The Beginner’s Guide to the French Open

The 2017 French Open kicked off yesterday, and with it the City of Love is glowing with excitement for the sport of tennis. The second of four annual Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open (or Roland Garros, as the French call it) is the smallest tournament in this international league, and yet is widely considered the most grueling. This may come as a surprise to first-time French Open spectators, especially given the romantic Parisian background. Watching Roland Garros from your TV is one thing; witnessing the tournament first hand and feeling the excitement in Paris is another entirely. If the French Open isn’t already on your Bucket List, here is everything you need to know about travelling to see this intimate and exciting tournament. This French Open guide will introduce you to all of the basics of this two-week long event.

 

The French Open Location & History

2017 marks the 126th birthday of the tennis tournament and the 89th birthday of its stadium, the Stade Roland-Garros. This stadium was constructed in 1928 and named in honor of a famed WWI pilot. Garros was not only the first man to successfully fly a plane across the Mediterranean, but he was also well known for contribution during the war. His nickname, “the Ace,” originated after he shot down five enemy planes in a row. Garros was a a tennis fan himself, and so the stadium is part of his memory.

French Open History

A statue of Roland Garros, legendary fighter pilot and tennis enthusiast. Source.

Located in the southern part of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris’s 16th arrondissement, the Stade Roland-Garros is comprised of 20 courts on 21 acres, the largest of which seats 15,000 spectators. Despite this sprawling size, the tournament feels incredibly intimate. The bleachers are stacked steeply, giving everyone a great view and lending the event a very close-knit vibe. Another distinctive feature of this stadium and tournament are its iconic red clay courts.

French Open Location

Stade Roland-Garros, as seen from above during the 2013 French Open. Source.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament to be played on clay, something that makes the aesthetic and the physics of the matches incredibly unique. Where Wimbledon is played on grass and the U.S. and Australian opens are played on hard courts, the relatively soft and absorbent clay of the French Open slows the ball down. That means that players have to run faster and hit harder, something that has made this tournament notoriously difficult. By the end of a match, players have a layer of red dust on them, a look that highlights the intensity of the game play.

 

 

L’esprit de Roland-Garros: French Open Traditions

It’s not just the terracotta courts that distinguish the French Open from the other Grand Slam tournaments. There is a lot of symbolism packed into this event, something that its host city of Paris is incredibly proud of.

French Open regulars beam with pride when speaking about the humble brooms used to sweep the dust from the courts, something conspicuously absent from the meticulous grass courts of Wimbledon. At Roland-Garros court sweepers are as iconic as the ball boys.

As is only natural in Paris, crepes are plentiful at Roland-Garros. The smell of Nutella floats through the air, and Americans may be surprised to see that it is stocked in buckets and even barrels.

Nutella Crepes at French Open

You can smell these all over the stadium. Source.

The French Open location makes for some of the best people watching in the international sporting scene. Paris is one of the world’s fashion capitals, and the tournament itself has no dress code (at Wimbledon, players must wear all white). Panama hats are popular among men and women in attendance, something that you might want to pick up as a memory of your time in Paris. Players and spectators alike tend to be effortlessly chic and well-dressed at Roland-Garros, so make sure you put some thought into your outfit before you go!

 

Historic Matches at the French Open

In the 1989 French Open, 17-year-old American Michael Chang pulled off a massive fourth-round upset over Ivan Lendl, who was currently the number one player in the world. Chang’s success featured a massive comeback, overcoming painful leg cramps, underhand serves and complaints on the officiating of the games. He went on to win the French Open that year, making Chang the youngest player to ever win a Grand Slam tournament.

In the 1999 Finals, Steffi Graf defeated Martina Hingis one day before her husband, Andre Agassi, would make a remarkable comeback to win his respective match. This match was filled with controversy, as the 19-year-old Hingis was heavily favored to beat the 30-year-old Graff. Coming off a remarkable season, Hingis behaved petulantly towards the refs, turning the crowd against her, and bolstering support for Graf. Graf won the match as much as Hingis lost it, but the involvement of the crowd played a powerful role in the drama that unfolded.

