Paris Blog: Hanging out at the French Open

IMG_1227

Despite my sunburns – luck was definitely on our side Monday.  First, we have some good friends that have been in town the last few days and gave us tickets to go check out the French Open.  Then, it got sunny (a rarity here).  And finally, we got to see not one, but two matches with US women in them – plus one with a Canadian (Historical reminder: I’m American, The Girl is Canadian).  Oh, and they had Hot Dogs and Häagen-Dazs.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

First up – getting in.

We took the metro (subway) directly from our place to the grounds.  16 stops later (but only 20 minutes), we arrived with the masses in the nearby subway station:

P1110130

From there it was about 10 minute walk to the grounds.  They had little tennis ball stickers on the ground, but we just followed everyone else.

P1110134

Somewhat like any other sporting event there were street vendors hawking all sorts of things.  Along with various promotional/marketing efforts:

P1110131

P1110132

And while there were also scalpers, picking up scalped tickets for the French Open would have been a “Really Poor Idea”.  See, they take the ticket resale thing really seriously here.  I’m reasonably certain it’d be far easier to get into the country illegally than it would be to use resold tickets.

P1110136

First up, the person buying the tickets has to transfer them online to you.  But, they have to do that at least 24 hours in advance of the date of the ticket.  Then we had to print them out before hand (no will call) – which was a PDF file sent to us.  Once we arrived we queued up to then go to the ticket office and exchange our must-have paper vouchers for new paper (printed on regular 8×11” paper) tickets with barcodes.  These new tickets had our actual names on them.  Then (no, we’re not done), we scanned the barcode into a turn-style machine and it printed out yet another ticket – one with more fancy graphics and holograms than Epcot Center (on back of ticket) – this one also having our name on it.

P1110138

We then took this final fancy ticket and had it manually checked by an attendant against our government issued ID.

Oh – and in case you’re curious, you have to have your ticket to exit too (even though once you exit you can’t return).  Yikes!

Once we got past the security (which did only take a couple minutes), we were in the land of tennis courts.

P1110141

A lot of them actually – about 17 or 18 in total, plus some additional practice courts.

Not knowing much of anything about tennis (I hear it’s vaguely related to beer pong), I didn’t realize going into it that there were so many matches at once.  I figured that we’d all be in one giant stadium.  That’s not the case however.

Instead, there are essentially two categories of tickets: Those with grounds passes (like ours, about 25€/$35US), and those with specific seats in one of the three big stadiums.  In our case, we could wander freely with our grounds passes to everywhere except the stadium (which required additional/separate tickets).

P1110146

This worked out rather well in that we spent over 8 hours just wandering from court to court watching matches.  For example, we started off watching a match between the Canadian Jesse Levine (interestingly, just after this photo was taken they trimmed that errant branch).

P1110148

In order to get in we just lined up for a couple minutes and then every few minutes when people left, they’d let people in.  It was quick and efficient.

P1110145

And as the match progressed, we’d eventually migrate to better seats within each court – ultimately, along the front row:

P1110153

P1110161

Aside from getting sunburned due to lack of shade – this worked well.

The nice part about all these courts is that they were fairly small – and thus you had a great view.  Take for example another match between two Spanish players (interestingly, it had stated the night before, but after 3 hours they ran out of light – no lights here – and had to resume on Monday).  In this match when they came in, I was able to clearly see (and photograph) him taking 5-hour energy.  No way you’d be able to see the exact drink from 58 rows up in a stadium.

P1110172

Perhaps the most impressive thing to me (aside from the games) was the kids.  They used local kids (likely from various tennis organizations) to handle all the ball retrieval and player hospitality tasks during the game.

P1110175

P1110185

P1110179

P1110195

I was absolutely blown away by how responsible, focused and sharp the kids were – despite being as young as probably 10 years old.  In 8 hours of watching tennis (including seeing the same kids at the start and beginning) there was no messing around, no behavioral issues, or anything.  They were sorta like mini-robots (in a good way).  Blown away.  I even watched one that was again, probably 10 years old, have the foresight to realize that as he was in the track-start position to go retrieve a ball that he might be in the way of a long-lens camera for an AP reporter (he wasn’t), but he still glanced over and then backed up to ensure the guy had a shot if the player moved further right (same circumstances below in photo, except the boy had already run across and now the girl was in the track start position).

