If you’re a fan of the Barclays Premier League then you’re probably familiar with the chant, “Boring, Boring Chelsea.” If you’re not familiar, here’s the story behind it. Just last month, Chelsea went to the Emirates Stadium knowing that with a draw, victories over Leicester City and Crystal Palace would give them the Barclays Premier League title. With all that in mind, Jose Mourinho and Chelsea “parked the bus” against top four side Arsenal. "Parking the bus is just sitting back and playing defensively to absorb all the pressure from the attacking side. All eleven players are back there just not allowing any sort of attack to happen. The game finished 0-0, and the Arsenal fans were chanting, “Boring, Boring Chelsea” (Chelsea fans chanted it at Leicester (video below)). No, this is not a soccer piece, and yours truly and will tell you about how this ties in shortly.
The 2013 French Open. Gilles Simon led Roger Federer two sets to one in their fourth round encounter. You would think that the home crowd would get behind Simon and try to will him on to what would be the biggest victory in his career. Well you’re wrong. They cheered against Simon as the French crowd urged Federer on as he completed his comeback. Now, this where we tie in Chelsea and Gilles Simon. Much like Chelsea when they “park the bus”, Gilles Simon is exactly the type of player whose game is not very exciting and is often proclaimed as boring. His stule of play is just to sit back and get the ball back in play while taking the pace off of most balls. If tennis were a sport of chants like soccer is then his chant would be “Boring, Boring Simon.”
Unlike his fellow countrymen, Simon is not the type of player the French are interested in. They’re interested in someone who has that special shot, the “WOW Factor”, or someone who is a champion-he fits none of these traits. He is your typical counterpuncher who is going to get a lot of balls back to you in the middle of the court and will often get into many long rallies. This typically happens more against the top players rather than the players he is better than. This is evident in the rally against Gael Monfils at the 2013 Australian Open as they were dueling it out in a 71 shot rally (video below). Yes, a 71 shot rally. When he’s up against players he knows he can beat, he still has the same tactic but tends to throw in a just a slightly more offensive style of play.
As we have alluded to earlier, the French love someone who has a special shot, the “WOW Factor”, or is a champion. Richard Gasquet fits the first of the three molds as his one-handed backhand is one of the best in the ATP. When he’s hitting it cleanly, they are in awe hoping he hits a winner or maybe a phenomenal shot. If they’re not watching his ball, they’re watching his motion. Crisp, the description you give when a cool breeze on a beautiful spring day hits your face. That’s the same description the fans give when talking about the Gasquet backhand. Simon has solid groundstrokes on both wings, but neither are going to blow you away.
The second characteristic: The “Wow Factor”. No French tennis article has the words “WOW Factor” in it and does not mention Gael Monfils. This man has the talent to be a Grand Slam champion but has decided that playing the role of showman is the way to go. Monfils has it all in terms of shot display: No looks, tweeners, jumping shots, dives, etc. You name the type of shot, Monfils has probably done it. He’s been doing it for so long, there are compilation videos of all the shots (videos below). Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is quite the entertainer as well. This man loves to get the crowd involved often and even does a little dance after each victory to keep them fired up. In comparison to Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon has the “Anti-WOW Factor”. He keeps it plain and simple, something the French crows don’t take too kindly to Entertainment is one of the biggest industries that Paris offers, no wonder why the French love the showman the best.
Finally, the champions. The French have not had a winner of their home slam since Yannick Noah won in 1983. So when the likes of great champions such as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal step onto the court, the crowd has the utmost respect for them and are even on their side sometimes. Federer however, is on a different level. The respect that Federer gets no matter where he goes, is second to none. He is a class act on and off the court and is without a doubt the greatest champion this sport has ever seen. Being the gentleman and champion that he is, the crowd are always on his side, no matter who’s on the other side of the net. We know Federer is respected everywhere, but for an arena filled with mostly of your fellow countrymen and countrywomen and for them to root against you in a losing effort, that’s rubbing salt to the wounds of Gilles Simon
It literally is a love-hate relationship between the French crowd and their players. It’s been noted so often, that the players have had their say on it. “They’re very demanding if you’re not winning,” said Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, “The French crowd is special because if you win, you can do what you want, more or less. But if you lose, then anything you do, the slightest details, you’re going to pay for it. That’s how the French are. You have to accept it.” Tsonga, although a popular figure, has been booed as well and did not take it well, “It’s disappointing if people shout against you,” he said. “We are all proud and we have a personality. And it really hurts when this happens.” Carole Bouchard, a writer for L’Equipe said it best, “Roland Garros is not like the Australian Open crowd who are really into sports, know all the rules and are just there to enjoy the competition. Here, they come to see the stars, they come to see a show, and they expect the players to deliver what they want.”
It’s a shame to see a crowd so reliant on winning and entertainment to give the players the respect they deserve. Your countrymen and countrywomen should always be with you, no matter who you are or how you play. This is what makes tennis so unique, the nationalism involved at each event, especially the Grand Slams. However, the French take it to the extremes by booing their own stars. Well Simon, the crowd may be against you, but the game plan is working so, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Keep on being, “Boring, Boring Simon”, it will win you matches, and maybe one day it will win you the fans.