Roland Garros, also commonly referred to as The French Open, is the second Grand Slam of the tennis calendar year, held during the last week in May and continuing a week into June. It is preceded by the Australian Open in January, and succeeded by Wimbledon just two weeks after the completion of the French, and the final Slam of the year, the US Open in September.
The Roland Garros venue features three large individually ticketed stadiums: Court Phillipe Chatrier which holds 15,059, Court Suzanne Lenglen with a capacity of 10,076, and Court 1 or The Bull Ring, with seating for 3,805.
Of the four Grand Slams, Roland Garros was the third to be established: Wimbledon in 1877, The US Open in 1881, Roland Garros in 1891, and The Australian Open in 1905. Roland Garros began as The French Open because it was initially reserved only for play of those French players. The tournament officially renamed to Roland Garros and was opened up to players of all nationalities in 1925. The tournament bears the name Roland Garros as a memorial to the French aviator who was shot down in aerial combat in October 1918 at age 30.
The current site where the tournament stands today was first built in 1928 to host an important Davis Cup match where the famous French Four Musketeers could handle the large crowds that were expected. Later, only after the previous sites of the tournament outgrew their land, did it relocate to the stadium built for the Davis Cup as it stands at Porte d’Auteuil. The deal set by the Stade Français was that the seven acres of land would be donated on the condition that it would be named after Roland Garros.
In 1928, only five courts stood on this land. Most notably was the small stadium, Centre Court, which would eventually evolve and upgrade to what we see today as Court Phillipe Chatrier.
Not until 1975 did the tournament begin to really see growth. As a very small portion of land was acquired, four additional courts were built, and Centre Court underwent its first renovations as offices were added.
In 1979, the grounds saw its most noticeable expansions as roughly $6.4 million was invested to enlarge the grandstand around Centre Court, construct Court 1 which would hold a capacity of 4,500 at the time, the construction of three covered underground courts, and expanded to fill 10 acres.
In 1984, the venue underwent its second sizable renovation and expansion, with costs estimated around $10.3 million to upgrade player facilities, and build a sound barrier bordering the Avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil. This included the addition of four acres given to the French Federation of Tennis (FFT) by the City of Paris where six new courts would be constructed, and spectator areas around outer courts were improved. By the end of this phase in 1986, the venue consisted of 15 acres and 19 courts.
Since 1991 there have been renovations to keep the tournament at the forefront of major tennis tournaments. During that time period, the venue has expanded to 20 courts on about 21 acres, and has upgraded nearly everything along the way including the additions of Susanne Lenglen Court, the small stadiums, Courts 2 and 3. The cost of modernization to the grounds over that time period has totaled nearly $158 million.
During the 2013 event, the FFT announced its largest continued modernization plans, which will aim to provide solutions to the biggest problems, identified by the FFT, most notably, adding a retractable roof to Court Phillipe Chatrier to ensure continuous play during inclement weather.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food and beverage selection at Roland Garros is very interesting and probably not what most would expect. The most common areas to fill up on food and drinks are the concession stands located all over the grounds, which feature only one similar American stadium type treat, which is the hot dog. Options at the concession stand include: hot dog, dessert, and can of pop for $13.75, ham and cheese sandwich, dessert, and can of pop for $13, and for an additional $7 one can add a salad or an additional hot dog and chips.
Believe it or not, this is the most affordable way to eat while at the tournament. In addition to the typical concession stands, there are a number of other specialty concessions and carts around the grounds with a selection of sandwiches, burgers, salads, wraps, coffee, waffles, and one in particular featuring Haagen Dazs ice cream. Additionally, there is a small self-service grocery called L'Epicerie located on the south esplanade of Court Suzanne Lenglen. My biggest food recommendation is the macaron variety pack, pricey, but very tasty!
For the more upscale dining experience at Roland Garros, be sure to visit La Brasserie overlooking outer court number 11 and near Gate W. This Mediterranean themed area features three different distinct experiences. The first part is the bar and lounge called The Macarons & Cocktails Bar which is the only public spot inside the grounds where alcohol can be purchased. While this may sound blasphemous as a spots traveler, it's my recommendation to stay away from the beer offered and instead try some of the wine available; after all, it is France! Drinks are definitely pricey and will range from $12-$20.
The next part of this area is Le Buffet, but don't be fooled, this is no typical American buffet, everything is a la carte! If you're extra hungry and still want to try the buffet, be sure to load up on the rolls as they're pretty cheap and still filling. If nothing is found appealing in the buffet area either go back the next day as the menu changes daily, or head just next door to the last part of La Brasserie.
This part is a sit down gourmet restaurant with waiters and a menu. Obviously, this is the most expensive area on the grounds to eat, but is also the nicest.
