Going to the French Open

My first night in Paris was nice and relaxing.  I was chomping on some Pringles from a random Carrefour Express near the Park Hyatt Vendome (where I was staying), and happened to see some highlights of the French Open on ESPN.  “Wait, that’s going on right now?  As you can tell, I’m a MASSIVE tennis fan.  While I admit I don’t follow it as closely as others, I always enjoy watching the majors throughout the year.  I’ve long been a fan of Roger Federer for the same reason I’m a fan of the San Antonio Spurs: they’re boring, quiet winners.  Federer has a ruthless efficiency, even as he’s gotten older.  The French Open features a clay surface, which has notoriously not bode well for Roger, but he had started reasonably well this tournament, so that was good.

Wait, I was watching highlights of Rafa Nadal from that day’s match, and they usually alternate the big names day to day, so that would mean that Rog…wait, seriously?  Could it be?  COULD I RANDOMLY STUMBLE UPON ROGER FEDERER PLAYING IN THE FRENCH OPEN?!

Spoiler alert

Spoiler alert

How did I get my ticket?
The French Open (or, as the French call it, Roland Garros) has a great official ticket exchange powered by viagogo, so I went to the website and started checking availability.  They were selling tickets by court, so I checked the main court, where Novac Djokovic would be playing.  Great player, but not for whom I was looking.  Bam, there it was, Court Suzanne Lenglen, not only was Roger Federer playing Diego Schwartzman, but Serena Williams would play Garbine Muruguza in the match preceding Federer’s!  This was awesome, until I saw that there were no tickets available.

Sad face.

I somewhat accidentally hit refresh, and, like a miracle before my eyes, a ticket suddenly appeared!  I instantly purchased it (it was around 70-80 euros) and squealed for most of the evening and breakfast the next morning.  It was cloudy and rain-looking enough to make me worry.  There was no way it would rain, would it?

Getting to Roland Garros
I began the surprisingly easy journey to Roland Garros by hopping on Paris’s superb Metro system.  I simply took line M8, connected to M10, and got off at Porte d’Auteuil.  When I walked out of the station, I found myself smack in the middle of: a neighborhood.  If you didn’t know you were in the right place, you’d have no idea except for what you saw at your feet.

Footprint

Footprint

Tennis ball sticker

Tennis ball sticker

The stickers on the ground showed me the way.  After a while I seriously began to think the directions on the ground were a big prank, so I stepped into a sandwich shop to stock up on food and the lady very nicely told me I have absolutely no idea in French (I don’t speak French), but she was smiling and pointing in the direction I was walking, so I assumed that meant tennis.  Soon enough, almost out of nowhere, there it was, the Stade de Roland Garros.  To be honest, it was a bit unimpressive.  It’s surprisingly small (60% the size of the next smallest major venue), but didn’t seem crowded at all.

The ticketing system is pretty complex, to prevent fraud.  You scan your ticket under a barcode reader, which prints out your information on a slip of paper which you then take to an inspector who validates your ticket against your ID/passport and allows you entrance to the grounds.

Stade de Roland Garros

Stade de Roland Garros

I immediately made my way to the souvenir area to see if they sold little things of the red clay.  You bet they did for only YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME euros.  I ambled around some of the smaller courts a much poorer man (but in possession of my clay) before heading to Court Suzanne Lenglen, one of the two premier courts at Roland Garros.

I made my way to my seat in the moments preceding the arrival of Serena Williams, and was surprised at how close my seat was to the action!

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Court Suzanne Lenglen

We were constantly worried about rain, but the clouds held their stores of rain at bay and no matches were interrupted, thankfully (I was leaving the next morning and wouldn’t have been able to return for a makeup match).

As the match drew closer, more and more fans took their seats.  The French Open has some unique cheers, I particularly liked the one where some youth would scream something and the entire crowd would yell “Ole!”.  What I didn’t particularly like were the 9834752498756204 youths who thought this was cool and tried to do the same thing.

Williams v. Muruguza
But enough of my complaining, Serena was arriving!  She drew a really nice ovation (during which I was fumbling with my camera) and started warming up with her opponent, a Spaniard named Garbine Muruguza.

Serena warming up

Serena warming up

I’ll confess: I’m not that much of a Serena Williams fan.  She’s an incredibly powerful player, but for some reason I’ve just never been able to see the grace or art in how she plays.  This was my first ever pro tennis match to attend, and I loved how much faster-paced it seemed compared to when I watch on TV.  Serena jumped out to an early lead.

Serena mid-serve

Serena mid-serve

Muruguza got some games back, and then broke Serena’s serve!

Garbine Muruguza

Garbine Muruguza

Everyone at the Court was expecting Serena to turn it on and get her power game going, but all of a sudden Muruguza won the first set!  Serena certainly wasn’t expecting that to happen, you could see it on her face and in her body language.  Her first game of the second set didn’t go well, lots of unforced errors, and I said to myself that Muruguza had a good chance of winning the match.  Tennis is a very mental game, and you could tell who had the winning mentality that day.

