After booking a short trip to Paris, I managed to convince my girlfriend that we should also book a tour of Roland Garros, home of the French Open. The tour was booked for the penultimate day of the holiday, starting in the late morning whilst also containing a walk around the museum. I had never been to another Grand Slam venue other than Wimbledon so I was looking forward to being able to compare the two.
We travelled by the Metro and after brief confusion, managed to make our way to Roland Garros. On the outside it appeared to be quite small but we were obviously restricted to a small section of the grounds at this stage. After being welcomed into the grounds, we paid for our tour and museum tickets before going down a flight of stairs towards the museum.
The first thing we saw was a wall full of small pictures of all the past winners from both singles draw which we both thought was quite a cool addition. To the side of it was a large cabinet full of tennis rackets, dating back from years ago right up until this present day. Then we entered my personal favourite part of the museum which contained the trophies, equipment and other pieces of memorabilia from throughout the year. The trophies stood out the most, glistening from the lights on the ceiling.
The men’s singles trophy is stunning and was definitely my preferred trophy out of all present. Along with this trophy was the women’s singles trophy and various doubles event’s trophies. Opposite these was a bronze medal from the Sydney Olympic games played back in 2000 which was won by Arnaud Di Pasquale, along with the Davis and Fed Cups, which were equally as impressive as the trophies Roland Garros had to offer.
The rest of the small room was filled with various player outfits from players participating at the French Open over the years. The players who had dedicated their kit were Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi and Li Na, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga giving a used trainer to the museum. Their was also was a stand showing how rackets have developed over the years which was quite fascinating seeing what various former players had to perform with.
We then advanced to the small library located within the building which contained all sort of tennis related books, new and old. As a big Federer fan, the book that stood out for me was the 2009 review, which was of course the year Federer completed his career Grand-Slam by finally winning the biggest tournament on clay. The library also featured a small model of what Roland Garros was going to look like in 2018 after all the development was due to be completed. If it looks anything like the model then fans are in for a treat, with advanced relaxation areas, new courts and a roof placed on Phillipe Chatrier all planned.
The final part of the museum was a history area which explained who Roland Garros exactly was and detailed famous French Players who had served their country throughout the war.
As my Girlfriend is a keen artist herself, she was particularly pleased to see a vast array of sculptures, posters and pictures located at around the museum. The tournament posters were impressive with each year receiving a different type of theme based on the winning artist’s choice. With the time getting closer to 11am, we advanced back up towards the reception, wondering whether we would be the only ones on the tour with the museum virtually empty. As soon as we reached reception however all these worries had vanished with a small group of people already waiting for the tour to begin. The tour started right outside Phillipe Chatrier and we immediately stopped at the 4 musketeer square, which featured a statue of each French Davis Cup winner and a statue of the trophy they won many moons ago.
We stopped for a brief history of the four and then were allowed to take pictures briefly before we set off again. We also learnt where the brand Lacoste had come from and why the logo was a crocodile, due to Rene Lacoste being nicknamed the Crocodile due toa few different reasons. We then advanced towards Suzanne Lenglen, the second court at the venue. Outside was a statue of Suzanne Lenglen herself, wearing the clothes she wore whilst playing. To everyone’s delight we entered the court and stopped for photos and a brief history of the court.
The court appeared to be a very open one but one that held an impressive view no matter where you were on it. Even at the top the view was delightful and I tried to start imagining what it would be like with a full capacity and players playing on the court. The only negative was that there was limited shade area and sitting on the court all day would require alot of sun cream. A nice court nonetheless.
We headed outside and towards the entrance for journalists and the media which was located next to Court Philippe Chatrier. After entering the building we were taken into the main press conference room which was exclusively used for the top 10 players in each singles draws. The tour leader mentioned how players are fined if they do not attend an arranged press conference and used an example of when Andre Agassi was fined £25,000 back in 2001 after failing to show up. We were each allowed to sit in the seat reserved for the player being interviewed and after debating whether I should go up myself, I sat in the chair and posed for a photo.
The room wasn’t the biggest but held seats for around 90 people to sit in the press conferences. After leaving we headed up to Phillipe Chatrier and were even allowed to take a picture through the windowed door where the players enter the court. Just before this was a small flight of steps which led towards the locker rooms.
On the walls either side of these steps were a variety of different signatures from players over the years who had the privilege to play on the main court at Roland Garros. The tour guide described how each player who had just played on Phillipe Chatrier are asked to give their signature on either wall, which would later be marked with a photo and name of who the signature belongs too. Obviously the top, top players had many signatures on the walls and I spotted at least three of Federer’s ranging between many years.
We were then shown towards the locker rooms and we entered the men’s version to look around. Inside was a counter which dealt with the players needs, along with over 100 lockers and a lounging area. We were told some interesting facts about certain players with superstitions. Every year Federer chooses the locker of what year the tournament is in, e.g. Locker 14 this year for 2014.
Nadal also keeps the locker 159 every year, which was the locker that he was given when he first won the tournament. The top 10 players in the draw also get first choice of the lockers before anyone else, showing the privileges you get for being one of the best in the sport. We then exited the locker room and went towards the player’s entrance where they have all the needs in the world that they may need during the tournament, such as Hotel bookings and prize money collections. Next to this was another wall with a list of all the past champions on it, along with the year they had won in. Nadal’s photo showed him collecting his first title when he was 17, it’s actually quite funny as shown in the photo.
The final part of the tour was the main treat, with the tour guide leading us out onto Phillipe Chatrier, in the player’s box. The stadium didn’t feel that big compared to what it looked like on the television, but I’m sure it would look huge if it was full of spectators. The net was still up and even featured alongside the umpire’s chair, which must have been put up for tours. After several photos the tour had ended and we exited back towards the metro station after an informative tour.
Overall I loved the tour and I advise all tennis lovers to book one as you find out some interesting facts as well as going behind the scenes of the grounds. Obviously the grounds were empty so I comparing it to Wimbledon would be harsh but the whole place did seem a little smaller and lacked any real area to sit in. Their renovation plans include putting more seating areas that will help to improve fans’ days out. I’m hoping to attend a day at the 2015 Roland Garros event, and after this tour, I really can’t wait for it.
Thanks for taking the time to read my review of my Roland Garros tour, I hoped you enjoyed it. To see any more photos from my tour or if you have any questions or queries on this blog, or other blogs, either contact me on my twitter handle – @Tennis17MAD or via email at – email@example.com