"You know, I would like to surprise my adversary, and sometimes when I feeling it's a good time to do that, I prefer to do that."
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And these are desperate times for 32-year-old Virginie Razzano. In fact, a lot of Razzano's tennis career can be described as desperate times, even though she achieved a respectable singles ranking of No. 16 back in 2009. But she has finished inside the top 50 just twice in what is now a 16-year career.
Nobody would ever mistake Razzano for the second coming of Suzanne Lenglen, but there she was on that prestigious Lenglen court at Roland Garros, and it was packed and throbbing with energy and color. Razzano has a story, and that brings in the fans.
Razzano lost her fiancé and coach to a brain tumor right before Roland Garros in 2011, but bravely played and lost in the first round. The following year, she made history with a spectacular first-round upset of Serena Williams. Razzano's ticket among the French was punched for good. After one set in Lenglen on Monday, her rail ticket back home to Nimes was also almost punched by her Paraguayan opponent.
But Razzano began to find her game in the second set. Her serve was erratic, though, and her double-fault count rose steadily, As it approached double digits, she contemplated alternatives. She finally took the plunge and chucked one in underhand -- only to lose the point.
If Razzano were from, say, Italy, she might have been booed right out of the 16th arrondissement. After all, the underhand serve is considered sneaky, the soul of poor sportsmanship. But a French citizen can do no wrong in the friendly confines of the Stade Roland Garros. Instead of censure, the fans gave Razzano an emotional magic carpet ride into a third set.
Cepede Royg probably would beg to differ, but matches like these are the dissonant magic of Grand Slams. Who really cares about Razzano and that poor Cepede Royg? But right there, right then, the answer was everybody. And right there, right then, Razzano was not just some desperate wild card ranked No. 182, famous for a win she has no hope of ever duplicating, but a vessel carrying the hopes of a nation.
Razzano built a big lead in the third set but lost the plot and was broken with ease to have her lead cut to 4-2. Instead of coming unraveled, she held it together. Razzano broke for 5-2, and when she reached match point in the next game, she missed her first serve -- and tried another underhand second.
Double fault. Yikes.
It was a brazen move, and perhaps unnecessary. It even elicited a few catcalls, boos and whistles. Unlike Michael Chang, who was cramping badly when he served underhand to Ivan Lendl in their 1989 fourth-round encounter on the nearby Philippe Chatrier court, Razzano looked fit enough to serve normally.
"If I do that, it's because I want to do that." Razzano said, when asked through a translator if she considers the serve unsporting. "It's not because I want to undervalue my opponent."
In any event, she got no advantage from the play. She also kept her composure. She won the next two points, and the match, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Sometimes, desperate measures aren't even required. Hard to convince the desperate of that, though.