PARIS — Mon Dieu, look at the theater they've cooked up for the round of 16 on Monday at Roland Garros.
They're going to march out Gael Monfils, the French son of a father from Guadaloupe and a mother from Martinique, the same gangly, limber dazzler who thrilled Paris in a 2008 semifinal with Roger Federer.
And because that's not quite enough, they're going to trot out someone truly exotic.
They're going to bring a markedly fresh character, a banger from Texas called Andy Roddick.
Even as an inarguable bastion of jangling effort, Roddick had always spent the second weeks of French Opens elsewhere, the top American forgotten while Europeans and South Americans molded the clay. He'd gone 4-7 in seven tries since 2001.
"I certainly felt like it was the same press conference for about four or five years in a row," he said, and oddly enough, his listeners quietly agreed.
That the world's No. 6 player has navigated the woods to his first French Open fourth round owes to a phalanx of factors not necessarily limited to a visible sureness of purpose, better food choices, better mobility from a slimmed frame, his coach Larry Stefanki and a friendly draw.
The last item entails three opponents Romain Jouan, Ivo Minar and Marc Gicquel, who'd combined to win two French Open matches before this year and five all told. Still, Roddick's body language simply has brimmed with clarity in plowing through them in the minimum nine sets. They have not broken his serve even once.
"I mean, he didn't give me any points," said the Frenchman Gicquel, ranked No. 46 and felled, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, on an impressionistic painting of a Saturday in Paris.
It's a bit similar, then, to when the former pro Stefanki took over coaching John McEnroe in late 1991, after the two conversed at an exhibition at the Forum. McEnroe thought he couldn't cope with the game's fresh pace and power, and Stefanki bluntly called that a crock. McEnroe had a resurgent 1992, reaching the Australian quarterfinals and, at 33, the Wimbledon semifinals and the U.S. Open fourth round.
Roddick had this puzzle with the French Open, and Stefanki told him the tenets of his hardcourt game could apply here, as perhaps it had for his previous clay successes outside of Paris. "It was a goal of mine to get to the second week of this tournament when we sat in the beginning of the year and laid out kind of what we wanted to do," Roddick said.
Pride mattered. "I think yes, that has something to do with it," he said.
So while he claims he can't win the tournament, and he carefully lays out at least four strategic problems the clay presents for him, he looks thoroughly competent. "Even if it's not his favorite surface, he plays very well," Gicquel said. "But Gael has everything that's needed to be a problem to him."
And then Monfils finished off Jurgen Melzer and said of Roddick, "Top-10 player, strong man. I lost [to him] two times this year, so it's going to be a great revenge for me, play at home against him." And then Monday looked all rowdy with promise.