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A visit to Roland Garros

 

A few years ago, three of us stood outside of the entrance to Roland Garros – home of the French Tennis Open. Ticket holders were passing through the gate as we waited anxiously, hoping that someone would have tickets to sell.

 

We entered finally, and I still remember how exciting it was to just get in. I remember the names of my lucky counterparts; but I no longer remember who the players were that day. Of course, buying tickets like that is "caveat emptor".

 

If that ever happens to you, now you can go to the Roland Garros multi-media museum and jiggle your memory. However, if you are trying to remember when Roland Garros won the French Open, you might be surprised to learn that he was not a tennis player.

 

The Roland Garros stadium grounds (2 avenue Gordon Bennett 75016) are open free of charge to the public all year round* – just walk through the Porte des Mousquetaires at 2, avenue Gordon-Bennett. Without a guide you can visit the Philippe Chatrier center court and walk around the park, visit the boutique, inquire about tickets, eat at the restaurant or your children can play tennis at Roland Garros.

 

 

This is not a museum of tennis rackets; this is a museum that is alive with voices from the past. In front of display cases with objects and plasma screens are headphones. You listen to vignettes in French with English subtitles about tennis (later you can sit and watch them again with English commentary).

 

Everything is bilingual (French/English) Take an English guided visit at 11 a.m. - make a reservation.

 

The first day that I went, no one had signed up for the 2:30 p.m. tour (very quiet time during the winter) Tenniseum, a staff member took me on a mini-tour of the museum After 2 ½ hours my knowledge intake was hitting overload! … There is so much here.

 

Once inside the park, a small Normandy-style building, once the gardener’s cottage and then an office, is on the left. This is your entry into the tennis museum (Tenniseum).

 

The permanent museum (that opened in 2003) has a surface of 2,200m² below ground (about 23,000 sq.ft.) that is accessible by either stairs or the elevator.

 

The chronicled history of tennis at the temporary exhibit will appeal to those who like art and film history – Warhol, Arroyo, Cocteau and Lartigue.

 

In general, costumes, illustrations, mode de vie will appeal to cultural history lovers.

 

For those who like to sit and use the computer for historical facts, voilà! You can surf through 200 hours of programming from the collections, films of matches, career records and results; take a quiz or a guided tour, look at old posters, follow the history of the game and its function through history.

 

The Roland Garros stadium has a beautiful restaurant in an Anglo-Normand style building. The restaurant was once a tennis player’s dressing room and its outdoor terrace was once a tennis court.

 

For all ticket sales, dates, and playing schedules visit Roland Garros website

 

            Stade Roland Garros

            Maison du Tennis

            2 avenue Gordon-Bennett

            75016 Paris FRANCE

            Attention: Service Billeterie.

 


Practical information

Entrance is free for picnics and walking around and visiting the grounds of Roland Garros in general.

 

Enter through Porte des Mousquetaires

 

Open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday, December 25, January 1, but open Easter Monday) 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

www.fft.fr or www.rolandgarros.com

 

How to get there:

Line 9: Mairie de Montreuil - Pont de Sèvres (Michel-Ange Auteuil, Michel-Ange Molitor or Porte de Saint Cloud stations)
Line 10: Austerlitz Boulogne station (porte d'Auteuil station) Bus line 22 : Opéra - Porte de Saint Cloud (get off at the terminus)
Line 22: Opéra - Porte de Saint Cloud (get off at Michel Ange Auteuil)
Line 32: Gare de l'Est - Porte d'Auteuil (get off at the terminus)
Line 52: Opéra - Pont de Saint Cloud (get off at Porte d'Auteuil ou la Tourelle)
Line 62: Cours de Vincennes - Porte de Saint Cloud (get off at the terminus)
Line 72: Hôtel de Ville - Pont de Saint Cloud (get off at la Tourelle)
Line 123: Porte d'Auteuil - Mairie d'Issy (get off at Roland-Garros)
Line 241: Suresnes - Porte d'Auteuil (get off at Suzanne-Lenglen)
PC1: Circle bus line (get off at Porte d'Auteuil, Porte Molitor or Porte de Saint Cloud)
 

A special Roland Garros taxi stand is available during the tournament at the corner of Robert Schuman avenue and Auteuil boulevard. You can also page a taxi from the Suzanne Lenglen North gate between 15.00 and 19.00.

