The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
by

Sunday evening, and it appears the “marcronie” — the non-left non-right political vehicle, formally named En Marche (Haul Ass), to support the presidential candidacy of Emmanuel Macron, won the most votes on Sunday, and the National Front won the second most votes. Under the rules, the two candidates of these tendencies will face off in a second round in two weeks — May 7 — and the eighth president of France’s Fifth Republic will replace François Hollande a few days later. De Gaulle, Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterrand, Chirac, Sarkozy: and soon…?

Who knows? The more interesting news on Sunday was that Rafael Nadal won the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 for the tenth time, a record, and is thus off to a flying start on the clay-paved road to Roland-Garros, the great clay slam officially known as the Internationaux de France, held annually on a street named after one of America’s great newspapermen, Gordon Bennett, deep in the tony 16th arrondissement on the west side of Paris. He beat his compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinola as he notched his fiftieth clay court championship, also a record. And naturally and fairly, he got the lion’s share of the rich tournament purse, worth over four million euros.

There was one hitch, a very bad call — the hawkeye, which is not authoritative on clay courts, showed it — in the second set of the semi against the hot Belgian star David Goffin. Goffin, a cool calm collected type, let it go without appealing to the tournament director, which he could have done, but he was noticeably troubled and, untypically, argued with the umpire. He then proceeded to lose every remaining game.

Woulda, coulda? Goffin certainly played a great tournament, beating the likes of Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic (world No. 2) on the way to the final. But such are the breaks, and while Nadal was criticized in the tennis press for not conceding point — it can be done — when he knew he had hit long, you also must consider that there is a long and meaningful tradition, much flouted nowadays, of respecting constituted legal authority.

The ump’s the ump. Way back in the 1930s, the great German ace, Gottfried von Cramm, instructed his friend and rival, Don Budge, in precisely this situation, that you have to respect the authority.

To be sure, once in the life of each man and country, and Von Cramm himself, when push came to shove with the Nazis, said there is some s-, to quote e. e. cummings, he would not eat. Which very nearly got him murdered — however, that is another story.

So Nadal is happy, and if he is happy, the tennis world is happy. He did not have to play Roger Federer at Monte Carlo, and Roger Federer beat him three times already this year (Australian Open final, Indian Wells Masters 1000, round of 16, Miami Open Masters 1000, final). Monte Carlo is not a mandatory Masters 1000, so the best player of his generation opted out, favoring family (four kids) and preparation for either Roland-Garros or Wimbledon.

Monte Carlo is not played in Monte Carlo, by the way, but at the Monte Carlo Country Club, which happens to be in France. Space is at a premium in the principality of Monaco, and contrary to popular opinion, this is not due to the famous Casino crowding everything else out. Actually, the Casino is a small part of the Monagésque economy. It has never been clear to me where they make money, because they do not pay taxes. This, however, may explain why many tennis pros live here. They do not represent Monaco in the Davis Cup, but they are domiciled here. Of course, it could be the weather.

The weather was great on Sunday in Washington, too, so I opted to turn off the TV tennis because I knew Albert was doing fine, but he was not going to beat Rafa. It was one of these nice spring days and I met my friend Giovanni, who is from Sicily, at the legendary Rose Park courts, which are admirably maintained by a civic organization called the Friends of Rose Park, which sees to it the park on O and 28th Streets, N.W., remains as jewel in a swell neighborhood.

A few years ago they had the courts resurfaced and renamed the Peters Memorial Courts, in honor of Margaret and Matilda Roumania Peters, who grew up in this neighborhood in the 1920s. Tennis was mainly a white sport then, but a few outstanding athletes made their marks. Matilda Roumania beat Althea Gibson at the finals of the 1946 Nationals of the American Tennis Association (which was somewhat like the Negro Leagues, due to the fact that the USTA had a color line), so it must be assumed they were awfully good, since Gibson was on her way to being the best lady tennis player of her time.

Friends of Rose Park, which also maintains a tiny tot playground, a fine outdoor basketball court, and a baseball field, is America as it should be, civic and self-reliant. And it was such a nice day that when Giovanni said he was through, I said I was going back to my neighborhood on the other side of town to see what was doing at another great civic institution, the Hagans Cultural Center, which is named for a great Washington philanthropist and is located off Fort Lincoln Drive. Sure enough, there was a game there, in fact more than one. What a blessed day.

In France, they were counting ballots. No one got a majority. There will be a runoff. The choice will be stark. Marine despises the European Union; Emmanuel wants to reinforce it. Marine does not care for immigrants; young Manny sees them as a potential asset for a France which is not making enough babies.

Speaking of babies — one of the key events of the tennis season so far has been the victory of America’s greatest contemporary champion, Serena Williams, in the Australian Open last January. Miss Williams will not be competing at Roland Garros, however, due to pregnancy, and The American Spectator is delighted to offer her and her fiancé, Alexis Ohanian, a business entrepreneur from New York, like the prez, our best wishes.

On a rather more somber note, one of the biggest sleazes in tennis history, Ilie Nastase, got himself suspended from the sport (at 70, he was the coach of the Romanian Fed Cup team) for conduct unbecoming. Nastase, among countless vulgarities — plus he was almost certainly part of the commie apparat under the hated Ceausescu tyranny — once insulted Arthur Ashe in a manner that merited a punch in the nose, but Ashe was, of course, a gentleman and stayed cool. The latest incident, which does not even bear repeating, may rid the sport once and for all of this creep, and reminds me of something the legendary Reader’s Digest editor Dimi Panitza once told me. “To be a Hungarian or a Serb,” Dimi, himself a Bulgar, observed, “is a national, a tribal sentiment.” (He meant they are patriotic.) “But Romanian,” he shook his head, “that’s a profession.”

Rafa Nadal, proud Spaniard, may — I cannot vouch for this — have been heard humming into the evening breeze, on the corniche,

I’ve just got here, to Paris, from the sunny southern shore;
I to Monte Carlo went, just to raise my winter’s rent.
Dame Fortune smiled upon me as she’d never done before,
And I’ve now such lots of money, I’m a gent.
Yes, I’ve now such lots of money, I’m a gent.

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