Rain, masks and almost behind closed doors, Roland-Garros is blasting

The alley leading to the Suzanne-Lenglen court at the Roland-Garros stadium, Monday noon, September 28.

Definitely, this 2020 edition of Roland-Garros has like a nasty hangover. However, she has barely left the aperitif, on this second day of the tournament. After a dismal opening Sunday, the regulars – at least those whose profession allows them to walk the deserted alleys – get used to the idea, Monday, September 28, that the fortnight will be a long fall-winter collection ( Météo-France is formal) made of anoraks and ponchos associated, with varying degrees of success, with the essential surgical mask or with a partner brand of the tournament.

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The mask is a bit of Claire’s daily bread. At 22, she belongs to one of the “sanitary brigades” deployed on the site to enforce the distancing measures and call to order the followers of wearing a mask at chin height. In one morning, the student, who saw a strange baptism at “Roland”, had to call to order “About fifteen spectators. But it remains at the margin ”, she assures.

The spectators are also on the sidelines under a morning rain that invites more to take out the hot water bottles than to enjoy an Italian ice cream. Moreover, the store in question has lowered its curtain. Sanitary gauge requires, they are 750 spectators “general public” drawn (to which must be added 250 guests) to spread over twelve hectares and sixteen courts.

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Under his large orange poncho, Alexandre Thorel politely awaits them at the entrance to court Suzanne-Lenglen. The 23-year-old young man is one of the thirteen job seekers and points to Pôle Emploi for technical unemployment. The 10,000-seat stadium is empty, the first match is not announced before 12:30 p.m. ” It’s sad. Sunday, we had moments with two spectators, in the afternoon, we may have gone up to fifty, a hundred maximum ”, he says, bundled up under four layers of superimposed clothing.

“Roland’s soul is there, but she cries a little”

By dint of looking – and not finding -, we end up telling ourselves that it is as easy to come across one of these famous spectators as to find a good spot for porcini mushrooms in early June. On court number 7, there were perhaps six of them to witness the victory of Frenchman Hugo Gaston over his compatriot Maxime Janvier. A ladle, a third of the assistance has already reached the second week at “Roland” since Thierry Champion and Julien Benneteau (quarter-finalists in 1990 and 2006) came to pass a head. To believe that this 2020 edition is mainly a family reunion.

Moreover, at random (rare) encounters, we cross paths with Françoise, who came to encourage her daughter, Diane Parry, 18-year-old tricolor tennis hope. “I want to cry when I see this. Roland is magic, communion, everything we don’t have this year… Roland’s soul is there, but she is crying a little ”, she regrets, while waiting for her daughter’s match to finally begin on short number 9.

But everything happens. In the middle of the day, the rain finally stopped. On the Simonne-Mathieu court, nestled in the Auteuil greenhouses garden, the fiery Fabio Fognini is the shadow of himself, extinguished by the Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin (88e worldwide). In front of about fifty spectators, a majority of which are accredited people and club presidents, the Italian takes a wheel of a bicycle to finish.

Sébastien Torio, travel agent, was invited by a partner airline. “Between the pandemic, the rain and the cold, it’s sinistrosis, it’s gloomy”, deplores the forty-something. “Usually, it’s rather festive, the weather is often nice, hot, it heckles in the stands. It’s a bit like Roland-Garros at a discount, there… ”, adds his partner, Linda Gaudemer.

Not really happy, Alexandre, the usher, defends the thesis of a tournament victim of a climatico-sanitary conspiracy. “There is a curse at Roland Garros: in recent years, the weather was fine at the beginning of October and the year in which it is shifted, it’s winter! While we had good weather during confinement… ” The only positive point in all this? “This year, it’s more pleasant to walk in the aisles”, usually as fluid as the Paris ring road at the end of the day.

The old Place des Mousquetaires, near the Philippe-Chatrier court, without its traditional deckchairs in front of the giant screen, on the morning of September 28.

Prefabricated instead of court number 1

Near the old Place des Mousquetaires, the legendary court number 1 has been razed, a collateral victim of the site’s modernization. The amphitheater was to give way, in 2020, to a garden. Failed, it will be for 2021. In the meantime, stand ugly barnums and prefabricated partners, most of them closed. This year, only a shop and a stand offer the objects derived from the tournament, against twenty last year.

“When the gauge fell to 1,000 spectators, we parted with 400 salespeople and a hundred logisticians, says one of them, who prefers to remain anonymous. We are very disappointed, obviously, this is the worst case scenario. Once we have incurred all the expenses, the charges are there. It would have been better to go in camera. We’re trying to save the furniture… ”

Read also Roland-Garros: farewell to court n ° 1

You have to pay 95 euros for a more seasonal panama. And better to have remembered to bring your umbrella. Forgetting will cost you 45 euros, but at that price the precious shelter will be branded. The “played” balls, supplied by a new partner, are 10 euros each. The players will tell you that it is not worth them, all have complained about it since the start of the tournament, too slow, too heavy to the point that “Some, you wouldn’t give them to a dog to chew on”, according to Briton Daniel Evans.

Other collateral victims of an affluence thirty-five times less than that of previous years: the catering areas. Last year, there were twenty-eight points of sale on the twelve hectares of the site, this year, only two have been maintained. The partner’s bottle of water with bubbles whose “Pschit! Haaaaa! ” buzzing in the ears of spectators at side changes is still 3 euros. At this price, we still prefer to opt for a coffee or a tea to experience a little heat in this day which was sorely lacking.


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