Overall, the food and beverage selection is a bit disappointing when compared to other events of this magnitude.
One of the things that Roland Garros does exceptionally well is creating a wonderful atmosphere. Upon entering the gates, one will consistently be reminded of where they are by the Roland Garros logos and vibrant color scheme apparent all over the grounds and buildings. Retail vendors are out in the walkways yelling and singing as boisterous Parisians.
Each day there are different types of entertainment typically found near the Place des Mousquetaires ranging from local musical acts to street performers. In general, the Place des Mousquetaires is certainly a must visit area inside the grounds at the tournament. In addition to being a great place to soak up some of the history of the tournament and the great players of French past, it's also a wonderful area for fans that are interested in watching matches on the video board in which their ticket may not allow them to enjoy firsthand. Similarly to the video boards on the façade of Court Suzanne Lenglen, large groups of people will congregate to gaze at exciting matches, particularly when a French player is involved.
Scoreboards, ad displays, and PA announcers inside and around the grounds are all done beautifully and without obstruction. When looking at the seating, while the legroom and absence of cup holders is noticeable to American sports fans, this is not an uncommon practice in European sports or tennis events in general.
There's a wonderful little bar and restaurant district just a safe ten minute walk from Gate W. Once exiting the tournament grounds via Gate W, take a right heading East on the Avenue de la Porte d'Auteuil following the crowds which will typically head that direction for post-match indulgences, or for the Metro station. The desired area is called the Place de la Porte d'Auteuil where there are a number of bars and restaurants of all kinds.
TSE is an interesting trendy and upscale French take on traditional Thai food. The cuisine is excellent, but is very pricey for small portions. This is a great choice when you're ready to relax after a long day at the tournament and you're looking for a light meal.
If a traditional French experience is desired, the Le Beaujolais d'Auteuil is highly recommended. Be sure to request a seat on the patio if it's a nice evening for some of the best people watching in the world.
While these are my top two recommendations, there are a dozen great choices within the Place de la Porte d'Auteuil. As with any restaurant you experience during your stay in Paris, it is recommended that you request an English version of the menu as most restaurants do keep these on hand. Lastly, don't be surprised to really shell out the money for dining experiences, especially if you want a drink or two with your meal, as that's really what gouges you.
When looking at lodging options, keep in mind that Parisian hotel rooms are very small and typically pretty expensive. If you are content with going that route, there are tons of options all over Paris with convenient access to the tournament from all over the city. The option that I strongly recommend for the more adventurous traveler is to rent an apartment or house depending on the number of travelers accompanying you. In almost every case you'll be able to save a substantial amount of money and get more space by renting as opposed to staying in a hotel. A great resource to keep in mind is a website called Home Away.
Paris has some of the most well-known tourist attractions in the world, but there is a ton to see. Be sure to leave a few days to see the sights outside of days planned at the tournament. Attractions that I absolutely recommend include: visiting the Eiffel Tower and views from the Trocadero, visiting the Arc de Triomphe and walking the shops along the Champs de Elysee leading to it, visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral, riding a boat tour down the Seine River, visiting the Sacre Coeur Cathedral and walking through the accompanying artisan square, visiting the Louvre and nearby gardens, and countless other museums, gardens, shops, and beautiful architecture.
Tennis fans are some of the best fans in the world. Although there are different types of tennis fans, all appreciate and respect the basic rules of being present at live tennis matches. Each sport has times where the crowd is expected to get especially loud or especially quiet. Tennis is unique in that most of the time the crowd is expected to be silent, however, there are exceptions to this rule when there has been a great point played or when there is a native player playing in front of their home crowd. The French crowds take this instance to a much higher level than at most other events.
While the US Open crowds have done their best to improve in this aspect in support of their native players, it's nothing in comparison to the French supporters. While I have a tough time understanding French, there is one distinct word that you're forced to learn no matter what language you speak-"Allez!" The French fans have turned a simple word with an English translation of "Go Ahead," into an interjection at any stop in play to will on a player.
This phenomenon has gotten so out of hand that it's common that the player on the opposing side of the chants will go on to complain about the French fans' enthusiasm in post-match press conferences. It's also common that while watching matches on TV that one will hear the chants in the background.
While the access getting to the tournament itself may sound daunting at first, especially for those who may not be very familiar with the French language, don't stress too much, we are here to help.
First off, the best airport option when flying into Paris is Charles de Gaulle. The airport is a bit dated and confusing, but it's important that you follow the signs very carefully depending on your next mode of transport. The most inexpensive mode of transport from the airport is by far the Metro system (the underground/above ground subway/train system). If traveling by the Metro, proceed to the airport tram, which will transport you to the RER B line, which is the direct train into the heart of Paris. The one-way ticket into the city will cost approximately $12.
