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
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
For all ticket sales, dates, and playing schedules visit
Roland Garros website
Maison du Tennis
75016 Paris FRANCE
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.
How to get there:
Mairie de Montreuil - Pont de Sèvres (Michel-Ange Auteuil, Michel-Ange
Molitor or Porte de Saint Cloud stations)
Austerlitz Boulogne station (porte d'Auteuil station) Bus line 22 : Opéra -
Porte de Saint Cloud (get off at the terminus)
Opéra - Porte de Saint Cloud (get off at Michel Ange Auteuil)
Gare de l'Est - Porte d'Auteuil (get off at the terminus)
Opéra - Pont de Saint Cloud (get off at Porte d'Auteuil ou la Tourelle)
Cours de Vincennes - Porte de Saint Cloud (get off at the terminus)
Hôtel de Ville - Pont de Saint Cloud (get off at la Tourelle)
Porte d'Auteuil - Mairie d'Issy (get off at Roland-Garros)
Suresnes - Porte d'Auteuil (get off at Suzanne-Lenglen)
Circle bus line (get off at Porte d'Auteuil, Porte Molitor or Porte de Saint
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
- 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
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.
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
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.
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).
English-speaking countries took up this word phonetically. Today, if you are
at Wimbledon, you can hear the umpire say “love/fifteen” and not
Love, from the French “l’oeuf”.
Questions you might have:
Who invented the clay court and why?
Why do tennis scores increase in increments
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
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
Why do tennis scores increase in increments
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!
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.
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
Today, it is high end restaurant “le Roland
Garros” designed by Miguel Cancio Martins. The chef is Stéphane
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.
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
Only the B gallery has kept its original
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.)