Monday, May 27, 2013

French Memories

Somdev Devvarman has reached the 2nd round of the French Open after defeating fellow qualifier Daniel Munoz de la Nava 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 in straight sets and is set to go up against former world #1 Roger Federer. When he walks out onto the Court Suzanne Lenglen on Wednesday to take on the Swiss wizard, it will probably be the proudest moment of his career to be able to walk out onto the center court at Rolland Garros; and yet, the thoughts of Rolland Garros evoke a different set of memories, that of a visit to the stadium in December.

As a part of the tour (you can enjoy the photos here), I had the chance to visit several of France’s most famous landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysees, the Notre Dame and the Omaha Beach at Normandy, but none probably left as big a mark on me as the visit to Rolland Garros.

Our visit to the majestic home of French tennis included a quick pass by the Parc des Princes, the home of the mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain Football Club. The stadium that hosted several matches during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, seemed to have been transformed into and ultra-modern gladiatorial arena for enjoying the football ‘fights’ every weekend.


The short-walk of 750m from the gates of Parc des Princes to Rolland Garros seemed to be the longest walk of such distance; such was the sheer excitement and expectation of visiting the red clay courts. The tour started at the French Tennis Association Museum, and our lovely guide took us for the tour of the stadium.

The tour started at the Place des Mousquetaires, the circular courtyard situated between Court Chartier and Court 1, which contains a monument to the six Davis Cup wins from 1927-33 orchestrated by les Quatre Mousquetaires ("Four Musketeers") of French tennis-  Jacques "Toto" Brugnon, Jean Borotra (the "Bouncing Basque"), Henri Cochet (the "Magician"), and RenĂ© Lacoste (the "Crocodile").

From there, we went to the Court Chartier, catching a glimpse of Court Suzanne Lenglen, named after the first true star of women's tennis, won 31 major tournaments, including six French Open titles and six Wimbledon championships, between 1914 and 1926, as well as two Olympic gold medals in 1920. We also saw the courts under maintenance; the preparation for this year’s French Open had already begun in December.

The first striking thing after entering the Court Chartier was the registration desk where the players complete their registration before the tournament begins. Also we visited the press conference room, where the players generally meet the press after their matches. The most interesting thing part was the wall which was covered with the names of all the past winners of the tournament.

The moment of the tour came when we got the chance to go down to the court itself. With hair standing at the back of my neck as we went down to the court, taking in the view of the stands as well as the red clay court itself. Standing there, I could almost see the great matches that I have seen being played on this court right in front of me.

Alas, it was never meant to last for our tour had come to an end; but the memories remain and I hope to relive them when I will watch Devvarman take on Federer. The heart may be unable to decide whom to support in this game, but my mind will always go back to that magical afternoon spent at Rolland Garros.