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Friday, June 2, 2017

Roland Garros: The French Open

When we moved to Paris at the end of February, it soon dawned on us that we'd be there when the French Open tennis tournament was taking place! I was quite excited as it is a sporting event that I've always wanted to attend. So we jumped in the online queue the day the tickets went on sale and got good seats for Thursday, June 1, 2017.
Of course, since we had to purchase our tickets pre-draw, we had no idea who would be playing on the day that we would attend. Unfortunately, the marquee players who we really wanted to see were not playing yesterday but instead are all on the court we bought tickets for today. Hence the term, it's the luck of the draw. Even so, we were treated to great atmosphere and great tennis. We could get there via metro and it was quite easy.
As soon as you walked in the gate, there were signs displayed showing where the other tennis majors were located and how far away they are! Very cool.
We did get to see Stan Wawrinka, seeded no. 3 play a good match. We had end line seats so could watch the serve come in. It was indeed impressive when it went over 200 kilometers an hour! We also watched women's doubles from very close range on one of the smaller courts and saw some mixed doubles on the smaller courts. It was not as easy to move around the courts as we thought it might be due to the large crowd. We were very happy we had bought center court tickets and that our seats ended up being in the shade for the afternoon. The sun was a roaster. And it was pretty easy to get sunburned while just sitting there spectating!
The first match that we watched was between a young French woman AlizĂ© Cornet and seed no 20 Barbora Strycova. The French woman ended up upsetting her! We saw her later on the grounds after she finished a doubles match. She's a cute girl. Was fun to watch the French get behind her.
Other players that we really enjoyed seeing included Gael Monfils, (15 seed) a Frenchman with a loyal local following. He was playing very well and the crowd enjoyed him! The last match of the day was with the no. 2 women's seed, Karolina Pilskova. At first it looked like she was going to wipe out her opponent in 30 minutes flat but after a dull first set, things got more interesting. Ekatarina Alexandrova charged back to win set no. two, pushing it to a third set. Pliskova was too tough in the end and took the third set 6-3. She had her serve up to 185 kilometers an hour at times. She was almost lackadaisical in her demeanor so I will be interested to see how she does from here on out. The number 1 women's seed was beat in the first round so Pilskova has a good chance to get through. The women's field is dominated by "ovas" from those Eastern European nations. Venus Williams is playing, a no. 10 seed but Serena is sitting this out due to being pregnant. The US need to step up their game. Not too many American players in this field. 
Andy Murray was playing yesterday as well and ended up in a tight set that went 4 games with tie-breakers. Our tickets did not permit us to enter that stadium so we watched on the big screens set around the grounds. 
My dream would've been to see Rafael Nadal play but alas, he's playing today. Oh well. There's always tv.
Clay is an interesting surface. I have played on clay a fair amount here in Europe and it is a different animal. It looks great and it's fun to watch the players slide through their shots. 
The grounds were nice but quite modest. Food options not great and probably not really enough vendors to handle the crowd. They had some interesting displays regarding the history of tennis that were enjoyable to walk through. 
The hosts were dressed in really classy dresses. It added to the prestige of the event to have these young people scattered round the grounds, checking tickets, giving directions. 
I'd never been to a tennis major before and while I would've loved to have seen Rafa and Venus Williams play, it was still a thrill to be on the grounds and enjoy the very fine level of tennis that is played be it singles, doubles, or mixed doubles. Makes me long to get back to the game again one day. And now I know how to say zero, 15, 30, 40, deuce and game in French!