Fan StoriesFrench OpenGrand SlamsRoger Federer

Impressions of My Trip To Roland Garros 2019

FrenchButteRFly recaps her 2-day visit to this years French Open to see Federer play

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

FO 2019 FB

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.

The Scenery

Roland Garros Venue

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

Phillipe Chatrier FB

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 » !

The Artists

Sloane

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

French Open Break

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

Fed Otte

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?

Fed Changeover

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.

Photographers

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

Chatrier Court

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.

The Gallery

Clay Water

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…

FrenchButteRFly

June 2019

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Federer and tennis in general.

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51 Comments

  1. Very impressive read .. And it’s pure fan angle too. Much appreciated writing and sharing it. Wonderful clip with all court side fan excitements ( in TV those are very well edited, so it’s much better here). Thanks again.

  2. I had no idea about the car accident…so great that you recovered well and got to see Fed live, French ButteRFly 🙂
    Beautiful written! On particularly ‘I was impressed by’ section, I can relate those feeling to my own Fedexperiences.
    Enjoyed reading, thanks for the photo and video, too!

    1. Hum… not likely. The amount I’ve watched during the last days is getting too close to an overdose. Plus the expectations for an interesting match are below the freezing point of helium.
      There are a few grass tournaments to watch on the next days/weeks, challengers, atp and wta and I’m saving my availability to those.
      It’s a beautiful weather here and I will go either practice some tennis or cycle…

    2. Right. Everyone must take a tennis-watching-holiday some time. Now it’s the time for you 🙂
      PABLO and me, we will of course watch, because our favorites just play each other 🙂
      As for grass, Thiem has scheduled Halle and Wimbledon, so I will have short “holidays”. During first grass week I will do the same as Rui, but you all can do the same , given Roger starts his grass season first in Halle.

  3. So nice, enthusiatic, photoed and well desribed – wonderful with a great HEART – ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ – THANKS a lot FrenchButteRFly

  4. French ButteRFly, thank you so much.
    Fully enjoyed the write up of your impressions at the RG Grand Slam. And particularly appreciate your style and sensitive eye. 🌻

  5. Thanks FBF! A beautiful report of your experience at RG.
    So sorry to hear of your accident. Roger is good inspiration to work hard and get better. I have used his way of being in my own life when things in life were challenging.
    Happy for you and any fan to see Roger live and enjoy his demeanor and beautiful game.

  6. Thanks so much FBF. What a beautifully written piece about your experiences and about Roger. So glad you had the chance to see him play and to visit RG.

  7. By the way Rafa is about to win. 🙁 A SHORT account why this, would be appreciated – just a little more than 3 words though.

      1. Well. Never proved. But the numbers which I just saw, bodes like it I may say, but this is not enough for proving.

      2. Till Rome, just before Paris, Nadal hadn’t won tournament since the Rogers Cup in August last year. In the clay season this year he lost to 3 different players successively – the worst clay form of his life. His turnaround – which happens every year in June (but only in June) is nothing short of miraculous. No other top player has such a distorted resume.

        Lance Armstrong – juiced to the gills – won 7 Tour de France titles. Yet no one bats an eye at Nadal’s 12 French titles – and still counting. There is a difference between not proven and not believable.

    1. It’s everything to do with the characteristics of the surface being always a constant. AO was changed to 2008 (right after Fed’s dominance) and has become slower since up until 2017. Wimbledon has been slowing down and skidding less thanks to the change in the type of grass. Even the US Open has slowed down and become grainier I’d say from 2010. Why is RG so skewed towards one player? Why not keep Wimbledon and USO like they used to be in the distant past? Makes you think, doesn’t it?

      As much as I dislike Nadal, including the doping part and all, the one thing he does great, which Federer never really focused on, is that he puts all his proverbial cojones in one basket when it comes to the French Open (the clay stretch overall). He knows that his path to greatness as well as 20+ slams goes through clay and only clay. Sure, he has won 35% of this titles else where, but without clay, given his playing style, and the homogeneity of RG, he would not have reached the heights he has today.

