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Sunday, November 4, 2012

[Roland Garros] Visiting the glorious French Open venue - Centre court, Press centre & Players' locker room

As a tennis fanatic, I love watching the four Grand Slam tournaments, nine 1000 Masters tournaments, 500 series as well as most of 250 series.  
And, of course, I do love watching matches on the courts.
We drove down to Cincinnati to see Western & Southern Financial Group 1000 Masters a couple of years ago when we did't go either to Toronto or Montreal to see Rogers Cup, another 1000 Masters event, where we go every year.
We also went to New York a few times to watch US Open matches at Flushing Meadow. US Open is the only grand slam tournament we've been so far, though.

We hope to go into the ground of the other two grand slam tournaments held in the northern hemisphere, during the tournaments, someday.

We've been dreaming of sitting at Philippe Chatrier, the French Open centre court. 

Or Suzanne Lenglen court, the second biggest court of Roland Garros.

However, it will not happen in a near future as the French Open is held for two weeks from the last Monday of May, which makes impossible for a family with two school kids to attend. :( 

Well, as I don't think the French Open will adjust their schedule to ours, we we'd better find a way to go to see the event.

(Suzanne Lenglen ahead of us, the second biggest court of Roland Garros)

BUT! This time when we stayed in Paris in August, we had a guided tour at Roland Garros, the venue of the fameuse French Open. At  this tour, we could enter and see the places like the press centre and the players' locker room, where we wouldn't have been able to access during the French Open.

If you are a tennis fan, and want to see Roland Garros("RG") without crowd and the parts of RG not open to  the general public, I strongly recommend this guided tour run by la Fédération Française de Tennis ("French tennis federation" in English).
You can get the information at the website of the Fédération Française de Tennis:

Can you believe that the only way to book a guided tour (either English or French) is to call Roland Garros?

And that is exactly what I did. I called in July, from Ottawa, to book four spots at a guided tour in August.
Actually, you could email them to make an appointment, which I got to  know only now. :(

We took the métro (subway) and got off at Porte d'Auteuil station.

It took less than ten minutes from the station to the Stade Roland Garros. 

When you enter the complex, you will see this road sign that shows the distances to the three other Grand Slam venues. I liked this sign very much.

The  complex contains twenty courts, including three large-capacity stadiums; Les Jardins de Roland-Garros, a large restaurant and bar complex; Le Village, the press and VIP area, France's National Training Centre and the Tenniseum, a bilingual museum of the history of tennis.

People gather in front of the Roland Garros Museum, to meet the guide.

but the official guided tour starts at La place des Mousquetaires("The place of the Musketeers" in English).

I think our tour group was about 20 people.  

La place des Mousquetaires is constructed in 1989, with the installation of bronze statues of René Lacoste, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Jacques Brugnon (Four Musketeers of French tennis) created by the Italian sculptor Vito Tongiani. The "Four Musketeers" is the nickname of the French tennis team who won the Davis Cup six times in 1920-1930.

We entered the Philippe Chatrier stadium, to see the press centre first.

Along the left wall of the main floor, there were plate/photos of the champions of the French Open.

Rafa has won a record-breaking 7th French Open this year. However, the plate was not updated for the year 2012. It will be updated before the 2013 French Open.

And of course, this is my favorite plate~!
As a die-hard Roger Federer fan, I still remember the joy on the day of 2009 French Open final. :)
I really hope I can see him lifting another Coupe des Mousquetaires (the nickname of the French Open trophy). Maybe 2013 will be the year! ;) We will see.

Then we went to see the Men's locker room. Well, surprisingly there were no frills in the locker room.
The top players can choose their own lockers. 

Locker #159 has been chosen by Rafael Nadal every year.

Federer used the locker #12 this year, #11 in 2011, #10 in 2010, and #09 in 2009, and so on.

The players' lounge was simple, but I heard that it is the favorite place of the players to spend time when they don't have a match.

Remi at the player's lounge.

