Betsy - Weybridge, VT | Betsy's First Entry
I actually feel sorry for first-time tourists in Paris. With all the dizzying array of choices available to visitors, how can they possibly pick where to go? While most plan their itineraries around the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Jim Morrison's grave, we tennis fans have the simplicity of only one destination: Stade Roland Garros. These glorious two weeks in Paris are what we dream of the other fifty weeks of the year.
10:15 a.m. Here on the grounds of the French Open, I pick up a schedule for the matches of the day. Wow! Nadal, Clijsters, and Baghdatis in the stadium; James Blake and Carlos Moya on Court One. Some pre-teen kids run by me with oversized autograph tennis balls, saying Maria is out on a practice court. First choice of the day.
11:05 a.m. The stadium court here at Roland Garros, Philippe-Chatrier, is magnificent and grand, complete with flags, flowers, press boxes, and camera dug-outs surrounding the red clay stage. Only the royalty of tennis play here. When the players enter the court, the crowd roars to welcome them in excited anticipation. Ball kids prance into position, linesmen bow down to make their split-second choice; remaining silence or yelling "fault!" A hush sweeps over the stadium to hear the first serve pop.
12:45 p.m. As the match goes on, the crowd seems divided on who to root for - the "King of Clay" or the scrappy underdog? Intermittent explosions of cheers elsewhere on the grounds suggest to me maybe there's an upset brewing, or a thrilling tiebreak. Hmmm…perhaps I should venture over to catch that action.
3:20 p.m. Each court has a different feel; some imposing and some more intimate with no cameras or lights. Yet it is here on the outer courts where spectators can really get an up-close look at the players who aren't yet on the cover of magazines. In front of only a handful of fans, we are being treated to a third-set slugfest, where winning this round would make a huge difference to these girls' ranking. With the final point, one leaps for joy while the other slumps. The appreciative crowd gives well-earned applause for both.
5:15 p.m. I hear a huge roar erupt from Court Suzanne Lenglen, where French star Amelie Mauresmo must be starting her match. Should I check out the local favorite, or keep this front-row seat for some fast-paced doubles?
Now I realize we tennis fans have choices to make after all here in Paris. Rooting for crowd favorites or underdogs, stars or up-and-comers, men's or women's, singles or doubles. At least we don't have to choose the surface!
7:25 p.m. Heading back to the hotel, exhausted but exhilarated, I ponder again: Cafe or Bistro tonight? Merlot or Chardonnay? Some choices are just too tough to make! But like the city of Paris, there is never a wrong choice.