There are currently 5,384 people ahead of you in the queue. Welcome to the online booking system for Roland-Garros. Fortunately, the virtual queue moved speedily and less than thirty minutes later I was presented with various ticket options for my chosen day. Whoopee! The French are hardly renowned for having efficient online booking systems, and yet there I was, in awe of their seamless booking process before I’d even set foot in the grounds. As soon as I knew I’d be spending another year in the Land of Baguettes, I set my heart on a trip to the French Open. I wasn’t bothered about seeing the final or even a semi-final; I just wanted to experience the French Open any which way I could. Luckily for me, Laurence is always game for watching some live tennis, so it wasn’t difficult to talk him into spending the last weekend of May in Paris!
We may not have seen The King of Clay, but it was still a day to remember. Copies of Le Quotidien (the official, free programme) piled high by the entrance doubled up as makeshift umbrellas when the heavens opened and parasols when the current bun turned up its wattage. Plumes of dusty clay rose into the air as players skidded along the baseline; between sets, nets were pulled across the courts and hoses unleashed to dampen the clay.
We began on Court 3, watching Albert Ramos Viñolas defeat Marius Copil, until the sun got the better of us and we decided to explore the grounds in pursuit of some shade. We found some in the Espace Détente, and passed the heat of the day guzzling our fair share of free Tropicana samples (and then some).
Meandering among the smaller outside courts we spotted Venus Williams limbering up, squeezing in a last minute training session before her match on one of the show courts.
As soon as the sun’s intensity began to wane, we made a move for Court 2, where Dan Evans was – to put it bluntly – fighting a losing battle against Tommy Robredo. Afterwards, we saw Viktorija Golubic battle it out against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, though we didn’t stay for the whole match as we were feeling a little worse for wear. (I highly recommend dousing yourself in sunblock and taking a hat if the forecast is on the sunny side, as the courts are in the full sun until early evening.)
If I returned to the French Open, I’d probably spend the extra euros and buy a ticket for one of the show courts, as the downsides to a grounds pass are (a) that you don’t have a reserved seat, and (b) that you can wait an eternity to be let back onto a court. That said, for tennis fans, it’s still an undeniably fun day out, whatever ticket you happen to hold.