 

My personal tip:

I took Line 10 to the Porte d’Auteuil station

 

           - exit at Bvd. Murat (less than a 10 minute walk)

           - follow signs for “Parc des Princes and Roland Garros”

           - at street level while facing bus stop #32, turn right

           - walk toward the Parc des Poètes and the little brown house

           - cross the street and stay to the right of the little brown house

           - continue on the sidewalk Avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil, next to the highway, the gardens will stay on your left

           - turn left on avenue Gordon Bennett, the first street after the garden gates

           - take your first right into the Roland Garros park.

 

If it is raining,

Bus 123 at street level of the metro will take you two stops to “Stade Roland Garros”. The bus runs seven days a week, including Sundays and holidays.

Get off of the bus, walk back to the corner of avenue Gordon Bennett, and turn left, keeping “the Village” on your left.

 

If you want to return to the Porte d'Auteuil metro through the park,

Walk through the botanical gardens (it may cost 1 euro).

There is a passage way from the gardens into Parc des Poètes close to the highway.

 


History

Roland Garros was a French aviator and war hero (b.1888 d. 1918). He made the first successful crossing of the Mediterranean in 1913 and perfected the skill of shooting through the spinning airplane prop (le procédé de tir à travers l’hélice); he was killed in aerial combat.

 

In 1927, the four Musketeers (Borotra, Brugnon, Cochet and Lacoste – les Mousquetaires) won the Davis Cup; thus, France had to sponsor the next tournament for 1928 and needed a stadium.

 

“The Stade Français and the Racing Club of France had a concession from the City of Paris at Porte d’Auteuil. They proposed to give it to the French Lawn Tennis Federation. In exchange the future stadium had to be called after a prominent member of one of the two clubs. Garros, a rugby fan, was also a great war hero”…quote from one of the cubicle presentations.

 

But tennis goes back further than this stadium and the French Open.

 

In one one of the 20 wooden, comfortable cubicles scattered throughout the main room, you can listen to a passage of the 1550 tennis treaty read in Latin and then translated to English.

 

The rules sound poetic and philosophical as if turning the game into an art form.

 

In fact, Suzanne Lenglen, tennis champion between 1920 and 1926 (when she went professional), saw the movements of the game as dance, as the museum films show, which put her in a category with Isadora Duncan and other modern dancers of that era.

 

The beginnings of tennis are traced back to Scaïno, an Italian monk, who wrote down the rules of jeu de paume (the ancestor of tennis – originally spelled “tennys”). 

 

When Scaïno wrote the Preier Traité de jeu de paume (the First Treaty on Real Tennis) in 1550 the rules of the game were the same around the world, whether in Prague, Rome, Paris or London.

 

This jeu de paume or real tennis was very popular among the masses who could play the game in their narrow, medieval streets with a net stretched between the two buildings.

 

According to Mr. Piffaut it is the only sport where men and women have always played by the same rules whether in singles or mixed doubles (a foursome) with no discrimination.

 

He also said that the tennis is and was considered a violent game because of the force used to hit the ball; it is comparable to a duel. However, in this duel, one does not try to hit the opponent with the ball, but rather attacks by strategically hitting the ball out of the range of the opponent.

 

Time Capsule Trivia

During the reign of Henry IV (b. 1553 d. 1610) 250 tennis courts dotted the city of Paris. It became the king of games because it was a game of kings.

 

By the beginning of the 17th century about 114 courts were still used (the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries Gardens is a former tennis court).

 

But decline was eminent. Louis XIV (the Sun King - b.1638 d.1715) preferred billiards to tennis.

 

This grandson of Henry IV had problems playing tennis while wearing his large wig. It had to be covered with cloth or else the powder would fall out. By 1780 only ten courts were left in Paris; the tennis game of French kings had lost favor.

 

During Victorian era in England tennis, it was especially noted that during singles or mixed doubles one could meet a future spouse on the tennis court. After showing prowess and style during the game, one socialized over the always present tea – a method to see and be seen.

 

And not to leave you wondering about my initial question...what do an egg and love have in common?

 

In the museum when you see the ostrich egg on display, this is the explanation they give:

 

“L’oeuf” or “love”

The scoring system in tennis is identical to the system used in real tennis a few centuries earlier. In France, the expression “l’oeuf” (the egg) was used in real tennis instead of zero (the zero resembles an egg).

The English-speaking countries took up this word phonetically. Today, if you are at Wimbledon, you can hear the umpire say “love/fifteen” and not “zero/fifteen”.

Love, from the French “l’oeuf”.

 

Questions you might have:

Who invented the clay court and why?

Why do tennis scores increase in increments of 15?

When did “open” tennis begin?

Why was the stadium named after an aviator instead of a tennis player?

Why did an elitist sport gain wide popularity during a period of socialism in the 1920s?