IMG_1221

We caught a number of matches, and as noted – also got to see some up and coming players – including Sloane Stevenson from the US.  We watched her mostly dominate the Italian player she was playing.  We snagged seats right behind the team seats – and they pointed out her Mom up in the stands.  It was kinda fun watching the dynamic between the two with little smirks or ‘doh!’ expressions traded that you’d likely only get from a 19-year old to her parents.

P1110252

P1110260

And here’s a few other photos of matches and practice sessions along the way:

IMG_1208

IMG_1209

P1110223

P1110232

P1110188

After each match completed, the winner was hand-written on the large chalk-board.  It’s pretty impressive to see how many players started (women on right, men on left):

P1110205

P1110207

P1110215

As I alluded to in the beginning – we were both happy that they had both hot dogs and ice cream from Häagen-Dazs (though, I’m typically more of a Ben and Jerry’s guy).  Like any large scale sporting event – the prices for everything were absurdly high on the food side. On the souvenir front – the prices were even higher! 45€ for a hat!  The large tennis balls were popular for getting autographs.

IMG_1231

P1110269

P1110270

P1110271

On the bright side, we were able to go into this photo booth and get a handful of little photos for free:

IMG_1233

Which, now have joined our Paris Marathon photo booth photo on the fridge:

IMG_1247

With that, we finished up the day just after 7PM and headed on home.  A huge thanks to our friends for giving us the tickets for the day (a sunny day – while they hit in the rain today).

And thanks for reading!

12 Comments

  1. Cool to see the event like this! Nice report again from you both!

    Reply
  2. Amedeo

    Yesterday I thought "If I were Ray, I would go to Roland Garros"...and so it is!

    I'm a club tennis player (prior to a runner) and RG is a legendary tennis tournament (maybe the second one, after Wimbledon).

    If I were you, I would satisfy a dream of mine

    ....game, set and match! ;-)

    Reply
  3. Doug

    There was a UK program on the selection process for Wimbledon. In summary, very intense! Jokers probably don't get through the application stage.

    Reply
    • Amedeo replied

      I know for Wimbledon you can have ticket only by public Ballot or byt the queue.

      link to wimbledon.com

      Reply
    • Doug replied

      Apologies for the confusion, i was refering to the selection process for ball girls/boys and Ray's reference to their discipline

      Reply
  4. Franck-Xavier

    A great experience, like Wimbledon or the US Open. Glad you could experience this in my homeland, esp under the sun!

    Reply
  5. All of this is GREAT---however I dig the dude in the newspaper hat! ;)
    Sarah
    http://www.thinfluenced.com

    Reply
  6. Amedeo

    Ray,
    here's how ball boy works out

    link to it.eurosport.yahoo.com

    Reply
  7. Stephane

    The kids are between 12-16 yo, they are member of the french tennis federation. There are selections across France, and there are about 2500 candidates for about 250 positions for Roland Garros. During a game they are always evaluated closely by supervisors and if they make mistakes they go down one court, if they are good, they go up, so doing good is their only chance to end up being on the central courts and thus brush shoulders with the top tennis players.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Very cool, thanks for that!

      Reply
  8. Steven

    You would have seen my favourite player (Kei Nishikori) beat Jesse Levine. A day at grand slam tennis event is The Best sports entertainment available, I reckon. I'm always blown away by the atmosphere and sheer variety of matches and players one can see any given day. And then there's the practice courts, where you can get up close to the World's best players going through their routines. But if you're worried about sunburn best not come out for the Australian Open ;-)

    Reply
  9. Christine

    Came across your blog while looking up info on the French Open. We are going to Paris this year for our first anniversary and for my husband's birthday I got us general admission tickets during the first week of the tourney - this post was very insightful on what to expect! My husband is the tennis nerd, and he's been to the US Open but I've never been, nor do I know too much about tennis. Glad to see that it'll be a fun time despite that.

    Reply

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>