One of the sporting highlights of the year in France is the French Open tennis tournament, otherwise known as Roland-Garros. Named after the French aviator, Roland-Garros is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments along with the Australian Open, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. The courts are located to the east of Paris (Porte d’Auteuil), and tickets are snapped up almost immediately, with prices skyrocketing for the coveted finals.
Prize money for the winner’s of the singles tournament (men’s and women’s) is a cool 1,250,000 €. Enough to really hit those Parisian stores, and stock up on a few bottles of vintage wine…
This year the quality of tennis was high, with some familiar names maintaining their superstar reputations, and a few lesser-known stars pushing their way further up the ranks. The first week saw some pretty miserable weather, but thankfully the days leading up to the final were scorching, with the temperature soaring, and more than one case of burnt shoulders.
Winner of the men’s singles was Rafael Nadal, bringing his count to 12 major trophies in all – including two from Wimbledon and one each from the U.S. Open and Australian Open. “I never like to compare years, but it’s true that this year means something very special for me,” Nadal admitted, referring to his knee injury that has kept him off the court for months. He was to prove his critics wrong, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 over fellow Spaniard David Ferrer who afterwards stated quite simply: “Rafael was better than me.”
In the women’s tennis, the top players really stood out. With a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Maria Sharapova, the world no.1 Serena Williams won her first French Open championship since 2002. She now has 16 Grand Slam titles, and if that wasn’t enough to impress the crowd, she played the flattery card in her acceptance speech, saying “I love Paris. I spend a lot of time here. I live here. I practice here. I think I am a Parisian.” The French spectators wondered hopefully if she might not want to change her nationality in time for next year…
The men’s doubles final was also a great game to watch, with the famous Bryan brothers up against French Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut, who were trying to bring the victory to France for the first time since 1984. But the Bryans proved to be more in sync than the French, and came away with the title after a well-fought game; There were also some great games played in the NEC Wheelchair Tennis, with Frenchman Stéphane Houdet doing his country proud, and Sabine Ellerbrock bringing home the women’s title for Germany.
If you’re a tennis fan, but the ticket prices make you think “OUT!” don’t panic. There’s a second-serve option for those that don’t have aces – or hundreds of euros – up their sleeves. The Paris Town Hall (la Mairie), just next to the river Seine is always set up with a giant TV screen on the piazza, showing all the major games. Bring a comfortable rug, a small picnic and a sunhat just in case (I tried to use my umbrella but it went down badly with the people behind me.) Be sure to get there on time as the good spots fill up quickly.
Game. Set. Match!