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?!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Muruguza got some games back, and then broke Serena’s serve!
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.
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.
Federer was playing Diego Schwartzman, a plucky Argentine who held his own against one of the all-time greats.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!