I’ve been attending The French Open (better known here as Roland Garros) ever since we moved to France 17 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, as we are 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 past winners like Federer, Djokovic, Williams, Osaka and Nadal, not to mention a new generation of champions. The players adore the fans, and the fans are respectful; there is no hissing or booing here, and an excellent shot is cheered whether it’s made by your player of choice or not.
Recent renovations to the courts include new lighting and a retractable roof on the central court to protect the crowd and players from bad weather, and an emphasis on going green. The court Simonne-Mathieu, also known as the Court des Serres, has replaced the Court No. 1 and will have four greenhouses surrounding it open to the public featuring flowers from different countries around the world.
Yet 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!
Another trick of the trade is to purchase the night tickets. You can get these from 12 € and up (plus upgrades if you want), have access from 5:30pm 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 a great value for your money.
If you want to take advantage of the evening option, here are my insider tips to reserve seats:
- In Advance: Book your seats online from 5:30pm 72 hours before the day you wish to attend
- The Day Of: From 3pm on the day, you can go to the stadium and enter the queue
- From 5:30pm: 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 are held May 18-22 and Saturday, May 23 is Kid’s Day
- 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 resale 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 matches. 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 courts. During the second week 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 have 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.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack both an umbrella and sunscreen when you’re heading out to Roland Garros. Rain delays are frequently followed by rays of sunshine. But no matter what the weather has in store for you, the energy inside Roland is unbeatable – it is truly the quintessential French sports experience. Hope to see you there!
Additional reporting by Amanda Berman