I am a middle-aged lady from Paris, France. I have been interested in tennis for four decades only as a watcher, I don't play tennis myself.
I have especially been watching Roland Garros (since Borg) and the Davis Cup. When I was younger, the US Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon and the rest of the ATP tour were not broadcast on free TV in France.
In June 2016, I had a serious accident (hit by a car) and was not able to walk again until end January 2017 after two operations and more than one hundred physio sessions. This coincided with Roger's wonderful come back and 18th Grand Slam in Melbourne.
From now on, I started watching the ATP tour events (and the wonderful Laver Cup) and discovered Jonathan's great blog, Roger Federer being my favourite player.
I had never watched him play live before RG19. I was on holidays abroad when he decided to play in Paris in November 2018. I missed to see him.
So, when he said he was going to play in Roland Garros this year, I decided to see if I could manage to buy seats. Fortunately enough, I could buy some with a friend (also a Fedfan) for Round 2 of the tournament – two consecutive days, hopefully allowing me to finally watch him play.
In 2.5 years of time since Jan. 17, I have learnt to admire altogether the incredible athlete and tennis player, the intelligent and joyful man, the smart communicator, the philanthropist, and for me, THE best sportsman of all times delivering lots of happy moments either on or off the courts. To finish my introduction, I must add that English is not my mother tongue. Listening to Fed's press conferences, reading the PeRFect tennis blog helped me improve my English knowledge. But, please, forgive my foot faults.
May 29, 2019
I took a day off to come and admire the tennis champions in a rejuvenated Parisian monument.
The day before my visit, Roger, who had his own day off, came to admire a painting exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton about the Impressionists. In my fan story below, I will try and describe my “impressions” about two relishing days of tennis, the climax of which being the public display of our Swiss hero's art.
Let's go! My trip begins on a warm Wednesday. No wind, no rain, 18-20 degrees Celsius are forecast; a peRFect day to enjoy tennis outdoors. The sky today looks like a picture by Boudin with clouds as wavy as Roger's curls. I leave my flat at 9:00, a one-hour journey to the stadium.
Longer security controls at the gates have been announced. At the underground exit, a metro employee gives me a coffee and an RG map – a peRFect start. I wait for my friend for a few minutes checking the order of play of the day. Our favourite artist will tread on the ochre of Central Court as the third match of the day for his second round.
For one week, there have been lots of press articles in France about him. As an illustration of that media frenzy, one journalist writes: “The French Open missed Roger. No other Grand Slam values style, talent and class, Federer”s dimensions, as much as Roland Garros. At Wimbledon, he is a kind of natural heir, in New York, he is a showman, in Paris, he is an artist”. Indeed. Much to the point.
My friend and I enter in the RG area. Logistics are very well organised. Lots of boards and signs to help you find your way in the teeming tennis village. Lots of shops selling (expensive) food, drinks, tennis clothes and Roland Garros memorabilia. Numerous young adults replying to your questions or efficiently checking your bags too.
In my bag: a paper copy of the draws, a cap, an umbrella, and a camera. My husband lent me his. It is a bridge with a clear lens. It is less heavy than mine and it has a silent mode – very useful not to disturb my neighbours during the games. Zoom lenses are forbidden for amateur photographers.
Today, children don't go to school. Bunches of them, coming for the day with their tennis clubs, joyfully strolling through the alleys. As you know, for about a year, gigantic works have been made in the area, a new court (Simonne Mathieu) which I couldn't visit – and a revamped Central Court await for us.
When coming into the latter, my friend tells me: “make a wish, as it is the first time we enter the new arena”. I dare confess that I thought: if only a certain mature player from Basel (but so young in his head) could lift his arms to the tennis heaven in ten days, it would be Fedtastic… #Bel21ve. Match after match. Let's be wise.
The Canvas: The Philippe Chatrier Central Court
The green seats of the former arena have disappeared. The new larger seats are made of light beige chestnut wood and are very comfortable. Two days sitting there with a fragile back, no pain at all for me. PeRFect!
The curves of the arena's angles are softer, the area on the court sides seems larger. It's beautiful. Congrats to the architects, engineers, workers who did this. The impression is very soft to the eyes.
As Guy Forget, the tournament director said: 90% of the Centre Court has been renewed but René Lacoste's sweat is still there under the clay which seems perfectly prepared for the artists. Nevertheless, it is a pity that this Central Court was not more packed every time.
Maybe the yellow vest social conflict prevented tourists from coming to Paris? Maybe the tickets are too expensive? I understand players who say they prefer to play on smaller courts with a full capacity crowd rather than on the centre court, barely half-full. I was sad for Thiem – ranked number 4 for heaven’s sake!!! who played before lots of empty seats for his second match. Nevertheless, as a Swiss actor would say in a Barilla ad, « let’s get this party started » !
During my journey, I could watch Sloane Stephens and the other half of the Uniqlo team, Kei, As for the Frenchies: Jo Tsonga, Lucas Pouille, Caro Garcia – all of them lost – no comment. In the evening of May 29, we were allowed to go down into the Central Court to watch Belinda Bencic's 2nd round match. We were in one of the boxes near the ground. I was impressed by the sight from court level and enjoyed those ladies' run. You can hear them breathe (or grunt).
