Recently I was reminded of the myth of the Minotaur, a fearsome creature of ancient Greece. With the body of a man and the head of a bull, the minotaur feasted on human flesh in his Labrynth, a maze on the island of Crete. Every seven years, the city state of Athens was required to send seven young unmarried men and women to Crete, to be eaten by the Minotaur.
I was thinking about this while I listened to the CNN/Sports Illustrated preview video about the French Open. The interviewer asked the panelists about any dark horses in the men’s side of the draw, and Jon Wertheim said, “There aren’t any dark horses. One of these three guys (Fed, Rafa, Nole) have won 27 of the last 28 grand slams, and one of these three guys is going to win again.”
The same tune was played in the State of the Nation by Andrew Lilley, when he defended Jo Wilfred Tsonga for stating that there is no chance for a French player to win Roland Garros. Apparently, he was attacked in the French media, but as Andrew Lilley said, Tsonga is right.
France could and should in my opinion be happy with what they’ve got. They have gone deep in the Davis Cup two years in a row by dint of the fact that they have a whole host of very, very good players: players they have trained, nurtured, encouraged and supported over the best part of a decade, players who are now filling the top 30 and who are household names throughout the country. Spain are in a similar situation – they have bred similar talent and currently have nine players in the top 50. The other eight work hard and dream of success, but they just happen to be behind Rafa in the pecking order. And there’s no shame in that, regardless of your passport.
There are 128 players in the draw for the French Open, but they’re all there as tributes for the three Minotaurs of men’s tennis: Federer, Rafa, and Nole.
Now, eventually, the Athenians sent a clever young man named Theseus, who killed the Minotaur. But I don’t see a Theseus in the draw just yet, or if he is there, he is not yet ready to kill. And in a way, I would pity him, because unlike Theseus, it’s not enough to kill just one minotaur. He would have to kill at least two.
The French Open started yesterday. The minotaurs are hungry.