Every Grand Slam is an amazing experience for a tennis fan and each has its own unique character. We planned a week of vacation in Europe, timed around tickets on Philippe Chatrier on the middle Saturday of the French Open at Roland Garros. We ended up also getting last minute tickets for the first Friday for Court Suzanne Lenglen. This is our take on the fan experience at the French Open at Roland Garros.
See our Tennis Fans’ Guide to Paris.
The French Open has that je ne sais quoi…(sorry, had to say it). The grounds are cozy but beautiful. The small footprint (relative to other Slams) does make it feel a bit cramped once the crowds arrive, but that’s just part of the experience. You can feel the history while walking around the courts.
Our first day on Suzanne Lenglen was a mix of 2nd and 3rd round matches. We watched Sara Errani beat Ana Ivanovic in a stunner, Sharapova easily beat Morita, and a 5-set epic match as Wawrinka beat Simon. That was an intense match, with Simon playing in front of his hometown crowd. Djokovic also beat Devilder, a qualifier, in the most boring match of the day.
On the second day, we were on Philippe Chatrier for several 3rd round matches. We saw Kvitova beat Bratchikova, Tipsarevic beat Benneteau, Sharapova win over Shuai, and finally Nadal win easily over Schwank.
Djokovic and Nadal were last on, on both days. To be honest, in each case we stayed for the first set then left. It had already been a long day of amazing tennis, and the headliner matches were the least interesting on the schedule. We never understand fans that get to the grounds later in the day just for the headliners – the best matches, particularly in the early rounds, are on court earlier in the day or on the outside courts.
There are a few options to get tickets. They can be bought through the French Open directly, dates are available at [French Open website]. There are also official package resellers. We bought our Philippe Chatrier tickets through Steve Furgal Tennis Tours, a US based company. They were very professional, easy to deal with, and offer packages to tournaments around the world. We paid a premium through Steve Furgal, but were able to guarantee good seats on the day we wanted in advance of the tickets going on sale to the general public.
Once we were in Paris, we decided to attend the Friday session as well. Steve Furgal was sold out. In 2012, the French Open was partnered with Viagogo as an official ticket reseller. Anyone holding a ticket could resell tickets through Viagogo, but only at face value. This is fantastic for fans, both because you know the tickets are official and because it prevents scalpers from selling the tickets at highly inflated prices (as happens at other tennis tournaments, and sporting events around the world). We found two tickets on Suzanne Lenglen available, and bought them at 10:30am on the Friday. We rushed downstairs, had the hotel concierge print them for us, and made it to the grounds by 11:30am. It was fantastic. Why doesn’t every tournament (and sporting event and concert) do this?
The downside is that Viagogo is no longer an official partner of the French Open. There does seem to be another resale service through the Roland Garros website, which we haven’t tried. Hopefully it works the same way. If it does, we would recommend waiting to buy tickets through the public sale, or through the official resale site, rather than paying the premium to go with a tennis tour company.
When we attended the French Open, our only comparison was to the Rogers Cup and the Miami Open. Trevor had been to Wimbledon before, but over 10 years earlier. Being at a Grand Slam is unlike any other tennis tournament. They all have high stakes, but a Grand Slam takes it up a notch. You can feel the excitement around the grounds.
The fact that each Major has its own unique character just makes them that much more fun as a tennis fan. The French Open/Roland Garros is full of character, and is undeniably French.
The grounds are cozy, which actually added to the atmosphere rather than feeling cramped. We found the food and drink offerings were tasty and reasonably priced, but even better was that we could bring in snacks from a deli near the grounds.
The show courts are small by Grand Slam standards (Philippe Chatrier is the smallest center court of the 4 Majors). This adds to the great atmosphere, especially if you are lucky enough to watch a French player in a tight match.
One regret we had was not watching a match on Court #1, the Bullring, which we’ve heard is a great show court.
There are a lot of grounds passes sold, so we did find that line-ups to the open seating show courts could be very long if a good match was scheduled.
You’re in Paris, so of course the food is decent. Fans were also allowed to bring food onto the grounds. There were a couple of delis near the metro station. We stocked up on snacks and sandwiches that were better and less expensive than what was available on the grounds.