Tennis is an intense sport, both mentally and physically. But against the backdrop of the terracotta courts, the drama is taken to a new level.

 

French Open Tips

If you are planning well in advance to head to Paris for the French Open, make sure you buy your tickets ahead of time. They tend to go on sale in mid-March, and the prices are at their best during pre-order. But should you just happen to find yourself in Paris during the tournament, it is possible to buy French Open tickets on site – whether for a single match or a week-long pass. Just keep in mind that prices steepen after the tournament has already begun, at it may be very difficult to get tickets for coveted matches like the Finals.

Paris tends to be beautifully warm and sunny in late May and early June. This is good news, but after a whole day in the stands, things can get uncomfortable. Make sure you wear light, breathable clothing, and that you bring a hat and sunglasses. Take your queues from the locals.

Panama Hats French Open Tips

Panama Hats are the unofficial uniform for spectators at the French Open. Source.

While tennis enthusiasts agree that the French Open location offers better food than any of the other Grand Slams (Croque Monsieur, anyone?), Stadium fare is typically expensive and probably won’t be satisfying should you be eating it every day of your stay. The good news is that spectators can bring their own food (and even wine!). So grab a freshly baked baguette, your favorite variety of French cheese, and a bottle of Burgundy when heading to the Stadium. Otherwise, Paris is famed for its food, and there is plenty of amazing eating to be done all over the city.

 


Is the French Open on your Bucket List? Start planning the trip of a lifetime. Inquire about our Roland Garros Travel Packages today.

 

 

Un Match Parfait: Why Paris is the Perfect Location for the World’s Most Romantic Sport

Couples from around the world flock to Paris to propose, to wed, to honeymoon, and to generally celebrate their love. Between the art, the food, the wine, the fashion, and the irresistible French language, the city of Paris possesses every ingredient necessary to spark chemistry as well as a magical quality of elevating life’s simple pleasures into the realm of romance.

One such pleasure is sport, an activity or event that in other contexts can sometimes appear brutish. However Paris’s French Open, one of the world’s four tennis Grand Slam tournaments, is anything but coarse. Both exciting and grueling, chic and sweaty, the French Open certainly makes a case for tennis as the world’s most romantic sport. If not tennis in general, then Paris tennis at the very least.

Is it the intimate and highly emotional play of the game, or the breathtaking French Open location of Paris that makes this tournament so seductively enthralling? We say, it takes two. Like all lasting loves, tennis and Paris have several things in common that make them perfect romantic compliments.

 

Tennis is a sport historically for the elite and upper-class, yet has many inspiring underdog stories. Paris is a city historically favored by aristocracy and nobility, yet was the site of Europe’s most important class revolution.

 

The earliest documented tennis player known to historians was none other than French ruler Louis X. This 14th century king was so fond of the sport that he requested a court be built inside his palace so that he needn’t exert himself in the heat of the summer. This style of enclosed courts soon spread to palaces all over Europe – Charles V of France and Henry VIII of England are two later rulers who also played tennis on their palace grounds.

 

Versailles Court Paris Tennis

Louis X’s indoor tennis court in the Versailles Palace. Source.

 

Given the obvious currents of aristocracy from which the sport of tennis got its start, it’s easy to see why tenni

s carries something of an exclusionary reputation. Even to this day, well-maintained tennis courts can be found almost exclusively in private clubs, the membership fees for which the average person can’t afford. Furthermore, tennis is not a team sport, but is rather played 1-on-1 or 2-on-2. Where team sports tend to stir feelings of community identity, the play of tennis focuses more on the performance of the individual or pair.

But in spite of this history of wealth and luxury, tennis hosts some of the greatest upsets and underdog stories of any sport. Marcus Willis went from ranking #778 in the world and making only $345 out of professional tennis in the first half of 2016, to playing against Rodger Federer at Wimbledon.  Venus and Serena Williams trained as children in the rundown Compton Municipal Tennis Courts, having to duck to avoid stray gunfire due to the gang violence that plagued the city. Still going strong in their careers, the sisters have dozens of Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold medals between the two of them. There is also the famed match known as “The Battle of the Sexes,” in which male tennis superstar and vocal detractor of female athletics Bobby Riggs was publicly defeated by Billie Jean King, who went on to found several associations in support of women in sports.

