Friday, July 04, 2008
PARIS SANS EIFFEL
Finally, the main reason for taking the long flight to Paris was here!
First, a brief background for non-tennis fanatics. Roland Garros is one of professional tennis' most prestigious tournaments, which comprise the "Grand Slams", the others being the Australian Open (Melbourne), Wimbledon (London), and US Open (New York).
It is played on this red clay surface (crushed brick, actually), which has a slow bounce; therefore, matches tend to be full of long baseline rallies, as players try to pound each other into submission. For mens' singles, which are best-of-five sets, it is not uncommon for matches to last beyond 3 hours each.
The tournament itself runs for two weeks, but we were watching only the first 3 days.
The French, being the French, named their home Slam after a real person, the World War I aviator and war hero Roland Garros. Click here for a brief account of his career.
Of course, no one except tennis purists cares about this; and everyone refers to the tournament as simply the "French Open". Click here for Newman's vivid account of how he got our tix, through the French Tennis Federation's website.
It was an unexpectedly smooth and easy journey via the Metro, from our hotel going to the Roland Garros complex. As we entered the tennis facility during the first day of the tournament, Newman remarked that compared to the US Open, the grounds of Roland Garros are quite compact, making it very easy to walk from the big stadiums to the smaller, outside courts.
And the prices being charged at the food concession stands were expensive, but not quite exhorbitant; unlike the US Open, which he described as shameless [with matching shake of the head].
The merchandise store was another matter, though. Imagine, 30 EURO for a cotton T-shirt with the Roland Garros logo?!
For me, it was quite an experience being able to see all these world-class tennis players live. Watching tennis on TV can be very misleading, as the ball travels so slowly on screen. But in real life, all the pros (even the willow-thin, teenage girls) hit the ball quite hard and flat and with great consistency.
Check out below photos of the grounds crew as they prepared the courts in between practices and matches:
This beefy guy looks like he could be a bouncer at the Moulin Rouge during evenings, no?
Sweeping with Gallic flair makes all the difference.
We were a bit unlucky though, as during our 3rd and last day, there was a continuous drizzle and play was mostly washed out for the entire day. Yeah, quite a bummer, with nothing to do but wait and wait for the rains to stop. . .and eat Haagen-Daz ice cream while at it. Haha....
Again, thanks to Newman for the pics. Click here to see his post regarding the crazy tennis action at Roland Garros.