Carlos Alcaraz, the most exciting young dude in tennis, pulled off a heroic comeback at the French Open on Wednesday, according to sources close to the situation, and also sources far from the situation but not relying on abysmal technology. Making just his second appearance in the main draw at Roland Garros, the 19-year-old was already a favorite to win it. He was also not expected to stumble this early in his campaign.
In a second-round matchup against veteran countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Alcaraz took control for the first set and a half, then unraveled. Playing genuinely crummy tennis with rare flashes of brilliance, he found himself down two sets to one and fending off match point. Benefitting from some heartbreaking chokage on Ramos-Vinolas’s part, Alcaraz managed to survive a long deuce game and steal the fourth set in a tiebreak.
What happened next is the stuff of legend, in that I never saw it firsthand and will have to hear stories about it from people who were there—or people who have the fortune of living elsewhere, or people who (can publicly say that they) use illegal streaming sites. Like most law-abiding chumps in America, my access to French Open is fully gated by Tennis Channel. Today its app refused to stream or stay open for longer than a few seconds at a time, on all of the three devices I was desperately juggling, while a prodigy made the kind of shots that will enter his career reel, and pulled off the type of ugly win that defines champions.
Roland Garros has become my least favorite Slam through no fault of its own. While all previous complaints about the Tennis Channel were editorial, these are purely technical. In general, I’ve had a roughly 50 percent hit rate on whether the app will crash when I open up a stream, but in many of those cases, there’s another broadcast available for the same event, so I can move over to one of the other services I pay for to keep up with a sport hostile to its audience. I had no such luck this time, and I was definitely not alone in my plight. The rights are exclusive. Charging over $100 for this service—that’s how much Tennis Channel Plus costs—during one of the most important tournaments of the year, and failing to produce a usable product, is extortion.
Anyway, Alcaraz went down an early break in the fifth and still managed to recover. Here’s the kind of corner-to-corner speed I missed while I was frantically refreshing several streams:
And here he is retrieving three overheads, while I listened, with deep resignation, to the radio stream endorsed by my coworker Maitreyi Anantharaman:
Would’ve been nice to see that!