From there you will transfer trains depending on where exactly you're headed from the airport. Keep in mind that when purchasing train tickets with an American credit card, you will need to skip the automatic ticket machines and proceed to the ticket window where a representative will assist you (they speak English).
If heading to the tournament directly you will exit the RER B train at the St Michel Notre Dame stop, transfer by foot to the Cluny La Sorbonne, and ride line 10 to the Porte d'Auteuil stop. Once above ground it will be easy to follow the crowds or Official Roland Garros logoed footprints on the sidewalks to the front gates. It is important to consult and print the Paris Metro Maps before heading the tournament.
If you're interested in other modes of transport to and from the tournament, below is the pertinent info:
Once inside the tournament grounds, you will surely feel right at home. Despite there being large crowds that will inevitably form between big matches in the walkways and restrooms, the walkways are large and spacious, and restrooms are clean.
For stadium accessibility, handicap guide, first aid, emergency, boutiques, and restaurants, consult the Around the Grounds.
One of the many great things about Roland Garros that isn't often found is the cloakroom that is in three different locations around the outside of the venue. The cloakrooms are storage areas that will accept the items that you didn't mean to bring that aren't allowed in. The cloakroom is willing to accept bags as large as an airplane carry on.
One last thing to keep in mind about the access to the tournament is the e-ticket system that the tournament utilizes. In an effort to cut down on the amount of black market ticket sales, tickets are reserved using a name at the time of purchase. While the tickets can be transferred to different people in advance, this is a very secure ticketing system.
The biggest drawback is the conversion system that takes place at the gate. Each e-ticket needs to be confirmed by the tournament staff by scanning the printed e-ticket, verifying ownership by checking the registered name against your passport (a passport or laminated copy is the only accepted form of ID), and then converting the e-ticket to the entry pass, which is then printed on the spot before entering. Clearly, this process slows the entry procedure, so it's recommended that you plan an extra 15-30 minutes when traveling to the tournament grounds, and absolutely, do not forget your passport or laminated copy.
Overall, the return on investment at Roland Garros is good, but not great. When taking into consideration ticket prices, concessions, and souvenirs against the experience, each category is slightly on the expensive side. It's to be expected that an international event such as this would be slightly overpriced, but that doesn't change the fact that it isn't quite worth the total expense.
Individual tickets for the 2013 event ranged from $30 to $200 during the two-week period. As the tournament progresses into the later rounds the tickets obviously increase in price. Additionally, separate tickets are sold for each of the three match courts (Court Phillipe Chatrier, Court Suzanne Lenglen, and Court 1), as well as general admission grounds passes, also known as annexes, which only allow access into the grounds and first come first serve seating for courts 2 through 18.
Court Phillipe Chatrier gets the highest ranked players, followed by Court Suzanne Lenglen, followed by Court 1, thus making these the most expensive ticket choices. These are my recommendations over the grounds passes due to the large number of grounds passes sold and the limited space available. Please note that the prices listed above are face value and are typically only purchased for those prices well in advance and through the Official Roland Garros Ticket Distribution.
If you are planning your trip to Roland Garros a little later and the opportunity to buy tickets through the tournament directly has passed, I recommend getting tickets through Vivid Seats.
Roland Garros fully deserves full marks when it comes to extras as the tournament goes above and beyond to satisfy international tennis fans. Let's start with the RG lab featuring free access to the Babolab, where the Official Stringers are located, a special History of Lacoste exhibit, and games and activities for kids. Just as the city of Paris has unbelievable architecture, the tournament has found a way to stay up to date while keeping its beautiful historical feel.
Top 5 things to make sure you do while at The French Open:
-Visit the Place des Mousquetaires to see the statues,
-Watch a match in as many outer courts as possible for different experiences and atmospheres,
-Get drinks and a meal at La Brasserie above court 11,
-Watch a match on the big video boards just outside of Court Suzanne Lenglen,
-Shop and visit the boutiques and exhibits, especially the RG Lab.
Things to keep in mind when attending The French Open:
-Pack a small bag to take into the tournament to store your extra long sleeves, long pants, and small retractable umbrella since the weather varies (small bags are allowed in the tournament after a brief inspection, of course),
-Bring a camera and autograph pen (necessities when your favorite player is on the practice courts).
Overall, Roland Garros is a pricey endeavor. However, for a sports fan, it's certainly one of the best experiences in the world. Planning this trip is not to be taken lightly as it can be a little tricky with the language barrier and the hiccups along the way, but if you take some of our recommendations, you'll be well on your way to a wonderful trip.
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