Press centre was located at the top floor of Philippe Chatrier so that the journalists can monitor the actions of the main court. 

And there were televisions to show the matches of the all the courts.

Then we went to see the interview rooms.

The players are required to attend the press interview after each match.
If a player fails to show up, s/he will be fined for about $20,000.
The largest press room is assigned to the top players.

You can try the player(interviewee)'s seat.

When Remi was at the seat, somebody asked him a question, "what do you think of your play today?"

LOL. It must be the most frequent question a player would be asked, at least after a match.

The 2012 draws were still fresh. 

It must be staying there as it is until the 2013 RG draw ceremony, I guess.

This was the path the players go though to get to the centre court. 

There were many famous autographs on the wall. 

A few players signed autographs more than once.

About to enter the centre court!

Before entering the centre court, we were specifically requested not to step on the court which is used only two weeks a year. 

I'd love to be at Philippe Chatrier. Compared to the Arthur Ashe stadium of the Flushing Meadow, the main court is so much smaller. 
I love smaller courts where you can see the matches and players so much better.
Yes. I am determined to go to see a match at Philippe Chatrier someday.

Remi touched the clay of the centre court with a finger tip. Hope it didn't give any trouble to the guide.

You can add a ticket for the Tenniseum or the Musée de Roland-Garros, on top of the guided tour, as a package.

Museum visit is unguided tour. 

At the entrance, there are photo canvases of the former champions.

At the Tenniseum you will be able to trace the evolution of tennis. 

There were lots of interesting tennis objects, including racquets over a century 

and also the red clay of the stadium.

I liked the posters of French Open over the years, each of which  emphasized a distinctive individuality.

2004 Poster (Remi's birth year ;))

2006 poster (Pablo's birth year ;))

There was a section where you could learn about Roland Garros, a pioneer aviator (completed the first solo flight across the Mediterranean Sea), engineer (inventor of the first forward-firing aircraft machine gun), and World War I hero (the first pilot to shoot down five enemy aircraft), after whom the stadium is named.

Pablo coming out of the Tenniseum.

Pablo didn't forget to sign the visitors book.

For the last, but not least, order of the visit, we went to the boutique de Roland Garros.

We met a veteran stringer of the French Open. He has been working as a stringer at the French Open more than 20 years. He has strung the racquets of all the famous players.
It was great to talk to him and get to know some of great off-court stories.
A number of players are assigned to a stringer and that stringer will string the players' racquets throughout the  tournament.
I asked him if he had been in charge of both Federer and Nadal's racquets at the same time.
According to him, it's not possible for a stringer to have multiple top players who are likely to stay until the second week of the tournament, i.e. beyond the round of 16. It makes a total sense.
Oh, if you are a Novak Djokovic fan, you might want to know that Djokovic has his own stringer whom he travels along.

We bought a few small items, Remi got a new Babolat racquet with RG mark.

We were so glad to have had the tour of the venue of the French Open.

If you are a tennis fan,
this is the MUST tour to take!
I am 120% sure that you will love it!

You can see more posts about my trip to France if you click the links below:

1) [Auberge Ravoux] Van Gogh's last residence in Auvers-sur-Oise
2) [Basilique Saint-Denis] French Royal Necropolis - The burial place of the French Kings
3) [2012 Maffliers] Kids grow fast... and we age faster...?
4) [Chateau de Chantilly] Le musée Condé - The generosity of a royal prince
5) [Balade gourmande] Brittany by sail: Unforgettable day on a traditional boat in Cancale
6) [Must eat foods in France] You must try these ten inexpensive food in France
7) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris] The most visited edifices in Europe - Part I
8) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris] Notre Dame de Paris - Part II
9) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris Part III] Musee de Louvre or simply Louvre
10) [Opera Garnier] The symbol of Elegance at the centre of Paris
11) [Mont Saint-Michel] Picturesque UNESCO Hertiage site in Normandy
12) [Place des Vosges] A Perfect Symmetrical Square in Paris

Roland Garros


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