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French Open 2018: Revamp of Roland Garros a tricky affair, but better infrastructure will benefit all parties involved in long run

With the end of the 2018 French Open, many traditional features of the second Slam of the year will disappear. Iconic courts will be gone, new ones are being built while Court Philippe Chatrier will see a complete revamp.

Few things make you feel the excitement of a Grand Slam like the first week of the French Open in its current set up. The massive crowds are bustling between and beyond Chatrier and Lenglen, trying to get a glance of the matches on the smaller outer courts. While the thrill and adrenaline is palpable, one thing quickly becomes an issue: Moving from A to B — or getting from Court 14 to Court 6.

Representational image of Roland Garros. AP

Representational image of Roland Garros. AP

The current French Open tournament site is too small, far too small. Most journalists avoid the ground completely. Time is money and on a packed day in the middle of the first week, there is a good chance you will lose time, miss a press conference and get stuck in a never-ceasing line of people trying to navigate their way between courts, matches and food stands.

But since this year, the French Open have started to get a face as well as a space-lift. The old Court 2 behind Chatrier has already disappeared with its twin Court 3 still being intact next to it, though feeling a little incomplete. Court 1, the famous “Bullring”, has also seen its last year — it will disappear along with Court 3 to make space for a bigger public area.

While the courts are disappearing from the heart of the site, new courts are being added on the far-ends of the Roland Garros. Behind Suzanne Lenglen, Court 18 has been inaugurated with fantastic matches this year and with its sunken in feel, it replicates the vibe of Rome’s Pietrangeli Court. East of Chatrier, located within the Greenhouse Gardens, Court Simmone-Mathieu will become the third-biggest Court of the tournament starting next year — the beautiful Orangerie was already used for this year’s draw ceremony.

It’s a much-needed structural change to allow the tournament site to catch up with the tournament’s growth over the past decade — even if it comes at the cost of iconic courts such as the Bullring, Court 2 and Court 3.

It will allow more space for the fans and stretch the huge crowds across almost 22 acres — much to the woe of some of the photographers though who will be running from the Greenhouse Gardens in the East to the Pavillon des Princes in the West.

The biggest, and perhaps most important addition to the site will be the completely revamped Philippe Chatrier. The biggest Court will finally get a roof, allowing play during all weather conditions. Parts of the 15,000-arena will be demolished, one of them being the media centre underneath the Tribune Jean Borotra.

For thirty years, the three floors hosted photographers, written media, interview rooms and press offices of Roland Garros. Opened in 1988, the media centre saw memorable scenes, iconic quotes, relationships and friendships blossom with hard work generally being at the forefront.

On Sunday evening, however, the hallways and rooms that created many memories and journalists, photographers and the staff were invited to leave their fingerprints on the walls, doors and tables, turning a workplace into an impromptu tennis museum.

After a few hours of the “Media Centre Demolition Party”, the walls were covered by iconic quotes, press conference memories and drawings, radically changing its appearance.

It felt a little like a “school’s over” party with many reveling in memories, the good and the bad ones because there have been plenty either way.

The West-Tribune will be levelled entirely and rebuilt completely to implement the roof structure on top of Chatrier.

Next year, the media centre will move to the Roland Garros museum, in what will be a tricky transitional year but for long-term it is an investment that will benefit fans, media and particularly broadcasters, guaranteeing play between 11am and 9pm.

One issue however continues — particularly during rain showers, fans will continue struggling to find places where they will stay dry, unless they have tickets for the matches on Philippe Chatrier.

But as Roland Garros continues to grow and improve, maybe this one service will also be provided to visitors in the near future, especially since you cannot leave the grounds without surrendering your ticket for the day — and nobody wants to watch three hours of tennis after having been soaked to the bone. Not even at the French Open.


Updated Date: Jun 12, 2018 22:08 PM

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