“How did you get a name like that?” I asked the main man at the tennis hut, reaching to pour myself a cool drink of water on a morning when the temperature was already 30 degrees.
“Well, ‘Garros’ wasn’t my decision – something to do with my parents” he smiled – a gorgeously tanned face surrounding the kind of dazzling white teeth my dentist would be impressed by.
“Let’s have a photo” I said, commandeering this fine garçon and a fellow pupil prior to our morning lesson.
“Ah, yes, it always start with a photograph” he said, eyes twinkling.
What’s not to love about a little gentle flirtation with a tennis coach to start the day.
However, our session this morning was to be made of sterner stuff. Lucile went through the formalities on court and soon we were on to the volley drills.
With two shots per person, Lucile took no prisoners hitting them across the net in rapid succession: “SAHH-RA! STOP! STOP WHEN YOU ‘IT THE BAL! THEN YOU FINISH THE MOVEMENT. DON’T MOVE SO MUCH WHEN YOU ‘IT THE BAL! DON’T MOVE! YOU MOVE TOO MUCH!”
I ran to the back of the queue and hoped for more success next time.
Jacques peered down at me from below his sun visor: “Que fait-on?” he enquired.
I didn’t have time to answer as my name was being called again. I rushed to the baseline.
“OKAY, NOW DON’T STOP WHEN YOU ‘IT THE BAL, REMEMBER ANOTHER ONE IS COMING QUICKLY!” Lucile shouted from the other side.
I was ready this time and ran across court to hit the second.
“YES, SAHH-RA! BETTER! BUT TRY TO BE BALANCE WHEN YOU ‘IT THE BAL!’
At the back of the queue again, Roger laughed: “It’s only a bit of fun.”
“Ha, ha, of course” I replied immediately.
“Okay. last time!” Lucile shouted. I took up my position, Djokovic-ready. Eagle eyed. ‘Vroom’ went the first ball. ‘Swoosh’ went the second.
“YES-A! ! YES-A! PARFAIT!”
I screamed in delight.
Back in London – Club Med a distant memory – I went online to watch Djokovic vs Nadal at Roland Garros. Ruthless drop shot after running forehand I watched in dismay but simultaneous delight as Nadal’s crown slipped and Novak won the match.
The commentary was excitable: ‘THIS IS NOT JUST TENNIS, THIS IS AWESOME! cried Fabrice Santoro on ITV4. ‘DJOKOVIC IS JUST THE BEST PLAYER IN THE PLANET AT THE MOMENT!’
Indeed. Fabrice’s phraseology aside, I felt sure Lucile would agree.