By Barbara Leblanc
(PARIS, FRANCE) – From 21 May to 9 June, the world’s top tennis players will battle it out for the title of French Open champion at Roland Garros in Paris. For superstars like Nadal, Djokovic, Llodra and Gasquet as well as spectators from the world over, Roland Garros is not just another tennis tournament – it is a showcase for all of France.
The French Open is one of the four annual Grand Slam tournaments, along with Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the US Open. Organized by the French Tennis Federation, it is the only Grand Slam tournament to be played on clay.
Since the first tournament held at Porte d’Auteuil, Paris in 1928, the aura of Roland Garros has increased year on year, with dazzling sporting achievements and the biggest names in international tennis. Due to the immense success of the "Four Musketeers" (Borota, Brugnon, Cochet and Lacoste) in the early days of French professional tennis, the tournament quickly became a global event. In 1968, it was, in fact, the first Grand Slam tournament to allow both amateurs and professionals to compete. Since then, the feats of players like Björn Borg, Mats Wilander and Gustavo Kuerten have lived long in the memory.
From a French perspective, however, it is Yannick Noah’s victory in 1983 that is most fondly remembered.
Today, the tournament’s success is built on the almost 10,000 people working every day to organize it, as well as long-standing sponsors such as BNP Paribas, which has been an official partner for 40 years and Lacoste, which this year celebrates the 80th anniversary of its famous “green crocodile” polo shirt.
For this 83rd edition, the world’s biggest clay-court tournament is undergoing something of a facelift in order to better meet the needs of both players and spectators. The organizers are working to further improve conditions for the 430,000 expected visitors and the 128 male and 128 female players in the main draws: enhancing the green spaces, improving signposting and phasing out regular admission tickets in favour of e-tickets in order to facilitate movement within the stadium.
But the most significant improvements are still to come in the form of the stadium’s development project, which should be completed by 2018. This involves upgrading the facilities to cater for more spectators, introducing night sessions and installing a roof on the Philippe Chatrier Court.
“We must retain the charm of Roland Garros. This modernization is clearly needed within the next five to six years, as unlike the other Grand Slam tournaments, we cannot compete in terms of size,” said Christophe Fagniez.