Tennis, Steeplechase & Idiot …

Today brought the conclusion of the French Open tennis at Roland Garros. It was a fun fortnight of shooting, despite the marginal weather throughout the tournament. The treat of the tournament was Italian Francesca Schiavone, who won the womens title with what appeared to be guts, enthusiasm and confidence. She became the first Italian woman ever to win a Grand Slam tennis championship, a fact that quite surprised me (although I have to say I hadn’t really thought about it much).

Francesca Schiavone After Match Point

Schiavone’s heartfelt celebration after winning the title was really genuine and emotional. She fell to the clay, got herself up, hugged her opponent and then climbed up into the stands where her supporters were worked up into a frenzy. It made for some great drama and thankfully, photographs, as I was lucky enough to be in the right position to capture it all. I really wish an Italian would win the tournament each year.

Francesca Schiavone and Her Entourage

The mens final was much less interesting as Rafael Nadal crushed Robin Soderling in straight sets. When you watch Nadal play on clay, you realize he wins by crushing the spirit of his opponent. He’s so physically gifted that when you play against him, you have to hit three winners to win one point because he gets the first two winners back. You could see it in Soderling’s body language that he couldn’t believe how many crushing forehands he hit were returned. Eventually you can’t keep hitting so many winners and you get beaten. Nadal definitely deserved his fifth French Open title.

Raphael Nadal - Match Point

To see more images of this year’s French Open, CLICK HERE.

To see a slideshow of images with music, CLICK HERE.

The Grand Steeplechase de Paris horse race takes place every year during the same time as the French Open. The Hippodrome d’Auteuil, where it’s held, is just across the street from Roland Garros so I decided to go shoot a few of the races. I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to shooting horse races so I just followed the other photographers who, like me, had access to being on the turf while the horses are running. So I’m standing with a group of about 12 photographers ready to shoot the horses jumping over the first barrier when one of the horses clips the top of the barrier and goes down hard, sending the jockey crashing down with him.

Crash

The rest of the horses continued running, as did the horse that crashed down, but the jockey was down for the count. The group of photographers I’m with started running towards the jockey, but to my surprise, they all keep running right past him en route to the second barrier. The jockey was face down on the ground and not moving at all; I’m thinking he might be dead or seriously injured. So I stopped and tried to communicate with him – no response. There was NO ONE from the track there to help him; it was just him and me in a grass field with thousands of spectators watching from afar.

Jockey Down

I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t want to move him and I really didn’t know if the horses were going to come around that part of the track again. He’d be crushed if they did. This quandary lasted about a full minute – but seemed like forever – until a track official came by waiving a white flag and soon after a medical team arrived. The jockey eventually gained consciousness but looked to be in pretty bad shape. I wasn’t able to find out any more info about how he was the next day. It wasn’t a very good experience. It kind of shook me up. So I went back to the safety of the tennis.

One thing I forgot to include on my blog last week was some idiocy that I was involved with. Each year, it’s my brother’s birthday during the Cannes Film Festival and so I try to concoct some way of wishing him while I’m there. I’ve held signs on the red carpet, shot video of photographers holding happy birthday signs, etc. before but for his 40th birthday, I had to come up with a different idea this year. A mutual friend of ours is a news reporter here in France and was doing live reports from the festival. With her complicity, I became one of those idiots that you see on TV standing behind reporters during live shots. The plan went off well, but the unscripted highlight of the scheme happened when the anchorwoman back in Paris made reference to Steven’s birthday, saying ” … other than the birthday of Steven, happy birthday Steven … “. I got my brother to watch the report live on the internet under the pretext of seeing his friend doing the live report. Needless to say he was flabbergasted when he noticed the signs behind the reporter. It was really good fun.

To see the video for yourself, CLICK HERE.

Some photos of the week:

Steeplechase de Paris

Steeplechase de Paris

Stretcher

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by The Second Baseman on June 8, 2010 at 1:46 am

    Some of the best shots of the year so far…Great tribute to Francesca Schiavone…She caught all of our hearts with her play and enthusiasm…I bet she would love to be able to see this blog…

    Reply

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