Navigating the French Open

Navigating the French Open

Updated August 2, 2023

I attended the Round of 16 at the French Open this week. The days (actually months) preceding, I was so full of anticipation! I couldn’t wait to check it out and compare it to tennis’ other major tournaments – and it would not disappoint!

Here’s a little about my French Open experience from the perspective of “What the French are Famous for”:

French Food:

I’m still clueless how French women remain so skinny and the French Open menu is no help. Seriously, here’s just a sampling:

  • Baguettes: French bread with a thin smear of butter, one slice of boiled ham and 1 slice of cheese. It’s obviously all in the bread.
  • Beignets: Like a chocolate croissant isn’t bad enough for breakfast, you need to offer sugary sweet beignets in the afternoon. With an espresso of course.
  • Macaroons: These are obviously a specialty at the French Open and come in branded Roland Garros packaging. I was tempted – and I’m not even a sweets person – until I saw the colors: red and black and mustard yellow cookies. They were also 6 for 8 Euros – Mon Dieu!

French Style:

Panama hats. Photo by Erin Michelson.

Let’s just say that the French sense of style reigns even on the courts – or at least around the courts.

  • Ushers: Just check out the cute little dresses worn by the ushers, complete with ribbons and bows, and ballet flats on the feet. So adorable and ladylike!
  • Officials: The ball kids and linespeople were equally impeccable with their crisp trousers and spotless polo shirts. Collars turned up of course.
  • Spectators: Those lucky enough to be in box seats received special edition Roland Garros panama hats, each section with its own coordinated colored hat band. Where I was in the cheap seats, I also counted an extremely large number of men wearing pink shirts. I’m just sayin’.

French Language:

It’s funny, I didn’t really think about the fact that the three other slams are all in English-speaking countries. That is, until I couldn’t understand what was going on around me. For instance:

  • Signage: Luckily, the road from the Metro to Roland-Garros Complex was marked by small tennis rackets painted on the sidewalks — for those of us who don’t speak French.
  • Scoring: Even though the officials are saying the numbers #30 and #40 a million times, I still can’t understand the French counting system.
  • Programme du Jour: The daily play sheet with all the player stats and upcoming matches, as well as the tournament program are only in French. I therefore felt the need to provide my own courtside commentary (for nearly 10 hours!).
  • Spectator Comments: French people really do say “Oo La La” – a lot.

French Cleaning:

I was getting a little obsessed with the clay court housekeeping routine. After every match they watered the clay and after every set they swept the court.

  • The Comb: First, the surface area was combed, like an ice ring without the Zamboni. Instead two men pulled a large rake behind them.
  • The Brush: Then four people (two each side) took small brooms and swept the white lines clean with short, quick strokes. Voila! A clean clay slate!

My Grand Slam:

The French Open was a spectacular way to cap off my own personal Grand Slam. After attending Wimbledon, The Aussie and U.S. Opens, it was….let me see, how should I say it? The pièce de résistance!

Erin Michelson is a social entrepreneur and world traveler. A self-styled Adventure Philanthropist, Erin is embarking on a 2-year global giving adventure called Erin Goes Global. Starting in Fiji on New Year’s Day 2011, Erin Michelson will travel to more than 70 counties on 7 continents during 2011-2012. Along the way, Erin will be volunteering with global non-profit organizations, including building wells in Uganda and tutoring young girls in Bangladeshi boat villages. She’s donated $25,000 and is holding monthly polls to see which worthy nonprofits receive the grants