Why was the stadium built in 1928?

How is a tennis ball put together?

What does it look like under the clay surface?

 

I will give away a couple of answers.

 

Who invented the clay court and why?

The British Renshaw brothers because the Mediterranean sun yellowed their grass and they couldn’t see the white lines.

 

Why do tennis scores increase in increments of 15?

One widely accepted hypothesis for the scoring numbers (0, 15, 30, 45) comes from 1579 and the jeu de paume (real tennis). The court was measured in royal feet. The successful scorer advanced toward the net, 15 royal feet at a time and won the serve. The player to reach the net first won the game.

 

Why are tennis balls yellow nowadays?

Television. The little white ball couldn’t be seen especially when the clay turned it brown. Tests were made and yellow was the most télégenique.

 

The rest of the questions are answered at the Tenniseum.  Have fun, you will love it!

 

Les sucettes de Decaux

Philippe Starck-style historical markers are located around the park (the same design you see around Paris).

 

Below is a summary of the historical/factual markers on the grounds. They are in French so I have translated them in case you are on a self-guided tour:

 

“Le pavillon du jardinière”

The gardener’s cottage

At the end of the 60s, this English-Normandy styled cottage served as the office of Pierre Darmon, director of the Roland Garros tournament. At one time, it functioned as the caretaker’s home.

 

The charm of the cottage was maintained for the entry to the Roland Garros Tenniseum, that Christian Bîmes, president of the FFT, inaugurated on May 25, 2003.

 

This 2,200m² underground multi-media museum assembles, preserves and presents different elements constitute the memory of tennis in France. The museum and its library are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 until 18.00.

 

Le Roland Garros

During its 75 years of existence, this English-Normandy style building has changed its function numerous times.

 

In 1928, it was the dressing room for the four Musketeers (Mousequetaires). During the 60s, it was the gathering place for the first patrons of “the Friends of Roland Garros”.

 

Later it was developed into three distinct rooms: the FFT office, bedrooms and lodging facilities for French tennis hopefuls (among them Yannick Noah) and residences for stadium personnel.

 

After a renovation it became the federal pavilion. The tennis court situated at the foot of the stairs was replaced by a garden and is now used to welcome guests of the FFT during the tournament.

 

Today, it is high end restaurant “le Roland Garros” designed by Miguel Cancio Martins. The chef is Stéphane Thoreton.

 

Court Nº 1

Responding the growing success of the tournament, the original central court number 1 was replaced by this central “bis”, erected and built by the Marey Institute.

 

Its circular form and seating capacity of 3,790 seats brought the public closer to the players. The first match within its walls took place at the French Internationals 1980.

 

The name of the winners of the Men’s and Women’s singles since 1891 are engraved on pedestals around the top outside edges of the court.

Despite the new court, the memory of Étienne-Jules Marey, the inventor of chronophotographie in 1872 (a procedure that analyzes the movement of successive photographs which lead to cinematography) and the father of scientific cinema. A plaque to this famous researcher that also contains his ashes has been placed between Court Nº1 and the Village.

 

Court Philippe-Chatrier

The central court was constructed in 1928 to accommodate the Challenge Round of the Davis between France and the United States. Designed by the architect Louis Faure-Dujarric, it seats 10,000.

 

Initially, two rows of boxes were on concrete and the terraces were in wood. Gradually, the terraces were replaced by galleries of cement, increasing the court’s capacity to 13,000 places.

 

In 1976, the FFT installed its offices under the galleries. Between 1979 and 2000, central court was affected by renovations to A, B, C and D galleries and now has a capacity of 15,094 places.

Only the B gallery has kept its original appearance.

 

The central court name was changed to Philippe-Chatrier officially in time for the Internationaux de France 2000. (Chatrier was president of the International Tennis Federation from 1977 to 1990; he died in 2000.)

Wimbledon 365 kms

Flushing Meadows 5830 kms

Melbourne Park 16950 kms

Tenniseum entrance

 

Display with 1550 treaty

 

Display of Suzanne Lenglen

Leather glove and tambourine used in the jeu de paume

(Leather glove and tambourin) (round wooden racquet)

this was part of the 100 years 100 stories exhibit

 

Where did the racquet come from? Real tennis first appeared in France in the 11th century. It was a popular game played in the open air, in village squares or streets. The ball was hit with a bare hand or a glove from which took its name (jeu de paume in French or “the hand game”). It is likely that the Italians, who were very keen on the strength of the shot, developed it from the tambourin which was used to hit the ball in a variant of real tennis.

 

Roland Garros

 

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