      Why was Federer all over the place when he understood that his efforts were being wasted all the years (pre-2016 especially), as well as the slow AO courts, I do not understand. If he had taken the “Wimbledon is my everything strategy, everything else would still have been equal in terms of his yearly rankings, except, he would’ve won at least 2 more Wimbledon titles, at least. But then, he is the great man and I am merely someone who’s best achievement is taking a game off a NTRP 5.0 player in a set. As a fan though, I will continue to wonder.

      But there is still hope. Federer can win two Wimbledon titles and I believe he will win this year at SW19. Djokovic is the top favorite but he is not going to win. You heard it first here. I think playing RG this year as many have said may only have been stay competitive. The way he has performed at Paris given his long absence on that surface gives me tremendous hope for the next four weeks. I hope that the grass this year has some zing to it.

      Let’s do this!

      1. What a stupid theory to try to explain why Federer didn’t win from 2010 as much as we won during The Weak Era.

      2. He won – how was it? 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1?
        I can’t believe the last 2 “sticks”. Please tell me how it came without the EPO. Well Sid gave a thinkable explanation already. Do you agree, others of you, who watched the match (which I didn’t)

      3. The two sticks might be for several reasons (that will be dismissed by a certain son of a Spanish slut as “stupid”). As we all know, Thiem played all four days. It’s not so much as the tennis than the fact that he was mentally invested, until Saturday afternoon into the Djokovic match? Do you think Thiem was visualizing, strategizing, drilling patterns against a “lefty” and the greatest clay courter of all time? On the other hand, Nadal had a rather simple engagement again Fed and had all the time since then to work a plan against Theim on a surface he had won 11 slams, It’s as simple as that. While the different between the tennis these two played was may be 2 or 3 hours, Thiem had to do most of the heavy work Thursday to Saturday.

        If that doesn’t explain the loss, then I don’t know what will. And by the way, Thiem did take a set off, despite the circumstances.

      4. Muser, thanks for the “thinkable explanation” comment. I don’t know how to react to someone dismissing my entire argument as stupid with not a single rational statement to retort it. Who is stupid? 🙂

        I took a look a the draw Nadal got, as well as Federer, and it made me wonder, what a strong era this is. When was the last time so many combined titles were won by players over 30 years of age? When was the last time the top four seeds made the semi finals at a slam? What exactly is wrong with the young ones? Are they so weak? Or have they been made to look meagre by playing with the court conditions to the point that reaching physical peaks becomes the most important factor, than a variety of skills you can possess despite being say well under 30 years of age? Or, has it got something to do with magic herbs people happen to stumble on by chance when going on a hike? Or the Spanish doctor whose blood bags were destroyed? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

      5. @Sid, Yes, I can see that, Thiem had much tighter schedule to work out. Might explain it, sure.
        Acc. the young ones seemingly not taking slams (yet): I heard something which might make sense: 1) The trend of power-playing. Eats your physics and mentality after a few years. Exception – Goffin for instance – but he had really bad luck with some injures. 2) The high ambition of the schools and academies – not nurturing the necessary love for the game, merely focusing on results, which may kill your love. And too little value of more fun and creativity and kid’s love for this aspect. Sport should be fun, not just serious ambition of winning full time… I admit this is speculation, but interesting it is, what focus is, and what works, and what aspect gets the attraction from the crowd.

      6. YSorry, French Butterfly, I cannot help it but make all these “stupid” arguments today. 🙂 But NICE POST. You’ve put in great effort in the write up. If only you hadn’t called Sloane Stephens an artist 🙁

        Now, back to my non-fact based stupid theories. You know, when someone wins a particular slam 5 times, it’s considered being really good on that surface. Winning 7 or 8 makes you most likely the greatest on it. Winning 9, like Federer will soon do, would be pushing it (that would be in a space of 16 years). But how do you explain 12 title in 15 years? And that too, with not much of an effort in the finals? You’re telling me that the rest of the field is so pathetic that it just doesn’t have the talent to win it maybe, I don’t know, two more times in that span? Change my mind! It clearly is a case of a surface that is absolutely tilted towards a specific playing style and does not reward all court play one bit. I suspect it does not end there and we will see Nadal winning it one last time in 2020.

