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Alix Checks In From Paris • The Roland Garros Good Tennis Morning To 10sBalls

Roger Federer of Switzerland plays Oscar Otte of Germany during their men?s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2019. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG
Roger Federer of Switzerland plays Oscar Otte of Germany during their men’s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2019. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG

 

 

Cracking the Roland Garros code – Federer junior and senior have mixed results

 

By Alix Ramsay

 

Thank the Lord Harry – as dawn broke on Wednesday, the first round is finally over. We had been here for three days (although it seemed longer) and yet we had only whittled down the men’s and women’s draws by 64 players. At this rate, we may just reach the quarter-finals by Christmas.

 

Of course, we should not expect anything different. This is France and they do things differently here. They do everything differently here. And it can drive you bonkers.

 

At most tournaments, there are gates for the ticket holders, there are gates for the players and there are gates for the workers with credentials. You may have to wait a few minutes to get through your allocated gate but the system is reasonably efficient.

 

At Roland Garros, they have a system, too, it is just that no one seems to know how it works. There is a gate specifically for the media – Gate I, should you be wandering down the Boulevard d’Auteuil with a press pass and notebook – but getting to it is never easy.

 

“Where is Gate I for the media?” you ask brightly on day one. “Down there,” the security bloke says with a Parisian shrug. So you walk “down there” and find Gate I. But between you and Gate I are crowd control barriers and more security blokes. “Is this Gate I?” you ask, the brightness now ebbing from your tone. “Oui”. “Can I get through?” “Non” “But I am media…” “Non” “I have accreditation….” “Non”. The security bloke now waves you away and back down the Boulevard d’Auteuil (the road you have just walked up) and points you toward the end of a queue 800 yards away.

 

If you have been through this infuriating ritual before, you know you head for the end of the queue, wave your press pass at the security guys there and then jink into the fast track lane to walk down the side of the queue (much to the fury of the punters in said queue). A mere 800 yards later, you are back at Gate I but on the right side of the barriers and you can join another queue for the bag check and pat down search.

 

That presumes, of course, that the security guard at the end of the Boulevard d’Auteuil queue knows about the fast track lane for accredited people. Sometimes they don’t and you are stuck with the readers, inching your way towards a distant gate with little hope of success.

 

And it is not just the anonymous press corps that falls foul of this French “system”. This morning, as yours truly was skipping happily down the fast track, we were delayed briefly by a security lady who was discussing something with a poor soul stuck in the slow-moving queue. On closer inspection, that poor soul turned out to be Robbie Federer, father of the Mighty Rodge.

 

Robbie had stepped out of the queue, he had respectfully shown his accreditation pass and he was looking ever-so-slightly sad that he, the dad to the greatest player who had ever lifted a racket, was stuck fast behind a mass of humanity and their picnic hampers. The security lass was having none of it and the name “FEDERER” printed large on the accreditation pass clearly meant nothing to her. Robbie was stuck.

 

By this point, yours truly was within touching distance of Gate I – Robbie, together with his wife, the Lynette, may be responsible for giving the world Roger Federer but that fact was not going to help him beat the French system. Non, mon brave, pas sanglante probable (no, mate, not bloody likely).

 

The French system, then, is utterly impenetrable to foreigners.  But we think we might (only might, mind you) have cracked it. The trick is not just to ask questions but to ask precisely the right questions. Like with the flat I once tried to rent on the fourth floor of an old building in the city. “Does it have a lift?” “Oh, oui” “Excellent. So I won’t have climb the stairs with my heavy work bag?” “Oh, oui.” “Oui? Pourquoi ‘oui’?” “Parce que l’ascenseur ne fonctionne pas.” (Because the lift doesn’t work) “But you said you had a lift!” “Nous avons un ascenseur mais cela ne fonctionne pas depuis des années.” (We do have a lift but it hasn’t worked for years).

 

Or Gate I. The question should never be “where is it?” but, rather “how do I get there?”. Better still “Are you sure you know how I can get there?” because security man A usually has a completely different set of instructions regarding who can go where while using what pass to the ones issued to security man B. And whatever those instruction were, no one passed them on to Robbie Federer.

 

His son, though, had not only read but memorised the instructions and no matter that he had not played at Roland Garros for three years, he knew exactly what to do and when to get the better of Oscar Otte from Germany 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. He now plays Casper Ruud whose father, Christian, was in the draw in 1999 when the Fed made his Roland Garros debut. For the record, Ruud Senior did considerably better than Fed that year: he reached the third round; Fed lost to Pat Rafter in the first round.

 

It wasn’t a good day for the Germans as Yannick Maden suffered a two-hour splattering from Rafa Nadal 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, as everyone knew he would.

Roger Federer of Switzerland (C) makes his way trough the crowd during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Roger Federer of Switzerland (C) makes his way trough the crowd during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

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