it down to Colorado’s fitness obsession and the advantages of ‘mile-high’ breathing.) Or at least seen the Colorado Rockies defeat the New York Mets at Coors Field?

I did get to the Occupy and Tea Party rallies (more country folk festivals than hard politics) at Lincoln Park in Grand Junction.

In the real, or imaginary, money centre of the empire, New York, I failed to make it to the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall, where the stars of the future might have been accompanied by Rockettes or would have to do their own high kicking.

I did get over to Queen’s on Long Island to New York Magpies training. While I did not take to the new generation Astroturf on the square soccer field overlooked by some high rise with the Chrysler building on the horizon, it was fascinating. A Magpie team with more links to the financial district than Sir Eddie of Toorak. And, almost fulfilling David Parkin’s long-term prediction, members of the women’s team training with the boys.

The highlight came not in Berlin, home of the Berlin Crocodiles as well as the marathon.

It came in Paris, city of tennis as well as culture, light, love, sex and tourism. As well as home of the Paris Cockerels footy club.

It was Tuesday afternoon, the first day of the Qualifiers for the ‘Messieurs’ at Roland Garros. I had been bottling up on the society of the Wenzhou Chinese, who are important in China-France commerce as well as including many ‘sans papiers’ (without papers) in their number.

Then I took the Metro and a long perambulation to the entry to Roland Garros. For the qualifiers, you could buy a ticket at the tennis centre (for the Open, only online).

I waited, in the queuing capital of the world, only a few minutes, watched over by ubiquitous men in black (and in Paris they are often, like Will Smith, black without their suits on), assisted by a friendly young staff, en anglais et francais, which was obviously also in training for next week.

I noticed the Aussies playing, with traditional names and our newly traditional European names – Jones, Mitchell, Matesovic, Millman and Duckworth having seen on the web that Lleyton (‘Our Lleyton’), despite or because of the cap worn backwards, has a wild card. And Sam, the great female Aussie hope, won her place.

I wandered off to the first courts I saw, waited until the change of ends, and went to seats facing one court and overlooking another.

On the second court, a colourfully clad player, ‘J Wang’, was playing a Portuguese player ‘P Sousa’ (perhaps not related to American bands of the early 1900s, the one with a ‘de’ added).

I asked a young lady watching eagerly if the TPE on the scoreboard stood for Taiwan and did she know him. ‘Yes’, she replied, ‘He is my husband’.  He was cute and she was cuter.

Now, it seemed I was in their box, part of the entourage. Or at least he had a second supporter amongst the half dozen watching the match.

Like all young tennis players he was tall and slightly lanky. She told me that he was 27 but had been out with a wrist injury for three years, and was now making a comeback. (Echoes of Lleyton?)  Once ranked 85 in the world, in March 2006, he now ranked 193 after his long and difficult journey.

Born Wang Yeu-tzuoo in 1985, interestingly in Saudi Arabia, he had an excellent Davis Cup record for Taiwan (otherwise ‘named’ Chinese Taipei).

However, Jimmy played on hard courts in Taiwan and Roland Garros clay was not his tasse de the. I remarked that the Australians were the same.

I left out the story of the unveiled contempt for Roland Garros amongst the Aussie tennis media, which is presumably rooted in the same cause.

That is, we don’t do any good, so it must not be any good. It must be an inferior tournament. She did say that they really preferred the Aussie Open which was friendlier. I could see that all those ‘MIB’ could become heavy or at least tedious when important people came through the entry gate marked ‘Presidentielle’.

(So, perhaps that is not just our propaganda, even aside from all those other celebs who want to make a second home in Aus. or want to at least buy a house there.)

I asked Nini if he would be in the papers and on the news in Taipei, and she said ‘Yes, if he wins’.

Jimmy, yes, that is his name, took the first set almost comfortably. He then dropped the first game of the second set, which turned out to be more than the leader relaxing, and his opponent becoming more determined.

As the game went on, my inexpert eye guessed that the Portuguese was using more spin, even in today’s crash and bash big shot tennis.

I went walkabout for five minutes, saying to Nini that I hoped to return to see him in charge. At 4-4 in the second set that seemed possible. I noted the score on the electronic scoreboards around the grand ….stadium which was displaying the bright colours of the test pattern on its big screen in this warm-up week.

I also noticed, belatedly on the digital match report screen, that two of the Australians had won their first round Qualifying matches, amongst a big group including Marinko Matosevic, James Mitchell, who won, and Benjamin Duckworth. (Only one, Greg Jones would advance later to the edge of French Open entry contention, however, finally falling at the last hurdle.)

I then returned to the big match, my claps adding to her voice.

Except, Jimmy was showing signs of fatigue. A pulling up of the shirt to wipe the sweat, a new level of grunting. He was not a poker player who knew how to disguise the reality of his cards.

Finally, in the last two games, she sat down in seats facing the other court, started to clean the lens of her extended Lumix as she quietly prepared for the inevitable. The final score was in Sousa’s favour, 3-6, 6-4, and 6-1.

There are times when it is inappropriate to take a photo. This was one of them.

While he will be in the qualifiers for Wimbledon, and he should do better on grass (echoes of Lleyton?), this loss now meant going home.

And so, I too departed, by foot and Metro, for my simpler journey on the road, hoping that my wrist is good as well.

Next time, Jimmy, avec bon chance – with luck.

I’ll be backing him. Hope that helps.

* Steve Alomes’ book on footy’s past, present and future will be published in August by Walla Walla:


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