        Especially in the last decade or so, the focus has been merely to tilt the conditions in favor of the fan favorites and ensuring that the top 3 or 4 reach the business end of the tournaments consistently. Nothing wrong with hoping for that to rake in the riches, but to blatantly make all surfaces homogeneous is a crying shame. They didn’t even spare Wimbledon for crying out loud, I mean, Djokovic won the 2011 final with just one serve and volley attempt, I’m not making this up, just a single serve and volley attempt on the penultimate point of the title match. Think about it…on a surface that was exclusively serve and volley at one point in time.

  8. To the non-Fed fans (say they are), I find it interesting that you don’t seem to enjoy a lovely post like this one. It’s about the experience of seeing Fed and all that goes with it. I appreciate this very much and the work that goes into writing this in a second language.
    I only see the constant chatter and bickering about who is the best on clay. Time for a holiday on a cruise in the Mediterranean with no wifi.

    1. You are right Sue. I was not able to not react to a very stupid comment. This post should be about what thefrenchbutterfly wrote which it was very well done.

    2. Sue, I do not mean disrespect to you or French Butterfly, but I did not know there was a rule that comments should only be related to the post? Since when did we start becoming so PC?

      Having said that, appreciate the post but portraying Sloane Stephens as an artist kinds got me a bit sour.

      1. Can’t do that this year either, but I can do a couple of match reports if Senor Jon* will let me. They will be awesome, I promise.

        *Pablo will be banned from commenting on my match reports;-)

      2. Sloane plays a game that is too correct, too soft, too compliant, too… zzz… zzz… 5 AM? Hey, what am I doing of the sofa? Is that Watts or TV shop?

  9. Finally finished reading your post, French Butterfly. It’s so beautifully written, I didn’t want to miss a word. You have quite a flair for it. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I can feel what a wonderful experience it must have been for you. Indeed I find Roger the most enjoyable player to watch. Never have done live though.

  10. So enjoyed reading this as I also went this year ( for the very 1st time) for the first 3 days, and had a really great visit too.
    It proved a very easy tournament to visit and to purchase tickets for! Outside court viewing is very good too.
    Thanks French butterfly for all your thoughts, seeing Roger on the clay for the first time since Monte Carlo 2016 was really fabulous for me too, and it is lovely to hear another fans thoughts on seeing him live.

    Thks to Jonathan for giving us this platform to add our experiences,

  11. Beautifully written French ButteRFly, thank you so much. I detected very little in the way of “foot faults” (love that analogy!), and a great deal of heart & color & sensitivity. I love how you made it about the whole experience.

  12. So much to appreciate and you captured it all so beautifully French Butterfly & conveyed your impressions with great thought, expression and love. What Roger inspires and perspectives of the tournament Increasingly we will never see on modern coverage & sharing this with us I just can’t thank you enough French Butterfly! Your accident has unleashed a huge interest in tennis and an unexpected upside in love of Roger and now we get to experience your wonderful impressions of Roland Garros too Via the dedicated efforts and existence of Jonathan and Perfect Tennis website.
    We are such a lucky fandom !

  13. RAfa also gets the lack of hawkeye and sometimes blind or intimidated umpires as a benefit to aid his lopsided resume. All that ball
    bouncing and other gaming tactics relatively unpoliced doesn’t help up & coming opponents and Novak has a tendency this way too !

    1. Great write up, nothing like it which I will echo an article written by late David Foster Wallace – Roger as a religious experience, yes indeed.

  14. French Butterfly ,what a lovely write up. Thank you for your eloquent writing…your own wing beats are as soft as butter as well!

  15. Thank you so much for your wonderful account. It felt like we were there with you. You painted terrific pictures with your words, and in a second language!

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