I could also watch the fifth set of Paire vs Herbert, a very fun French vs French match on Suzanne Lenglen in the evening, ending 11-9 for Paire.
Dominic Thiem's gigantic lumberjack forehand also impressed me. Herbert, Klizan and Bublik (with underarm serves!) played well.
One and a half minute break: The Colour Palette
To enjoy the journey at RG, your senses must be awake.
In the alleys, lots of English roses with their mellow quartz or amber hues. We aren't at Giverny, but at Roland Garros.
In front of us, the light flamingo shirts of dynamic ball boys and girls and the same colour on their baby cheeks at the end of a match.
On the centre court, the intense orange of the clay, like the ochre quarry of the village of Roussillon in Provence.
The darker contrasting stripes made on the court by a long-bearded employee when he sweeps it. Doesn't he look like Renoir?
The vermilion shirts of the young men spraying water on the big rectangle of our passion.
The undefined hue of the sunburn on my left hand…
And the melting colour of the delicious Italian gelato I ate between two matches.
Time! Let's now come to whom we are here for his Majesty, Roger the Great.
The Artist, His Work and His Exhibition
Roger played and won an easy match against the young Otte. The arena was 75% full, I guess. Enthusiastic bunches of people, some with Swiss flags or tees filled the arena and a Mexican wave revolved several times above me. Not too easy for me to look at the game, make photos, contribute to the wave and say hello to the PeRFect tennis chat at the same time. Yet, Jonathan had been wise telling me to stay focus on the game – like Roger!
Roger and his balletic attitudes could have been painted by Degas who admired the dancers radiating on the scene. The 19th-century French painter brilliantly depicted the young artists in their preparation, taking care of every detail in their outfit and shoes to perform at their best. It's the same in tennis, no?
I was impressed…
by the way Roger manages each gesture, so well prepared and naturally deployed at the same time.
by his great composure and his calm coming back to his serve position after a point.
the same during the breaks. I saw him close his eyes several times to refuel his batteries.
by the way his unfurled left arm balances the arm displaying the shots from the opposite side. Equilibrium at its utmost.
by the way he finds angles with his wrist to deposit the yellow sphere where he wishes to. I love this comment about his hands. Somebody once wrote: “His hands are actually made of the softest butter of the universe”.
by the same kind of game he plays on clay as on hard courts or grass. Serve + volley or return + volley, keeping energy for further battles.
by the versatility of his game: lots of his shots are so unreadable, so unpredictable.
by the obvious and contagious pleasure he still has after all those years doing what he does.
I was also touched by the noise of his ball in certain circumstances. The silky drop shot he made on the match ball – hardly moving – was almost silent, contrasting with the roar of the crowd. I could make a short video of it. I chose to focus on his part of the court.
When talking about noises, I noticed the clicking of the cameras of professional photographers. Clive Brunskill worked a few rows behind me for ten minutes during Stephens' match. I would have dreamt to borrow his huge zoom to do some pictures of our hero.
The Visitors to the Exhibition
During my 2-day RG journey, we had a quick laugh with 2 ladies from Chicago supporting Sloane Stephens and a chat with a Chinese lady on the bus. She came for tennis and… for the Mont Saint-Michel the next day. When I asked her who were her favourite players, she answered: Royer, Rafa, Djoko … and Muller!
Sitting next to us on Wednesday, there was a very nice middle-aged lady coming from Brisbane, Australia (2000 km from Melbourne). She was a Rafa fan (what an idea!). She had seen the QF at the 2017 AO and had attended to the QF + SF and finals at the USO 2017. It seems she could afford to fly across the planet for tennis. She told us having seen Roger training in extreme heat in Melbourne…
In the alleys, we saw French tennis journalists and coaches, ballboys running with freshly stringed racquets in their hands, cooks resting for a few minutes before the lunch rush. My friend spotted John McEnroe who comments matches for US TV, I guess.
You will find along with my text a few pictures I took at Roland Garros. They are far from being as artistical as those taken by professional photographers. I especially love one of Roger (ABACA Press, maybe?) elegant as a gymnast with his cappuccino shirt contrasting on the orange background, with the shade of his body forming an X on the ground. So artistic! It would deserve a high-quality print and the nicest frame… to be hung on a wall at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, maybe?
Hey, Roger, what do you think? Or do we have to wait for a more few days, for another picture of you crying with a “Coupe des Mousquetaires” in your « butter » hands?
A few hours ago, you qualified for your 54th quarterfinal in a Grand Slam. You'll face either Stan, doing wonders with his backhand now or Stéphanos, the future of tennis.
My God! You never stop impressing your fans all over the planet. Everything can happen now. We are privileged watching you play, either live or via our screens. Why not another small Eiffel tower on your coral and white dancing shoes with an RF logo and the figures 09 -19? It would be … it would be…
THANK YOU for making of the RG19 journey a Tangerine Dream…