Thursday, 2 June 2016

Anyone for Tennis?!

Wow, Roland Garros 2016!!!
I never expected to be back in Paris,
let alone at my second tennis Grand Slam of the year.
 I am as surprised as some of my Facebook friends
'Are you at Roland Garros?' I'm asked. 
Well, there's just no sneaking into Europe unannounced these days is there?!

It is with massive thanks to Irina Falconi that only a few hours after arriving in France I'm pinching myself with the excitement, jet-fresh from Hong Kong, to be courtside at Roland Garros. They were pleased to see Melbourne Mum, I brought the sunshine, they said. How sweet, I smiled.

'No really, it's been freezing!'

So I don my big, floppy 'I come from a land Down Under' hat, you know the one rescued from the river in Inverloch -  style being my middle name, and feeling a lot like Crocodile Dundee, I set out to explore what's new this year. We're in before the crowds which give me the opportunity to have a nosey around whilst it's still quiet, just me and a few film crews...

Gosh, it really is just so swish! You could certainly have the most amazing week simply people watching and ogling what is going on off the courts. 

Let me take you back a step. We arrive at Roland Garros in an official 'Voiture VIP'. In France, these are sleek black Peugeots. The drivers, are of course equally as drop dead gorgeous as their shiny, polished vehicles. They must be all models surely?! In Australia, the Kia tournament cars are driven, well the ones I meet by retirees, who have driven the Aussie Open players for years. In 2014 the cars were emblazoned with "enjoy the ride." It sums up the difference between the two tournaments: 

Le style v's Le fun!

Sleek black Roland Garros Peugeots and below the Aussie Open transport with Crazy Poodle in our street.
In fact, is it just me, or is Roland Garros a land of totally beautiful people? Please tell me they have some really inappropriate recruitment policy. Roland Garros is so, so elegant. Any Grand Slam that has their linesmen in designer cardigans and their ball girls in skorts is making a style statement. In Australia, we make our ball girls wear a bottle green long sleeved top from the neck down to their knees, with a not-so-stylish, but great for the sun, legionnaire hats.

Top: Le Style Bottom: Le Fun
Then when you have stopped gawking at the Roland Garros staff there is the crowd! The real difference with Melbourne is that I see no tennis ball outfits, or national flag caps, there is hardly a painted face, unless we are talking a perfectly made up with Chanel or Dior. 

The next thing that is striking is the smoke. Don't try sitting anywhere on a bench by a bin at Roland Garros, as that is where the smokers gather. In Australia, we have a three-mile smoking exclusion zone around our sporting venues, our elite athletes don't have to walk through wafts of smoke... But not so in France!

Sadly, it doesn't feel as if there as many International tennis fans here as last year. It would be interesting to know whether numbers are down for overseas ticket holders. One thing that is definitely up is security. Wandering amongst us are the serious looking K9 dog handlers and I catch my breath when I see the Charlie Hebdo magazine with the picture of Egypt Air emblazoned on its front cover.

I stop and have a chat at the booth promoting the Noveau Roland Garros. The French Open has quite a challenge being in such a compact city area, but there are plans ahead to improve the site for players and spectators. The Australian Open now has three covered stadia and yet despite the weather forecast for more rain ahead this week in Paris, it is only the main Phillippe-Chatrier 15,000 seat court which will get a retractable roof by 2020 - only one I ask?

Aside from the eateries and merchandising stands, there is not a tremendous amount of off-court entertainment for tennis fans, unlike at Melbourne Park. We have music with live bands, sponsor promotions, giveaways, and competitions, with of course one magic ingredient which can be lacking in Paris, the weather! In Australia we have a day and evening program and our fans can relax well into the night, watching tennis on a ground pass ticket, on the outside courts and big screens.

In Paris, you need to hunt out the off court amusements. I always enjoy looking around the Roland Garros Museum and this year there are some interactive tennis games to be found there, I come back with a few photos of myself and I drink a gallon of Tropicana fruit juice which is handed out for free but not to worry as we are all here for the tennis, aren't we?

Sam Stosur, Irina Falconi, and Shelby Rogers 2nd round matches

I suppose you want to know all about the tennis don't you? 
Well, you know what they say don't you?
 'what happens on tour stays on tour!'

Sharing with thanks to Paulita at 

and to Phoebe at

Lou Messugo
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