Roland-Garros 2017: Insider Tips on Tennis, Tickets and Star Players

Roland-Garros 2017: Insider Tips on Tennis, Tickets and Star Players

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Roland Garros 2017
© Grace Wong-Folliet for INSPIRELLE

Will Roger Federer be playing in the French Open? And YES, Serena Williams is pregnant! The talk started with a photo and she has since confirmed. These are just a few of the rumors floating around a month before Roland-Garros kicks off!

I, for one, will be sorely disappointed not to see these old favorites on the clay courts of the legendary Paris tournament. The wicked determination of Serena on the court is unfathomable – she can be down a set and losing in the second, and still manage to battle back and win. If I only had that killer instinct, I might be able to improve my ranking.

As for Roger, well need I say more? The man dances on the court, never losing his cool. The two players are favorites for Paris fans. Serena’s animal instinct during a match is replaced with a much softer tone when speaking to the central court spectators after a win, and the roar of applause for Roger whether he wins or loses is deafening.

© Bruno Bryan/Wikimedia Commons

Serena, félicitations on baby, but we will miss you; and Roger, come on boy, give us one more!

Tricks to Find Tennis Tickets

With or without Serena and Roger, the French Open (better known here as Roland-Garros) is a MUST. The qualifiers begin on May 22nd this year and you can get tickets directly at the stadium.  Another great opportunity is on Saturday, May 27th, the traditional Journée des Enfants de Roland-Garros, Kids Day at Roland-Garros. French and International champions meet for exhibition sets. The three main courts are open to the public – an exceptional opportunity because ALL of the seats are accessible to free seating, even the tribune seats on the famous Philippe-Chatrier (central court)!

© Gillian Szraga

I’ve been attending the French Open annually since we moved to France 14 years ago, and every year it is a race for tickets for this major, world-class tennis tournament. Like most high-profile sporting events, tickets are attributed to sponsors and companies, then to the licensed members of the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT) before becoming available to lowly, actual tennis fans! I am fortunate enough to be an avid player, and have three children who play as well, so I benefit from having four licensed members of the FFT in our family. Yet, even being a card-carrying member comes with its difficulties. Each license is limited to only four tickets on the two central courts during the two-week period of the tournament.

I LOVE ROLAND GARROS, AND THIS IS WHY I CONTINUE TO SPEND HOURS TRYING TO GET TICKETS EACH YEAR. WHAT BETTER WAY TO SPEND THE AFTERNOON THAN UNDER THE SUN WATCHING TWO TOP FIVERS BATTLE IT OUT ON THE COURT PHILIPPE-CHATRIER.

There are activities throughout the grounds, boutiques to buy tennis gear, a cage to judge the speed of your serve, and the thrill of brushing elbows with the players. Only on the clay courts of Roland-Garros can we see rallies of up to 20 shots and beyond.

The French crowd is amazing – they are great fans, cheering and rooting for both Federer (for us oldies) and Nadal (for the younger crowd), not to mention Monfils, Tsonga, Murray and, of course, Djokovic. The players adore the fans, and the fans are respectful. There is no hissing or booing here, and a winning shot is cheered whether it’s made by your player of choice or not.

© Bruno Bryan/Wikimedia Commons

Snag yourself a VIP tennis seat…

Despite the French Open’s enormous popularity, have you ever watched a match on TV and wondered why the stadium is half empty? This is because the category 1 tickets are often attributed to the VIPs who have access to lunch in the Tribune Lounge. Lunch is served from 12pm, and seats remain empty until after the meal and socializing are done, usually around 3pm. Plus, many of these people attend the event only to conduct business; they watch the matches for possibly an hour and then are back to the office.

So, if you are a true fan, snag your opportunity when a staff person is not watching and slide into those empty spots. You are pretty much guaranteed a good hour of excellent seating until someone shows up. And if you are slick (and lucky), you might be able to shuffle to another set of seats for the whole match. Last year, my husband and I spent an entire afternoon this way!

© Stiv94410/Wikimedia Commons

Tennis by night 

Another trick of the trade is to purchase the night tickets. You can get these from 12€ and up (plus upgrade if you want), have access from 5pm onward and, invariably, you can see some excellent matches. We are only a faithful few fans who have the patience to spend eight hours on the court; so the night tickets often get you onto center court to catch the last couple hours of play, especially if there have been rain delays. This is great value for your money.

If you want to take advantage of the evening option, here are my insider tips to reserve seats:

🎾   The Day Before: Book your seats online from 5pm the day before you wish to attend

🎾   The Day Of: From 3pm on the day, you can go to the stadium and enter the queue

🎾   From 5pm: you can either go straight to the outside courts or upgrade your ticket

🎾   Upgrade your ticket for a seat on one of the show courts at the Gate B ticket windows (subject to availability)

🎾   Show court upgrade depends on court & category (from 5€ to 45€)

If you don’t have your tickets yet, don’t despair. There are still options available:

  • Keep an eye open for tickets available through Viagogo
  • Qualifiers begin May 22nd, through Friday May 26th, and Kid’s Day is May 27th (although this appears to be sold out at time of publishing)
  • Tickets are still available for most days, and although you might not be on central court (Philippe-Chatrier or Suzanne Lenglen), you will see some excellent tennis. This year, all re-sale of tickets is done through the official site, so keep trying because tickets can be re-attributed until 23:59 the night before; and there are last minute changes in people’s schedules
  • Some tickets may still be available for the Legends Trophy. Ok, they call them legends, which of course they are, but who wouldn’t want to see McEnroe, Willander, Noah, Vilas or Navratilova?
  • Tickets can still be bought for the annexe courtsDuring the second week of play you won’t see too many matches with well-known players on these courts, but you might be lucky enough to see someone warming up/practicing. Wheelchair tennis is also played on these courts and if you’ve never seen this, it is totally worth it. The power in the arms and the control of the chair is amazing to watch.
  • Oh, and don’t be shy! If you have tickets for the annexe courts, there is nothing stopping you from asking people exiting the stadium if they are leaving for the day. Fellow fans are more than happy to pass on their tickets if you have the patience to stalk the Chatrier and Lenglen courts in the late afternoon.
Author (second from left) with family

Will Murray be able to hang on to his number 1 ranking or will Djokovic prevail?  I am rooting for Roger and another upset like that of the Australian Open; but who knows, maybe Rafa will take the battle to the finish. And without Serena, there is a whole new generation of women ready to prove themselves, Garbine Muguruza will try to hang on to her title, and Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber will be in the running for their first Grand Slam titles on clay. The finalists will be as unpredictable as the Parisian weather, so pack an umbrella and some sunscreen and be ready for two weeks of surprises! 🎾

Gillian Szraga
Gillian left the States two years out of college to follow her not yet husband to Korea where she continued her work as a consultant, and then a teacher on the American Army base. After 6 years, a wedding and two children later, the family arrived in Paris home of her French husband. An avid tennis player, this mother of three can be found on the courts in the 17th, or on the streets of Paris where she loves to explore the off the beaten path boutiques of the City of Light.

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