Serena with the return

Serena with the return

It went from being a shocking first set to a blowout as Muruguza took control of the match.

Finally, it was match point.

It boiled down to this: everyone knew Serena would win the match, except for the girl that beat her.

I love Spain, so I was happy for Garbine Muruguza, who has a really fun name to say out loud.  She was incredibly happy and Serena was gracious in defeat (2-6,2-6).

Federer v. Schwartzman
There was a break between matches so I scampered off to the restroom and was sure to be back at my seat, camera ready this time, for Federer’s grand entrance.

My tennis dreams had come true, I was finally able to see Federer live!  I was incredibly thankful for the chance and will never forget it.  Roger and his opponent warmed up briefly and then got to business.

Mid-serve

Mid-serve

Federer was playing Diego Schwartzman, a plucky Argentine who held his own against one of the all-time greats.

Roger with the forehand return

Roger with the forehand return

But, really, this was Federer’s match almost from the first serve.

He made relatively quick work of the young Argentine, winning the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.  He played exactly how I always imagined: precise, on target, and with ruthless efficiency.

Maintaining eye contact

Maintaining eye contact

It was quite simply one of the best sporting days of my life.  It definitely made me more interested in professional tennis and odds are I might just pick up my old trusty racket sometime soon.  An unbeatable experience.  You simply MUST go.

Wrapping up Paris
Those of you who have been coming along during my weeklong “Eurabia” trip know that this was my last evening in Paris.  I took it relatively easy, as spectating tennis is tough work.  I walked past the Louvre and saw everyone’s favorite pyramid.

La Pyramide du Louvre

La Pyramide du Louvre

I was walking in the area, searching for something to eat, and spotted the most wonderful of attractions, Reebok CrossFit Louvre!  I’m an avid CrossFitter, so I stopped in to browse the merch.  The people working the store were very nice and we talked CrossFit for a while.

CrossFit!

CrossFit!

I then dined at a streetside cafe that made one hell of a crepe, and made my way back to the hotel.  On my way, I grabbed what ended up being my favorite picture of Paris.

A Parisian alley at sunset

A Parisian alley at sunset

The moral of this story

If you’re a tennis fan (and even if you’re not), you must go to the French Open!  I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments!

 

Best,
Andy

11 Comments

  1. I went to Roland Garros back in 2007 and absolutely loved the experience. Back then viagogo didn’t have that ticket exchange feature so I had to apply for tickets back in Nov/Dec the year prior. I go to US open every year and I am a big fan of its ticket exchange since you can buy tickets the day before after the schedule of play is released.
    Having gone to all 4 grand slams as a spectator, I felt RG was the most “international” one for a native English speaker. My favorite though is Aussie Open in January. If you have a chance to go, definitely go!!! It’s the least crowded out of all 4. Heck the worst seats in Rod Laver Arena is at the same level as the suites at Arthur Ashe.

    Reply
    • Hi: we just realized we will be in Paris at the time of RG,would be our first time there we hear getting tickets is tough, any other tips for getting tickets? I hear they go on sale March 23rd?

      Reply
      • Hi Claire, I purchased mine on the secondhand market from the official RG site, so I cannot comment on the ease of getting tickets. I purchased mine the night before.

        Reply
  2. Hi Andy,
    Thanks for the interesting read! I was wanted to book tickets to Paris on the second week, I was wondering whether it was ok to just go there and then see about booking tickets online or at the gate, is it possible to get a ticket to the grounds and then see if they’re selling centre court tickets when your there? What would you recommend? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Deano, my understanding is you wouldn’t be able to “upgrade” your ticket once you arrive on the grounds. If you cannot find a seat just yet at either of the Centre Courts, keep looking on the approved second-hand site to see when availability pops up. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  3. Hi there.

    How early did you get there? And what was the dress code?

    Thank you.
    Melanie

    Reply
    • Hi Melanie,

      Once I secured the tickets it didn’t really matter when I got there since my seats were reserved. I wore a sporty polo shirt and jeans and did not feel out of place.

      Reply
  4. Hey Andy, thanks for sharing your RG experience here. It has always been a dream for me to go to the RG, and finally this year, this dream will come true. However, I am looking at tickets in viagogo and other providers, and the cheapest I can find is 360€ for court Philippe Chatrier. Suzanne Lenglen court is going for 250€ + !! I’m really debating about whether I should or not buy it from a scalper. =/

    Reply
    • Hi Rafael! I would not recommend buying from a scalper, based on what I’ve read there are lots of things that could go wrong if you do not go through official channels. I hope ticket prices come down!

      Reply
      • I have heard that now the RG tickets must have the person’s name on it and you must have photo ID to pass in with that ticket. Pretty strict compared to other slams*
        Instead I was thinking about the Rome Masters? Any idea if that’s similar enough to RG (with a closer view)?

        Reply

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