Roland Garros opens its doors

Every year in September, 50 European countries take part in the European Heritage Days, a programme that offers opportunities to visit buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally accessible to the public. For the first time, yesterday, the French Federation of tennis opened up the Roland Garros stadium and museum free to the public as part of Heritage Days, and of course, I was there.

Waiting to enter the museum, you could still see the Davis Cup semifinals poster and the French and Czech flags atop Court Philippe Chatrier.

Roland Garros

Tennis museum

The permanent exhibition showcases trophies, players memorabilia, a few videos as well as some infos about tennis history and the future Roland Garros stadium expansion.
You might be disappointed if you’ve visited the Wimbledon museum, Roland Garros museum is quite small, with less content and interactivity.

Below, the trophies presented each year to the winner of the men’s singles (Coupe des Mousquetaires) and women’s singles (Coupe Suzanne Lenglen):

Roland Garros trophies

Replica of the 1991 Davis Cup captured by Henri Leconte and Guy Forget over the dream team of Sampras, Agassi and Flach-Seguso:

1991 Davis Cup replica

The composition of a clay court: red brick dust 1-2 mm, crushed white limestone 6-7 cm, clinker (coal residue) 7-8 cm, crushed gravel at least 30 cm, drain:

Composition of clay

Also shown: Yannick Noah, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal racquets as well as Bjorn Borg, Steffi Graf and Roger Federer outfits. You can see more pictures at the end of this article and on my previous article: Tennis Museum at Roland Garros.

We also had access to two temporary exhibitions: Moi Roland Garros (I Roland Garros) and Lignes de front.
As you probably know, Roland Garros was not a tennis player, but a pioneer aviator who made the first solo flight across the Mediterranean Sea and whose favorite sport was rugby. The exhibition give visitors insight into the life of this French national hero who perished in World War I.
Lignes de front (“Front lines: tennis in 1914-18”) presents the life of twelve great tennis players (among them Suzanne Lenglen, Bill Tilden and Jean Borotra) during the Great War . This exhibtion is part of the First World War centenary commemorations.

Roland Garros

Locker rooms

Next stop: a look at the players only areas, the locker rooms and interview room. You can find more pictures in my previous article: Get behind the scenes at Roland Garros.

Mens and ladies locker rooms are similar but the ladies locker room has a little particularity. 6-time French Open champion Steffi Graf always insisted on using locker #19 and after retirement, the Roland Garros direction honored Graf by offering her the door to her locker and by retiring that number as well. Locker #19 was replaced by #”18bis”:

Locker rooms

Locker rooms

Locker rooms

Court Philippe Chatrier

Court Philippe Chatrier was built in 1928 as Roland Garros’s centerpiece and remains its principal venue, seating 14,840 spectators. The four main spectator grandstands are named for les Quatre Mousquetaires (“Four Musketeers”) – Jacques “Toto” Brugnon, Jean Borotra (the “Bouncing Basque”), Henri Cochet (the “Magician”), and René Lacoste (the “Crocodile”) – who dominated men’s tennis in the 1920s and ’30s.

View from press seatings:

Court Philippe Chatrier

Court Philippe Chatrier

Court Philippe Chatrier

Maison du projet: new Roland Garros

It was just like at Ikea, you had to follow the path. So, we headed to the Maison du projet, showcasing the new Roland Garros set to be inaugurated in 2018.

The Court Philippe Chatrier will be fitted with a retractable roof and will also be altered to provide more comfort for spectators (that won’t be very difficult…) and to create extra space for journalists and players.
A semi-sunken new court with 4,950 seats will be constructed, surrounded by four large greenhouses, with a botanical garden. It will replace the current No.1 Court that will be destroyed.

The project has estimated costs of 340 million euros.

New Roland Garros

New Roland Garros

Place des Mousquetaires

Located between Court Philippe Chatrier and Court number one, the square is surrounded by statues of the 4 Musketeers of French Tennis, at the centre of the square, a Davis Cup replica.

Place des Mousquetaires

Place des Mousquetaires

Place des Mousquetaires

There’s a strong link between the Davis Cup competition and the Roland Garros stadium. After the Mousquetaires won the Davis Cup on American soil in 1927, the French Federation of Tennis decided to defend the Cup in 1928 at a new tennis stadium at Porte d’Auteuil. The Stade de France had offered the tennis authorities three hectares of land with the condition that the new stadium must be named after the World War I pilot, Roland Garros. The new Stade de Roland Garros hosted that Davis Cup challenge.

Court 1

The beautiful Court 1 – nicknamed the “Bullring” because of its circular shape – is a favorite among serious tennis fans because of its relatively small size and feeling of close proximity to the action.
The Court number 1 has been the scene of some stunning French Open upsets, such as unseeded Gustavo Kuerten‘s 3rd-round victory over Thomas Muster in 1997, on his way to his first of three Roland Garros titles; and Gabriela Sabatini‘s defeat – after a 6-1, 5-1 lead and five match points – to Mary Joe Fernandez in the 1993 quarterfinals. It was also the site of Marat Safin’s famous “dropped pants” match against Felix Mantilla in 2004.

Court 1

Court 1

Outside courts

A junior tournament taking place on the outside courts:

Roland Garros

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Much cosier than Court Philippe Chatrier, the secondary Roland Garros stadium with a capacity of 10,068 spectators was built in 1994. Suzanne Lenglen, born in 1899, was the first female tennis celebrity and one of the first international female sport stars, named La Divine (the divine one) by the French press.

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Beautiful view from the top of Court Suzanne Lenglen:

Roland Garros

Roland Garros

Beach tennis and mini tennis

Kids playing beach tennis and mini tennis on former Court 13:

Beach tennis

If you’re interested in visiting the stadium, check out the official website to find all the informations.

Click to enlarge the pictures:

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