 

French Open in Paris

Billie Jean King makes quite an entrance at the Battle of the Sexes against Bobby Riggs. Source.

 

These inspiring stories of struggling against the odds and social climates are especially fitting in historical Paris, the site of one of the most influential revolutions throughout the history of mankind. This 10-year long revolution profoundly changed the course of human history, triggering the decline of monarchies across the globe and setting the precedent for modern democracies and republics. The French Open location of Paris is no stranger to the turbulence of change, and the French Open itself is fabulous event to experience some of that revolutionary spirit.

 

Paris is a fashion capital of the world. Tennis is the most fashion-conscious sport in the world.

 

Paris and tennis make for one seriously fashionable couple. One plus of individual-based over team-based sports is that the players have the opportunity to show off their style. Without the restrictions of team jerseys, tennis pros are known for sporting some seriously chic (and sometimes wacky) outfits on the courts. While Wimbledon requires that players adhere to an all-white dress code, fashion at the French Open is especially bold and colorful.

A fashion-conscious French Open makes sense given the prominence of the fashion industry in Paris, but a key distinction between runway fashion and tennis court fashion is the clothing’s functionality. If you’re a fan of grocery shopping in yoga pants and tennis shoes, you can thank the sport of tennis for being probably the most influential sport in the phenomenon of athleisure fashion. Sure, many tennis players put a lot of thought into looking good on the court. But when you consider how the pros can often be downright superstitious about everything from their balls to their rackets, you can bet that clothing that gets in the way of play is a no-go, no matter how fashionable. Athleisure has risen to find harmony between the two.

 

Fashion at the French Open

Alizé Lim was widely considered the best dressed player at the 2016 French Open. Source.

 

Tennis fashion is at its peak at the French Open, and spectators who can appreciate the unity of fashion and functionality will find lots to admire. But the players aren’t the only ones making statements with fashion at the French Open! Everyone is at their best dressed when they visit Paris, so you can expect lots of excellent people watching and celebrity spotting from the stands.

The French Open is widely considered the most mentally and physically grueling tournament in tennis. Paris is the setting of some of history’s and literature’s most tumultuous love affairs.

 

Napoleon and Josephine. Anais Nin and Henry Miller. Christine and the Phantom of the Opera. Marie Antoinette and Axel de Fersen. There is something about Paris that elevates love affairs to legendary romances. But from a cynic’s point of view, there is little to be romanticized about the relationships listed above: all were colored by infidelity, jealousy, and tragedy.

For all the country-club aesthetics of tennis, the sport is deceptively demanding on the players’ bodies and emotions. Players pitted against each other across the court, the pressure of the serve, the intimidation tactics; any tennis pro will tell you that the game is equal parts mental and physical. The French Open in particular is considered to be the single most grueling tournament in the entire sport. Because the French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament to be played on a clay court, the mental pressure and physical demands are even higher.

Clay courts slow the ball down considerably when compared to grass or hard courts, meaning that players have to hit harder and move faster. Well-ranked players who haven’t trained adequately on clay courts may find themselves completely unable to keep pace with players they’ve beaten on hard courts. Unknowns can rise from the ranks to beat out favorites to win. And the physical and mental toils of the players look even more intensified against the clay-red backdrop of the court.

 

 

In love and sport, anything can happen. Sometimes, the more one must suffer its name, the sweeter the victory and the more legendary the tale. One shouldn’t underestimate the power of a romantic backdrop to intensify all feelings, from anguish to bliss. In this sense, Paris and the French Open are an ideal pair.

 


Tickets for the 2017 French Open become available to the general public on March 22! To get started on booking your trip to this athletic spectacle in the heart of beautiful Paris, inquire about our French Open travel packages today.